Counting Trees

Building and TreeHow much do I miss because my focus is not on understanding?

If one was to ask me how many trees there were next to the building at lunch today, would I be able to answer that accurately? No.

Why not? I did not count the number of trees when I was at lunch.

Why not? It did not occur to me to do that.

Why not? I was busy thinking about something that happened at work that morning.

What is more important: the knowledge that came from thinking about what happened earlier, or the knowledge of the number of trees next to the building? My initial response is that they are both equally useless. But utility does not necessarily make something important.

No new knowledge came from me thinking about what happened that morning. Counting trees could have given me a number.

Is that number important? Maybe. Maybe not. But it is knowledge. It could help me come to a better understanding of the world.

I also noticed that the trees were evenly spaced out. I could estimate the distance between each tree. Taking that estimate, along with the number of trees, I could produce an estimated length of the side of the building. That length combined with the number of offices on that side of the building would give a rough estimate of how wide each office is, which I could use to determine how much space I would have in my new office that I am going to move into in a few weeks. I had a desire to know that information last week. If I had counted those trees, I could have figured that out.

Of course, it would be a whole lot easier to just measure the new office. But that doesn’t matter. And the fact that I could use that information doesn’t matter either.

What matters is the choice that I failed to make. I had the option to count those trees but I did not even think to do that. I fell into a pattern of thought instead of being mindful of my surroundings.

So, what should I do?  Continue to practice mindfulness.  Over time, those patterns of thought will be easier to recognize and my focus will turn more towards understanding.

Photo courtesy of zoetnet 

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