There is an inspiring anecdote about the legendary Hindi poet and Padma Bhushan awardee, Shri Harivansh Rai Bachchan. He had a unique interest in collecting rocks. He would look at rocks, identify a nature-inspired image or figure in it, which he would later artistically bring to life with strokes of his paintbrush.
This anecdote is inspiring in many ways. In terms of qualities that make the seemingly impossible, possible, what stands out is the power of intention, attention, perseverance, consistency, self-belief, and passion. What is also interesting is the overall approach of first adopting a simple strategy, breaking it down into smaller/smallest steps, and then taking consistent action. What I really liked about this story is that it shows us what this combination of qualities, a simple approach, and consistent action can make happen.
But it’s so overwhelming…. how does one begin?
Very often, we have the intention and the potential to invoke the latent perseverance, consistency, self-belief, and passion but it is tough to focus our attention because the task seems so overwhelming that getting started becomes difficult.
For these instances, the well-known author and spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran had a trick. In one of his books, he uses the example of a long due term paper and suggests that one begins with chanting one’s favorite mantra, a deep breath followed by clearing the desk, getting the pen/pencils ready, pulling out the books that are needed and spreading out the notes “as if” one was going to begin. If the mind begins to complain saying something to the effect “I just can’t do this”, he suggests reassuring the mind that all one is going to do is to gently skim through the book, arrange the notes and push the pen around a bit. Then staying true to this approach and keeping the mind at ease, we do just that. Look through the pages, organize any notes, write down any stray thoughts or ideas related to the topic at hand. This triggers a series of thoughts/ideas and as one keeps adding one line after the other, soon one has a paragraph and then a whole page. The process slowly begins to feel immersive and the focused attention that was missing in the beginning now begins to gain intensity. Once there is attention and some visible amount of work done, one begins to feel enthused. A steady flow of ideas begins to stream through the mind, and we feel thoroughly absorbed. It is almost as if the same inertia which was initially holding us back, now begins to work for us.
Writing this article has been an interesting experience because, in the beginning, I did feel a bit overwhelmed. The question “where to begin?” kept holding me back and the first few lines took the longest and so I did try tricking my brain by saying “let me just write down the interesting anecdote, and then we’ll see”. The trick worked and it feels good to have come this far.
I hope the anecdote and Eknath Easwaran’s trick resonate with you. Please do share your experiences if you try the trick
Have an awesome week ahead!