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Yoga and The Business of Life
Stan Slap wants to know, who are you at work?
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Take 10,00 managers from seventy countries, at various levels, in different companies and lines of business. Put them in twenty-person panic rooms for a couple of days where they can say what’s really on their minds and in their hearts. What do you get?
Savagely ravaged muffin trays and the absolute truth.
I’m not sure Stan Slap boiled up the big white light, but I’d be willing to vouch for him distilling absolute conviction.
It’s this conviction that makes Slap’s new book Bury My Heart in Conference Room B a spiritual adventure story and a business management page turner.
Faking it is stressful
Slap doesn’t waste his three minute pitch hectoring us to reframe problems in sunnier colors. Having a job is what it is. The only thing we really have to work with is how we show up to do what we do each day.
We have to earn a living, he says, but what we don’t have to do is waste our lives while we earn it.
Don’t go out and get a different job, suggests Slap, until you’ve at least tried to learn to be who you really are in the one you’ve got. It’s not about someone else creating your opportunity.
It’s your path
This month in Success magazine, Mel Robbins cites a survey by the US Conference Board which found a whopping 55 percent of the respondents are dissatisfied with their careers.
That’s the highest level of dissatisfaction since the group began surveying business trends 23 years ago.
If you’re dissatisfied, advises Slap, look within.
As I was reading Conference Room B, I was reminded of the many times those of us who practice yoga talk about work and practice as separate aspects of our lives. The most important connection often seems to be the stress relief found on the mat, and the hope that the wisdom of practice will help us tolerate the dissociation we feel our work lives demand of us.
What you withhold leaves you hollow
The truth is, holding something back doesn’t preserve us, it eats away our integrity. Showing up with the space of a facade between the back of our faces and the front of our brains is costlier than being fully present. “Do the math,” Slap writes, “before it does you.”
By math he means our work / life equation. Between the hours we put in, the hours we commute and the hours we spend thinking about work when we’re not there, he estimates “you’re spending more than double your waking hours working than not working.”
What? You’re thinking you’ll get these hours back when Death sends you an email? To not live your deepest personal values for over half your waking life is a crime.
Detachment is spiritual illusion
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche teaches there’s a temptation to protect our practice from the rest of our lives.
[A practitioner may] experience distaste for the world and decide to retire from it to preserve the purity of his mystical experience. That’s a grave obstacle to future realizations.
When there’s a split, there’s no true spiritual life.
The solitary ascetic who isn’t capable of leaving his cave to exist in the world and find the same peace there lives in a state of spiritual illusion. Life is the great polisher of awakening.
In Bury My Heart in Conference Room B, Slap describes the great polishing as “emotional commitment.” In explaining it, the book proceeds swiftly from premise, to primer of neurological underpinnings of motivation and reward, to step-by-step corporate implementation.
Be who you really are
There’s never a moment when the reader isn’t convinced of Slap’s sincerity; it’s easy to feel you are listening to someone who is talking really fast, but it’s clearly out of passion, not out of putting one over.
My favorite thing about this approach is his obvious understanding of who he’s talking to: the get-to-the-point people, the one’s with the heat on their necks, the one’s who have very little time for something that isn’t productive.
Slap puts his faith in them even when they haven’t kept faith with themselves.
This is most clear when in example after example he calls the bluff of “everything is fine the way it is,” – insisting on the truth of the quiet voice in each of us.
“Even a financially rewarding, intellectually stimulating work environment isn’t the same thing as living your own values,” Slap says.
Presence – practiced everywhere
The book is crammed with lists of with specific illustrations of fundamental principles, demonstrations of how to identify personal values, and well defined processes for helping managers confront the status quo in their work lives to express what’s meaningful to them.
Those 10,000 managers who said they weren’t living personal values of family and integrity at work? They didn’t say family is being compromised because they don’t spend enough time at home. They said the sure sense of community and support they received at home wasn’t translating to the place they spend over half their waking hours.
They didn’t say integrity is being compromised because they’re being forced to lie, cheat and steal for their company. They said there was a disturbingly low amount of integrity between who they really are and who they are at work.”
The emotional commitment slap describes is presence – the presence we develop in practice, and which Tenzin Wangyal agrees with Stan Slap belongs in the world with us – as much in every moment we work as when we are on the mat.
Whether or not it merits marketing as absolute truth, we do come away with renewed conviction the meaning we give our work matters more than anything else about it when it comes to fulfillment and productivity.
As such, it’s well worth pondering what innumerable hours in the grit turn up in Conference Room B.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.