Integral Musings | Towards a Holistic Vision

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.

Productivity without Anxiety -M.S. Srinivasan.

Key Perspectives:

  • The Triune Remedy
  • Sharpening the Mind: The Power of Concentration
  • Mastering the Temporal Flux: The Path of Time-management
  • Healing the Inner Storm: The Art of Stress-management

 Prologue:

Anand, 25, was tense as he drove his Nano into the factory.  In other days, he used to enjoy the lush greenery on both sides of the roads as he drove to his work place.  But today he was not in a mood to enjoy the Nature around him.  The Target was looming large over his head.

Anand is a young Plant Manager in a mid-sized machinery manufacturing firm at the outskirts of a big metro, with four plants.  He was the head of a plant, which does the final assembly of the machinery before it is shipped to the customer.  Anand took his degree in mechanical engineering just four years back.  Within this short period, by his sheer result oriented efficiency and hard work, he rose to the position of Plant Manager of a factory, which employs three hundred workers and six supervisors.  But even for such a smart ad result-oriented manager like Anand, who never shirked from challenge and responsibility the present target which he is facing is not merely challenging, but threatening.  His company has obtained a major export order from Algeria, which will greatly help the company in tiding over the present recession.

But the Target was extremely tight and stiff.  The customer was adamant that the machineries have to be ready within six months.  Three months have passed and still not ever one fourth of the work is over.  The other Plant Managers who has to supply the parts for assembly are not as efficient as Anand.  His boss, Production Manager, Sivaraman, 52 was relying heavily on Anand to get the project moving.  Sivaraman liked Anand and in general affectionate and paternal to his youngest and the most capable plant manager.  But, with the project deadlines approaching near and close, Sivaraman is behaving more like a heavy-handed, authoritarian boss than a paternal and affectionate mentor.  He is constantly hammering on Anand to get the project moving faster.  Anand is also loosing temper and sometimes lashes back at his boss, “Sir why are you constantly barking at me.  I am doing my best.  You must put more pressure on the other three incompetent fellow who has to supply the parts and who are never able to keep up the schedules.”  There was also constant bickering and quarrelling with his other three plant managers on production schedules.

Anand covered his face with his hands and said to himself, “This time it is becoming too much.  I have to consult my mentor.”  His mentor is Prof. Ranganathan, 50 Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the college where Anand took his degree. Ranganathan is a respected teacher at the college, someone who is always calm and wise, with a spiritual inclination.  Before entering into the academic field, Ranganathan held senior technical positions in leading manufacturing and consultancy firms.  He switched on to the more relaxed and leisurely profession of teaching in order to find time to pursue his intellectual interests and spiritual aspirations.  Anand was one of the favourite student of Ranganathan when he was studying in the college.  Ranganathan liked Anand because he was not only a sharp and brilliant student, but also a boy of character free from bad habits like smoking, drinking and drugs with a strong desire to learn more and new things. Anand had a deep respect for Ranganathan and constantly sought his advice in professional as well as his personal matter.  Anand liked Ranganathan because whenever he went to his professor for clarification, Ranganathan opened the mind of his student to the real word of hard-core engineering practice beyond text-book theories.

Anand was a brilliant student and passed his engineering degree with honors.  He could have easily got a job in any reputed private or public sector firms through campus placement.  But Ranganathan adviced him to take a job in a mid-sized firm with greater responsibilities and intense pressure of work.  “You work in such an environment atleast for a first few years” said Ranganathan to his protégé.  “It will be a valuable experience for building a good career in the future, especially if you want to start your own and become an entrepreneur later.”  Anand accepted the advice of his mentor and took the job arranged by Ranganathan himself through his contacts.  In these four years when Anand rose from a trainee to Plant Manager, he has realized the importance of his mentor’s advice.  Just for testing the future possibilities, Anand has attended a few interviews for production management positions in a couple of reputed private manufacturing firms.  In everyone of them he was offered a job with twice the salary he was getting in his present job.  The veteran production managers who interviewed him were surprised at the depth of shop floor knowledge displayed by the young boyish looking engineer.  However Anand held on to his present job because he liked the independence and the experience of managing a plant.  But now the burden is becoming too difficult to bear, even for a highly competent shop floor manager like Anand.

Anand rang up to his mentor Prof. Ranganathan and told him, “Sir, I am sick with this job, the pressure and the stress is too difficult to bear.  I would like to quit and look for another job.  I want your guidance and advice.  When can I meet you.”  His mentor replied in a calm voice, “Anand, if you want to quit, you can always get a better and more comfortable job.  If you want to discuss you can come to my house at 8.00 PM and have dinner with me.”

