This idiom has one of the most profound messages that has helped me in my journey to know myself and to recondition my way of seeing the world. There is a parable that supports this concept and it goes something like this:
A group of blind men who have never come in contact with an elephant is made to describe the elephant by touching the animal. They are made to stand in different positions where one gets to touch the tusk of the elephant, while the other is made to touch the tail and so on. Each one of them is then asked to conceptualize what they felt and they all clearly describe the elephant according to their understanding and analysis. Their descriptions do not match with one another and they even start to question their fellow member’s judgment.
The learning to be derived from this parable is that we have the tendency to look at things from our limited knowledge and experience. Our attachment to our versions of reality is so strong that we neglect, often retaliate when faced with a different version which may be equally true. I noted that the space between stimulus and response can be widened if I meditate and fully stay aware of the situation. Reacting is easy and more often than not, automatic. But, to respond is a skill and that needs persistent practice and an open-minded approach to not just blindly accept things but to take a small step, I am not referring to taking a step forward, I am talking about taking a step back and analyzing the situation with a pinch of possibility that “There could be another way to look at this thing. It may or may not resonate with my way of thinking but it is not necessary that it is incorrect.”
The moment I find myself segregating situations into good-bad, right-wrong, correct-incorrect, etc. I take a pause and remind myself that I am just one of the blind men, trying to form conclusions based on my limited understanding. I started with simple practices and here is one of the simplest examples that I could put across to explain:
I once saw a man selling vegetables wearing a neon pink shirt and the brightness of his shirt reflected on the dragon fruit he was selling. His shirt made it impossible to ignore his stall and I wondered why would he wear something so flashy? My thoughts went to an extent of thinking who even wears these kinds of shirts? Why do they print them in the first place? And a series of judgmental comments started streaming in my head. Of Course, I had to broadcast my witty sense of humor so I shared my unskillful comments with others and had a good laugh!
Not very long ago, I went on a small trek and while I was resting on the mountain, I saw a small piece of land surrounded by trees. In the middle of it were a few houses, some goats and cows, chirping birds, puppies playing around, all of which added more beauty to the place. It was so dense that it was easy for someone to get lost in the human-sized tall grass and there he was! A man making his way out of the grass wearing a neon pink shirt! I think that was the aha moment for me and I realized that it was my inability to see things patiently that made me conclude that the vegetable vendor was silly. I apologized (in my head of course!) to the guy I saw selling vegetables to the manufacturers of neon pink shirts! One thing to note is that I did not curse myself for judging the man earlier, I had to let go of the self-guilt to be able to make a change. It is called evolving, don’t mistake it with hypocrisy.
Ending today's blog with a small poem by Rumi:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
~ Anila Andezhath