Sunday, 6 September 2015

Seven Practices of a Manager-Yogi: Practice 1 - Exploring Maitri

From the collection of Lakshmi Ranganathan

Let us start with a small exercise: imagine that you are sitting between two people. The one on your left offers you a ‘gift’. You have to receive it from her in a way that affirms her. You then have to transform the gift into some thing that reflects your self without taking away the ‘energy’ that your friend invested in the ‘gift’. This is now your offering to the person on your right.
This simple process reflects the essence of the idea of ‘Maitri’. There are a few possibilities:
  • The gift is pleasant and positive and you are happy to add to it and offer it to the next person.
  • The gift given to you was pleasant and positive; you liked it and want to hold on to it.
  • The gift is unpleasant and negative; you receive it and feel stuck with it, you don't know how to transform it, nor do you wish to pass it on.
  • The gift is unpleasant and negative; and you become reactive and rebound it back to the giver.
  • The gift is unpleasant and negative; you maintain your equanimity, and end the unpleasantness.
  • The gift is unpleasant and negative; you make the effort to transform it into a positive before you pass it on.
 In Buddhist thought, ‘Metta’ is the Pali equivalent of ‘Maitri’. The Yoga Sutras advance the idea of ‘Maitri’ as one of the key practices in the path of a yogi.
 ‘Gifts’ are being offered to us at every moment of our wakeful lives (and our dreams if we take Jung and Freud seriously). We don't often see transactions this way, but energy is being exchanged. In yoga the concept is that with every touch, praanaa is exchanged. When we are not attentive to this process, the three beneficial ways of handling gifts (that we imagined in our mental play) would become very difficult. We would either be internalizing negative ‘gifts’ and adding to our internal stress, or we would be multiplying the negatives in our context.
 What would the practice of ‘Maitri’ do to your relationships? Whether at work or anywhere else, this would ensure two things. Firstly, you acknowledge and affirm people who you are interacting with. Secondly, you offer yourself to others in a way that enhances your self worth, and establishes your choice to impact your world in a positive direction. Contrary to the usual idea of teamwork, where strong and capable people come together, trust and trust-worthiness is the glue that binds a team together.
 What is the difficulty in practicing this? ‘Sahrudayatvam’- the ability to be in resonance with the others’ heart, is the essence of ‘Maitri’ i.e., being empathetic and kind. That implies being vulnerable and open. Unfortunately, the strength of this way of being is not often appreciated. A belief in the ‘masculine’ idea of strength would generate only the ‘hoarding behavior’ or the ‘reactive behavior’. This belief would also see kindness as weakness.
Maitri: Songs of friendship and affection that arise from the Mooladhaara chakra
  • Being Trustworthy
  • Value: I value friendship
  • Behavior: I display compassion in my relationships; I demonstrate respect for others.
  • Introspection: Am I listening to and understanding others?

(Raghu Ananthanarayanan)

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