Alertness: State of Mind

There was a Zen Master who was famous for his teachings about “Alertness”. Many students and disciples used to come to him from far away places. One day the Prince of a nearby kingdom decided to reach out to the Master to be his student.

Master was sitting below a tall Redwood tree and meditating. Prince came and bowed to the Master. He opened his eyes. Master’s silent demeanour was overpowering and the Prince felt nervous. He finally gathered some courage and said– “Master, I am the Prince of the neighbouring Kingdom. I’ve heard from many that you teach lessons about “alertness” and people are benefitted by the same. I too am keen to become your student and learn.”

Without uttering a word Master gestured and asked the Prince to start climbing the tree under which he was meditating. Prince was a bit confused but started climbing the tall Redwood tree. As he was climbing the tree, he looked down to get some instructions from the Master but to his utter astonishment, Master had closed his eyes and was meditating. Prince was irritated but continued climbing the tree. As he was reaching towards the top of the tree, the stem was getting thinner and the tree was swinging heavily in the wind. The Prince was scared of falling and had to catch the stem and the bark firmly to maintain his balance. He looked at the Master below and to his surprise the Master was still in deep meditation with his eyes closed. Prince got angry that here he was struggling to survive and avoid a death fall and there his Master was so carelessly sitting and meditating.

After reaching the tip of the tree, he started climbing down. Again at mid-way, he looked below to see the Master meditating. As he was coming closer to the ground at around 20–25 feet height, he heard his Master shout, “Beee caaarrrreeefffulll myyyy SSSSonnnnn, hold the stem properly…make sure you do not fall, takeeee careee !!!!”

Somehow he reached the ground but was so frustrated and angry with the Master. He could not control his princely anger and almost yelled at the master, saying “I am utterly surprised and disgusted with your behaviour and your teaching methods. It is so ridiculous that when I was at the top of the tree which was swinging heavily due to the wind and I would have fallen to death, you were merrily meditating with your eyes closed. And when I was just a few feet above the ground, you were trying to tell me to be careful??? Have you gone crazy????

Master smiled and said, “My son, when you were reaching the top, and the stem was getting thinner and the tree was swinging in the wind, you had the fear of death, fear of falling down. Your mind and body were extremely alert at that time in holding the tree and saving yourself from the fall. It was when you were reaching the ground that your mind and body could become overconfident, casual and relaxed. That is the time when most fail to hold and at that point, there are most chances of falling. I started cautioning you at that time to ensure that your mind is sensitised and you remain alert to reach the ground safely.

Prince touched his Master’s feet for he had learnt his lesson.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I have yet to find a person who is learning to drive a car and has ever committed any accident. We are so alert about all our actions such as pressing the clutch, changing gears, applying breaks, our eyes on the road gauging every possible movement even in the periphery of our vision that we leave no scope to collide. It’s only after we think that we now know driving that the attention and alertness of mind starts getting into our muscle memory that we drive so mechanically and detach ourselves from the ‘act of driving’. This is the time when most accidents tend to happen.

As a start-up when we are bootstrapped, passionately pursuing our idea, looking to build a core team, pitching to the first few angels, customers, ensuring that the team can survive that early phase when we are spending our own savings or borrowed money from our parents and siblings or close friends. We are extremely alert as we are always threatened by near-death situations and challenges to our start-up, our dream.

It is when we start getting customer validations, angel / VC funding, more success and growth that we have to be more careful and alert, as unknowingly the complacency and overconfidence would creep in to our mind and we start taking things for granted….Our dreams, our passion, our team, our values, our customers, our strategies and our execution.

When Mr. Bill Gates says “Success is a lousy teacher, it seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” To me it means that failure or challenges keep us focused and alert, while success make us casual.

बुलंदी की उड़ान पर हो तो ज़रा सब्र रक्खो,
परिंदे बताते हैं की आसमान में ठिकाने नहीं होते l

Bulandi ki udaan par ho to zara sabr rakkho,
Parinde batate hain ki aasmaan me thikane nahin hote.

Flying high on Success, keep a little patience
birds reveal that the sky has no dwellings..

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *