I tell this story a lot, so forgive me if you’ve heard it before.
One day, in ancient India, there were five blind monks and an elephant. The monks were trying to work out exactly what the elephant was.
The first blind monk felt the trunk and said “it feels like a branch of a tree. Therefore, an elephant is a tree.”
The second blind monk felt the ear and said “it feels like a large fan. Therefore, an elephant is a fan.”
The third blind monk felt the tusk and said “it feels like a pipe. Therefore an elephant is a pipe.”
The fourth blind monk… you get the drift.
Of course, none of them were right.
They were judging the situation based only on what they could sense. Instead they should have gathered evidence from multiple sources to evaluate the full picture.
This story always reminds me of the importance of mindfulness.
Sometimes we are the monks in the story.
We react to politics, markets and situations with little evidence.
It’s rare that we ever see the whole picture in any given situation. We see a small part and we often react without considering we may not be privy to the big picture. Ultimately we can make mistakes and burn relationships.
Other times we are the elephant in the story.
These are the times when we are judged incorrectly by others who cannot see the whole picture. Rather than reacting to circumstance, we can empathise, and help these people gain the required evidence to make good decisions.
We may need to accept that some people will just never like us.
How can mindfulness help? In three ways:
1. We learn to respond rather than react
When you’re triggered by an event that would usually see you “hitting the roof”, use that trigger to remind yourself to take a breath and use a technique I call “a minute of mindfulness.”
Just observe your breath for 60 seconds. That’s all you need to catch yourself when you’re about to do something you’ll regret later.
Most of us need at least 20 minutes to calm down once we’ve become angry. Time gives us the perspective we need to see the big picture.
Mindfulness helps you to understand this. Give yourself the time and space you need so you can respond rather than react to circumstance.
2. We learn to stay focused on what’s important without distraction
Most of us know what we need to do to be successful. The reality of day to day work in the corporate world is that we are presented with a multitude of distractions.
Using mindful techniques helps you to keep your focus on what’s important rather than letting yourself be distracted by shiny things and annoyances.
Five minutes of meditation every day is all you need to help you hone your ability to focus.
3. We learn to pay attention to the finer details that are often ignored
Our worlds are noisy- literally and metaphorically.
Great ideas don’t get heard.
We miss the signs our employees or families are displaying to tell us they are unhappy.
We don’t notice a niggling health issue which can become a big issue.
Taking time for mindfulness helps create the mindset we need for creative and innovative ideas to arise, and encourages greater awareness of small things which can become big things.
Mindfulness isn’t just about meditation
Mindfulness is about focusing on your present state of awareness without judgement of thoughts, feelings and sensations on the body.
Some people achieve mindfulness through meditation but mediation isn’t for everyone.
Exercise can be a form of mindfulness. If meditation isn’t for you, go for a run or go for a walk. Some people are even breaking out colouring books to gain mindfulness.
Experiment and find out what works for you.
Let us know how you go,