As the story goes, 2,500 years ago, Buddha gave a wordless sermon to his disciples. All he did was hold up a single white flower -- a lotus. That's it. No words. Just a flower. All his disciples were mystified, except, that is, Mahakasyapa, a young monk who immediately smiled, signifying the direct transmission of wisdom from Master to student -- a moment referred to in Buddhist literature as "tathagata", the ineffable nature of suchness.
Something within Mahakasyapa instantly understood the non-verbal essence of what Buddha was communicating. He got it in a flash. No thought was necessary, no analysis, no intellectualization. It was, as if, a veil had lifted and he got to experience something profound that was previously inaccessible to him.
For want of a better phrase, let's call the young monk's recognition a "moment of truth".
The good news for the rest of us is that a person does not need to be a monk to experience a moment of truth. Nor do all moments of truth need to be "spiritual", historically significant, or worthy of inclusion in future scriptures.
Moments of truth are not only for everyone, but they come in all varieties -- small, medium, and large -- spontaneously occurring, unplanned happenings that have, embedded within them, the potential for great learning, insight, and wisdom. Simply put, a kind of Red Sea parts and a meaningful "lesson" is learned, even if no teacher is present. We all have them, though, like dreams, they are easy to forget, dismiss, or undervalue -- especially in the workplace where we are often blinded by busyness.
The catalyst for a moment of truth can be anything. For the young monk, it was a flower. For you, who knows? Getting fired? A meeting gone wrong? Missing a train? A really bad boss? Getting lost? A conflict with a co-worker? Losing a deal? Almost dying? A blues song you hear on the radio? It really doesn't matter what, as long as it sparks an inner shift that that moves you beyond old assumptions, habits of mind, and outdated beliefs so you can experience the magic of life in a fresh, new way.
If you deconstruct the stories we tell, you'll soon discover that most of them turn out to be our attempts to give shape to these moments of truth -- our verbal deciphering of a moment, in time (or outside of time) that had great significance for us, even if that moment was invisible to others.
Unspoken, these moments of truth remain hidden, stashed away inside us like buried treasure or unopened love letters. Expressed, especially in the form of story, they uplift, inspire, and empower, pollinating great fields of wisdom -- in yourself, the people you share them with, and the people they share them with.
On and on and on it goes, countless moments of truth circulating the planet, opening minds, opening hearts, and helping awaken all of us to a richer, fuller, more enlightened life.
Mitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder of Idea Champions, an innovation consulting and training company headquarterd in Woodstock, NY. The above posting is excerpted from his forthcoming book: STORYTELLING AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life. If you want to receive an email alert when it's published, in the Fall, click here.