The Triune Remedy

As Anand entered into the house of Prof. Ranganathan, his mentor said affectionately, “I am happy to meet you again after many months Anand.”  Ranganathan looked for sometimes at Anand’s face and found that his young protege was tired, stressed and restless.  “Tell me, Anand,” said Ranganathan “What is exactly troubling you.”  Anand described briefly in some detail what he is facing in his plant and said impatiently, “Sir, I can’t carry on like this anymore.”  Ranganathan listened patiently and sympathetically and said:

“Let us think what we can do about it.  What is happening to you is that your natural capacities are getting stretched to its limits, which is not something bad, but helpful for your growth, in reaching your highest potential.  Now we have to see how the negative effects of this stretching on your health can be minimized and the positive potentialities can be maximized by consciously enhancing your natural capacities.”

Anand said a little wearily and impatiently, “Yes, but how.”  Ranganathan briefly outlined the solution: “You have to learn three thing: Concentration, Time-management and stress-management.”  Familiar words, Anand thought, and said, “I have heard about them.  I understand the importance of concentration and I don’t have much difficulty in concentrating on my work.  The other two, my MBA friends talk a lot about them, but I have not tried them in my work.”  Ranganathan smiled and said, “You have not, perhaps, tried them consciously and systematically, but using them unknowingly.  Every smart, successful and result-oriented leader, manager or executive, knowingly or unknowingly uses all the three things, which are the basis of professional success.  Every effective and successful executive has an above average capacity for concentration and through intuition, experience and common sense found some ways for an efficient management of time.  And the most balanced among them might have found some workable methods for destressing.  Jack Welch the famed former CEO of GEC said once that management is not rocket science but common sense.  What he meant perhaps was what is called as and taught in B-schools, as Management is nothing but the age-old management wisdom discovered by seasoned and successful professional through intuition, experience and common sense, made into a scientific, rational and systematized body of knowledge. Have you gone through any of the current management literature on time and stress-management.”

“No Sir, I have not felt the need for it.”

“If you go through it you will find that you are already using many of the methods or techniques described there in your work.  What you have to do now is to redo consciously and systematically with a clear understanding of what, why and how, what you are doing unconsciously or half-consciously without much understanding of the purposes, principles and process of things.”

Anand listened to his mentor with great interest and attention.  “Very interesting Sir” he said.  He became a student again and with a deep curiosity in his voice, he told his mentor: “Now tell me precisely sir, how to put into practice the three things.”  At this point, Ranganathan’s wife called them for dinner.  “We will stop here for today,” said the Professor “we will continue our discussion tomorrow.  However I am giving you a few experiments, which you can try in your plant tomorrow.  First try to be more and more conscious of yourself and the environment and do whatever you are doing more consciously.  Second try to remain consciously focused on whatever you are dong and identify the obstacles to concentration within you and the environment.  Fourth try to see when you are more focused, the peak periods of concentration.  Tomorrow, we will discuss what you have found.  Now let us go for dinner.”

Sharpening the Mind: The Power of Concentration

As Anand drove back to his plant nest cay, he became conscious of some of the obstacles to concentration.  He found he is not able to focus on his driving because the anxiety over the target is constantly pulling his mind away from focusing on the driving wheel.  He also found this anxiety is a factor of stress.  The second obstacle he observed is the crowding of thought.  When he starts thinking about the days work, there is a rush of uncontrollable thoughts suggesting various possibilities.  The other factor he noticed is drifting of the mind into the future.  He has more or less decided to quit this job and find a better job.  So he was constantly thinking about his future career, which creates a certain anxiety about the future.  He tried to remain more conscious and focused but was not able to sustain the attention and concentration for more than one or two hours.  And he found it very strenuous, like some inner weight lifting, to bring back the drifting mind constantly to a state of focused and conscious attention.

In his next meeting with Ranganathan, he described to his mentor what he has observed yesterday.  Ranganathan smiled and said:

“You have already found three obstacles to concentration and two factors of stress.  You have said at the beginning that you don’t have any difficulty in concentration but you have now found how difficult it is to remain consciously focused for extended periods.”

“But Sir,” asked Anand.  “Is it necessary always to be conscious and focused.”

“To be more and more conscious is important because at present we are only conscious of a small part of the surface layers our being and therefore we are not fully aware of all the powers and potentialities which are lying hidden in the heights and depths, of our being.  By becoming more and more conscious you become aware of the higher potentialities within you.  So consciousness is very important for realizing your full potential.  However regarding concentration, there is no need you must always be focused, but you must acquire the capacity to focus all your energies at an inner or outer object or activity whenever you need.”

