Yoga’s Place in the Workplace: Part 2

In last week’s blog post, I talked about the different ways one could practice the first yama, ahimsa (non-violence / non-harming) while at work. This week, I’ll focus on brahmacharya, or energy management.

(And I should have said this last week, but a special thanks goes out to the instructors of the Kripalu Yoga teacher training program, especially our guest speaker David, who taught us more about how to live the yamas and niyamas than any book ever could!)

The Basics of the Fifth Yama: Energy Management

Yes, I’m skipping to the fifth one because I believe it’s so important. This yama is historically associated with chastity, but it applies to so much more than sexual energy. It’s really about passion. “Bhrama” means “the biggest idea”, and “charya” means “to follow”. So essentially brahmacharya is about using one’s passions wisely, and in a way that leads to personal transformation. What does personal transformation have to do with work? A lot! Read on….

Living to Work

First, the big picture question: do you know what you’re truly passionate about? Second, does your work environment align with and support those passions, or are you expending unnecessary energy every hour you’re in the office because it doesn’t? Ask yourself the following questions to think this through further:

  • Is what you do for a living something you chose to do, or is it the result of others’ expectations about what you should have done? If it’s the latter, what is it you really enjoy doing outside of work that you keep returning to over and over again? Are there any possibilities of making a living out of this that you could explore?
  • What aspects of your past and present jobs really resonate(d) with you? Which responsibilities or tasks would you rather not have had to do? What about your hobbies and extracurricular interests? Do you see any themes?
  • Do you have a good sense of your personal values, not just at work, but in life? How well do the core values of your company align with your personal goals?

Expending and Directing Right Effort

If you know what you’re passionate about and what you truly value–and are confident that your passions and the organizational goals of your workplace align–you can look more closely at where and how you’re directing your energy on a daily basis:

  • Do you plan your daily or weekly schedule to allocate appropriate time and space to what really matters to you, or do you find yourself unable to stop putting energy toward activities that don’t directly support your passions?
  • Have you been passionate about the same things for a long period of time, or do you go through phases where you’re excited about something and then it falls flat? Or, do you get so wrapped up in your latest passion that it borders on addictive behavior? How can you hone your passions to be more evenly sustainable over time?  
  • Is most of your time and energy spent focusing on goals, tasks and projects that support you and your company’s mutually agreeable passions? If not, how can you better prioritize and focus your time?
  • Do you continuously question the value of what you’re doing, to make sure you’re adding value and moving in the right direction? Do you escalate any discrepancies to your manager, or do you plug along and expend effort without verifying that it’s really warranted?
  • Have you developed an understanding of when it may be more important to remain at the strategic, big picture level, and when it might be best to dive into the more tactical details?
  • Are you selective about the work activities you personally agree to take on, and do you delegate some to those who may have stronger skills than you?

Engaging in True Presence

Now let’s get more into the people part of energy management, because after all, the successes (or failures) of an organization always come down to professional relationships, and how well people work together.

  • When you’re having a conversation with someone–either one-on-one or in a meeting, where is the energy of your attention? Are you actively listening and fully with the person with whom you are interacting?
  • Are you aware of what kind of energy you’re sending out when interacting with your colleagues? Do you set an intention before you communicate with someone?
  • Regardless of whether you’re talking with others face-to-face or via some online medium like email, are you present enough to put aside other tasks, worries, and concerns as you communicate? Do you consider the tone of each virtual message you send, and how it might be received?
  • Do you focus all five senses on what you’re doing NOW, gently noticing yet letting go of any other energies or urges that may flit about in an attempt to distract you from your current goal? 
  • Do you give 150% of yourself to everyone all the time until you hit a wall–feeling tired, run down, or even sick a good portion of the time? Or do you give just enough energy to help a colleague and still have some left for others?

Leveraging Witness Consciousness

So we’ve talked about the company, and other people. What about you? Witness consciousness is bringing the energy of awareness to what you are doing in each moment. It’s your internal “watcher,” who you can leverage to help you be more mindful of where you’re directing your energy. That is, if you remember to ask!

  • Do you often stop and recognize that no unpleasant interaction or situation can really “make you” feel upset, overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, drained, etc.?
  • Are you able to tell colleagues “no” when you feel you can’t take on what they’re asking, or help them find another way to get the job done because you’re mindful of reaching your limit?
  • Can you identify when events or people are poking on your particular triggers, and direct your energy into deep breathing techniques before taking appropriate actions?
  • Are you familiar with any ingrained habits you have that might cause you to unnecessarily drain your energy, such as perfectionism, a strong need to people please, or self-criticize, and keep those habits at bay by recognizing that your energy is better directed elsewhere?

Daily Practice

As you start the new week, take a look at your work calendar with a closer eye, and see if where you’re spending time is appropriately aligned with what you’re passionate about doing. When you have interactions with colleagues, be mindful of where you are directing your energy. Sigh out a long, deep breath anytime you feel that someone (including you) is sending out negative energy, or expending more energy than is needed for a particular task or situation. Also, consider reserving some time over the next (long) weekend to get clear about your personal values and your true passions!

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