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Posts Tagged ‘Meditation’

A health seeker often gets to revisit some of the long forgotten science lessons learnt in the early years of his life.

Einstein’s theory of relativity

It gets understood more easily when a minute spent on a treadmill sounds likeScientist Albert_Einstein fifteen minutes snoozing on the bed. Thirty minutes spent on a dentist’s reclining chair feels like thirteen hours spent in the company of one’s mother in law.

The mystery of the formula linking energy and mass also unfolds. Wisdom eventually dawns that E (Energy and Enthusiasm) to achieve a heightened state of well-being is equal to the product of ‘m’ (mental peace and positivity) and ‘c’ squared, where ‘c’ stands for conviction or faith in the treatment opted for.

Much like the speed of light, each kind of treatment has a unique upper limit to heal, beyond which one moves into the realm of prayers, divine intervention and spirituality. This is a universe which is surely not governed by the conventional laws of science as we understand them today.

First Law of Motion

Newton is found to be dead right when he postulates that a stationary object moves only when an external force is applied to it. When a couch potato is toldScientist IsaacNewton-1689 by the good doctor to exercise regularly, much will power needs to be summoned. Social challenges like the sudden appearance of a maid servant or the newspaper boy to collect his dues need to be handled. Startled glares from a younger person living across the street have to be summarily ignored. Presence of relatives and friends has to be managed. Ridicule hurled at one from any quarter needs to be summarily rejected, so the object, in this case the health seeker’s physical body, can get moving.

Non-linear regression analysis

Harsh slings and arrows of life make the patient understand that bodily afflictions are not necessarily explained by a linear formulation in mathematics. When it comes to good health, the link between cause and effect is never straightforward. Variables like mental attitude, reserves of will power, social mores, genetics, biological factors, environmental constraints, spiritual propensity and perhaps even factors beyond our present frontiers of knowledge need to be considered.

A person who is a chain smoker survives much longer than a non-smoking one who gets diagnosed for cancer much earlier in his life. Someone who is a happy-go-lucky person lives life to the hilt even with several arterial blocks whereas someone who takes a dim view of life in general needs to undergo repeated surgical interventions.

Laws of Thermodynamics

The patient may find that even Laws of Thermodynamics apply to the realm of life style afflictions.

Zero-th Law

If two persons are in the equilibrium of a stable relationship with a life styleJosiah_Willard_Gibbs Thermodynamics disease and lead their lives as per the Principle of Peaceful Coexistence with the said disease, it follows that they could develop a good relationship with each other as well.

First Law

The Law of Conservation of Energy applies. There is a limit to which a patient may exercise to remain fit. Other activities may have to be given the short shrift so a regular exercise regimen may not suffer.

Second Law

Over time, Entropy or disorder is bound to increase in an entity comprising a body, a mind and a soul relationship. The only way out is to keep cleansing one’s system of negative thoughts at regular intervals. By means of meditation, the patient can keep creating inner space for positive thoughts to come in and hold sway.

Some crystal gazing

Add to all this the growing uncertainty of disruptive technologies and the cause-effect equation of well-being becomes even more complex.

If one were to attempt some crystal gazing in the field of medicine, the results could cheer up a lay patient. A pill to dissolve and cure cataract could revolutionize eye care. Early detection of a would-be patient’s disposition to develop diabetes could lead to preventive lifestyle changes which could save millions from getting into the clutches of this dreaded affliction. 3-D printing of living tissue can be used to make body parts.

The implications are mind-boggling. But the fact remains that advances in medical science would merely touch the sheath and not the core of an individual patient – the soul.

Faith and the sincerity of prayer

More than a century back, Quantum physicists confirmed what our sages had held long back – that our thoughts determine the reality we experience.  Ifa1 1 (11) the mind is taken to be a canvas on which our thoughts get projected, our body could then perhaps be taken as a holographic projection of our consciousness. So, if we have a genuine intention to heal, have an abiding faith, entertain positive thoughts, and if our prayer is sincere enough, a state of better health would follow.

The challenge for a patient, therefore, is to elevate his consciousness to a level where he gets an insight to heal himself. In her book Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert had indeed predicted that the time is not far off when a patient with a headache will simply sit in a quiet corner to meditate to elevate his consciousness to get total relief from headache instead of popping some inane pain-killer pills.

