An Integral Approach to management and human development based on the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with an emphasis on its application to various domains of knowledge and life.
(The ability to sustain a high level of energy is one of the important factors behind peak performance, productivity and also well-being. The corporate world needs a comprehensive strategy for human energy management. In this article we are presenting a practical framework for energy management, based on the science of yoga.)
Key Perspectives: plugging into the universal dynamo; effective energy management; principles, attitudes and practices; french trinity and collective energy.
Plugging into the Universal Dynamo
As we have indicated in the editorial of this issue of FDI, the key to efficient energy management lies in plugging our individual human energy to the universal energy. But most of us do not know how to receive energy consciously from universal sources. We normally receive from other limited sources like food or relationship. Food is our main source of physical energy. In this field, there is the modern science of Nutrition with its calories, vitamins and carbohydrates etc. The other source of energy in our day-to-day life, which we are not fully conscious, is interactions with people which involve exchange of vital energy. These sources of energy have to be scientifically studied, understood and utilised. But they are limited in their range and application. If we depend exclusively or indulge excessively in these sources of energy, it will diminish our capacity to receive energy from universal sources. Sometimes they can also be harmful. For example beverages like coffee and tea may give temporary refreshment and energy. But they tend to become addictive and when consumed excessively can disturb our health. Similarly in the vital level activities like gossiping brings vital energy but of a very low kind which is not healthy to our body or mind or for harmony in the community. So as we have mentioned earlier, the best and the most beneficial way of receiving energy is from universal sources.
This brings us to the practical question, how? Each energy level requires methods appropriate to that particular level. Physical exercises like for example, Hath Yoga, and contact with physical Nature are helpful in opening our physical-vital organism to universal physical energies. At the vital level, there are two aspects or types of vital energy or prana which circulates within our organism. First is the physical Prana which animates the body and the psychic prana which animate our internal organs. Respiration is the main channel through which universal vital energy enters into our body and gets converted into physical and psychic prana. So breathing techniques like Pranayama can enhance the energy level in the body or the physical prana. But since in our human organism body and mind are closely interlinked, Pranayama can also bring greater energy or psychic prana to our mind and heart. So physical exercises with breathing techniques are a very effective combination for bringing greater physical and vital energy into our organism. But we must also note here that increased vital energy received through physical and vital methods need not necessarily lead to well-being. For the greater flow of energy will impartially intensify whatever that is within us, thoughts, feeling and emotions. And if our mind and heart are full of negative thought, feelings and passion, then more energy means greater disturbance. This is the reason why in Raja Yoga, Asana and Pranayama come after Yama and Niyama which are a regimen of mental and moral self-discipline.
In our inner being, sensations and emotions are the two vehicles or conduits through which universal vital energy can be received. For example when we listen carefully with an alert ear to the sounds around us we feel energetic. So beautiful and harmonious sensations which do not arouse passions or excitement can be a very healthy source of vital energy. Similarly, emotions which are generous and not self-regarding can put us into contact with universal energy. The other source of vital energy is relationship with people which involves interchange of vital energy. Harmonious, creative and productive interchange of vital energies enhances energy-levels in a group.
Mental energy from universal mind is received through reading, study contemplation and creative expression of Ideas which represent eternal and universal truths and laws that govern the world. For thoughts and ideas are not mere obstructions. They are pockets of mental energy. For example after reading a good book which explains things with clarity and force sometimes we feel suddenly energetic. This is because a book contains the vibrations of the consciousness of the author and the creative energy he or she has poured into it. Spiritual energy is received through spiritual aspiration and spiritual disciplines like japa, mantra, meditation, devotion and surrender to God, disinterested work done as an offering to God.
This brief outline of the various levels of energy and its practical implication provides the basic framework for energy management. Let us now examine in greater detail some of the principles, attitudes and practices which can lead to effective management of our human energies.
Effective Energy Management
The first principle is that energy cannot be stored indefinitely. It has to be used and more we use it in a creative, constructive and productive way the more we receive energy or become fit to receive more energy. Energy which is received but not used properly, disintegrates and causes fatigue and disturbance. So not only overworking but also laziness and inertia lead to fatigue. We must learn how to receive, retain, assimilate and expend energy. We must learn how to receive, hold and spend energy in the right rhythm. If the expenditure of energy is more than the energy stored or received then it leads to exhaustion and fatigue. But at the same time if we receive too much of energy which we cannot hold then it also leads to disturbance. The second factor is Calm and Peace. This is essential for receiving as well as holding energy. Not much can be received when we are in a state of agitation; whatever little we receive gets lost and spilled over in the restless activity of the mind or heart. The third factor is Wideness. We can not receive much if we live in the narrow confines of our ego-centric and personal self-interests and our physical and vital needs and desires. We have to expand our consciousness and identify ourselves with something larger, more impersonal and universal than our personal ego. For according to the Science of Yoga consciousness and energy are inseparable principle. Greater or vaster the consciousness more the energy it is capable of receiving or holding.
The third factor is self-giving, self–forgetfulness and generosity of the mind and heart. The ability to loose our little ego in a greater self-transcending cause or act can bring us into contact with universal forces.
In the Yogic perspective, the ego-centric personal self is a narrow and limited entity closed in upon itself, which shuts it off from universal forces. The more we are able to come out or break away from this self-concentration on our personal ego and its narrow interests and desires by impersonalisation, self-giving or widening of our consciousness, the more we become receptive to universal forces. The fourth factor is relaxation. A calm and relaxed state of consciousness is essential for receiving as well as assimilating energy. We must learn how to relax our body, mind and heart, especially when we are receiving energy.
