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patience

Ssssssshhhhh……The Power of Silence

“Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes.”

It was by accident that I ended up writing this blog in O Five Tea Bar on Fourth Ave. It is a fitting setting as the other customers are either silently working or silently reading. The staff too, go about their business with the quiet diligence of monks.

Silence can come in many forms, it can be deep and oppressive, it can be heavy like a thick, dark blanket, it can be thin and unwholesome like the silence of a lie or the silence of inaction. It can also be strong and true, like it is in here right now, like it is after a strong Om or like a winter forest when the snow settles on the world to give it the perfect finishing touch.

Some things are best enjoyed in silence, like the tea I am drinking. You almost need the quiet to fully understand it, to fully appreciate it, as if the flavour whispers and it will disappear into the background unless you listen carefully.

I read a blog recently about a lady who managed to get a private audience with the successor to the Dalai Lama. He asked her if she had specific questions. She did not and so they remained in each others company and enjoyed the silence. It was a silence which required nothing else. There was no need to break it with mindless chatter. They shared the silence.

Silence encourages stillness. I am almost afraid to pour my tea too quickly for fear of adding an unwanted flavour to the quiet of the room. As if a movement too vigorous will create a ripple which will disturb the stillness.

Some of us are afraid of silence. We step into an elevator with somebody and take out our phone rather than share the silence. We plug in to the screen, the earphones, the podcast, the music, whatever it is, we use it as an exit system to flee the quiet stillness and rush out into the lights and sound, embracing it with open arms, wishing to be swallowed up by sound and colour.

It distracts us from our discomfort but there is no strength without discomfort. We put on a soundtrack that drowns out the whisper that tells us “something is wrong.” We don’t listen to the small voice inside us. We don’t get to know ourselves, like the parent who tells the small child to be quiet and behave, but the child is scared. The parent does not know because the soundtrack is too loud.

How many times when you were in school did your teacher tell you to “pay attention”? How can we pay attention when we do not know how too? We have never been thought these skills yet we are expected to have them, even though these abilities are being pushed further and further away from us every day.

A friend of mine once said, that if he had the opportunity to do anything in the world without the chance of failure, he would change the world. As Leo Tolstoy says “Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves.” “Change yourself”, according to Nick Seaver’s TedTALK, “and you will change the world.” We are our own environment. Change ourselves and we change our environment.

Become still and let the mind settle, like the white powder flying about a snow globe.

Falling leaves in autumn, finding stillness.

That is where we learn to pay attention. There is power in silence, the power to learn, the power to forgive, the power to change the world. Change yourself and you will change the world.

How many earth shattering decisions were made on a whim, thrust out from a blinding flash of anger rather than forged with patience from a still mind.

Viktor Frankl‘s life was ruined in Nazi Germany, his family killed, his dignity stripped. He felt the emotions but he did not fall into them. “Between stimulus and response,” he said, “there is a space. In that space is our power to chose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” What Frankl describes is the power to change the world. This power lies in the pause, the silence. The power lies in the gap before stepping forward. The bridge in the road, before continuing the journey.

This is the power of silence. The power to change yourself and in turn the power to create a change greater than any of us have known.

This will open our minds to let us hear the undercurrent that tells us where we need to be. The candle light in Time Square is drowned out by flashing neon lights but it is still there. We just need to find it.

Through silence we can chip away at the surface and find our true selves. The reactive self is not the real self. The true self or the soul, as I like to think of it, is underneath and cannot be seen because the reactive self has encompassed it. Take the time, take the pause. Step away and listen.

John Francis spoke about his 17 years of silence in his TedTalk and it was on the Ted radio hour where I heard him say it was only after months of not speaking, that his mind began to settle. The waves took many months to settle after the storm.

It is ok to stop. We do not always need to move. We do not always need to fill the space. The sound of om consists of four parts, the final part being the silence.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you all to sit in silence. Start small but be consistent. Invite the silence into your life like an old friend and see what stories it will tell you.

“Don’t just do something, sit there.”

I hope you enjoyed reading this one. If you did, please share it.

Peace,

George

Are You A Multi-Tasker?

