Saturday, April 30, 2011

Meditation And Pranayama

The only way to break this pattern is to find a way to change the response to tough situations. There is of course no way to make the situations less tough. Meditation and pranayama, provide everyone with a way of reducing the automatic, violent reactions to stress. You can actually control autonomous systems like heart beat and pulse rate, which were thought to be outside the individual’s control. Knowing and practicing meditation can provide you with a silent space where you can retreat into peace: slow breathing, steady heartbeat, low pulse. This space is always available within a person who has learnt to meditate. While you cannot change your job, family or your life situation, you can certainly learn to breathe more peacefully, thus reversing the process of excitation and avoiding the emotional hijack. It is not possible to learn meditation by thinking about it, any more than it is possible to learn swimming by talking about it. If you have to swim, you have to get into the water. Learning mediation and understanding your breathing patterns through pranayama may be the best investment you ever made. In India, there is no excuse not to learn these things. Stress need not be a response to the pace of your life. You can learn a peaceful response that protects your body.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Age of Biology

Harvey described the heart as a pump. This was a mechanistic view which indicated that if the heart ‘broke down’, it had to be repaired like a machine. It did not take into account that the heart is a living organism sensitive to feelings and can recreate itself. As Deepak Chopra writes, ‘The body is a river,’ a swiftly changing river, which can reinvent itself by replacing unhealthy tissues with tender new tissues at the cellular level?

Our understanding of human life and growth is becoming organic. Building a life is not like putting up a building, but more like growing a tree: slower, organic and evolutionary. It cannot be done in a hurry. Like Nature, human development in order to be healthy has to follow a slower, more stable timetable. Those who seek to speed it up beyond a point will have to pay the price. The price may be their own lives. Many have died to live up to some unrealistic modern myth of yuppydom and success.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Replacing Autocratic Systems with Democratic Modes

The most obvious (relevant) shift in the workplace has been the unseating of the tough autocratic boss style. It is almost impossible to push a knowledge-worker. His contributions have to flow out of his deep involvement and knowledge of the subject. The army commander style is out. The ‘coach of champions’ is the style of leadership that works with intelligent young people who have choices. This is quite difficult for those managers who have been brought up in the old school of obedience and loyalty. A scenario of constant and accelerated change creates physical responses that lead to the inevitable development of clogged arteries.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Triumph of the Individual

In the modern corporation, there is no place for free passengers, only contributing members. Restructuring, re-engineering, shrinking profit margins have made the workplace increasingly intolerant of the unskilled and non-performing members. The only defence against the pink slip is personal excellence and constant growth. This can put a lot of pressure on the individuals. Flatter organisations celebrate individual performance. There is no place for anyone less capable to hide in the crowd. This can be a challenge. It could also be a test, which many will fail. Constant competition with peers can be very tiring. The only way out is innovation, through uniqueness, through entrepreneurship and intrepreneurship.

Alvin Toffler’s prediction of the electronic cottage (people networked and working from homes) and small office home office (SOHO) is becoming a more and more visible reality. The customer is no longer interested in mass produced products. He demands choices. No more Henry Ford promising, ‘You can have any colour car you want provided it is black.’ Paint companies allow you to even mix your own colours. This can be an opportunity and a treat depending on the entrepreneur’s attitude.

Maslow’s self-actualisation principle—the individual’s capacity to be transformed into the individual God created him to be—is a possible destination for all.

Einstein, Time magazine's ‘Man of the Twentieth Century,’ warns:

‘The concern for Man and his destiny must always be the chief interest of all technical effort. Never forget it among your diagrams and equations.’

The revolution of rising expectations, fuelled by the global perspective, provided by the media and internet creates unrelenting stress.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Feminine Principle

Another interesting challenge today is for all human beings to develop the feminine principle. New leadership models require the development of the right brain, which is intuitive, holistic and creative. Most of these traits, along with nurturing and inter-personal skills, were previously relegated to a lower status in a predominantly macho world. The change in leadership styles required today, have made these very traits important. The Indian model of ‘ardhanareeshwarar’— a god who integrates the male and female elements in himself—is an ancient Vedic concept—follow the logic through.

The popular advertisement for Raymonds (the textile giant) shows the complete man as a man who can deal with a baby as comfortably as he can with a balance sheet. It shows someone who can laugh, and is not afraid to shed a tear. Accessing their feminine side is a challenge men today face to deal with the transition to a more humane model of leadership. Giving up the ‘stiff upper lip’ can be very liberating.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Women and Stress

Indian women have moved into the workforce in an unmistakable wave. In modern societies today, many of them bear the dual burden of managing the home and a career. The infrastructure necessary to help them: crèches, dependable childcare, help from husbands, gadgets to make housework easier, is not yet in place. This generation of transitional women is at high risk from heart disease, particularly during the menopausal years. Statistics show that women have fifty per cent chance of dying of heart disease, ten times higher than their risk of dying by breast cancer.

The traditional shock absorber of the family, particularly in Indian families is the woman. Dual responsibilities have reduced her capacity to perform this role. Her ability to absorb and reduce tensions has been greatly compromised. The tensions building up in a nuclear family can have a negative impact on health. The two-income family brings an increased pay check, while insidiously increasing the risk factors for heart disease. Huge reserves of patience are required to cope with this new, changed family structure. Most do not have these reserves.

As women climb to higher levels of the corporate ladder, alternative strategies have to be found to maintain the nurturing capacity of the family. Only joint efforts by the couple and the involvement of elders and the extended family, or community support can adequately fill this gap. This is a never-discussed pressure-cooker situation, hazardous to health, lethal for the heart, building up in modern families.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Global Economy and Stress

The current development of the global economy means that the 173 countries of the world will share a single market place. Demand and supply will respond to the compulsions of global competitiveness. Every country is eyeing the one billion strong Indian market and its fabled 250 million middle class. No company can escape the restructuring and blood-letting, the downsizing rampant today. The possibility of the pink slip stares every executive in the face.

It is being slowly realised that economic prosperity can lead to poverty in the quality of life and health. Is India gradually becoming a global back office with uninteresting, boring, repetitive jobs being dumped on us? The joy of craftsmanship is being replaced by the monotony of the assembly line.

This expanding global economy and the lethal workplace have created serious conflicts in the individual’s life. Many have to confront the question of how their values measure up against their need to own and have the world’s goodies.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Workplace and Stress

Ambition and increasing peer pressure ensures the 'rat in a trap syndrome', where you are trapped into running faster and faster to stay in the same place. This note is dedicated to those involved in the daily rat race that life has become. It will help you avoid the ill effects of a fast-track career in today's competitive environment. It will focus on innovative approaches to de-stress, both on an individual and group levels.

Work follows us everywhere. The blurring of work and leisure has intensified in this era of twenty-four-hour access, when the computer is just a fingertip away and the Blackberry and the cellphone are as intimate as a heartbeat. The delicate tissues of the body are constantly awash in the lethal chemical bath of chronic stress. Interactive electronic devices have made stress continuous. Home is no longer a refuge.

I was talking to one of the brilliant young men in a fast-track company. He said, ‘No one takes you seriously if you leave office before nine pm. The fellow who stays on till twelve pm to answer his last email, received at 11.45 pm from the boss in the US, is a winner. The fact that he had an auto accident going home makes him a corporate hero!’

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How Does Stress Affect Us?

Let us consider the most common emotion of this century—anger. What happens when you are angry?

Thirty-six chemicals pour into the blood: Lethal chemicals like adrenaline and histamine. The heart and pulse rates shoot up. The rate of breathing increases. The body gets ready to fight or flee. Digestion is switched off. All parts of the brain, except the primitive 'lizard brain'is switched off. Primitive man who was confronted by a tiger needed this state of high alert to survive in the jungle. Today, this desperate Mayday response, this most primitive survival response, is used frivolously, not to save life, but in response to office politics or a traffic jam.

As the blood rushes through the heart, during an anger attack, it raises blood pressure. The force of blood-flow in an enraged person causes minute tears in the tender fabric of the arteries. Fatty deposits find a convenient place to park themselves to repair the tears—cholesterol, the plaster of Paris of the body, slowly builds up to occlude the artery. Soon the tender flexible artery becomes stiff and hard, preparing the stage for a heart attack.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stress The Killer: Beware

The twenty-first century will be the century of the Mind. The Mind is man's last unconquered frontier. The Upanishads describe it as fast, fickle and uncontrollable, like a dozen swift horses travelling at breakneck speed. Mankind is paying a steep price for failing to learn more about the Mind before embarking on the race for success in the new millennium. Stress is the price we pay for success. Stress stalks the precarious climb up the corporate ladder.

The Five Stress-Triggering Emotions

Any of the big five emotions—Kama, Kroda, Madha, Lobha, Matsarya (lust, anger, arrogance, greed, jealousy, respectively) can flood the body with the chemicals of stress. Stress is destructive. Stress is ageing. Stress is a killer.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Energy and Enthusiasm

It is energy that causes all beings to act in this world. The higher the level of positive energy, the greater the accomplishments.

When we are tired, our energy level plummets and we do not feel like doing anything. When the field around is negative with hurt, anger, possessiveness, greed, jealously, fear and abhorrence, we are less able to act with speed, effectiveness and efficiency. These emotions suck the energy and life force out of us. All beings have within them, the all-pervading life force, the same force or energy that creates and sustains life in the universe and nourishes it. It is the universal nature of energy that binds and connects all creatures in a single, networked web. That is why it is difficult to be completely happy while hurting others. The universal life energy acts and lives in all created matter. It is necessary at all times to make sure that the creation of a negative field is carefully avoided.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Relationship with Self

Why are you mean and unkind to yourself? Why do you talk to yourself in that cruel, cutting way? What is that tape, running in your head? Here are some suggestions on adjusting your emotional attitude towards yourself:

Loving another equal and an adult, is transforming—tune in.

Listen to yourself, nurture yourself.

Discipline gives you true freedom.

Forgive yourself.

Live in the present. Now. Every minute.

Love and work are the most precious gifts you can give another.

A gift of yourself is the greatest gift you can give another.

Ask for help. Network.

Do not pretend to be in total control.

Periodically reinvent and renew yourself.

Try hard to keep promises and commitments—your internal sense of justice will punish all infractions.

Cacti can be as beautiful as a rose bush. Love them anyway.

Explore the concept of acceptance of self.

Love yourself. Accept yourself, your body and mind, as you are. While trying to improve both, affirm and love yourself as you are today, here and now.

Accept your whole life, as a divine gift, good and bad as it is now.

Love others. You are the mirror, in which all your loved ones see themselves. You can soothe and inspire them by reflecting back an image that is lovable and competent. Calvin Cooley, renowned sociologist has described the Mirror Image thus: ‘I am what I think, you think I am.’ If you are constantly putting down others, they can be mentally destroyed. Their unhappiness can harm your mindscape.

Accept your family as they are. Unrealistic expectations about your child can put unrelenting pressure on him. Mills and Boon expectations of your spouse can make them feel unloved and inadequate. They can then become cranky and difficult.

You do not need revenge. Let go. Go forward and live. Compete only with yourself. Take pleasure in others’ growth and achievement.

Keep the child in you alive, stroke and liberate the playmate, cuddle the baby in you.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Negative Field

If some people in the group feel excluded, they cannot contribute good ideas or a happy atmosphere. They may even change the nature of a positive field by their unhappiness. Just as a drop of cyanide can poison a clear pool of water, so too the unhappiness of a single person can poison the field in a home or a company. They give off toxic waves of hostility and can turn a flourishing field into a desert.

A negative field is toxic with distrust. In the negative field, individuals are afraid to think differently; new ideas wither before they are formulated. In such a field, only the most obvious ideas, which appear practical and sensible will be shared. All but the most obvious ideas will be rejected. These ideas will be of little use because they are probably centuries old.

A child who is never praised or complimented turns into an insecure adult with little self-esteem, he does not want to say or do anything that others will laugh at. Continued exposure to the negative field can cause many health problems.

It is easy to identify the negative field in your home or organization. Danger signals may range from a lack of enthusiasm and interest to gross outbursts of rage. Being part of a group belonging a negative field can be a soul sapping experience. The symptoms of such a field are sour looks and suspicion. Politics and manipulation will have a free run. You can identify such a field when the Big Five:- Lust, Anger, Obession, Greed and Jealousy roam like wild beasts in the garden of your life. You can change the field by first changing yourself and filling the field with the positive emotions like love and compassion.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Be Silent: Listen To Yourself

In the silence, become aware of yourself. Be aware of your body as full of health and energy. Visualise peace, tranquility, prosperity and fulfillment. Be silent. Be aware of your breathing, the beating of your heart. Once you are aware of your body in silence, in peace and tranquility, then you begin to notice immediately, the destructive effects of stress. You become aware of the first, imperceptible symptoms: the tightening of the jaw, the clenching of muscles in your throat and abdomen, the speeding of the heartbeat. Once you become aware, you can consciously decelerate. Be completely aware of the shift of feelings from moment to moment. Knowing exactly how you feel can help you make better emotional decisions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Prana and the Positive Field

Prana is the life force that flows in all living things. When the life force leaves the body, the body dies. Kirlian photography has captured pictures of the pranic aura.

Meditation and a calm attitude cause prana to flow through all our activities smoothly.

When prana is in full flow, the person is full of vitality and energy and enthusiasm.

Prana is nurtured by freshly cooked, healthy food.

Pranayama is very pro-prana.

Prana is fed by breathing pure fresh air.

Moderate exercise and yoga helps develop the life force.

Eating too much, consuming stale food, exercising till you are ready to drop dead, constant arguments, overworking, getting emotionally upset, breathing polluted air, all interfere with the smooth flow of prana. Moderation is the rule.

Prana enhances the positive field and the vital life force flows freely through it. It creates a powerful positive field—a field of all possibilities where any seed of an idea will develop rapidly.

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Concept of Drala

The Tibetians of the Shambala tradition believe in a concept called Drala by which any space can be made sacred. Drala is created by the reverence, purity and faith within a space. When a person treats his office space with reverence and keeps it clean and sparkling, he attracts Drala into that space. Drala makes that space powerful and attractive. When he dresses carefully, speaks and acts mindfully, he attracts personal Drala.

Many are able to do this in their homes. Indian homes have beautiful white flower patterns drawn at the entrance to attract Lakshmi, the Goddess of Good Fortune. The atmosphere is further enhanced by the fragrance of incense and joss sticks.

Certain sounds like that of mantras or the sound of bells, or wind chimes in a Chinese home, are said to purify the field.

Steps you can take to welcome Drala into your life

* Keep your surroundings and living spaces clean.

* Create beauty in your surroundings with flowers and crystals

* Let music fill the space.

* Be mindful of what passes your lips – food and words. Let both be fine and healthy.

* Wash away the dust and dirt, and wear fresh clothes.

* Enjoy the present moment

Excerpts from 'The Happiness Quotient'

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Auspicious Field

Auspiciousness or a feeling of wellbeing is created in a space or a field by treating it as sacred.

What happens to a space that is sacred is transformation.

When you consider yourself as sacred, you will treat yourself well. You will wear clean, good smelling clothes. Maybe ironed and starched, mended if torn, but clean and fresh. You will smile at yourself, encourage yourself. Just as you put on clean fresh clothes, you will also clean up the mental space or field around you. Sweep out all ill will, anger, fear and anxiety. Let there be the fragrance of incense, divinity of prayer and mantra, the smiles of loved ones, laughter and joy, the smell and taste of good plain, food. It is as important to clean the field around you as it is to have a bath. Sweep out the sad baggage of the past. Take into that field only what is bright and elevating, fine and happy.

The space around you, your house, your office needs the same kind of careful attention. When a space is sacred, it magnetizes wonderful people and attracts beautiful events into it.

All the words spoken in that space should be sweet and loving. When harsh words or events happen, do not allow them to take root like evil weeds. Sweep them away and find gentleness and kindness that grows beneath.

All religions sanctify space by holy water, prayer, dress and conduct. Hindus draw sacred symbols on the earth with rice flour or chalk (kolam) and a particular space can be set apart for the gods and prayer.

A sacred space is defined by the rules of conduct laid down for those who enter, as in a court room, a church, a temple, or the parliament. Very few misbehave in such places, they are rarely able to cast away the weight of laws and customs built up over centuries around them. Some religions lay down rules of cleanliness and dress to enter sacred places, including a purificatory bath. A person who maintains such dignity and decorum in such a place, may be totally different in a bar or when at a party.

I think the analogy of a television monitor would describe this phenomenon better. Depending on which button you press, you get a different image. So too depending on the place, a different person emerges. Some places access the Highest and Noblest Self while others access the Beast, the Meanest.

This is true about people in different interactions. Some people create a field, which accesses the best in us, while others access the worst. If you learn the secret of positive fields, you can improve your Happiness Quotient. You can also get the best out of others. ‘Don’t push the wrong buttons,’ we say. What we mean is, don’t access his negative field.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Love and Reverence in Enhancing the Positive Field

Elevate everyday experiences to the level of sacredness.

I first met Reg when he was in his late seventies in Pondicherry. He was running the ‘Good Guest

House’. Hidden behind high walls, it is a lovely guest house surrounded by a green garden.

It is astonishing to step in from the dusty, noisy street, behind high walls, through a wooden door, into that perfect place.

The floors gleamed sparklingly clean, paintings hung on the walls and all was silent inside. Reg used to be a French chef. He met the Mother at the Pondicherry Ashram and stayed behind to look after the Good Guest House for her! ‘Who keeps it so clean?’ I asked. ‘I do’, he said. ‘I love to keep it gleaming, because when I clean the floor, I feel I am wiping the Mother’s feet.’

When work is done with such love, it fills the body and mind with bliss and transforms any place into a sacred space. As Kalil Gibran writes in The Prophet, ‘What is it to work with love? It is to weave the cloth from the strings of your heart, as though your Beloved were to wear it.’

This reverence or shraddha is due to all, because of the divine spark that dwells in all men—whether he is a legend or a leper. Sometimes it is obvious. The Divine spark is the silent flame of consciousness that reaches out to you from a flowering creeper or a healthy pet. Sometimes this life force has lost its vitality and is dimmed by dirt, lethargy and lack of care. Clean the glass of your lamp. Make the light shine through. Decide to approach all events, people, and things with affection, shraddha.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tools for Creating a Positive Field

An ancient Indian prayer says: ‘Let all beings be happy.’ Not just friends and family, but all men, not just men but the wider world of all beings. When the great musician Tansen sang, it is said that deer wandered into the palace to listen. Decades ago, the great scientist J C Bose wrote about the response of plants to kindness.

Learning to create a positive field is an important part of the climate of wellbeing. The positive field is created by tools and behaviours that may be verbal, tonal and non-verbal.

Ø A common prayer or mantra.

Ø A mental process which draws a magic circle around all those who are participating.

Ø A common exercise, a common company song, common goals.

Ø A handshake, a friendly look, an encouraging word.

Ø Thinking, believing and acting in a positive manner.

Ø Laughter, commonly shared jokes.

Ø Meditation, practiced regularly, helps develop the capacity to be analytical, positive and disciplined, and eliminate negative fields.

Ø Affirmations, the most important constituent of the positive field. It is a verbal, tonal or non-verbal act of appreciation. A compliment can be a verbal hug. A verbal hug can replace a thousand words. There is a Sanskrit verse which roughly translated means: ‘Don’t say harsh or hurting words. If you have to say something unpleasant, do it as kindly as possible, while genuinely appreciating the good qualities of the person and the relationship.’ The great Tamil Poet, Thiruvalluvar has expressed it succinctly, when he says, ‘Why say harsh words, when kind words are available. Who would eat bitter, unripe fruit when sweet ripe fruits are at hand?’

However, the energy field around a person is most affected by positive, soul-level motives or ‘sankalpa’. If the gut-level motives are positive, the mere lack of skill in verbal, tonal and non–verbal transmissions can be overcome.