A state of bliss with no date of expiry

Undoubtedly, a patient faces a multi-faceted challenge. Besides the art of managing the affliction itself, he has to learn the science behind his disease. He needs to confront the forces of commerce which drive healthcare today. Newer discoveries in medicine do give him hope for a healthier future, if not for him but at least for some of his fellow beings.c1 (25)

Nature provides each patient with a physical body which comes with an inbuilt feature of planned obsolescence. But the indomitable spirit and the innate tendency of the soul to be blissful does not come with any date of expiry. Besides medication, exercise and proper food, his source of relief is his conscious effort to nurture the connection with his own inner self. Having faith in the medical system he decides to follow surely helps. So does a sunnier outlook and his endeavours to serve those less fortunate than himself.

(Note: Part of an article which appeared in NAMAH journal: http://www.namahjournal.com/doc/Actual/Patients-and-the-art-and-science-of-healing-Vol-24-iss-2.html)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/the-perils-of-being-a-patient)

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All of us encounter angry bosses – whether at our places of work or at our homes. Permit me to re-share some thoughts on this subject with you.

ashokbhatia

Quite often, life gives us a roller-coaster ride. We get pulled and pushed by forces beyond our control. Then, we suddenly discover someone on whom we can work off our pent-up feelings. In the house, it could be the unsuspecting spouse who ends up absorbing the shock. In an office setting, we ourselves could be at the receiving end. If so, we quickly find a scapegoat onto whom our own brand of vitriol could be off-loaded.

Consider this. The CEO, when things are going wrong, takes it out on the VP. The VP goes and ticks off the General Manager. The GM, the unpleasant OVERSTAYING ONE’S WELCOMEinteraction concluded, immediately proceeds to crucify the Manager. The Manager loses no time in giving a piece of his mind to the hapless Executive. While the Manager sits down to have a cup of coffee in an attempt to cool off, the fuming Executive takes the…

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Abstract
All of us strive for perfection. Achieving and maintaining a state of perfect health is a primary concern for many amongst us. There are various kinds of ‘pathies’ which are on offer to help us to do this. But the real help could also be sourced from within us. The faith we have. The willpower we exercise. The actions we take to help our bodies heal themselves. We could strive to be our own doctors.

On one of our luckier days when we happen to be in front of the idiot box, or when the latest internet-savvy gizmo is Health Monarch femalenestling in our palms, we are apt to run into a beautiful documentary which captures the birth of a Monarch butterfly. The radical transformation – from an egg to a caterpillar, then into a chrysalis, and finally into the Monarch butterfly – leaves us somewhat awe-struck and mesmerised. The universe appears to have programmed all living beings to strive to attain a state of perfection, balance and harmony.

When we speak of perfection, most of us refer to our external appearances, actions or conditions. Better inter-personal relations. Better status in society. Better harmony with our environment. Better compliance with laws, rules and regulations. Basically, we envisage a better, wealthier, happier and more humane kind of living.

The harsh slings and arrows of life make us aware of something we invariably take for granted – our physical selves. Those amongst us who have faced a medical crisis of some kind would often be found seeking perfection of the physical being through all the means available.

A rainbow of choices

We would be found tapping into the resources of the allopathic stream which offers diagnostic tools of high standards.Doctors Day We would be spell-bound at the capacity of this stream of medicine to look at the universe within us in a highly mechanical manner. We would be amazed at the extent of division of various organs which function within its complex confines. A cardiologist would declare that our heart continues to beat in a rhythmic manner befitting a piece of classical music. A neurologist would put us under a scanner and tell us that our brain is firing on all its twelve cylinders. A gastroenterologist would put our digestive system under the microscope and assure us that it is discharging its assigned functions in a prompt and regular manner.

Nevertheless, we would still be feeling tired and exhausted and, well, not up to the mark when it comes to physical fitness. As patients, we would then be told of the virtue of psycho-somatic diseases, with broad hints that we could be suffering from some such unidentifiable ailment. Oh, the feeling of smug satisfaction we derive when being told that we appear to suffer from some mysterious disease which the scientists of today are yet to properly catalogue and name, let alone devise a treatment protocol for!

To some of us, the relatively older system of homoeopathy may sound better. We would find that it is more intuitiveHealth Hahnemann in nature. The medications are milder, with lesser side-effects. These might temporarily increase the severity of our symptoms, thereby indicating that a real cure is on its way. After a detailed one-to-one with the physician, we would be back to our ‘popping-the-pill’ routine.

Same goes for the Ayurvedic or Unani streams of healing. The physician would check our pulse and arrive at the disharmony in our bodies. Dietary restrictions would need to be followed.

Our pursuit of perfection does not end here. A brief stint at a health centre run on the principles of yoga, meditation and naturopathy might revitalise our physical and mental systems and show us the way to get out of our ‘pop-the-pill’ syndrome. The focus of this approach is on detoxifying the body and also training us to give up the luxury of indulging our taste-buds. Overall, it brings us closer to Mother Nature, a factor which is sorely missed by those of us who live in highly congested urban settings.

Sure enough, we enjoy the more holistic way of treatment offered under the alternate streams of medicine. TheseHealth Dhanvantari treat us as a composite whole of the body-mind-vital and not merely as an assembly of several parts which continue to function in their individual isolated glory.

We try our hands at flower therapy, colour therapy, magneto-therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, and several others. When it comes to healing, we have a wide range of choices of systems to choose from. Many of us try to take an integral approach, using the best treatments from diverse streams of medicine. We do it based on the faith we have in the physician as well as in the medicine. This plays a crucial role in the healing process.

Building up our inner resilience

When we push ourselves to do something we essentially like doing, we do not get tired. The body and the mind do not revolt. Instead, they bask in the inner glow of satisfaction and happiness. Scientists would call it ‘eustress.’

However, most of the times, we experience distress. We face situations in life which do not allow us to exercise an option of either ‘fight’ or ‘flight.’ Stress built up over a long time tends to be disastrous. The good news is that if stress is directly proportional to external factors, it is also inversely proportional to our internal resilience. Some people tend to take an event very lightly. For others, the same event could be highly demoralising. It depends on how strong we are from within.

How do we build up inner resilience? How do we achieve a better level of harmony between our inner and outer selves and between our heads and our hearts?

The Divine within us can guide us in this respect. If we were to live in harmony with nature, it would help. If we could Technology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEEDchange our dietary habits, we could enjoy better well-being. If we were to control our negative emotions and live only in pure and positive ones, our cells would get healthier. If we smile, it would take away a lot of stress from our poisoned systems. If we feel a deep sense of gratitude within us – say, for simply being alive – positive vibes would generate the soft glow of self-fulfilment inside us, helping us to recover earlier. We would radiate happiness all around us.

The mind exercises a great deal of control over our body. It is surely within our powers to train it to give a positive message to the diseased cells within us. This, compounded with faith in the remedy, could work miracles.

What happens if we fail in our attempts, one might well ask. Not to despair. One, no effort goes waste. Perhaps, we shall not suffer as much as we might have done had we continued in our state of blissful ignorance. Two, the purpose of our birth might just be to reduce human suffering. We might end up bringing succour to others who suffer from a similar ailment. Three, by offering ourselves as a guinea pig and a living human laboratory, we might make a modest contribution towards advancing the knowledge about a particular disease afflicting mankind.

Of Nature, nurture and niftiness

As patients, we aim to gain two kinds of freedoms – freedom from the ailment and freedom from the remedy. How doFeatured Image -- 1211 we become and remain independent of all kinds of doctors and healing systems? Can we become our own doctors?

What we are and what we shall become is only controlled by our actions. The science of epigenetics shows that genes are not only inherited and transferred to our progeny; these also get altered by our actions and the environment. It is not only about what Nature has provided us with. It is also about how we have been nurtured and how clever we are in the actions that we take.

We can will ourselves to heal faster. We can open up ourselves and tap into the infinite energy swirling about in the universe. We could draw a lot of inspiration this way. Our intuitive faculties also come into play and help us in gaining freedom from ailments as also from medications. The potential of our bodies and minds can be tapped better.

The change has to come from within us – from the core of our psychic being. The aspiration has to be genuine. It hasHealth Monarch_Male to permeate all our thought processes and even our actions. A constant remembrance of the divine power within us can be the panacea for all our ailments – a key to achieving perfect health.

In ‘Gitanjali’, Rabindranath Tagore proposes: “Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection (1)”. Even though ‘perfection’ may not be attainable in reality, what matters is the ‘tireless striving’, which could well prove to be a reward in itself. ‘Perfection’, like happiness, need not be a station one arrives at, but a mode of travel, making the journey interesting and worthwhile.

