I had the great honour recently in spending a weekend at Uluru in central Australia. I finally got to see the rock that was such an icon of Australia when I was a boy growing up in Dublin. When I first arrived in Australia as a backpacker, we considered diverting to Uluru as we drove from Perth to Sydney, but the distance was just too vast. Twenty-three years later I finally made it, and it did not fail to move me.
When you are out there, it is hard to look at anything else. It is huge, it is old and it is magnificent. And maybe it was just me, but the rock seems to talk to me. And what it said was “Just be. Stop doing and just be. Stop taking pictures, stop texting your friends to say that you are there, stop listening to music on your iPhone. Just be”.
You see, Uluru just is. It does not do anything. For many millions of years, the rock has sat in the desert, and for 35,000 years has watched mankind live their lives around its massive base. But I believe that if the rock had an awareness and an interest in us, it would not judge our worth by the things that we have done. It would care little for what we did, and would certainly not be interested in our inboxes, calendars and task lists. But it might care about our ability to be. Our ability to live as one with the world around us. This is a central belief of the aboriginal people who have populated this area for longer than any other culture has survived, anywhere in the world.
Don’t worry, I have not gone off the deep end here. I don’t believe that the rock spoke to me, or has an awareness. But as I looked at Uluru, I was struck by a need to stop doing and just be, and it made me think about how this translated to our workplaces. Should we practice ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ more in our work lives?
Maybe in your next meeting, you should stop taking notes and become more present to what is being said. Maybe rather than spending the day running from meeting to Inbox, you should carve out some time to reflect and think. Maybe rather than ploughing through email after email you should sit and think about what is most important in your day. I am not suggesting that we all light incense and sit around humming all day, but we do need to slow down a bit to be more productive.
Uluru is old and wise. I reckon that it can teach us a thing or two about time. So, over the next week, why not practice ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.