Modern Problems. Ancient Solutions?

by Amy Day Keller

The Monday through Friday work week seems like a concept from the ancient past. Rapid advances in technology have transformed the workplace into a 24/7 operation.  Organizations are reaping the benefits of increased productivity, access to global markets, and streamlined operations.  Employees are enjoying more freedom and flexibility in their work schedules.  Sounds great, right?  

Maybe not.  It seems technology has tethered us to our jobs.  Driven by passion or fear we are addicted to being connected.  Thanks to email, smart phones, and tablets, we are working everywhere, all the time.  

Perhaps this short leash of connectivity is choking us.  According to the American Institute of Stress, “Job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults.”  Like Pavlov’s dog, we are conditioned to respond to every ding, bing, and buzz.  Work is a constant distraction and is blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives.   Keeping up is exhausting.  Catching up is a fantasy.  Finding time for meaning and purpose?  That also seems like a concept from the ancient past.

In this modern world, how do we untether from work and connect with ourselves to find inspiration, passion, and purpose? It may be tempting to look outward for a quick fix but maybe one solution can be found by tapping into some ancient wisdom.

Like so many others I am passionate about my career and driven to make a difference.  My job provides satisfaction, meaning, and belonging.  So, it seemed logical that working longer and harder would provide even more. Turns out, that was also a myth.  I didn’t find more meaning.  I felt depleted and tired.  My life was out of balance.  I was in survival mode. 

I was ready to make the shift from surviving to thriving.  Quite honestly, I didn’t even know what “thriving” looked like. I only knew I desperately needed some headspace and maybe a nap.  

In lieu of the nap, I joined a yoga studio and committed to the $89 monthly fee. I felt uncomfortable, intimidated, and vulnerable.  I didn’t know the lingo and I certainly didn’t have the flexibility to jump right into downward dog with grace.  Despite my first-time jitters, I thought, “I can do this.”  I found a corner in the back of the dimly lit room, rolled out my mat, and got down on my knees.  The instructions were simple.  Let go. Be present. Breathe. Ego and judgment were discouraged and patience and compassion welcome.

Week after week, month after month I continued attending classes. I cherished my time on the mat.  I found a safe place to be vulnerable, to surrender and let go.  I felt connected and inspired and I was transforming to a better version of myself.  My life felt balanced and I could finally do tree pose without falling over!  I also finally understood why yoga was referred to as a “practice.”  Show up, do the work, listen, learn, stumble, breathe, forgive, let go.  Repeat.

One evening I arrived at class after a particularly frustrating day at work.  An unpleasant email exchange had me rattled to my core.  Eager to begin my seventy minutes of bliss I was blown away when the instructor offered his opening message, “When you find yourself experiencing uncomfortable feelings, simply acknowledge they exist, but you don’t need to respond.” The light bulb went off (and hasn’t stopped since).  No need to respond, what a novel concept!

Things started clicking. If this ancient practice was helping me transform on the mat, why couldn’t it work in organizations?  We don’t need to replace the boardroom with a yoga studio, or desks with mats.  We could create cultures where individuals feel safe to be vulnerable.  We could practice letting go, being present, and breathing through uncomfortable moments instead of “replying to all.”  Might this ancient wisdom provide one solution to help organizations transform, inspire, and operate with purpose?

When I began my journey, I didn’t know what thriving looked like.  By simply disconnecting from the distractions of work I discovered a new source energy and truly connected with myself, my purpose, and my passion. I will continue on this curious journey, allowing myself to be vulnerable and to share the lessons I learn on the mat.  My purpose: to inspire transformation, everywhere, all the time

Amy Keller is a Yoga Shala Student and director of business development who is passionate about connecting people and organizations with passion and purpose.

Reposted with the author's permission from The Science of Story.