Reference

1. Tagore Rabindranath. Tagore for You. 3rd ed. Kolkata: Deep Prakashan; 2011, p. 45.

(Published in NAMAH, the Journal of Integral Health, Vol 22, Issue 4, dated the 15th of January, 2015)

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Born in a family of wanderers and adventurists,
I am surrounded by a family of intellectuals and pragmatists;
It is challenging to learn so much and being a boy,
Overcoming my natural shyness for females, feeling wonder and joy.

As I develop and decipher my own dreams,
Exploring life’s unknown hills and streams;
My mind formulates plans of a future life,
Living the high family values, love, but no strife.

‘Wheels of the bus go round and round’ does not interest me anymore,
The toy helicopter is no longer charming but a bore.
Cycling happens to be a current favorite of mine,
If denied ice creams, burgers and chocolates, I whine.

Scientist IsaacNewton-1689

Newton’s Laws always catch my attention,
To take apart anything that moves is the intention;
I love to use screw drivers to solve all puzzles,
Friendly dogs simply love my touching their muzzles.

shankar marcus_aurelius

In 121 AD, 16th Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was born the same day,
As a philosopher, he wrote about meditation and showed us the way;
Born 1761, Johann Gottlieb Karl Spazier became a composer of music fine,
I could grow to be a pianist, starting formal classes when I turn nine.

shankar jamescook

Same day, 1770 AD, Captain Cook arrived in New South Wales Down Under,
Can exploring uncharted waters become my passion, I often wonder;
20th of April 1808 saw Napoleon III being born in a family royal,
Like him, to my duties I shall always remain loyal.

shankar napoleon_iii

1902, Madam Curie discovered Radium as a pure metal on the same day,
My scientific temperament can surely be explained the same way;
I pray for global harmony, humanity not to face harsh trials and tribulations,
On 20th of April, 1946, UN took over the powers of the League of Nations.

shankar league of nations

Apollo 16 reached the Moon in 1972 on the same day,
Gazing at stars and galaxies always makes me happy and gay;
My fondness for cars is more than my love of cheese, jam and toast,
On the same day in 2009, Rolls Royce announced the launch of Ghost.

2011 Rolls-Royce Ghost

Same day in 1953 was born the famous author Sebastian Faulks,
I shall hone writing skills and think up short story plots on my long walks;
I can quote many more artists and great people born on this day,
But I am busy gorging on hot cross buns and special eggs today.

shankar easter egg

20th day of April in 2014 also happens to be Easter – a day of rebirth,
I shall grow up and do something to protect the assets of Mother Earth;
The rays of a setting sun caress my face with a kiss,
I express my gratitude to Him for making me enjoy this unalloyed bliss.

Nevertheless, Birthdays are mere goal posts in the life’s continuity,
Life to next life, the soul continues to add to its ingenuity;
Our scriptures contain the eternal truth absolute and whole,
My soul also marches on, a union with Him being the main goal.

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Quite often, life gives us a roller-coaster ride. We get pulled and pushed by forces beyond our control. Then, we suddenly discover someone on whom we can work off our pent-up feelings. In the house, it could be the unsuspecting spouse who ends up absorbing the shock. In an office setting, we ourselves could be at the receiving end. If so, we quickly find a scapegoat onto whom our own brand of vitriol could be off-loaded.

Consider this. The CEO, when things are going wrong, takes it out on the VP. The VP goes and ticks off the General Manager. The GM, the unpleasant OVERSTAYING ONE’S WELCOMEinteraction concluded, immediately proceeds to crucify the Manager. The Manager loses no time in giving a piece of his mind to the hapless Executive. While the Manager sits down to have a cup of coffee in an attempt to cool off, the fuming Executive takes the office boy to task. The office boy delivers a stunning kick to the dog. The dog, realizing that this is surely not his day, steps out in the street to bark at the cat. The cat starts scouring the drains for a mouse which deserves to be at least rebuked, if not devoured.

Note that down the line, each one is unhappy. Each one is looking for someone else to whom the baggage of anger can be passed on. It is like a relay race, where the torch of anger is being kept ablaze. As the day progresses, we find that the place is replete with dull faces, bent backs and slouching shoulders. People go around with a highly constipated look on their faces. Possibly the only people left suppressing a chuckle are the ones who serve tea and coffee at the tables of the high and mighty. For the better part of the day, white-collar productivity goes for a toss.

When Anger Becomes Predictable and Routine

Many bosses have honed their skills of managing and controlling affairs by using what they consider to be the most deadly weapon they have at their disposal – anger. A public display of anger leaves those around them shaking and shivering. This gives them a feeling of having overpowered their hapless subjects. However, when this becomes a predictable and a routine affair, several things happen.

One, the blame game starts. I did not do it, sir. It was she who forgot to ship the material on time, sir. Thus, the power of human ingenuity gets used up in inventing new excuses.

Two, the quick-fix approach comes into play. People get used to seeking look-good short-term fixes. The long-term implications are forgotten.

Three, some people develop resistance to it. Next bout of shouting and one could see them merely shuffling their feet and trying to put on a melancholy mask so as to hide their chuckles. In other words, there is no attempt at a genuine improvement in the situation.

Four, the boss willy-nilly acquires a reputation of someone who apportions blame without a fair hearing being given to all the parties concerned. All employees detest this disservice to the principles of natural justice. The respect for a senior is no longer real; it is feigned. A culture of hypocrisy gets perpetuated. Eventually, operational efficiency nosedives.

In such outfits, when the boss enters the work place, a frenzy of activity starts. Electrified at the boss’ presence, the employees run around like headless chickens. Physical presence and activity gets interpreted as a sign of efficiency. Those who can think quickly on their feet suddenly remember a very crucial issue for which they need to seek valuable guidance from the boss.

Five, seniors supporting the boss end up having to spend a great deal of time on mollifying the hurt souls. Invariably, they have an extra box of tissue papers readily available, just in case the tormented souls need to wipe off their tears. No senior is comfortable having to work with a sulking manager who might otherwise be a star performer. Many of them end up donning the extra hat of being Chief Listening Officers of the company. Seniors’ contribution towards company’s goals faces a real risk of getting diluted.

Handling Anger – Countering vs. Conditioning

Admittedly, there are juniors who feel they have been wronged and do not hesitate the register a protest. They have the guts to look the boss in the eye JOB LABELSand make him/her beat a hasty retreat, much like a hunter with a shotgun who, while taking a stroll in the corporate jungle, suddenly encounters a lioness who has just had a fight with her soul mate.

In one such situation, the telephone operator, a sprightly and spirited soul from amongst the delicately nurtured species, failed to transfer a customer’s overseas phone call because the top boss’ extension was busy with another call. The customer got through finally on her third attempt to call up the boss. All hell broke loose as the boss lost no time in court martialling the hapless operator, with the head of administration and the head of HR also getting ticked off in the process. Drawing herself to her full height, the operator stood her ground. Eventually, the boss realized that it was his own secretary who had kept the extension busy and was responsible for the delay. The operator got a well-earned reprieve. In due course of time, she even ended up being promoted as a secretary to the boss!

In such organizations, one could often run into morose executives. When prodded as to the reasons for their despondency, they are quite likely to come up with the explanation that they were yet to get the daily ‘quota’ of shouting from the boss! Pavlov would have been delighted to include this form of conditioning as well in his research work.

Of Oceans and Immersed Volcanoes

Once, when I asked one such CEO what he thought of his frequent display of anger, he gave me a rather harsh look and said ‘Do you think I like doing this? To be frank, it ruins a few hours of my day. But what to do? These people are so very stupid…etc, etc.’ I ended up pitying the fellow. He was working on a wrong premise – that anger alone can resolve issues – and was causing long-term damage to his own health.

Anger is highly contagious, much like negative news is. Mankind can perhaps be divided into two kinds. There are the ‘ocean’ types – those who are turbulent on the surface but calm deeper inside. Then there are the ‘immersed volcano’ types – the vast lake may look very placid on the surface but could be seething with anger within. It is this kind which causes maximum damage to its own well-being.

Selective Use of Anger

There are no easy solutions to controlling one’s anger. One has to first learn to accept oneself and feel happy and contented inside. One also needs to empathize with others and accept them as they are. Then alone does one stand a chance of guiding others around oneself in rectifying the mistake and in ensuring that it does not recur. The basic quality one needs to have is the capacity of observing oneself at all times, and following a strict self-discipline as to when a display of anger is done and when it is not.

Soothing music surely helps. Agitated nerves can get calmed down by a bout of meditation. A ‘laughter break’ with a colleague who has a sunny outlook towards life could bring some relief. Getting busy with another challenge for the day is another anti-dote to anger.

Yes, I also happen to know bosses who have perfected the art of displaying anger selectively, while not feeling it within themselves. But they do so once in a while, when a situation really demands a show of temper. I admire them for their wisdom and sagacity.

How do you deal with anger at the work place?

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Homo sapiens these days have a serious challenge on hand – that of being unable to ‘switch off.’ Connectivity has become omnipresent. Technology rules the mind and, to some extent, the heart. The result is a disconnect with the real world, steady deterioration in the quantum of quality time available with the near and dear ones, burn-outs, fatigue and an early onset of lifestyle related diseases. Increasingly, we appear to be becoming slaves to technology.  

The following antidotes might help those amongst us who happen to be a part of this rapidly growing tribe.

  •  Learning to Unplug: Out of the twenty-four hours we have in a day, we can surely carve out a time niche where we can just be ourselves. Heavens will not fall. Our business, or the companies we work for, would not collapse. If we set our mind to this, we can do it.
  • Renewing Ourselves: Setting aside a time for yoga, meditation, light exercises and simply pursuing aTechnology MEDITATION-ENTREPRENEUR-SUCCEED simple hobby would help. Being connected to the external world – watching TV, for example – would provide only temporary relief. Real relaxation would swell up from inside us – once we start doing something that makes us internally happy.
  • In-sourcing: One thing we cannot outsource to technology is mindfulness – being aware that we are aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Attempting an ‘in-sourcing’ of this kind has a great therapeutic effect on our system. Short bouts of meditation or deep breathing achieve precisely this.
  • Being Wiser: Every moment, we are flooded with data. Every day, we face a tsunami of information. Wisdom lies in sifting through this haze and differentiating between the important issues and the urgent ones. Nassin Taleb, author of The Black Swan, says: “Big data may mean more information, but it also means more false information.” Wisdom alone can ensure that we follow a balanced direction in life.
  • Thinking before Wishing: The option to remain connected 24 x 7 and the deluge of information available at the click of a mouse is making us lazy cats which have had an overdose of rich cream. We need to critically evaluate the wish-list of our lives and reset our priorities in a conscious manner. Chasing rainbows is fine, but the real challenge lies in deciding the colors of our individual rainbows.
  • Being Vigilant: Sci-fi spine chillers tumbling out of the Hollywood dream factory project a scary picture forTechnology smart Home_ipadandiphone us. Our lives could soon spin out of our own control. One threat – to our privacy – has already manifested itself. Another looming large on the horizon is that of our smart gadgets going beyond running our homes. These could soon start aspiring, conspiring and colluding to control our lives. Vigilance is highly recommended!

Life is much like a driving experience. The vehicle we drive and the gadgets at our disposal are becoming smarter with each passing year. We are trying to navigate our way on the autobahns of our lives through an enveloping fog of information which becomes denser with each passing milestone.   

The only way out is to have sharper responses, a stronger will power, an intuitive capability to forecast others’ behavior, a higher level of vigilance and a quiet time for ourselves. The bliss of switching off our gadgets and enjoying a real sunset over the lush green fields that whizz past us is simply waiting to be experienced. So is the joy of rolling up the car windows and listening to the soothing strains of a Beethoven symphony wafting out of the music system. As darkness falls, the fog lamps of wisdom enable us to drive our way through life safely and enjoyably.

As our gadgets become smarter, let us not get dumber. Let us not be slaves to technology!

Related post:  https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall-who-is-the-smartest-of-them-all

(Images courtesy www)

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The recent economic meltdown has impacted not only the bottom lines of the companies but also the lives of a vast majority of senior managers and CEOs. Over-burdened, stressed, sleep-deprived and burnt out, they try to cope with Hurricane Stress that has hit them hard in the past few years.

How is it that they are coping with such a scenario? I spoke to twenty professionals who are in senior leadership roles in industries as diverse as IT, leather, chemicals, engineering and R&D to understand the contours of the arsenal these leaders use to combat stress. The sizes of the companies varied from 50 to 1,500, and the annual turnover ranged from USD 2 million to USD 5 billion.

I found the exercise to be pretty instructive. It led me to explore the practices adopted by CEOs and senior managers to minimize the adverse impact of stress in their lives and careers. It also gave me an insight into the kind of steps the managements are taking to address the issue effectively.

