There are two ways of working through this. One is at an individual level. The other is at the group level which can only be attempted to accomplish from a top down approach. It begins with the group leader, the department head, the CEO/COO etc.
At the individual level it is easier since it is one person working on himself/herself. At the group level, the leader must have worked on him/herself extensively achieved that state and then impresses upon his/her team members on how to live in this state of higher sensitivities and sensibilities, how to stop being petty and become the change.
Let’s focus on working at the individual level. In fact it is easier to accomplish it this way than a top down approach, because at the beginning and in the end a person has to live with him/herself.
First of all we must establish a need for this. Why should we opt for peace over toxicity? I come from India where Sanatan Dharma is the mainstream faith of the citizens. Every prayer in this faith ends with Aum Shanti Shanti Shanti.; Shanti meaning peace. We aim for peace in our body, peace of the mind, peace in spirit. Only a peaceful body can host a peaceful mind and only a peaceful mind can connect with it’s core, it’s essence, it’s spirit. Only through peace, can we find and experience love and beauty. Every person and pilgrim travels through mountains and miles seeking serenity. The caravans and the sailors were bringing back and forth things that would make the new owners of the merchandise happier. Everything we do every day is for only one reason, to bring us more joy ultimately.
Life gets lost in its translation and we believe that the source of this joy lies outside of us. We believe our partner, our parent, our sibling, our child, our house, our work, our workplace is responsible for our feeling better and giving us what we need, because we do for them as well. Life is not a trade of exchanging gifts and emotions, it is not about doing. Life is truly about being, we are human beings. We are not human having or human doing. Our self-worth is not our status or our possessions.
We often introduce ourselves as “I am a pediatrician.” “I am a lawyer.” “I am a motivational speaker.” “I am a teacher.” Really, so you are what you do? Better yet people get introduced as “he is a millionaire.” “she is abest-selling author”. So you see, folks are what they do and what they own, not who they are.
Rene Descartes’ famous quote “I think therefore I am” reflects arrogance. In truth it is “I am therefore I think.”
At the work place people believe they are what they do, the car they drive, the person they are living with, the school their children attend, the places they have travelled to, the clothes they were, even if it is a uniform. Right away the cause of this identification comes from a place of ego which is suicide to begin with. The ego exists so we may learn to live without it.
So if you want to really live without toxicity at work and experience peace, live ethically, begin by seeing everyone at your work as your projection. Your boss, your colleague, the gossip, the competition, the politics, underhand dealings etc. everything that comes to your notice is your projection. You get dragged under because you identify with it and get attached to it. You believe it is all about you and you are someone special and you need to be treated specially.
Competition is encouraged in today’s society. Every parent raises their children comparing their results whether it is in academics or athletics to their sibling, cousin, a classmate, a neighbor, or even the parent at the age of the child. It is part of our subconscious programming which was practically sealed before we turned 8. There is no sense of sport in any sport, is there? Acceptance of this will not only bring one peace, it also helps us move on with life. As an individual I choose not to get dragged into corporate politics, favoritism or competition.
Just as I have the right to live my life my way, everyone too has that same right. If someone wants to indulge in gossip, competition and underhand dealings they have every right too. Since when did I turn into a karma cop? This is a question each of us must ask of ourselves every time something in life or at work triggers our sensitivity.
When we can accept ourselves for who we are, we can also begin to accept others for who they are. When we judge others, we are really judging ourselves. It takes time to understand that the world is our projection. Every politician we denounce was elected by the citizens. We have a choice to work or not work for a condescending boss. So you quit your job and go find another one and replace the old boss with a new one, different people, similar mindset. When you know that a boss is here doing their job just like you are, know that bossiness is part of the job description and it comes with the territory.
Learn to tell yourself, “it is their story, not mine.” Do it 21 times and it will become a habit, life will seem healthier. The more we work on ourselves, the better the life around us seems. Mother Teresa could work with lepers because she was not attached to their disease and hence never contracted the infectious disease. When we are clear on who we are and why we are where we are, everything around us falls into place. We get to not identify with our surroundings and allow a bit of our ego to slip away every day.
When we see people for who they are and not what they own or do, we feel more compassion, more gratitude, and more peace. We must become more and more “pono” with who we are. Pono is a Hawaiian word to describe a state of consciousness where we are OK no matter what. It is not about being right or wrong, it is about being ok, it is about acceptance, it is about being pono.
Through understanding, we find acceptance, through acceptance we allow forgiveness to happen and through forgiveness we experience freedom. Freedom from all that is petty around us, for all that is petty is also us. Forgiveness and freedom is never for the others, it is always for the self.