21 Oct 2015 19:24 IST

Putting the ‘I’ back in business

The importance of centering, of being one with the Universe and the immense worth of silence and meditation is imperative for success

Success is being comfortable with who you are. Centering is very important to succeed in life

iPods, iPads, iPhones — there’s a lot of ‘I’ in the gadget-driven world today, isn’t there? But a sense of business overwhelms everything, including business, and somewhere, along the way, the ‘I’ or the awareness of self, has got lost. We hear more about human doings and less about human beings.

An Indian manager was getting exhausted; he had to speak with his Chinese vendors in the morning, get his Indian team to execute project specs in the afternoon, persuade a German team to make certain adjustments in the evening, and attend a scheduled US conference call at night. “All these avatars and I still have to stay sane. How do I do it?” he asked.

“Success is being comfortable with who you are. Please practice centering,” was the advise I gave. I also pointed him to a website for more information on the concept. Three months later, he wrote to say how much better he was doing.

The rest of this article is an elaboration of the advice I gave him.

Know thyself

As India follows the West in its preoccupation with fluctuating stock market indexes and burgeoning connectivity, perhaps we can contribute something unique by putting the ‘I’ back into bus-i-ness; not in the sense of being self-centered, but of knowing oneself and others, and being able to use that knowledge to do the best of both, oneself and the world.

Our sages of long ago knew the importance of centering, of being one with the Universe and the immense worth of silence and meditation.

In the 21 st century, when Facebook is so in your face, let’s stop a minute and ask ourselves: do we know ourselves? How do we find ourselves, our centre, our core of calmness? Stilling the fast-paced mind is mandatory to make the most of our talents and opportunities; and then, step two is to know others, and our surroundings, so that we can be in tune with the Big Picture for lasting goodness.

Today, practices such as Centering Prayer are gaining importance in the West, and the principles of yoga and pranayama are being re-discovered in India, and eagerly picked up by the West.

I have personally found meditation to be of immense help. Making this half hour for stillness a first priority leads to clarity of thought and patience through the day. The group I practice with weekly includes very successful business people, diplomats, college students and IT professionals. All of them, like me, say they have deeply benefited.

Indian takeaway

A Finn head of Nokia told us yoga was truly a takeaway from India for him; a French college principal now handles his teen students by practising alternate nostril breathing which helps him calm himself; and I personally saw benefits of meditation and mantra repetition in an MRI testing room, while claustrophobia threatened to overpower.

One of the most appealing programmes that is both, practical and easy to use is Eknath Easwaran’s Eight Point Programme. Shri Easwaran went to California from Kerala as a Fulbright scholar and a teacher of English Literature. He ended up teaching meditation at Berkeley University.

The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation he founded in California and the dozens of books he has written, act as a panacea for 21 st century India’s ailments, just as they did for the America in the 70s when the likes of Barbara Streisand followed his work.

The simple programme can be followed by anybody, man or woman, young or old, irrespective of profession and religion. Here’s how:

Meditate for half-an-hour: On an inspirational passage (there are many choices on their website ). It builds one’s memory power as well as trains one’s mind to be still.

Repeat a mantra or holy word — It could be something connected to your religion, or that holds a special meaning for you (like Gandhi’s Rama Rama Rama Rama, which simply means ‘the joy in my heart’). Repeat it as many times as you can, even when you’re doing mechanical chores, stuck at a traffic signal, or simply waiting for your computer to respond.

Slow down: Remember, there’s plenty of time, and if you take things slowly and start your day just 20 minutes earlier, you’ll have time to think about things and get them right the first time.

One-point attention: Give full attention to the food you are eating and the person you are speaking to, beginning with home and co-workers. Multi-tasking is needed in today’s world, but by itself, it’s a never-fail ingredient for stress.

Put others first: It helps put things in perspective and lasting peace follows in letting the other make small daily choices like the restaurant you go to, and it is in giving that we receive.

Train the senses: To take in wholesome things — consciously choosing long-term benefit over short-term reward in what we eat, watch, listen to, read, and so on.

Read from the mystics: Spend a while reading from the world’s inspirational writers. The thoughts you go to sleep with, remain with you.

Be part of a spiritual fellowship group: Support and encouragement from people with a common goal of centering themselves on the real “I”, works wonders.

And this programme is not meant to be done in a cave in the Himalayas. It can be followed right here, by global citizens with a fine balance of social media, business and pleasure. It leads to material success too, as you make the right decisions for your career and life.