“How to acquire this capacity?”

“You must identify the obstacles to concentration and also the enablers for enhancing concentration. Make a conscious effort to eliminate or minimize the obstacles and develop the enablers.  This requires some inner muscle-building exercises, which maybe initially tiring.  But when you put it into practice persistently, and acquire this capacity you have a great power at your command, which is the basis of success in any field, from the mundane to the spiritual.  You have to just orient them at the aims you want to realize.  If you apply this power to realize moral or spirituals aims you become a great saint or sage.  If you turn it into a specific field of activity like music or art, science or philosophy you become a genius in that domain.  If you turn it to some mundane aims or ambitions like making money or career growth then also you get what you want.”

“Extremely interesting Sir,” Anand said enthusiastically, “But what is the main principle or basis of the effectiveness of this power of concentration.”

“Concentration means the ability to focus all the attention and energy of the mind on a particular point and hold on to it as long as it is needed. Our so-called “normal” conditions of mind is a state of dispersion, diffusion and wastage of the light and power of our consciousness in a multitude of thoughts, feelings and objects, scattered helplessly in an uncontrolled medley of confusion and disorder.  Such a mind is the most inefficient and unproductive.  For Mind is also a form of energy like Matter.  When this mental energy is scattered and diffused in uncontrolled and useless chattering it is at the lowest and at the most inefficient level of functioning.  On the other hand when this mental energy is under control, free from useless, wasteful and disturbing thoughts, focused and concentrated at a point, it functions at its highest potential.  Energy, physical or mental, when focused, enhances its penetrative power.  An apt analogy from modern technology is the Laser beam.  Laser is the electromagnetic energy of sunlight¾which falls on earth in a diffused and scattered form, ¾focused into a coherent and concentrated beam, which can penetrate even steel.  This applies equally to mental energy.  The act of focusing the mind increases and multiplies the cognitive as well the penetrative power of its energy; it grows in light, clarity, insight, understanding and also in power, intensity, strength and force of effectuation.”

“You have said that to develop this power of concentration we have to identify the obstacles and enablers, minimize the obstacles and cultivate the enablers.  As you have asked me to do, I have already identified the obstacles: anxiety over the target and the drifting of the mind into the future. How to eliminate or minimize the obstacles.”

“By constantly focusing on the Now and the Present, you have to repeatedly step back and detach yourself from the feeling of anxiety and the impulse to drift into the future and bring back the mind to the present and focus on the Now.”

“What are the enablers to concentration?”

“Persistent will, vigilant mind and constant practice.  Initially, it could be extremely tiring to impose concentration on the mind, which is not habituated to it.  The mind may revolt violently and react with thoughts and feelings like ‘O it is hopeless’, ‘ no use trying’, and ‘not worth the labour’.  But these suggestions have to be firmly rejected by the will and the process of concentration has to be repeated again and again, patiently, without yielding to despondency.  The steps of the process are simple in paper but difficult to put into practice.  The first step is to establish a minimum amount of calm in the mind.  Next step is to gather and bring back the vagabonding mind to the focal point of concentration, which may be an object, thought, or an activity.  Third step is to hold on to it as long as possible, keeping the distracting thoughts away with a vigilant mind and a firm will.  Here comes the importance of an alert and vigilant mind.  A sleepy and drowsy condition is a great obstacle to concentration.  And sometimes a drowsy absorption of the mind in an object is mistaken for concentration.  For effective concentration, both the will and awareness in the mind has to be alert, watchful and vigilant to ward off the unwanted intruders and keep the mind focused.”

After a pause Ranganathan asked, “Have I convinced you of the need and importance of concentration.”

“Yes Sir, I am more than convinced.  I feel it will be a little difficult to put into practice.  But surely I will try because the end-results are so enticing.”

Mastering the Temporal Flux: The Path of Time-management

Ranganathan looked at his watch and said, “I think we can stop here and take up time-management tomorrow.  Let me give you a brief introduction to the subject and as with concentration, an assignment.  The aim of Time-management is to enhance the productivity of time and the essence of the process or method is efficient and productive use and organization of time and resources.  The assignment for you is to become fully conscious of how do you organize your day’s work for efficient and productive realization of your targets for the day and identify clearly the various step, stages and activities of the process.”