Do you consider yourself a good multi-tasker? Can you multi task? Think about it for a minute before you read further.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a good multi tasker. In fact, I dont think multi tasking is even possible. Here’s my thoughts.

I try not to take my day job home, but sometimes it is necessary. Wheb I had to do this I would play Netflix in the background while going through emails on my laptop. Multi tasking. Watching a movie while working.

The truth is that I concentrated on neither task fully and I would have been much better off working with no distractions to completely finish my task and then sit down to enjoy something on TV.

The lesson here is that multi tasking does not lead to productivity. Single tasking does.

In other words, we need to concentrate on the task at hand until we have successfully completed it or reached a milestone where we are happy to move on to something different.

This is something we find very difficult to do nowadays. There is so much additional stimulation that we find it difficult to concentrate on one thing for any length of time. Even as I write this I feel the urge to check my smart phone.

In my opinion this is connected to the current smart phone / screen addiction. Maybe the effect of short term gratification from todays technological gizmos are wiring our brains to multi task more. I am willing to bet that multi tasking is a relatively recent phenomenon since the invention of screens and phones.

Todays technology also makes us more accessible to interruptions, forcing us to multi task. In some circumstances these are unavoidable but you can put measures in place like putting your phone in flight mode, closing your door or telling people to f*** off (JOKING – maybe don’t do that, we all about distressing and getting along here).

I think that we are also over whelmed with too much information these days. Too much information gives us too much to deal with and so we feel the need to multi task. The result is that you do not put your full attention into these items.

We also have the illusion that we will achieve more through multi-tasking. The brain rewards us with a dopamine hit when we complete a task but the satisfaction would be far greater if we complete a task knowing that we have given it our full attention.

We also have to deal with the ASAP syndrome. As an experiment in your professional life, take note over the next week of what the response is when you ask somebody “When do you need this?” I am going to guess 80% of the time the answer will be yesterday or asap. This encourages our desire to multi task. Outside pressure forces us to jump straight into action mode, rather than taking a breath to assess where we are at and what are our next actionable items.

The term, “jack of all trades, master of none,” applies to multi tasking. We certainly cannot be experts in anything when we spread ourselves too thin. Jacks of all tasks, masters of none. We are juggling our work load, but just like a juggler, we have a couple of different balls in the air, but we are only touching one at a time. In other words, we may think we are multi tasking but we are actually rapidly switching between tasks. It is this rapid switching which prevents from concentrating fully on any one task.

Put down the balls and pick up one at a time. When we attempt to multi task it may actually take 40% longer than putting our full effort into it. This brings me back to my Netflix / work example. I could have worked single mindedly for half the time rather than splitting my attention between two tasks.

According to Clifford Nass, a communication professor at Stanford, the more we multi task, the more difficult we find to learn, concentrate and be nice to people. I can think of many times where I cut somebody off or was rude because I had too many things going on at one time.

Nass says that if you think you are good at multi tasking, you aren’t. “People who multi task all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.” This is something I struggle with my self. I find it difficult to filter out the irrelevant and shut out the distractions.

Just as practising self control and meditation re-wire our brains, multi tasking also rewires our brain. These scattered habits have a similar scattering effect on our brain and our attention span.

Many studies support the fact that humans cannot multi task, we rapidly shift attention between tasks which does not allow us enough time to give these items our full concentration. This effects our proficiency and dilutes our abilities.

It is my intention to try to devote my full attention to everything, single mindedly, whether it is reading a book, answering emails or having a conversation with someone in a bar. If we take the time to pause, we can clearly define our next goals and the next task we need to address, making it easier to avoid hopping from one task to another and back again in quick succession.

Remember to focus. F.O.C.U.S.

Follow one course until success.

If you liked this blog, please share it.

Peace,

George

Patience: There Are People Who Stand And There Are People Who Sit

You may have recently read my blog on our trip to Argentina. Nobody likes airports. At least I don’t anyway. It is the same thing every time. We check in, go through security and then wait at the gate while watching a bit of Netflix or reading (Or in Theresa’s case, almost having a heart seizure watching Extras).

