Mindfully yours

19 December 2016

It is said that the Buddhist sages were able to evaluate prospective new recruits to monkhood by the way in which they swept the courtyards of the monastery. Indeed, everything that we say and do reveals our essence. In this short dialogue I’m going to emphasize the ‘doing’ component, since I am very much a physical, hands-on type of person.

I recall an instance when I was a senior neurosurgical resident and was walking with the chief consultant from the change room to the OR, with a new junior resident in tow. Just as we were about to enter the OR and out of earshot of the new junior, the chief leant forward and murmured in my ear ‘This new guy is not neurosurgical material!’ Somewhat surprised, since the chief had only recently been introduced to the new resident, I responded ‘How so, Prof?’ To which the chief fired back, ‘Did you see the way he tied his trousers ...?’ And the chief was right. Our young new resident barely lasted the year before entering the psychiatry rotation.

So what’s in the doing? Well, as a neurosurgeon of thirty years experience, a former pilot and a potter of several years, I can confidently say that everything that you are is in the doing. The doing is you and you are in the doing. And everything about you is indeed revealed in your approach to the doing. It really all boils down to one thing – you are either respectful in your approach, or not. To be respectful you need to be sensitive to the elements with which you engage, confident (based on knowledge and experience) and humble – because you can never be in control of everything. From this space you derive clarity which is the determining factor for the next level of approach – value contribution.

Value contribution is making something better than it was before you engaged with it. Value contribution is firstly directed to self – deriving gratification from upping your game and fulfilling your greater potential. Then follows your value contribution to your external environment. Here is further gratification as you enhance the environment with all its flora and fauna (that includes humans and other animals!).

The qualifier in the approach is that the components – sensitivity, clarity, humility and value contribution, draw you into engagement in the present free of distraction! That is true mindfulness and these are the components which carry you over into that special space. It is from this space that effectiveness and excellence emerge. And also, much personal gratification. It is also from this space that we become a value-add to our world and its future. Not surprising, it is this space that generates high levels of dopamine (engagement, application, gratification) as well as oxytocin (sensitivity and connection to the greater whole) – the juices that enhance wellness, performance and indeed, leadership.

Next time you sweep the floor, check on your approach ....

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