Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Adventures in Austerity

While I wait for Amazon to ship my copy of Gurumayi's "Sadhana of the Heart," which contains, I am told, everything I really need to know to ground myself deeply in the austerities of the mind, I am still researching on the interwebs and conducting my little experiment.

In an article on hinduismtoday.com, Swami Jyotirmayananda writes:
Manah prasadah means to allow the mind to be joyous. People who have been accustomed to think of austerity as something crude will be surprised by this. In Yoga philosophy, austerity is not supposed to give you pain, but discipline you so that the spirit flows in a healthy, unobstructed way through your personality. Thus, the effort to maintain cheerfulness of the mind is a dynamic aspect of austerity.
My definition didn't include this joyousness of the mind, though I can see a path to it. My first day's manah-prasadah effort at work was really more about eliminating the big swings of negative emotion, the anger and irritation. I just wanted to savor a sense of inner calm. And that, surely, is the way to cultivating the cheerfulness of the quote above, but there can't be cheerfulness when there's so much annoyance.

The Day One experiment went pretty well. I decided that it might be helpful to note the triggers, to keep a running list of what specifically seems to set me off. Of course, the very idea of writing it down made me feel better, since it really did give the whole endeavor the feeling of an exercise, bought me some necessary distance.

From the very first moment when I opened my Monday morning email, I was conscious of how early and quickly I can get triggered, leading to entries #1 and #2 on my list:

- spazzy, misspelled, over-broadcast emails by [my boss].
- TMI by [employee X].

But just writing that down made me feel a lot better, took a lot of the energy out of the reaction. [And interesting how both of those have to do with communication style of two individuals with very seepy boundaries.]

Through two challenging meetings yesterday morning, back-to-back, I managed to maintain my poise, largely unruffled, very aware of my words and reactions. I did lose it a bit in the afternoon [entry #3: "[employee X's] passive aggressive disregard for direction she doesn't like."] but all in all can count the day a succcess, if only for the sustained attention to the state of my own mind.

If nothing else, I'm thinking about communication and how my own irritation is really a defense against what I feel are incursions into the quiet of my own space. The peace of mind is really just a knowing that no matter how much spazzy TMI comes my way, it really doesn't affect my internal state unless I let it.

Like Laura said in class on Saturday, "How bad do you want awakening?" I want it BAD so it's on me to stay with this practice, cultivate that cheerfulness of mind which is actually my nature but tends to desert me in the office. Pretty hard work!

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