This brings us to another important factor in human energy management, elimination or minimizing wasteful inner and outer movements which drain energy. Elimination of waste is now an established principle and practice in the management of material energies and resources of an organization. But not much attention is bestowed on the wastage of human energies which are atleast as important as physical energies. The factors which cause waste of energy in our human organism are many and varied. We have already mentioned one of them, agitation and restlessness of the body and mind. The other major sources of waste are conflicts and quarrels, inner and outer. Even when there is not much of outer quarrels, there remains the inner irritation or indignation we feel at everything we dislike or which do not conform to our ideals. Repetitive, useless and vagabond thoughts and negative feelings like anger, jealously and uncontrolled passion drain energy. Here comes the need for self-control. All these factors which waste energy has to be checked and kept under control, if not for moral reasons, but for the pragmatic considerations of energy conservation. Here again, concentration, which means focusing the energies of our consciousness in a single point, can be a great help in conserving energy. So, the combination of inner calm, concentration and self-control can be a potent factor in human energy management.
Brooding over the past and the future, or in other words worry and anxieties about what is gone and what is to come, is a great source of wastage of energy. The remedy lies in the well-known and oft-repeated counsel of many spiritual teachers, to concentrate all our energies in the present and the now.
Another important factor is the effort for progress. For we are living in an evolving world, Change, evolution, and progress is one of the eternal and universal laws of life. An organism which doesn’t progress dies and disintegrates. On the other hand every effort for progress brings energy because such an effort attunes us to the progressive energies of universal Nature.
This factor, effort for progress has a greater affinity for the modern corporate world than the other factors. For in our modern age, it is the organ of business which has displayed the highest capacity for change and progress. The concept of continuous improvement and the search for excellence have become the mantras of modern management. The target-oriented work-environment of the modern business environment compels even the lazy to put forth some effort.
However one-sided progress pursued exclusively in a single level or dimension of life at the expense of other levels is also not conducive to integral and sustainable productivity and well-being of the work-force. For example progress pursued exclusively in the material, techno-economic or mental levels without a corresponding progress in the social, cultural, psychological moral, aesthetic and spiritual level will be counter productive in the long-run because such a progress will shut-down the human organism to the deeper, higher, finer, subtler and more universal creative energies of Nature. So for a sustained harnessing of energy which leads to the full and integral self-actualisation of the creative potential of people, progress has to be pursued at all the levels in the inner being as well as the outer life of the collectivity—physical, vital, mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual progress of the human organism and also the economic, social, political and cultural progress of the collective outer life. We have to create a corporate culture which strives for a progressive perfection in all the levels of our individual and collective life.
The other set of closely interrelated energizers are interest, concentration and joy of work. When we are passionately interested in what we are doing, it leads to a spontaneous concentration. This in turn brings a flush of energy and with it a sense of warmth and joy in work or action. Even when there is no absorbing interest in work or it wanes, if we can keep the urge for progress, trying to do our work better and better, then it may slowly create the interest in work.
The French Trinity and Collective Energy
We are discussing so far some of the principles of human energy management mostly from the perspective of the individual. There is also a collective dimension to energy management. In this collective level, the great energizers are the triple values of French revolution: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This is something which is not fully recognised or understood. An empowered work-force, unchained with minimum of rules and maximum freedom for individual or teams to initiate, create, innovate, decide and organize their work-life, under the overarching inspiration of some superordinate goals, releases a tremendous amount of creative energy in the work-force. Similarly a just, equitable, transparent and open social and political structure with minimum of hierarchy and a maximum of free and direct interaction between people, driven by a feeling of equality, comradeship and fraternity, releases a vast amount of energy in the work-life.
Liberty, equality and fraternity are some of the eternal and universal human values and they are part of the highest evolutionary destiny of humanity. So all creative and sincere attempt to realise these values in the human life, brings in the supportive sanction and energies of universal Nature. So an important part of the effort for progress is to strive for a pragmatic manifestation of liberty, equality and fraternity in the outer life of the organisation or the community or in other words towards a more and more free, equitable and fraternal corporate life.
However, in our modern age, most of the democratic or socialistic aspiration or attempt in the social, political or corporate life is towards the realisation of these triple values in the outer life of man. But for a more effective and complete realization of these values, there has to be a creative effort towards the inner realisation of these values in the mind and heart of people. This will release a much greater energy into the corporate life.
For example take the values of Liberty. There is something like inner Liberty. Much of the creative energy of our mind is locked in our attachment to rigid or fixed ideas, prejudices and preferences. If we are able to free our mind consciously from these forms of mental bondage then it will release a large amount creative energy in the mind. Similarly, with our emotion, vital force and will. For we are not aware how much we are bound in our thought, feeling and will by our ego, desires and attachments of various kinds. By a vigilant self-observation, if we can become aware of these knots of bondage and eliminate it, it will release an enormous amount of creative energy in human life not only in terms of quantity but more importantly, in quality. This inner liberty will open the human consciousness to deeper, finer and subtler forces of universal Nature.
In a similar way we have to understand clearly the deeper and inner significance of other two values of French revolution, equality and fraternity, and make a conscious attempt to create a corporate culture which leads not only to outer liberty, equality and fraternity but also to the realization of inner freedom, equality and oneness in the consciousness of people. This will lead to the highest possible energisation of the corporate life, and the opening of the collective consciousness of the community to qualitatively superior forms of creative energy.