The next day as Anand stared his day of work in his plant, he noted down in his book his first activity: review of the production planning and schedule chart for the day which breaks down the project goals into monthly and daily targets with clear indications of material, manpower and equipment needs for achieving it.  This production planning and scheduling system was conceived and implemented by Anand almost single-handedly by reading books, visiting other factories and valuable inputs from Ranganathan.  This project was a great source of learning and experience for him.  After implementing this modern production planning system, productivity of the company as a whole has doubled.  This gave him much self-confidence and a sense of professional pride and achievement.  The work was of course done under the overall guidance and supervision of his boss, Sivaraman.  But Sivaraman is an old world manager who managed by gut feeling.  He doesn’t have the knowledge of the modern scientific and systematic production management systems.  So he relied very much on Anand for implementing the system.  He was lavish in his price for Anand for executing it successfully with handsome results in the bottomline.  After the review of production planning schedules, his next task is to ensure all the production needs of the day are ready and available and resolving whatever shortages and problems that may rise.  The rest of the day’s work involves mostly walking round the plant, monitoring the progress and seeing that work is moving according to the schedules.  The other two important part of his work, which he has made into a part of his plant culture, is to eliminate, minimize and recycle waste and spend some time on thinking how to constantly improve the productivity of each activity of production process.  Anand was able to convince the management for implementing a production incentive system, which shares a part of the monetary gains achieved by this productivity-improvement with the workers and the supervisors.

I the next session, Anand described his work-day to his mentor.  “You are already practicing most of the principles and process of time-management,” said Ranganathan and added, “we may briefly sum up the principles of Time-management as: first, clarity on the goal which may be a target; second clarity on the Process for achieving the goals; third, fixing the priorities for action; fourth careful planning and organization of resources; fifth, elimination of all wasteful activities, inner and outer; sixth, monitoring the progress towards the goal.  We may add one more, which we have already covered when we are discussing concentration: focusing more on the present and the process than on the result, outcome and the future.  I would also like to add another aspect of it, which is not recognized in modern time-management literature. It is inner organization.  Look within yourself and see how much your thought, feeling and actions are in harmony with your highest aspiration or ideals.  You will observe so many points of inner conflict.  Resolve them and try to establish inner harmony and order.”

“But how does it help in Time-management?”

“We have identified elimination of wasteful activities, inner and outer as part of Time-management.  Inner conflicts are a source of wastage of psychological energies.  Moreover inner and outer order has a mutually beneficial impact. The inner order and harmony when it expresses itself in the outer life leads to harmony and order in your outer life.  If you have order and harmony within you, you have the intuition to know how to build harmony in the outer life.  Similarly order, cleanliness and harmony in the outer life and environment have a positive and harmonious impact in the thought and feeling of people living and working in the environment.”

“Very fascinating Sir, I have never heard about these ideas before.  But I am not habituated to this sort of inner spiritual work.  But I will surely try.”

After a brief pause, Ranganathan asked Anand, “What are your specializations in your college.”  Anand said, “Production Management and Industrial Engineering.”

“You must go through all the latest ideas and techniques related to these subjects, like for example, TQM, Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, 80-20 principle.  Have you made any such attempts to study these things.”

“Not all, but some of them.  For example I made a detailed study of the literate on TQM for two months.  Now I have a good conceptual understanding of TQM and I think I can also implement it in my company.  In fact, I have suggested it to my boss and he was favourable to the idea.  But our Managing Director was not interested.  When we made the proposal to him he said, ‘we are not yet big enough for TQM.  When we become big we will think about it.’”

“You need not wait until your company becomes big.  You better move on to a bigger and better one.  I think it is time for you to quit the job and make a career-shift.”

“I also feel the same way Sir.  Can you help me.”

“Surely, I will do what I can.  Do you remember, some six months back I arranged a personal interview for you with my classmate, Radhakrishnan, who is now a Vice-President (Production) at Pistons India.”

“Yes Sir, I remember I felt he was impressed and told me that he will let you know when there is an opening.”

“Surely he is very much impressed.  He told me ‘I will remember that boy when we have an opening for him.’  So tomorrow I will ring up to him and let us see what comes out.”

Anand said gratefully, “Thanks a lot Sir.”

“So we will wind up today and take up the next subject, stress-management tomorrow.  Your assignment for today is before going to bed, identify clearly what are the major factors of stress you have felt during the execution of this project.”

Healing the Inner Storm: The Art of Stress-management

As Anand sat before his mentor, Ranganathan gazed at the face of his protégé for a few minutes and said with concern and sympathy, “My dear boy, you look tired, haggard and stressed out.  You are very much in need of stress-management.”

“Oh Yes Sir, very much, this project is taxing my nerves as never before.”

