A lesson in mindfulness from Geet Sethi

Mindfulness really means staying immersed, focused and concentrating on whatever you are doing, without letting your mind wander into the past or the future.
Geet Sethi
Picture Courtesy: The Hindu/Internet
We were guests at the recent annual convention of the Madras Management Association. One of the speakers at the event was Geet Sethi, nine-time World Billiards Champion. Sethi’s talk was inspiring, simple and evocative. He rightly demystified success as being different from the popular notion that people hold of it – which is acquiring name, fame and money. He said that true success is when you can enjoy and love what you are doing. “When you have a meditative experience whenever you do what you love doing, that feeling is success,” he explained. He urged that we simplify our lives. He said that the mind is the most important part of the human experience; and reining in your mind is the biggest challenge, yet the biggest opportunity, you have. Sethi added: “We must stop this incessant wanting in us to grab, acquire and possess more. Keep Life simple. Every time I bought a car or a house, I lost a World Championship. All my distractions were so time-consuming. When I saw the pattern I realized that I was losing focus and concentration on my game. So, when you are pursuing something, stay immersed. Stay focused.”
What Sethi is advocating is mindfulness. While his advice is very relevant for those who are targeting high-performance – like an Olympic Gold or a business target – that requires consistent dedication to the cause over a period of time, even in everyday living mindfulness is key to inner peace. All of us are veterans at worrying. More than the art of living, for which we ironically believe we need to go learn from someone else, we are masters at letting our mind graze in the past or in the future. Resultantly, the mind is never in the present moment. It is only in the now, in the present, that you can find the peace that you so desperately seek. This is why many of us are searching for peace. Practising mindfulness simply means you have to train your mind not to slip away from the present moment. Like any other form of training, this requires diligence and an initial continuous 21-day practice discipline.

Once you learn to control your mind, once you learn to be mindful, then each moment is an immersive, meditative experience in whatever you are involved in, in whatever is happening to you. That, and only that, is the way to being peaceful and happy!  

Of a Priest, Prayer, God and Job Security

Does prayer really work? Does it lead you to God? Does it solve your problems?
I guess these are questions that often rise in our minds at a deeply rational, logical level. But I have come to believe that the questions are misplaced! The question we really need to ask ourselves is, of what use are all the religious rituals that we conduct monotonously and mindlessly when we are not mindful of Life’s gifts__the grace, abundance, blessings in our lives__ itself and we continue to still worry, fear and agonize over what the (unknown) future holds for us?
I am reminded of a conversation that I had with our family priest a few years ago. A self-confessed champion of piety, who called himself a ‘strict Brahmin’, he came to me asking for career advice for his son who was looking to join an IT services company after completing his undergraduate studies in software engineering. He explained that his son had been selected by a leading software company through campus interviews. Yet he claimed he was worried. Our conversation went somewhat like this:
Me: Why are you still worried Sir?
Him: I don’t know if IT companies can offer job security the way the government can!
Me: Why would you, a faithful servant of the Lord, for years now, be insecure __ and want to seek security in a government job?
Him: Sir, how can God guarantee job security?
Me: What is God there for then if HE/SHE can’t guarantee you security?
Him: Sir, velayadathengo! Don’t pull my leg, Sir! God can’t come and tell me that my son’s future is assured!
Me: If God can’t tell you that, the one who has direct access to HIM/HER, who else can reach God? Why do you pray then?
Him: Sir, praying to God is my profession. I still need ‘something else’ to tell me that my Life is on track and that my family and I will be secure!
With due apologies, and respect, to my family priest, I must confess that this is the problem with praying mindlessly. That ‘something else’ which my priest was looking for__and I hope he found it in his own way subsequently__is ‘mindfulness’. When you are mindful of the present moment, and are grateful for it, that would be prayer enough to make you realize your God!

You will then find God in this blessing__that you have to access Facebook and are able to read a post. You will then find God when you feel the air in your lungs. You will the find God in the sunrises and sunsets that happen outside your window every single day without fail. You will then find God in a child’s smile, in leaves rustling in the night breeze, in a cow mooing and in a dew drop! You will then find God in every form of creation that you connect with. You will then find God in each moment. And then you will understand and value what being prayerful is all about. You will then realize that such true prayer, of living in the moment, alone can lead you to your God!