An interesting anecdote from George Gurdjieff’s life. Who is George Gurdjieff? Well, he was an Armenian mystic who for acquiring spiritual knowledge travelled the world over, studying under several masters and spiritual gurus. As he evolved, he created his own unique system of enlightenment called “The work.”
The legend goes like this:
When Gurdjieff’s father died, he was only nine years old. Before he died, he called Gurdjieff close to him and told him, “I have nothing to give you as your inheritance. I am poor, and my father was also poor, but he gave me one thing that made me the richest man in the world, although the outside poverty remained the same. I can only transfer the same to you.
“It is some advice. Perhaps you are too young and you may not be able to do it right now but remember it. When you are able to act according to the advice, act according to it. And the advice is simple. I will repeat it, and because I am dying, listen carefully and repeat before me that I have said so I can die satisfied that I have transferred the message that may have come down from father to son for centuries.”
The message was simple. The father said, “If somebody insults you, irritates you, annoys you, just tell him, ‘I have received your message, but I have promised my father that I will answer only after twenty-four hours. I know you are angry; I have understood it. I will come after twenty-four hours and answer you.’ And the same with anything. Give a gap of twenty-four hours.”
A nine-year-old boy repeated what the father had said, and the father died. But because it was such a moment the message became engraved. As he repeated the message, the father said, “Good. My blessings will be with you, and now I can die peacefully.” He closed his eyes and died. And Gurdjieff, even though he was nine, started practicing what was given to him.
Somebody will insult him, and he will say, “I will come after twenty-four hours to answer you because that’s what I have promised my dying father. Right now, I cannot answer you.” Somebody may beat him, and he would say, “You can beat me right now, but I cannot answer. After twenty-four hours I will come and answer you, because I have promised my dying father.”
And later on, he used to say to his disciples, “That simple message transformed me totally. The person was beating me but I was not going to react at that moment so there was no question except to watch. I had nothing to do: now the person was beating me, I just had to be a spectator.
For twenty-four hours there was nothing to do. And watching the man created a new kind of crystallization in me. And after twenty-four hours I could see more clearly. At the moment when he was beating me it was impossible to see clearly. My eyes were full of anger. If I was going to answer at that moment I would have wrestled with the man, I would have hit the man, and everything would have been an unconscious reaction.
“But after twenty-four hours I could think about it more calmly, more quietly. Either he was right – I had done something wrong and I needed, deserved, to be beaten, to be insulted – or he was absolutely wrong. If he was right, there was nothing to say to him except to go and give him thanks. If he was absolutely wrong, there was no point at all fighting with a man who is utterly stupid and goes on doing such wrong things. It is meaningless, is wasting time. He does not deserve an answer.”
This is an excerpt from one of Osho’s book!
Now just imagine a day in your life. At work, somebody insults you. What would you do? Well, if you have developed this habit of getting angry thanks to the programming in your subconscious mind, you will immediately react through your anger. This anger is not conscious, it’s an old mechanism, a repeat of the past. Your reaction is driven by impulse.
The insult is the trigger and your anger is the reaction. But, the 24-hour principle created a gap. This gap created by the passage of time weakens the intensity of your overwhelming emotions. The gap creates a pause which allows you to notice your thought patterns. It allows you to detach yourself from the situation creating a mental distance from the drama that was unfolding at that moment. This awareness makes you more conscious saving you from falling into the trap of replaying the drama again and again.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl.
Between the trigger and your reaction, there is a minute gap or nano pause. In that pause lies your power to choose your reaction. It’s a golden gap!
This golden gap between stimulus(trigger) and reaction is priceless.
Your awareness of this gap can make all the difference between a bad day and a great day. Learn to use this nanogap, to pause and take a deep breath and then decide on the action. That’s response.
Especially for someone who is quick-tempered. The value of giving a gap before responding to any situation is enormous – so many blunders and mistakes could be avoided.
If you have travelled on Delhi Metro, I am sure you have heard this- Please mind the gap! A powerful line to apply in life.
Please mind the gap—between the trigger and your reaction.
Just imagine a very common scenario- you are on the wheel and driving to work amidst crazy traffic and get cut off on the road. Now, before you spin into the typical and obvious reaction of road rage, you pause, take a deep breath and mind the gap. You become aware and observe your energy shift and allows things to cool off! The result: – you arrive at your workplace with a positive frame of mind and lots of energy. You begin your day on a positive note and happy mood. Seems irrelevant, but believe me this one moment had the power to make or break your entire day. Is it easy? No, it’s quite hard but worth it.
Always remember this: Everything is hard before it becomes easy!
Agreed it is not easy to break ingrained habits driven by the unconscious mind and ignorance, however, if practice this small exercise enough and persevere, the fog will disappear and you’ll soon see the sky.
Wait for a few seconds, few minutes, a few hours or a day …. before responding and see the quality of your relationships become so much better. It can change the trajectory of your life.
Better to follow Gurdjieff’s father’s advice and wait before reacting.
I am eager to know your thoughts on this issue. Please share it in the comments section below!
Happy Minding the Gap!