“Now tell me what are the major stressors which are tormenting you.”

“The first one is constant hammering by my boss like, ‘what it is so slow,’ ‘what you are doing to speed up’ ‘why this is not yet done.’ He was never like this before, constantly pushing and bullying, and I never felt any strong negative feelings for my boss.  There were minor skirmishes, arguments, irritations but never any violent feelings.  But now strong negative feeling are like anger, resentment and spite violently raising in me.  The second factor is increasing conflict with other plant managers and my subordinates and workers.  I am also putting a lot of pressure on my supervisors and workers and there are frequent flare-ups and quarrels.  I never shouted angrily at anyone.  But now I am constantly shouting at everyone, shouting at my boss, shouting at my supervisors, shouting at my workers.  In my home also I am behaving irritably with my parents and sisters.”

“Can you see the chain of stress causing it? Your boss is getting hammered by his boss and he is transmitting his stress-driven behaviour to you.  And you are getting hammered by your boss and you are transmitting the results to your subordinates.  Let us now examine what can be done to combat this chronic menace facing the modern corporate world.  There is a voluminous and growing literature on this subject, analyzing the causes and remedies.  You can get such material in the internet and go through them when you have the time.  But for the present I will confine myself to two effective stress-management strategies in Indian yoga, which is not recognized much in the traditional, corporate approaches to stress-management. They are Peace and Equanimity.  Let us begin with Peace.  Now tell me what is your conception of Peace and when you have experienced Peace.

Anand thought for a while and said, “Peace is perhaps a state of mind which is free from disturbance, like for example when you are relatively free from problems and difficulties, when you are relaxed, happy and satisfied, when you are in the midst of Nature, when you are in Meditation.”

“So you have experienced peace.  But the types of Peace you have described depends on external supports like Nature or environmental conditions.  Is it possible to achieve a state of Peace independent of external supports?  In this perspective we may define Peace as a state of mind which is not necessarily free from disturbance but in which you can remain undisturbed even in the midst of inner and outer disturbances.”

“That would be wonderful.  Is it really possible to achieve such a state of peace.”

“Yes, there are some methods and practices in yoga which can lead to such a state of peace.  Do you already know any of them?”

“Not much, except Meditation.  I have tried ‘Transcendental Meditation’ of Maharishi Mahesh yogi.  And it does bring a certain amount of peace.”

“Meditation is undoubtedly a powerful method for achieving peace. But it is not enough to be peaceful for a few minutes or hours in a day in our meditation rooms.    We must remember that nothing much is achieved in terms of inner growth or wellbeing when we are peaceful and holy during meditation but again angry, violent or disturbed when we are out of meditation.  So the peace that is felt or achieved in the minutes or hours of meditation has to be maintained and extended to the whole day.  In other words peace and undisturbed calm has to become an integral part of our inner nature or if that is too high an ideal for average folks like us, a settled peace has to be established in some deeper parts of our inner being, so that whenever there is a disturbance within or without we can step back immediately to that inner ashram of peace within us.  To achieve this settled peace we have to supplement the traditional cross-legged and close-eyed meditations with other methods which can be practiced in the midst of work, life and action.”

“What you are telling is absolutely true Sir.  I have felt it when I was practicing TM techniques.  You feel some peace while meditating and for sometime after meditation.  But later when you have to face the problems of life and work whatever peace you have achieved during Mediation disappears without a trace.”

“Yes, I am glad to know you have observed it.”

“I am truly eager to know the methods by which we can remain in peace even in the midst of work and action.”

“The first method, a little externalized, but a simple one is slow breathing.  Indian Yogis have found that there is a close connection between mind and breath, more specifically rate of breathing and mental activity.  When the mind becomes too active or restless, if we can consciously slow down the rate of breathing and practice slow, rhythmic breathing for a few minutes, it helps to bring calm and peace to the mind.

The other method is the witness-poise.  To step back from the spot of disturbance, disidentify our centre of consciousness from the disturbance and take the attitude of a detached witness.  For example when we are angry, step back from the wave of anger and try to see and feel, ‘anger is happening in me, but I am not in it; I am untouched by it.  I watch it raise, fall and pass away like waves at the surface of my being.’

The third method is to visualize and invoke peace.  The Indian Yogis, in their inner search have discovered that there is a universal Peace and Silence, which pervades the inner and outer space, which creates a Zone of Peace behind our mind and heart.  We can visualize and imagine these realms of Peace within us or around us and invoke it with a simple, gentle and friendly call, as if calling a friend we love or offering our self to this Peace.  In the Indian spiritual tradition there are powerful manthras of Peace used by innumerable yogis and seeker and therefore charged with an inner force.  One of them is the peace chant, well-known in India, ‘Om Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi’.

If we are of the religious type and believe in God, surrender to God can be a very effective method for achieving peace of mind.  The discipline of constant self-giving to God, offering all our activities, problems and difficulties to Him with a total faith and trust in His Grace and Wisdom, handing over the responsibility of our Life to Him, if it is done with sincerity, devotion and persistence, can lead not only to peace of mind but also can bring the guidance and direction of a higher divine power to our life.”

“Great Sir, I would very much like to experiment with these methods.  But I never knew Sir, that such useful things are in our Indian Yoga.”

“This is a sad fact of modern India.  Most of the Indians are not aware of the treasures of practical wisdom, which exist, in our ancient traditions.  Let us now move on to the second strategy: Equanimity.  Tell me, what do you know on this subject.”

“Sometimes back, I listened briefly in TV to a discourse by a Swami on the Gita.  He was telling something about ‘samatha’ and said it means equanimity.  He was also telling that equality means to be equal in pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow.  But I didn’t listen any more because I don’t have much interest in such spiritual stuff.”

“I suggest that you begin to take some interest in our spiritual traditions especially in Indian yoga.  It will help you realize your full potential as a human being.  We will talk about it some other time.  Coming back to the subject of Equanimity, you have got some initial glimpses from the Swami in TV on the meaning of Equality.  Let us go a little deeper into the meaning of equality.  Equanimity means,

not to be disturbed by whatever that happens within me in my consciousness or without in the external environment.

to receive with an equal regard all the unequal and varying thoughts, feelings, sensations and events that raises or assails within and without.

Outwardly events like success and failure, insult and praise, good and the bad, beautiful and the ugly assail me with their corresponding inner reactions like joy and sorrow, elation and depression, anger and satisfaction, likes and dislikes, attraction and repulsion.  But I remain undisturbed by these events and reactions, regarding them with calm equanimity.”  Equanimity acts as a shield against the onslaught of stress.”

“It would be nice to have such a shield, but how to get that shield.”

“There are three paths for attaining equanimity.  First is Heroic Endurance; second is Sagely Detachment; third is Saintly Acceptance.  First is the way of will, second that of knowledge, third is that of feeling or devotion.  Each one can follow a path, which is in harmony with his nature and temperament.  They can also be combined.  Tell me what is your nature and temperament.”

Anand remained silent for sometime, reflecting and thoughtful, and then said: “It is rather difficult for me to say Sir.  I am not of the heroic type, but still I like taking challenging assignments.  I am not of the sagely type nor I am an intellectual.  I am predominantly a man of action but I also like reading and want to know new things.  I am not a saint but I have a firm faith in God.”

“Smart answer.  This means there is a certain amount of balance in your personality.  You can combine all the three.  Let us begin with the first: Heroic Endurance, which is the path for those who have a strong will and the temperament of a warrior.  Endurance means to consciously bear the inner and outer assault of events, reactions, reactions, sensations and emotions with an undisturbed and unflinching calm.”

“But sir, do we not do it everyday? We all endure the shocks and stress of life.  So what is the fun in telling, endure?”

“Do we really endure? We just succumb to it wailing and lamenting.  Endurance means not to succumb and collapse, wail, weep and lament, but to consciously meet, confront and bare the assault with unyielding courage and calm.  For example my boss makes a terribly insulting remark I become inwardly very angry, but I cannot show it outside.  The feelings of anger, and revolt, hate and vengefulness raise in me.  I don’t suppress these feelings but do not succumb to it and become more and more angry.  I refuse to give the inner consent to these feelings.  They raise in me again and again but I am not pulled, drawn and tossed by the feelings.  I bear them consciously with a calm and equal endurance.  If I am able to wield this shield of endurance with a calm persistence, an interesting thing happens.  It creates an inner bifurcation in my being between the surface and the inner being.  The surface part of my being is still subjected to these reactions but a deeper and inner part remains untouched and above these reactions, a calm and strong witness, which looks and watches the turmoil in the lower part but untouched by it.  By further practice we can bring down the calm equality of this deeper self to the surface being.  Any questions and comments?”

“Sounds good but may be difficult to practice. But the challenge of endurance appeals to me.  Surely I will try.”

“The second path is Sagely Indifference. This path may appeal to those who have a philosophic temperament and tend towards knowledge.  The main attitude here is not endurance but detached indifference, though certain amount of endurance is necessary in all the paths.  In this path, the unequal turmoil is viewed with a smiling and indulgent indifference, as something, which goes on in a lower, childish and immature part of my being. It is something like a Mother who looks with an indulgent smile on all the wild and obstinate tantrums of a child, which demands from her something, which is harmful to him and therefore She is unwilling to give.  And finally the child understands that whatever he may do and however hard he may insist, the Mother will not give what he demands.  The child becomes less and less adamant and finally becomes calm.  A more or less similar result happens by following this method.  As in the first method there is an inner bifurcation between the deeper part, which is calm and undisturbed, and the surface being which is still subject to the unequal disturbance.  Later, with further practice, the calm and equanimity of the deeper parts imposes itself on the surface being.  Again, any comments or clarifications?”

“I think this method can be applied only to mild reactions.  It is difficult to be indifferent when the inner feelings are violent and overwhelming.  The Mother cannot be indifferent when the child harasses her physically.”

Ranganathan laughed and said, “Thoughtful comment.  Perhaps, if you have a strong philosophic or sagely temperament not only in your thought but also in your will you can be indifferent even to violent feelings.  A strong, wise and loving Mother can be patient and indifferent even when the child physically harasses her.  Recently, I read a very moving story by such a mother of an autistic child who is frequently violent against her own mother.  She says, a patient, loving and understanding indifference is the best way to deal with the violent bouts of her child.”

“May be Sir, but I can experiment with it and see if it works for me.”

 “That is the true scientific temper.  The third path is Saintly Acceptance.  This path is for those who believe in God and have a devotional temperament; it is not for those who have a skeptical and critical mind and ask questions like, ‘If the God is supremely compassionate, why there is so much evil and pain in the world.’  This path is for the heart-centred people who have a deep, intuitive faith in the love and wisdom of God.  The basis of this path is a firm faith that there is a divine Love and Wisdom which governs the world and a divine organization which arranges everything for the ultimate good of each and the whole.  So whatever happens to us is received with an acceptance and faith in the divine Will and as a part of our ultimate good.  All the outer events and inner movement are offered to the Divine with a complete acceptance, faith and trust in His Wisdom.  It is something like a child who has a total faith in the love and wisdom of his Mother.  He accept with faith whatever her Mother gives him or asks him to do, however difficult and painful it may be, with a faith that whatever Mother gives him or asks him to do ultimately helps him to grow.  Here again as with other paths, when this attitude is put into practice, it leads to calm and equanimity with more or less the same process described earlier in the other two paths. Do you have such a faith in God”?

“What I liked much here is that it is not a fatalistic resignation in God’s will but an understanding faith in the God’s Love and Wisdom.  This attitude appeals to me.”

 “Do you have any more questions on what we have discussed so far?”

 “Can we say Peace and Equanimity are the long-term solution to corporate stress?”

“No, there are only methods for tackling daily stressors.  Long-term solution to corporate stress lies in finding the right balance between performance and wellbeing.  One of the main causes of corporate stress is a too heavy emphasis on individual performance and corporate goals at the expense of human wellbeing.  This imbalance has to be corrected.  The corporate management must give at least as much importance to wellbeing as it gives now to performance.  The body, mind and soul of the individual are the source of performance. There cannot be sustained performance if the very source of performance is tormented, sick and stressed-out.  So sustained well-being is the foundation of sustained productivity. There must be a scientific, systematic and planned effort to achieve a certain level of individual and corporate wellbeing.  The corporate world makes such an effort with other corporate values and goals like productivity or quality.  But a similar effort is lacking in the realm of human wellbeing.  If the corporate world wants to progress from the present stress-prone condition to a stress-free state, it must give as much creative attention to achieve a total wellbeing of the body, mind and soul of the work-force as it gives now to the achievement of productivity, quality or customer service.  In fact, the very concept of ‘stress-management’ is a limited and short-term goal to corporate.  The long-term solution lies not in stress-management but in integral wellness, individual and corporate.  However, this is a subject, which is beyond the scope of our present discussion.  Coming to the more immediate and pressing problems and issues we are discussing, I think, we have now come to the end of our sessions.  I have conducted for you a course on what we may call as ‘Productivity without Anxiety’.  As a whole how do you find the sessions? Do you thing they are useful.”

“Very much Sir, you have given me a set of ideas, attitudes and practices for achieving targets without getting stressed, which can be applied not only in work-place but in tackling the difficulties of life as a whole.  I will surely put them into practice.

Ranganathan said, “I am glad you find them useful” and remained silent in a thoughtful mood for a few minutes.  After a pause, he said with a deep feeling and conviction in his voice.

 “Anand you are dear to me.  So, I would like to emphasize here a very important point.  Don’t look at concentration, peace and equanimity as some sort of a technique for achieving mundane result.  In our ancient spiritual tradition they are not used as mere techniques but part of a sacred path for the moral, psychological and spiritual evolution of the individual towards his spiritual destiny.  So use them mainly for your higher evolution with mundane benefits like productivity coming as secondary result.   Concentration will help you to focus your attention and energies effectively on any moral and spiritual aims or ideas.  Similarly Peace and Equanimity will help you to open your mind and heart to your soul or the divinity within you.  So my long-term assignment or rather request for you is, try to understand the spiritual wisdom of India.  Whenever you find time study some of the Indian spiritual classics like Upanishad, Gita and Dhammapada and the teachings of modern Indian spiritual masters like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and try to put them into practice in your daily life.  It will make you a better human being as well as a better professional.”

Anand replied with a deep sense of respect and affection for his mentor,

“Sir what you have told just now touched me to the core of my heart.  In fact, in these three days what I have heard from you have awakened in me an interest in Indian spirituality.  As you have suggested and with your guidance, I will study Indian spiritual literature whenever I find time.  This area is very much new to me and therefore I feel a thrill of exploration.”

“Your positive attitude and openness of mind makes me intensely happy.  Shall we wind up today?  If you need any further clarifications you can come to my house any day at this time after informing me before.  Do you have anything else to discuss today.”

Anand asked eagerly, “Have you talked to your friend in Piston India about my job.”

Ranganathan said, “Oh, truly sorry Anand, I forgot about it completely I will surely ring up to him today and let us see how it works.”

 “Thanks a lot, Sir.”

 Epilogue

The day after, when Anand was inspecting a machinery, his cell phone rang and Ranganathan said with a happy tone in his voice,

 “I have a glad news for you.  I rang up to my friend today, reminded him of your earlier interview with him and gave him a brief description of your profile, accomplishment and your present job.  He was very much eager to poach you.  His company has undertaken a massive expansion plan with some half a dozen new plants.  My friend said that they are in very much need of young and talented production engineers and managers who are now in short supply because most of the bright engineering candidates opt for IT.  He told me ‘your boy appears very promising, ask him to send his application immediately to me.’  When I asked him about the salary he said ‘we are more than generous to talented people.’  So if everything goes well, you are heading for a plum job.  You will have the opportunity to work in state-of-the art plants with latest manufacturing technology.  If you get this job, within next three or four years you will become one of the most sought after production mangers in India.”

 Anand said, “I don’t know how to express my gratefulness to you.”

 When there is only a month left to reach the deadline, Anand’s boss had a massive heart attack and retired from service.  Anand, as an obvious and inevitable choice, was offered the position of his boss and took over as Production Manager for the whole company.  Anand was able to successfully complete the project within the target date.  Within a few days after completion of the project, Anand was called for interview from Piston India and within a week he was offered the job as Production Executive in Piston India in the same city, with more than twice the salary he was getting now.  Anand quit his job and joined Piston India.  Anand’s spiritual interests and aspiration is growing everyday and under the constant guidance of his mentor, he is studying the spiritual wisdom of India and trying to put into practice in his life.  He is constantly amazed at the scientific and pragmatic approach of Indian yoga and the inner benefits he is getting from its practice.

Exercise Questions

1. Sketch out a plan and strategy for enhancing the power of concentration of the work force of an organization.  The scheme must embrace the individual as well as the collective dimension, which means it must include not only the power of concentration of individual employees but also creating an external environment favourable to concentration.

2. In your work-life or professional life what are the activities which you have found or observed that lead to the highest wastage of time and resources and what are the measures you suggest for minimizing or eliminating these wasteful activities.

3. You are a CEO or HR head of a BPO firm.  You find that there is in the past six months there is an increasing incidence of stress-related disorders among the employees, especially in the younger group, like alcoholism, drug-addiction, womanizing, heart-problems suicide, absenteeism.  How you are going to tackle the problem.  Present a brief outline of the strategy and the solution.

4. In this case study we have identified lack of balance between performance and well being as one of the main causative factors behind corporate stress.  Do you think there are similar societal factor behind stress? Try to identify the values, attitudes and life-styles, which lead to a stress-prone and high-stress society.  Similarly, identify the psychological and cultural factors, which can build a stress-free and healthy society.


 

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This entry was posted on May 4, 2012 by in Case studies and reviews.