The mirrorball

Patience

Of course, the word that came to my mind wasn’t patience, but impatience. I’m on more familiar terms with impatience. There is a story that goes round that someone even bought me a book on patience, yeah, I guess he was getting to know me well… What can I say, I’m an action person, I like to implement ideas as soon as I have them and have developed them. I don’t like to WAIT. And it’s taken me years to understand what has made me so and to realise that I wasn’t the only one in the world suffering from the impatient condition. In fact, there are plenty of people like me these days…

Patience is not really my friend. Unless I am sitting on a meditation cushion and I allow myself to follow the flow of the present moment. Then, I am patient. In fact, time does not exist, when I meditate. So, why is it that I can still get triggered when someone is late – and makes me wait – or why I persistently leave everything to the last minute – so as to not waste any time. What a fool, I still am, sometimes.

And yeah, as I said, I am not alone here. In fact, I am more the norm than the exception, I have noticed. Especially in the business world. I have risked the heart attack several times in the past trying to follow some of my clients in the daily stress-fuelled rigmarole they seem to have to fall into. And it always seems to be about time, or the lack of it. It’s not easy to pause and breathe deeply when one has deadlines, people waiting and when what is waiting always seems more important than one’s well-being, in that moment.

Every night, at the end of each day here, I walk up the short flight of stairs that takes me to my bedroom. On the way there, there is a poster on the wall of the film “Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovski which has persistently stared at me for the last twenty years. Literally. It’s the image of a young boy who is looking at a dead looking tree which he has just watered with the somewhat crazy hope and the necessary angelic patience that something from it will come to life again. You see him water that tree several times during the film. And of course, each time he does it, you want to grab his little hand and steer him away from the tree. It’s hopeless, the tree is dead. The film is the story of the miracles that can occur when we let go, how miracles sometimes happen through sacrifice – or “open will” – and well, yeah, patience. So, at the risk of ruining the film for you, one of the last shots in the film is yes, of that tree, with new leaves gracing one of its upper branches… It’s always a poignant moment for me. And yeah, what I see every night on my wall is a shot of the young boy looking at the tree, after he has just watered it (again). I love that poster. Every night, it reminds me to breathe, and to continue to believe.

What I have learnt over recent years, whilst problem-solving with the business world, is that we need to constantly remind ourselves to be more patient, kinder and hopeful, especially in the face of seemingly insoluble and time-constricted problems. Pausing, breathing deeply, reconnecting with oneself are all key when we need new ideas or search for sustainable solutions. That’s when, I have noticed, something always grows, seemingly out of nothing, out of nowhere, like a new sapling on top of an old, dead tree. The invisible, creative power of patience.

tree at amavarati 006

Change

After two years of daily themed posts on my Facebook page, it suddenly occurred to me before Christmas that the tide was changing and that I needed to go with the flow of the new, emerging waves in my creative writing life. Yes, that’s right, every day, for close to two years, I diligently wrote a piece on the (present) moment. Sometimes it was about a thought or a feeling, other times it was about a memory or a conversation; and how each resonated in me, in that moment. Something magical soon happened: there was always a theme – although I rarely knew ahead what it was each day -, and the writing soon seemed to happen without me, without any planning or most importantly, without any egoic intentions – yeah, maybe once in a while, that wild beast managed to take over, I’m human, OK, and it’s hard not to be proud, not to boast when something seemingly good happens; especially since in the big scheme of life, that really doesn’t happen that often. So, every morning, for two years, I wrote about my experience of the present moment and the lessons it was teaching me. And many of my friends commented or interacted with me privately after many of these posts. So, I realised that, maybe, my present moment was somehow like their present moment, that maybe, there was always shared aspects of the present moment.

I have missed my daily writing ritual over the last few weeks. However, the plan is now to post every Friday, on this blog. That’s the new writing experiment, the change.

And yes, the first post has to be about change. It is probably fair to describe my writing journey of the last two years as the mirror of my meanderings and wanderings on the path to a more fulfilling life. Something happened. Yeah, change rarely happens because we want it, mostly because we need it and we often get to a point when there is no alternative but change. And that is hard. Change is always painful, and scary, and tedious, and difficult, and well, the worst part is the realisation that it is never ending.

Over the last four years, I had to face changes in the way I cared for myself – in terms of rest, diet and exercise -, in the pace and the focus of my life – that mostly seemed to be about “work” at the time – and well, yes, as I changed, some of my relationships changed too. I guess that is part of the process of change. Once something changes, everything else is out of keel and requires re-balancing. And any change involves matters to do with the body, the mind and the heart. These are the three main premises for transformation: first, that you allow yourself to take real care of the body you have been gifted with so many years ago; second, that you start getting to know your mind better and learn to quiet it, once in a while; and third, that you allow your heart to be your true mind and guide you on how to respond to each moment.

Change happens when we are “being”, not “doing”. So we need to learn how to “be” more, rather than “do” more – I know this probably sounds confusing. I actually manage to achieve more these days when I am anchored in the moment and apply the ability to discern what the present moment requires from me – be it a bid to a new client, a Skype call to a friend or some lunch for my growling tummy.

Change is in the moment. The corporate world I am often involved in loves to focus on forecasts and long-terms plans and, like intentions, these are very useful as collective frameworks for change. Yet, change can only really first occur in every moment we individually live or experience, one moment at a time  – and the difference between “live” and “experience” is, for me, in the degree of awareness I apply to the moment – the former is more passive or reactive in nature, whilst the latter is more active or pro-active, responsive.

One of the most life-changing events that occurred to me over the last few months is to be given the opportunity to learn to row in a Club, on The Thames, near where I live. Frankly, it just happened. The idea had hovered on my mind for a while and it seemed completely unrealistic. Yet, the offer just came, and I just said “yes”. Little did I know how hard work it was going to be physically. It not only took any nervous energy out of my body, it also cleansed my mind completely. All I needed to do was focus on what was needed from me, one moment at a time. Rowing is like a life well lived. All I needed to learn was to respond to every movement inside the boat, to every ripple outside the boat, and to every emotion that each change triggered in me, positive and negative, even neutral emotions. All that was needed was my attention, so that there could still be balance in the boat. I also needed to be attentive with others, because of others, and thanks to others. And the other aspect of rowing which struck me as transformational was the fact that I was always rowing with my back turned to my destination. I can’t really look ahead, whilst I am rowing.

So, rowing is like change: planned and structured yet unpredictable, individual and collective, internally and externally experienced. And both mostly rely on our attention to the moment…