This is What They Do Differently

Using Stress For Positive Outcomes

The people who I found to be less stressed out were the ones who had perfected the art of time management. They had learnt to pace themselves. They had realized their own limitations and configured their working accordingly.

For example, the head of a regional manufacturing hub called upon to spearhead the company’s endeavours to influence government policy realized that he was out of his depth in handling such affairs. For quite some time, he was stressed out on this account. Gradually, he roped in another manager who had a flair for such activities. In two years’ time, he was not only handling the whole affair himself, but was also called upon by the company to handle similar challenges at the national level.He now loves what he used to detest earlier and has overcome his stress on this account. In the process, he has developed yet another USP for himself!

The Art of Creative Dissatisfaction

Almost two-thirds of the leaders/managers I spoke to had, subconsciously or otherwise, developed a keen sense of creative dissatisfaction. Rather than aiming for and insisting upon perfection, they went about guiding their teams towards achieving targets in a practical manner. Each time a target was met, there would be an informal session where, besides much back-slapping, an introspective discussion led everyone to discover what they could have done better. Most of the times thereafter, the team ended up achieving the target in a smarter way!

Loosening Up

Having someone to share their troubles with – whether at office or at home – was a need almost three-fourths of them mentioned. the difference lay in the severity with which the need was expressed by each one of them.

Digging deeper, I found that their need for unburdening themselves was somehow linked to their managerial styles. Those who were participatory in their decision-making approach had a lesser need, perhaps because they enjoyed a higher degree of warmth in their relationships at work. In fact, a vast majority of them were spending a lot of their time on resolving some or the other personal problems of their team members. On the other hand, those who were rather dictatorial in their approach were living in a self-created vacuum. Their sense of loneliness was acute, and so was their need to speak out aloud about their frustrations. In almost all the cases, they sought it in their families, or amongst friends who were not related to their work place.

A Dash of Humour

A positive attitude and a strong tendency to laugh off things was another common trait. At least one-third of the leaders/managers I spoke to had even cultivated the habit of remembering and narrating jokes, poems or couplets to their team members even in formal meetings. This resulted in much merriment around, but a point was made with a dash of humour. Two of them even had the capacity to laugh at themselves, prompting other team members to be very open in sharing their failures and seeking feedback and inputs from others.

Spin-offs of Meditation

The most quoted antidotes to stress were hobbies, better work-life balance, exercise and having fun! At least five of them stressed upon the importance of meditation to overcome their work-related blues.

One of them spoke enthusiastically of Mr Matthieu Ricard (66), a molecular geneticist and confidant of the Dalai Lama. According to studies done at University of Wisconsin, scans showed that when he was meditating on compassion, Mr Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves never reported before in neuroscience literature. The scans also showed a very high capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity.

Two others said that meditation brings many benefits. It refreshes them, makes them look at their surroundings and events in a detached manner, makes them wiser and gentler, and improves their ability to cope in a world which overloads them with information and communication. In other words, they felt a good improvement in their own productivity levels, linked to their meditative forays.

Diagnosing Stress

I believe that even though stress is a result of external circumstances beyond one’s control, the actual impact felt by a leader/manager also depends upon his/her own inner resilience. If it is directly proportional to the external circumstances, it is inversely related to one’s inner resilience and work attitudes. It also depends on the personality type that we are. The perennially anxious ‘A’ types end up experiencing higher levels of stress than the often composed ‘B’ types.

When an aggressive boss misbehaves, no two team members would be affected the same way. One may take it too seriously, and feel despondent for days together; another may just brush it off and be cheerful the very next day; whereas, yet another one may look upon the incident as a feedback, view it as constructive criticism and start working on a definite plan to avoid a recurrence of the event.

Role of Management

I am happy to share that as many as half of the CEOs and senior managers I spoke to had already introduced remedial measures at the work place. The steps quoted by them included piped music, group yoga for ten minutes at the beginning of each day, a dedicated resource in the HR Department to take care of family and personal needs of employees and sensitization of all HoDs to be vigilant of signs of burn-outs amongst their team members. One CEO had even organized spiritual classes for his employees.

There are several studies to show that stress impacts productivity at the work place. The faster the employers and the employees learn to handle ‘Hurricane Stress’, the better would be the bottom line of the organization!

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