Our mind is like a busy set of roads with the traffic of thoughts flowing through. Sometimes the traffic is light and streamlined. Many times, it is not.
Principle 1: A thought is an impulse of intelligence and energy. The more the traffic of unnecessary thoughts in our mind, the more energy we expend.
Let us see how this works.
The trigger: a conversation:
It is a fast-paced day. You are focused on putting the finishing touches on a critical assignment that has been your life for the past few weeks. Your colleague walks in, clears her throat and hesitantly begins, “About this assignment that you have been working on..”.
You break out of your concentration and lookup. She continues, “Ahem, I just overheard the boss..well, it seems like there has been some mistake in the interim output you have sent..”. A sinking feeling starts at the pit of your stomach, working itself up the spine culminating in goosebumps at the back of your neck.
“Apparently, there has been quite a bit of uproar higher up because somebody quoted your analysis to influence an important decision. In the debate that followed, there were contrary points given which showed your report in a bad light. I don’t know the specifics, but the boss is very upset because his credibility has also taken a hit”.
The most optimal thought traffic would be: ‘I need to check with the boss what exactly happened in the meeting: which part of my analysis was quoted, what were the contrary points and provide responses accordingly’.
But chances are that the thought traffic would flow something like this.
‘Oh my God, there goes my next appraisal! I won’t get any important assignments now.
I should have checked that analysis again.. I knew it couldn’t have been that simple. Why didn’t I?
Oh, I remember now – it was my boss who pushed me on the timelines. This is how it is every time..the bosses don’t think through, give unrealistic timelines, have unrealistic expectations and then expect miracles from their teams.
It was the same story 4 months ago, it seems like they pick on me to give the most complex assignments.. I think I am just taken for granted.
I should just update my resume. Anyway, the pay is not that great. I heard that my classmate in that hotshot company is getting much more..
I will go to another great job and then be able to look back at these bosses and show them that there is something wrong with the culture of this organization. I should have been given that promotion – they gave me some official talk on not being ready for it, but I don’t think they really know my capabilities
I have been asking for more domain-based work – that is my strength – but they keep giving me everything else but that.
Oh, my boss had promised a pay hike –oh no..don’t tell me that is now gone too! I had planned.. I need to call that investment agent right away
Oh, I can see the boss there..Should I go and talk to my him?..no, let him call me.. ’
And on and on and on..doesn’t it?
It is evident from the application of the key principle that we have expended more mental energy in this transaction than we should have if we have not followed the optimal thought flow.
While it is obvious that the optimal thought flow is the most useful, in reality, the nature of thought traffic can be frustrating: they just keep on coming, all shapes and varieties, all colors, sometimes useful, sometimes not, unceasing. We flow with them and start linking thoughts to each other like in the example before. Or we resist them. The more we resist them, the more they seem to gain additional energy and come back with a renewed vigor.
Principle 2: We either tend to gallop with the thought traffic in our mind. Or we resist the thoughts. Neither helps.
Is there a middle path between going with the thought and resisting it? Yes, there is. Observation leading to stilling of the mind.
Principle 3: The mind needs to be still with no thought traffic for some time so that it can re-energize itself.
So how does one do this in daily life without running away to a secluded forest? How to still the mind?
Meditation is the art of stilling the mind effortlessly and letting it relax deeply.
It is simple and can be learned easily. All one needs is the investment of a few minutes of meditation every day to rejuvenate and energize.
Learn how to meditate today, now! If you already know how to meditate, practice it today and every day!
Smitha Murthy is the Organisation Development Advisor and Program Director, APEX Faculty, Corporate Initiative of the Art of Living. Former Principal for Organization Development, Infosys.