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In search of sensible Sri Lankans: Seeking tranquillity amid turbulences

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 3 June 2019 00:00

In the absence of one voice from the ruling front, solidarity within the religious fronts in coming out as one voice of unity is indeed encouraging – Pix by Shehan Gunasekara

The aftermath of the Easter Sunday tragedy witnessed many a calamity, confusion and chaos. The need to rebuild trust among communities amidst the mistrust among politicians, has become crucial. 

In the absence of one voice from the ruling front, solidarity within the religious fronts in coming out as one voice of unity is indeed encouraging. In the wake of sensational media revelations, how to respond with responsibility in upholding peace and harmony? Today’s column will ponder on such pertinent points relevant to Sri Lankans.  



Many of us have to face the hustle and bustle of life amidst rush and push. It becomes more challenging when the outer world is increasingly turbulent. How can we maintain inner tranquillity in the face of chaos?  

How can we become more objective with sensible decision making through facts rather than being impulsive in jumping into conclusion? It can be true for not only caesarean operations ending up in complications, but many other current issues in the country.  

The beginning, I believe is to see things clearly, cleverly and comprehensively. It requires inner stillness. It should be the essential nature of a human being, according to Canadian author of spirituality fame Eckhart Toll. As he goes further: “You are that awareness, disguised as a person. When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form.”

The equivalent of external noise is the inner noise of thinking. The equivalent of external silence is inner stillness. Whenever there is some silence around you – listen to it. That means just notice it. Pay attention to it. Listening to silence awakens the dimension of stillness within yourself, because it is only through stillness that you can be aware of silence.  

See that in the moment of noticing the silence around you, you are not thinking. You are aware, but not thinking. Eckhart Toll invites us to experience silence in a deeper sense. When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner still alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning.

I thought the above sharing would shape our thoughts on tranquillity. That means the need of it and the deed of attaining it. In fact, what needs to be done can be recognised as a recipe of seven Rs, namely, relaxing, reflecting, revamping, reconnecting, recognising, revitalising and reinforcing. Let’s explore those further. 


1. Relaxing

Stillness offers us relaxation in abundance. When our inner world becomes silent, it is an invitation to relax. It simply allows us to be aware of what’s going on. The key aspect is awareness. One needs to be aware of the importance of present moment living. Focus is a force for anyone to achieve results. Slowly but surely, modern managers are realising that the complex situations they face cannot be approached in a routine stressful manner. Indeed, the quest towards higher awareness through a deep relaxation is evident. 

“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it,” so said Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian. This is relevant even today, especially for the decision makers in all levels.  


2. Reflecting

In a mind of stillness, past can be viewed as series of mental pictures. It invites us to recall past and to reflect on positive and pleasant moments. This is all about challenging the assumptions. One needs to avoid the ‘quick fix’ trap. 

Most organisations will acknowledge their need to be more creative, and many will be tempted to pursue the ‘quick fix’ option. Some will, no doubt, claim that they’re satisfied with the degree of success found in the status quo, while failing to realise the long-term benefits of developing a strategy that will ensure an ongoing focus on creativity and innovation to sustain their competitive edge and their very existence. Will your organisation fall into such a trap?

The simple argument here is that conventional thinking will take you only to one point. If you truly want your organisation to make a difference in this world and in the marketplace, then be vigilant in scanning the horizon for new and creative models for doing business. 

Invite your employees to create new initiatives that provide positive turning points in the lives of consumers and the organisation. 

When more attention is given to the untested and untried and less attention is spent on the routine and status quo, this climate can happen. When such creativity is embraced, the key questions become ‘What’s new? What’s next? What’s better?’


3. Refreshing 

Tranquillity shares with us a golden opportunity to generate refreshing thoughts. 

In an era where creativity is the cutting-edge factor, we need to refresh our ideas a lot in becoming innovative. Freshness of ideas is the key thing that a competitive organisation gets going. It applies to managers and leaders alike.

Consider a pond with a quite surface. When you look down, you can easily see the bottom with clarity. When you throw a stone and disturb the surface, your vision gets blurred. That’s when the freshness is gone. 


4. Reconnecting  

Tranquillity invites us to reconnect with the nature. Haiku poetry from Japan is a treasure that brings in this reality. In essence, it is sharing of one’s experience for the betterment of humanity. As one such Haiku poem goes:

  • Falling night
  • Cool breeze
  • Speaking trees
  • Few moments
  • Always a treasure

The words are simple and the meaning is profound. It is same with the following as well:

  • Stillness in existence
  • or a chaotic order
  • Should I not
  • Delve deep 
  • or escape this phenomenon

In his bestselling book, ‘Stillness speaks’, Eckhart Toll goes on saying, “Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.”  

It is simply reconnecting with our roots. Managers need such a refreshing departure in order to balance the work stress with natural bliss. 


5. Recognising 

“It is not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,” said Epictetus (55-135), a Greek Philosopher. Inner stillness is essential to look at things in a focused, unbiased manner. Tranquillity provides us an opportunity to recognise our feelings and thoughts. Emotions are feelings and their associated thoughts. 

Thus, tranquillity is a state where we can recognise our emotions clearly. This is one of the fundamentals of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness leads to self-regulation, as Daniel Goleman advocates. Eastern spiritual masters have shown that to us through their own experience a long time ago. 

Managers can use the experience of tranquillity to recognise their constructive and destructive emotions. Constructive emotions such as happiness, cheerfulness, enthusiasm help us to progress. Destructive emotions such as anger, frustration, jealousy, on the other hand, retard our growth. Recognising the presence of both types of such emotions is useful to ensure self-regulation. 


6. Revitalising

Tranquillity offers a great deal of freshness. You become renewed and revitalised. It is like adding vitality to life. 

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique,” so said Martha Graham, an iconic American dancer. 

The more you experience tranquillity, the more vibrancy you would have in your actions. This is vital for managers who have to maintain their energy in facing multiple challenges. 


7. Reinforcing

Tranquillity invites you to strengthen your values. It reinforces deeply held convictions that enable you to form your character. “A person that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both,” so said Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

Values are associated with behaviour. Oxford dictionary defines them as standards of behaviour. Stephen Robins, a scholar in organisational behaviour, describes them, as “the basic convictions that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence”. In brief, it is a preferred way of thinking, feeling and doing.  

Experiencing a deep inner silence will reinforce your values. This is crucial when the trend is to move away from values in search of quick financial ‘value’.  At least, professionals should show the way to politicians, in doing right things and doing things right. 


Way forward

Time has come for us as a nation to think and act to foster harmony among races and religions. “If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.” 

This is what Buddha preached. Perhaps, provocative remarks for petty political gains serves the contrary in creating chaos.  

We need to be still in order to be sharp and focused. It applies to all levels in all fronts. Focus brings results, as global and local success stories reveal. It should not be an accident but a concentrated effort in committing time to be with oneself. With a true sense of spirituality, an Inward bound journey begins there. 

Despite the ‘doom and gloom’ looming large in the minds of many a Sri Lankan, with regards to the way forward as a nation, the first step begins with oneself. We need to experience the tranquillity of stillness, in becoming inspired individuals, interactive teams and innovative institutions.

(Prof. Ajantha Dharmasiri can be reached through director@pim.sjp.ac.lk, ajantha@ou.edu or www.ajanthadharmasiri.info.)

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