Quite recently at work, there was an interesting incident that, to my mind, betrays how desire and emotions bend our perception.
- A colleague went up to our senior management with a proposal.
- Our senior management gave a whole bunch of comments and input, requested for the colleague to make changes to their plan, AND requested for my colleague to return with the revised plans.
- My teammates who sat in that meeting were quite amazed when, after the meeting, our colleague commented, “OK now that we have gotten senior management endorsement, we can proceed with the plan.” My teammates took a bit of time to convince them that it WASN’T senior management endorsement, and that they needed to rework the plan.
I admit that I laughed out loud when I heard the story. But after that, when I paused to think about it, who hasn’t been guilty of exactly the same thing i.e. hearing what you want to hear? Who hasn’t read more into a sentence or email than it merited, or heard more into a bosses’ criticism/praise than it originally meant?
Our emotions are the lens which distort how we see the world. That’s why it’s so important to first get still and calm before making any decision. And that’s why certain spiritual traditions focus so much on meditation and prayer, in order to see things as they truly are rather than what we want them to be. As my teacher once pointed out, people who are angry are often searching for an excuse to justify their anger. They are hearing for provocations, rather than truly listening.
As work becomes increasingly white-collar, it’s ever more important to be able to double-check our perceptions, and to validate our perceptions by asking questions (of ourselves, via reflecting and meditation) and polling people. This is especially the case as we work our way up the hierarchies, because the higher you go, the less you get to hear what really happens but more you hear what people want you to hear. Also, the higher you go, the more damaging your wrong perceptions can be.
So I’ll leave you with a question: which recent conversation you’ve had, could you possibly have heard what you wanted to hear (or seen what you wanted to see) instead of what truly happened?
I’m currently reading “The War of Art”, which is about the challenges of overcoming one’s internal challenges i.e. Resistance.
This was the paragraph that caught my eye, as something completely representative of most people’s attitude towards meditation:
Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalise. We don’t tell ourselves “I’m never going to write my symphony”. Instead we say “I’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
Substitute “write” for meditate!
Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
I meditate whenever I come into the office, usually for 25-30 mins.
But there wasn’t time today, due to a last min urgent meeting, which was happening 15 mins after I came in.
Initially I thought of skipping my meditation. But then I reminded myself, even if it’s just one breath today, that’s also okay.
After all, ten is better than one, and one is better than none. This is the case for number of breaths or minutes.
And so I sat, with my noise cancellation ear buds and eye shades, for a nice 10 mins. It wasn’t super deep, but nonetheless was pleasant enough to enjoy moments and breaths where the thoughts disappeared.
Then the alarm rang. Back to work, but refreshed and mentally clearer than 10 mins before.
[Thanks for reading and wishing you well. :)]
When I meditated today, my mind was not settled. After setting the mental “guardkeeper”, my mind went on a journey of fantasies, jumping from the present into the past and leaping into the future. Over time, it gradually settled on the meditation object of the breath.
Out of the blue, it went from settled, to a thought about work. And it stayed there for a good few minutes, as it also went along, generating even more thoughts.
My mind then abruptly came to a halt, noted “those were thoughts, and not the object to focus on”, and the mind very naturally came back to the breath.
The interesting thing is that this was done automatically, without any force. How did that happen?
As my teacher often says, if one acts like a dictator to one’s own mind, the mind will tend to rebel. But if one is kind and gentle to one’s own mind, and lets the mind naturally experience the gentle pleasure of meditation, over time it is very easy to gently re-direct the mind back to the meditation object.
Why? Because the mind has tasted the pleasure of stillness and letting go. Then there’s no need to force, just like there’s no need to force a hungry cat to eat cat food. 🙂