Then, the same thing happens, no matter what part of the world we are in or what time of the year it is. 90% of the passengers line up and spend around 40 minutes waiting in line to get onto the flight. The seats are always reserved, we have a specific seat number which nobody can take and yet we line up regardless. The plane will not leave any sooner nor will we get a more comfortable seat by lining up.

Is it FOMO. Do we have a fear of missing out on the optimum seat or baggage spaces?

Is this because of impatience?

Columbia University Professor David Maister argues that “occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time.” In other words, people like to feel they are being productive when they are waiting in line for something. It would be far more productive to take a seat and actually get some work done rather than standing in line. I believe the subconscious thinking is that we are advancing our immediate goal of getting on the plane.

We are also influenced by other people. This is called the herd mentality where we follow the majority or in some cases not even the majority, just the first ones to make the move. Studies have shown that as little as five people can influence a crowd of 100 to follow suit.

Waiting is frustrating and demoralizing. So why do it? Why wait in line when we can have a comfortable (as comfortable as airport chairs get) seat and board at our leisure?

Maybe the answer is a simple as boredom. A watched pot never boils. Those of us waiting in line at the gate feel like we are watching the pot and that standing in line is moving things along somewhat. Occupying the time, so to speak.

This seems like a lack of patience on our part. I wonder was this always the case? Did we line up for planes in the 1950’s even if we were guaranteed one particular seat on the plane, or is this a knock on effect of today’s society in which instant gratification is the norm so we subconsciously expect instant boarding?

Modern cultural norms like text messaging, Amazon delivery, the afore mentioned Netflix have changed the way we think. We want everything now, but the more we are made to wait, the better we become at it. Or at least that is what one would believe. But the truth is we never willingly wait for anything. Everything is instant, so we expect everything now. Our objective must come to us in a hurry and if that is not going to happen then we will go to our objective in a hurry.

In this case, the aeroplane is there, we must get on.

We cannot wait for anything anymore. It is all about short term success. But in my opinion we need to slow down…..and……… s … t … o … p ….

We need to listen to ourselves. We need to listen to our bodies, our sub consciousness, our needs and our troubles.

The aeroplane is simply an analogy for how we hurry through life these days. We need to take stock of where we are and actually stay in the present moment, rather than letting our minds race ahead to the plane when boarding has not even begun.

It is this quick, immediate, instant mentality that pulls us to the line up. It is not our desire to board the plane, rather it is the fact that our mind is already ahead of us to a completely different destination.

Do not confuse this with thinking ahead. Planning is one thing but letting our minds wander so far ahead that we try to (metaphorically) push through doors that are not even open is another thing.

We have our best ideas when we stop. Have you ever allowed yourself to get bored? That is when things really start to happen in the mind. That is when the mind starts to find some breathing space and work out the kinks that we have buried so deep in our efforts to be somewhere else that they have been forgotten.

Impatience not only takes us away from the present moment, it also takes us away from ourselves and from each other. Impatience kills relationships.

Would life permit us to count to ten before we made every decision? Things would slow down that’s for sure but is that so bad? Is it so bad to have to actually sit at home on the couch and let the mind wander rather than having Ricky Gervais at the touch of a button to make us piss ourselves with laughter?

I watch my fair share of Netflix, but maybe we should think about pressing the pause button a little more and allow the mind to take a breather. I can’t remember the last time I sat in silence (apart from meditation) with no book, no TV, no phone, no stimulation. Maybe I should practise what I preach.

I watched a TED Talk today from a man named Albert “Key Lay” Keys. Albert is paralysed, in a wheel chair. The chair thought him patience and wisdom it seems. He tells us that “patience is the thin line between an argument and an intelligent debate. If we can be patient with ourselves, it is only then that we can be patient with others.”

So, maybe since it’s Christmas time, let’s see if we can actually slow down, rather than speed up like we usually do at this time of the year. Let’s take the time to sit in silence and ignore the honking horns, the frantic shopping needs and the jam packed parking lots.

Let’s stop and just soak it in. Feel what’s happening. Feel the goodwill, and if we can’t feel it we can create it.

Let’s start by stopping.

Peace,

George

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