Have you observed how Storks or Egrets catch fish in the water? They don’t chase the fish in the water. They stand still in the water, sometimes even on one leg, and when the fish comes nearby, they pick it up and process it. They are clever (native intelligence). They know that if they move in the water, they will create ripples on the surface or make the water muddy and then they cannot see the fish in the water. On the other hand, when the water is still, they can see what is below the surface.
Our mind works in a similar way. When the mind is calm, we get deeper insights. You might have observed that sometimes we struggle to solve some problems for long; but then we get some flash of ideas while taking shower or after getting up from sleep – that is when the mind is calm. You can read more about this phenomenon in the article Discover the Creative You, including the neuroscience behind.
Is it possible to cultivate this as a practice and tap into our deeper intelligences intentionally rather than stumble upon them accidentally? Yes.
I have personally found it very effective in solving problems or getting creative ideas. I think about the problem or the issue or the topic where I want to generate ideas; feed them into the mind and just leave them. I sleep over them. Next morning when I’m sitting quietly, the flashes of ideas start gushing out. Sometimes similar thing happens when I sit quietly after meditation. I just note down the thoughts/ideas in a notepad without much analysis, thinking, filtering etc. – somewhat like journaling. Later I process them, analyze them, structure them and so on. I have noticed that the out-of-box ideas and thoughts that come through this process are far better than the forced thinking I used to struggle with earlier.
Otto Scharmer from Society for Organizational Learning, MIT, USA describes this very well in his book ‘Theory U – Leading from the future as it emerges’. Based on his own catastrophic life experience and observing how things emerged subsequently, he articulates them into a systematic process of Letting Go to Letting Come, as shown in the below schematic.
When we let go, we relax the mind. When the hyper thinking mind quietens down, the other multiple intelligences (including Intuitive Intelligence) become visible/accessible. Then the Letting Come happens – profound thoughts / ideas spring up from the deeper intelligences.
One of my colleagues is an author and has published several books on diverse topics. He shared his secret of writing books. At night he lies down on the bed, allows the mind to wander and relax; then creative ideas start popping up. He gets up and notes them down in a notepad and continues with the ‘letting go and letting come’ process (he didn’t know that he was doing it that way, though).
Malcolm Gladwell, in his famous book ‘Blink’, articulates this as power of thinking without thinking.
Are you ready for an experiment? Can you hold a 1-liter water bottle in your horizontally stretched hand? Of course, that’s easy. Then how long can you hold it like that? – 2 minutes, 5 minutes? Your hand gets fatigued, and the bottle feels so heavy that you will have to release the hand. After a while you can lift it again easily. Imagine you carrying a huge load on your head and walking around all the time at home, at work and carrying it even when sleeping – how much fatigue it might cause? Sounds ridiculous? But that’s exactly what we are doing with our mind.
We are carrying so much load in our mind all the time – the worries, fears, anxieties, plans, judgments, opinions, …. and so many thoughts. We don’t know how to keep the ‘load’ down, so that we can pick it up only when needed. Even while going to sleep we can’t keep the load down. Because it’s not visible, because nobody laughs at us for carrying such a load all the time in the head, we continue as if that is the way.
Letting go is an art of unburdening the mind, so that we build capacity for heavy lifting when needed.
But how easy is it to let go? Especially when we feel stakes are high or in an emergency situation or when we are desperate? In all situations calm mind works better. It’s not about the amount of time gap, it’s more about the level of awareness and calmness of mind. This can be cultivated through mindfulness techniques – unfortunately only practice brings transformation; just reading about it, watching videos or listening to talks does not bring transformation.
So, why not give it a try for some nagging problem or exciting new idea, by Letting Go and allowing Letting Come happen?
Here is an invitation for you to explore, experiment and experience some of the Mindfulness practices.
Stay tuned for more in Mindful Leadership series.
You can download a free eBook on Mindfulness@Work here.
You can practice audio/video guided Mindfulness techniques here.
You can get more info on Mindful Leadership here.
If you are curious & adventurous and want to explore & experiment deeper, watch the following videos in that order: