Sunday, October 6, 2013

Work in balance

Talk given at World Precision Instruments, Sarasota, FL on 9-25-2013

“ Without rest, a man cannot work; without work, the rest does not give you any benefit. ”
— Abkhasian Proverb

There are only a few things in life that are certain. You can count the 24 hour clock as one of them. Day after day, no matter who we are or what we are doing, we are bound by this 24 hour clock. If you leave out 8 hours for sleep, we are left with 16 hours to complete our daily tasks, which may include work, play, study, eat, read etc. Broadly speaking, our waking hours are consumed by either work or leisure. Everyday, we experience an undercurrent of thoughts that help or hurts our work-life balance. It is easier to achieve this balance if the body and mind are in tune with one another.

Deep sleep provides rest to the body and the mind. In this state, both the body and the mind are in a natural state of harmony despite one being unaware of it. When the mind is completely rested, the body rests and when the body is completely rested, the mind rests. Sometimes, sleep seems more refreshing than work. During sleep, rest is a passive process that starts with the body and envelops the mind. During work, rest is an active process that starts with the mind and this in turn affects the body. The waking state is a working state as far as the mind is concerned. When one leads a highly predictable and conditioned life, one can almost predict what the state of mind would be on any given day of the week. As an example, a “weekend mind” that feels strong and refreshed may turn into a “weakened mind” come Monday morning.

Just as a cargo ship is built to maintain an even keel in rough weather or fair weather, the mind may be trained to carry a precious cargo of equanimity despite the great odds. In a recording studio, soundproofing prevents the interference of extraneous sounds. On the contrary, in a noisy marketplace, it is hard to even maintain a conversation. Relaxing the mind makes it a “thought proof room” where one can reinforce positive thinking . A calm mind with relatively few thoughts becomes an ally. Our life can then be organized from within, rather than external factors dictating our work and life.

Just as a library is a collection of books, the mind is a collection of thoughts. Unlike the library, where everything is neatly catalogued and easy to find, the subconscious mind is generally a hodge podge of thoughts piled one on top of another. Although books may contain useful knowledge, a book is useless unless one reads and understands the contents and puts that knowledge to good use. Just by visiting a library one does become knowledgeable. Similarly, by “visiting” the subconscious mind as one does in dreams, one cannot understand the mind.

The mind works on an input-output principle. We have a choice of accepting or rejecting impressions that fall on the mind. Based on the input, the output can be predicted. Unlike some financial investments that carry a certain element of risk, “investing” in our minds is a zero risk game that needs no external capital. The currency of the world is money and the currency of the mind is thought. Good intentions are like hard earned tax paid money. Just like the American Dollar, good thoughts are welcome anywhere in the world.

To others, our actions may or may not reflect our thoughts, but to us, our underlying motives will always be reflected in our thoughts. Whether we like it or not, majority of our actions on a day to day basis carry a tinge of selfishness. Our ego however, may not permit us to see this. Take a mirror as an example. One side is a polished reflecting surface and the other is an unpolished surface that does not reflect. When one looks at the unpolished surface, you don’t see a reflection, but when you look at the polished surface, one sees an image of oneself. If you pinch your reflection in the mirror, do you feel pain? The answer obviously is no. The ego similarly hides the pain inflicted by our selfish actions. Just as the image on the mirror disappears when you step away from it, the ego steps aside when one forgets the compulsions of the external world and is true to oneself. Being true to oneself lays the foundation for unselfish action. When action is performed unselfishly, work and life will find a natural balance.

It is only through action that we can gradually scrub away layers of selfish motives underlying our actions. The secret to calmness lies hidden behind selfless action. One may say that in the modern world, people may be taken advantage of if they appear selfless as it may be mistaken for weakness. Making an outward show of selflessness reflects ego. Real selflessness is to silently renounce thoughts related to the outcomes of one’s good work.

The nature of the mind is to be constantly at work. The best investment one can make is to invest all our will power to guide the mind down the right path. If the will is weak, the mind will become the guide. The mind responds better to suggestions rather than rules. Think of the letter ‘r’ in rule as standing for rigid and the letter ‘s’ in suggestions for soft. When one applies force to a rigid object it may break, but force applied to a soft object makes it bend. If the body can bend, why not the mind?

Suggestions for the mind

1. Be positive.

We can control whether we want to be positive or not. We cannot make world around us positive place to be in unless we practice that ourselves. Think of the mind as a rechargeable battery. Like a battery, It needs to be charged. When we first wake up in the morning, the mind is usually clear and one is as close as one can possibly get to a “thought proof” state. Although the mind may be fully rested, it may not be charged with positive energy. It is a good time to intervene before negative thoughts flood the mind. The principle of negative and positive polarity in an electrical circuit may be applied to the mind. The rested mind is the negative pole and the positive thought is the positive pole. As you direct positive thought into a receptive mind, it gets charged with that thought.

As a practical exercise, one can use the breath as a prop to send positive intentions to the mind. Although there is no direct physical link between the mind and the breath, one can synchronize the entry of positive suggestions to the mind with every incoming breath. As you take in the first few conscious breaths on waking up in the morning, send positive and uplifting suggestions to the brain. Just as plants absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into food we eat, the mind will absorb these positive suggestions and bank it for future use. Every morning, before going to work, the body is groomed and we take great care to make sure not even a hair is out of place. This process of making the mind more positive can be thought of as mental grooming and just as the hair on top of the head is kept in place, thoughts inside the head will also be kept in place.  

2. No work is too small or inconsequential.

Anybody who works is contributing to the success of their nation. Whether one’s contribution is recognized or not, it does not cost anything for us to think of the work we do on a daily basis to be a very important one that requires our focus and concentration. If we enjoy work, the mind becomes focused on the task at hand. This focus turns into effortless concentration. Concentration on one task frees other extraneous thoughts that the mind had previously kept in its realm. As these thoughts are freed, the mind becomes calm. A calm mind can continue to concentrate and a mind in concentration will inturn continue to be calm.

3. Mental energy is reflected in the finished product.

Everything manufactured here at World Precision Instruments is shipped in packages labelled “Made in USA”. These three words that add so much value to the product represents all the work done by everyone here, whether directly or indirectly. By placing that label, we show the world that we honor the country we are so proud of. This label, “Made in USA” reflects all the knowledge behind the product. A finished product can be gifted, but not knowledge. Once we acquire knowledge, it stays and grows. It is like the rising sun that spreads light everywhere.

4. A job well done takes care of everything else.

The attitude with which one approaches any work determines the enjoyment that one derives from it and this reflects on our personal and professional life. If one is not really passionate about work, one ends up working to live. Living to work is a trait common to people who have made great contributions to society. Work can be compared to kinetic energy and leisure to potential energy. Both are equally important. One cannot say that kinetic energy is more important that potential energy or the other way around. Kinetic energy can be used to build a store of potential energy or kinetic energy can be a result of potential energy. A work-life balance can be achieved by working in balance, incorporating the beneficial aspects of hard work and a life of leisure.

5. Leave a legacy.

Every action of ours leaves a legacy for the future. We give ourselves a “present” everyday, our present is based on our thoughts in the days, months and years past. One need not have a lot of money or make a great contribution to leave a legacy. No one in the history of mankind has come and gone with their arms full. But between our empty hands, we have a great treasure, the human body. Unlike the ears that can only take in sound and not generate it, our hands can both give and take. One recipe for a happy life is to use the ears to hear what is good and give this to the mind and to use the hands to do good. This will help “work-in balance” by making the mind actively calm and the body calmly active.