Chapter 10: Whose Life Are You Living?

History makers are those who choose to rewrite the script of their lives. Revolution is all about rewriting the script. To break through, you need to break with. The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

“Who knows what lies ahead? The joys and sorrows, the opportunities and challenges, laughter or tears of the coming day, who knows what lies ahead? Who cares about what lies ahead? The moment of truth is that you are alone in the bathroom and in the here and now in the bathroom, you reign. The moment has come to embark upon a grand adventure into the unknown. It is time to brush your teeth! You have two choices. You can go about it the same way you have; repeat a few mechanical motions. The other is to experiment. Start the day on a new tone. Face the mirror and roar like a lion. Roar as loudly as your surroundings permit. The roar will immediately bring energy into the body and bring your body to the present moment. It will awaken the slumbering beast within. You are permitted to laugh if you find it funny.

Usually we take ourselves too seriously, and a good laugh at nothing in particular, miraculously puts things back into perspective. So laugh. Feel at home in your body. Be yourself. It is your bathroom; you are alone, you reign in the here and now, and this perhaps is a rare opportunity.”

Dressed in formals, with tablet computers in front of them, seated in a U-formation in the conference room, they looked at one another. It was a group of fresh business management graduates, twenty in number, supposedly, in an induction program. It was going to be a three-day orientation program and the last segment of each day was an address by their Chief Mentor, Avyakta. Their minds were barely prepared to listen to a speech on what to do first thing in the morning in the bathroom! Everyone’s body language expressed disbelief.

Avyakta continued. “At first, these small exercises may appear childish; as a matter of fact, they are. But in pursuit of flashier jobs and higher incomes, we’ve lost our ability to look within and are no more able to connect with our own selves. Often our fast pace makes us forget what we are running after. Learn to play again. Rediscover the childlike delight in simple things. It will help stimulate your creative side and make your imagination run wild. Children don’t put down their ideas; instead, they jump with wild enthusiasm, excited by their originality. Let go of your conditioned adult mind. Coming back to your teeth, brushing need not be a grind. Slip the brush into all the small spaces and crevices. Be sensual, be imaginative and don’t be shy. Experiment with different speeds, rhythms and movements. Use your non-natural hand for brushing. Brushing with the other hand is an exciting experience because you have to learn it anew; the unpractised hand cannot do it automatically. The best way to learn is to consciously brush with your natural hand and then imitate the movement with the learning hand. Several interesting things will happen in the process. The teaching hand learns to be more relaxed and probably becomes more efficient. The learning hand picks up a new skill. Furthermore, the brain is stimulated in a new way and called upon to function beyond its usual limit.”

Smiling at the frozen faces, Avyakta concluded, “Gentlemen, this assignment is a very important part of your induction, and it is mandatory. Go through the experience and submit a report on the experience tomorrow.”

Though the assignment seemed weird, Avyakta had certainly kindled their curiosity and inquisitiveness. They subjected themselves to the experiences and also presented their reports. They had never thought that ‘brushing of teeth’ would be a major point of discussion in an induction program for handpicked business management graduates. It was a choiceless situation for these management trainees. Ironically, Avyakta didn’t even go through their reports. Instead they were given another assignment that would make the fathers of management studies turn in their graves. Each one of them were given the latest annual report of the organisation and asked to submit a proposal on how to lead the company to closure within three years. “Guys and girls, in three years time we should be out of business. I know the focus of all your learning has been on how to build a business. It is time to challenge your thinking in a new direction. The crux of creativity is seeing things from a new perspective. The greatest block to creativity is old judgements. It is time to reprogram your minds. Try the untried,” exclaimed Avyakta.

Most of them didn’t even blink their eyes that night. They thought individually; they brainstormed collectively; they surfed the Net. The night was long and the morning came rather early. This was their first glimpse of corporate India. ‘Pressure’ – that’s the oxygen of the new corporate world. That’s what they breathe and that’s what they live on. It seems ‘Ssssttttrrrreeettttttccccchhhhhhh’ is the only way.

