Not taking things personally at work is a tough goal to attain. I have been pursuing this illusive goal for years and I am still looking until now. Recently I had a discussion with Sifu Doug Floto (Sifu means teacher in Cantonese) about the subject. Doug Floto is my Tai Chi teacher. I copied parts of the discussion related to the subject to share with you.
I know it is not easy reading, and I am personally still trying to digest and understand it. I am so interested to hear from you to help me understand this more and if your take on how to take this into real life action. One final note. I did replace few words, I put them in brackets, to keep the discussion within the context intended:
- Hi Sifu, I am trying to learn to not to react to work stress. Sometimes work issues get on my nerves. I believe the problem is with me not with the work. I need to learn to take things easily. Any advice? Regards, Ammar
- Ammar, it’s always great to hear from you. Stress is a killer. I may have something for you. Everything is inside of you. The events are external, but your emotions belong strictly to you. So how do you deal with this? Well, think about what stirs emotion. [Some] call it attachment. But really, its simple. When you look at it as a problem to solve, you don’t feel stress. Your ego isn’t.involved, so you use your intellect and skills to solve a problem that isn’t “yours”. When you attach your ego to it, whether its a proposal or a missed payment, you now have to win or lose and that causes internal turmoil. I think of it as parenting. You know it’s going to get ugly when you go ego first and make it a power struggle. But when you set it up as choices and consequences you take the power out of the equation so you both can respond naturally. The most difficult thing is to act naturally out of your own nature and let things unfold from there. It’s difficult because you have to leave your culture and your upbringing behind and respond or create from your own true heart. Then you’ve left the ego world behind and you always feel at peace. Let me know when you get there, and I’ll come there to study from you. Best wishes, Doug
- Ammar Mango
- Thank you Doug. Very insightful. Let me try and get back to you. The funny thing is that meditation and yoga make me super calm as a norm, but don’t help when I am agitated.
- I have used all the techniques I mentioned to you so as not to be drawn into a fight defending the use of good method and doing a proper job. But Pride of Authorship is a terrible trap to fall into, so I have to remind myself that this is the way the experts do it and put my ego aside and just not attach myself to personal while aiming to do the professional and solve the problem.
- Ammar Mango
- I like your example above, I think I understand more . I started practicing. In a way, are we saying that there are many copies of “me” that are not really “me” and one real “me”? So, if someone criticizes my work, he is criticizing the work of the “professional” me, which is not the “personal me”? So it is not personal? So the work is done by a “professional” not the “personal me”? Is this it or am I over complicating things? I want to truly understand.
- I would put it the other way. There are multiple personas that we put before the world, depending on the audience. The fatherly you, the husbandly you, the professional you, the pious you and so on. These are the socially conditioned selves that by example and expectation, geography and history, have been placed upon you. The “you” that responds is most often the “you” whose button has been pushed. So in my example, it wasn’t the professional that was responding, it was the insecure and self-conscious me that I usually don’t want the other professionals to see. [Some would say] that my attachment to the work was through the ego that is wrapped up in the childish and insecure me. And because I responded through the ego, then I build up whatever [fate] is going to come around. An authentic response would be creative and free of ego and we wouldn’t have to suffer because there’s nothing for the suffering to cling to. We’re not attached to it so it’s not attached to us. But as long as we do our duty and play our role, we aren’t true to our true selves and so are doomed to repeat the play and feel awful most of the time. My interpretation is that we respond badly when the part of us that is secretly ours is touched and so what is called for is to redirect that energy to a better place, such as our professional self, to respond as if we were not touched. But better yet, is to find our true self and create something unheard of and laugh or dance our way to the conclusion. That’s kind of what the Tai Chi is trying to teach us. Stilling the mind cuts through all the layers of selves so we can feel our consciousness and our consciousness can feel the world without the interference of the mind. My teacher said ” As the pulse is the blood being acted on by the heart, so the mind is the brain acting on the consciousness” So the extended practice of the Tai Chi brings stillness to the mind. So in this state, you get the first taste of the consciousness experiencing the world without interpretation of the mind. You are free of ego and preconception, scenarios and strategies. You see what is before you and create spontaneously, so I’m told. I’ve gone on at length so I’ll close this off now. Peace, brother seeker.