As many of you who follow Total Immersion are aware, our Head Coach Terry Laughlin has been going through cancer treatment for the last few months (you may read Terry’s thoughts on the topic here). In gratitude for the impact that TI has made upon his life one of our TI Practitioners and writer from India wrote this essay. I would like to repost it here to honor our coach and encourage his efforts on the healing path. 

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Achievement

by Ashok Gollerkeri

Is achievement popularity? Is it fame? Is it wealth? Is it academic excellence?

Is it achievement in a specific skill or branch of knowledge? Is it success? Is it recognition?

Is it social approval? Is it affluence? Is it influence?

Achievement in a specific and limited sense may be any and all of these. But does achievement begin or end with any of these?

What is the essence of achievement? What is the hallmark of all forms of achievement?

The hallmark and essence of every form of achievement and peak performance, to my mind, is a capacity for complete absorption in the task at hand. The athlete, the surgeon, housewife, the writer, every individual among millions of such individuals on this planet, is at their moment of achievement, absorption and peak performance, completely engrossed in the moment, in the activity at hand.

This capacity of the mind for complete absorption enables achievement.

Complete absorption is a characteristic of the mind that has the freedom born of total awareness, pure perception, without the division of the observer and the observed. This unitive, total awareness, this complete absorption of the mind, is the source of all achievement everywhere.

The specific nature of the activity is secondary. Whether it is washing the dishes, watering the plants, baking a cake, winning a championship or being a head of state, what characterizes peak performance, excellence, love, effortless ease and supreme contentment is the complete absorption of the mind in the task at hand.

This capacity and absorption, moment to moment, every moment of our lives, in all our activities, great and small, in success and failure, in victory and defeat, in honour and dishonour, in prosperity and adversity, in happiness and sorrow, this unbroken absorption of the mind is, to me, the essence and basis of all achievement.

The achievement of wealth, by itself, is an achievement in a limited sense. How that wealth has been earned, how it will be spent and utilized, what effect it has on the individual’s development and the course of his life – all these are as important as the wealth itself.

Most important, is there contentment? Is there awareness from moment to moment? Or is the accumulation of wealth, the beginning of the end?

Does wealth, its blinding quality, its quality of fostering attachment and greed, will these eventually hamper the individual’s development, his evolution, his growth, his ability to be absorbed and remain absorbed in an activity that gives him pleasure and fosters his inner growth?

Wealth, by itself, is neutral. Its use and the effect on the individual’s life and development is the key to its value in his life.

The same holds good for all external symbols of success – status, popularity, fame, recognition etc – do they contribute to the further development of the individual or do they arrest his growth and drag him downhill? Material wealth, rightly earned, is a byproduct of excellence and ability in some form.

Therefore, the individual’s continuing excellence and ability is fundamental.

This, however, is not judged merely by his external status symbols.

Is he contented, is he happy, is he peaceful, free from conflict, from the burden of anxieties? Is he wrapped up in his own small world of petty likes and dislikes, pride, prejudice, egoism and so on? Or is he free from these? Does his environment and his external status and achievement further his inner growth or hinder it?

Is he following his own thinking, his conscious choice or is he merely acting as a conditioned animal,conditioned to achieve and succeed, a joyless performing machine? These are some of the questions which come to mind.

Wealth springs from virtue. In other words, success is a byproduct of excellence in our chosen field.

What is primary, however, is our inner contentment and joy. This comes from continuing challenges, excellence and achievement, from moment to moment. This comes from awareness of ourselves and our world – people, places, events – awareness and absorption from moment to moment.

This awareness and absorption may often be invisible and meaningless to a society neck deep in superficiality and which glorifies the symbols of success.This society, through conformity, through institutions, through media, through education, through sheer weight of numbers, often subverts the process of self awareness and discovery. These forces foster denial and self alienation in an effort to achieve mindless conformity and glorify the symbols of success.

Herein, lies the ultimate challenge for every individual. In a quest for complete self awareness, he stands completely alone.

Finally, the important turnaround comes when a man assesses his own inner world, his mind, the happiness and sorrow there, the success and the failures there and focuses his attention and awareness on these. At this stage, his self development, in external terms, takes a back seat, as he goes to the source of his joys and sorrows, his trials and his tribulations, his own mind.

This turnaround, maybe unseen and unfelt by others, is also development, achievement. A single advance on this steep climb may be a giant achievement, achieved after many failures. Indeed, the slippery slopes of our conditioning, thinking habits, likes and dislikes, pride, prejudice and egoism, our fears, anxieties, insecurities, are much more treacherous territory than arduous mountain climbing for the man seeking to be completely aware.

Since the challenge is enormous, so will be the achievement. This achievement has little to do with symbols and externals.

However, it will profoundly impact the course of one’s entire life and every single detail in it. The impact will be far reaching and revolutionary, within oneself.

How can we become aware of the terrain of our own mind, the steep slopes and ravines, the elation and dejection, likes and dislikes, the dichotomies, the patterns, the whole process of conditioning, the fragmentation, the thought process, the seeking, which thwart total peace, contentment and joy within ourselves here and now?

How can our minds know a wholeness which external symbols cannot bring?

Again, there is no method but our own awareness – constant observation, continual learning and improvement, a positive attitude and faith in oneself to observe one’s own mind, understand the processes therein and be free. To me, this freedom born of complete self awareness and understanding is achievement.

Achievement, in the final analysis, is not what we have but what we are.

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Copyright © Ashok Gollerkeri

Author’s note: I truly believe Terry Laughlin personifies achievement in its highest sense as I have described in my essay above. Hence, I offer this essay as a loving and heartfelt tribute to Terry Laughlin,

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