In the concluding session, the last and final one before they would take on their responsibilities thus spoke Avyakta: “I am not trying to give you a new management paradigm; we actually need a new social paradigm. From the time we are born, we learn to live within boundaries and parameters. We are conditioned by our physical environment, by what our parents and others tell us, by events that impact us emotionally, and by the subtle social structures that surround us. We are all ‘bred’ to play our roles. Of course, conditioning allows us to live together and work together. But, slowly and relentlessly, we build a ‘box’ around ourselves. Adults quickly become comfortable inside their individual boxes and continue to live on ‘autopilot’. We tend to see only what we already know. As a species, we seem to look for ways to maintain the status quo. We get settled into old habits. We learn to adapt to their constrictions and therefore forget that there are boundaries. How many times have we humans found ourselves repeating the same old patterns, hoping for better results? A responsible person must learn to unlearn what he has learned. A responsible person must have the courage to rethink and change his thoughts. Are you willing to unlearn and relearn? Are we willing to play a different game? We are simply living a social script that has been handed over to us. It is your life, but someone else’s script – the script handed down by parents, the society and the community. Whose life are you living? How do we escape from the box?”

Even at the thought level, no one seemed to be contradicting what Avyakta was saying. The silence in the hall and the rapt attention with which everyone was listening was a confirmation of that. Avyakta continued. “Thinking about one’s thinking lays the foundation for ‘learning to unlearn’. By allowing ourselves to be different, we give ourselves permission to be excellent, instead of being ordinary. Just as we cannot plant new crops without first pulling out the old roots and giving the new seeds a chance, we need to unlearn before we can learn anew. Unlearning is the key. Learning is more than the mere acquisition of new knowledge and insights; it is also crucial to unlearn old knowledge that has outlived its relevance. Thus, forgetting the old is probably as important as remembering the new. To generate new ideas, you have to accelerate the unlearning of old ones. The most important lessons lie not in what you need to learn, but in what you need to unlearn. Your old strengths in a new environment become your new weaknesses. Sometimes, we need to go down a few grades to learn something new. Sometimes, you have to step back in order to step forward, and in it you will feel the renewed energy. The power in the unlearning process is found in its ability to challenge and destroy some of the concepts that we hold dear. We need to revisit old beliefs with new minds.”

“Gentlemen, listen!” Avyakta roared. “I am not seeing you as architects of the future of this organisation alone, but as the torch bearers of a new world. Pathfinders have to be path-breakers. Develop a conscious desire to explore possibilities outside your conditioned thinking. It might make you aware of what lies outside the box, and perhaps help you see and hear things that you were previously oblivious to. You will gradually develop a creative tension between your desire to change and your resistance, which is a fear of the unknown. You could challenge the old model, unlearn that which was holding you back, and begin to open up enough to destroy the old box and create anew. When this happens, it will be a moment of breakthrough and great awareness. Such transformations lead to dramatic increase in openness and create a space, a gap, between present reality and the future vision.”

Avyakta ended by saying, “History makers are those who choose to rewrite the script of their lives. Revolution is all about rewriting the script. To break through, you need to break with. The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. See you in the future that do not resemble our past. Thank you. Love you. Wishing you most and more…”

The management graduates experientially realised: What one can learn from a man, one cannot learn from books. Encyclopaedia is one thing. A living encyclopaedia is completely another. In Avyakta, they found a living encyclopaedia.

Nothing like growing in the right hands.

Pathfinders have to be path-breakers. Develop a conscious desire to explore possibilities outside your conditioned thinking. It might make you aware of what lies outside the box, and perhaps help you see and hear things that you were previously oblivious to. You will gradually develop a creative tension between your desire to change and your resistance, which is a fear of the unknown. You could challenge the old model, unlearn that which was holding you back, and begin to open up enough to destroy the old box and create anew. When this happens, it will be a moment of breakthrough and great awareness.

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