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Seven scents of serenity

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Many of us have to face the hustle and bustle of life amidst rush and push. When the outside world is turbulent, how can we maintain inner stillness? This might be the answer sought by millions of managers worldwide. What benefits it would offer? What answers would it contain? Today’s column will show us the seven scents of serenity. Overview Serenity is simply the state of being calm. It involves stillness. Stillness is your essential nature, says Eckhart Tolle, the Canadian author of spirituality fame. 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 Tolle 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 serenity. That means the he need of it and the deed of attaining it. It is so rewarding in emanating seven scents. I would call them the seven Rs, namely, ‘relaxing’, ‘reflecting’, ‘revamping’, ‘reconnecting’, ‘recognising’, ‘revitalising’ and ‘reinforcing’.  Let’s explore those scents. 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 managers 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 fun and 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 managers. 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 realize 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 organization 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?” Refreshing Serenity 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 quiet 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. Reconnecting Serenity invites us to reconnect with the nature. Haiku poetry from Japan are treasures that bring 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 Tolle 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. 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. Serenity provides us an opportunity to recognise our feelings and thoughts. Emotions are feelings and their associated thoughts. Thus, serenity 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 serenity 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. Revitalising Serenity offers a great deal of freshness. You become renewed and revitalized. 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 serenity, the more vibrancy you would have in your actions. This is vital for managers who have to maintain their energy in facing multiple challenges. Reinforcing Serenity 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”. Way forward “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. In making it happen, one needs the inner stillness. Sri Lankan managers need to acknowledge the fact that they need to be still in order to be sharp and focused. 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. Inward bound journey begins there. May the managers richly experience the serenity of stillness, in making inspired individuals, interactive teams and innovative institutions. (Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri works at the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He can be reached on ajantha@pim.lk or www.ajanthadharmasiri.info.)

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