Contemplating on the Fallacy of Work-Life Balance

By Jayant  Kalawar

I often hear people talk about the stress of balancing work and life. So I decided to do some research on how that sense of separating work from rest of our life came about.

Work-life balance appears to have become a term mentioned with increasing frequency in popular media in the last quarter of the twentieth-century, according to a contested entry in the Wikipedia.  This particular quote from a popular book captures the sentiment that appears to inform the work-life balance problem eloquently:

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

Then there are solutions offered to balance work and life. Mayo Clinic tries to help in this regard by providing practical tips to a better work-life balance like time management, learning to say no and nurturing one’s self.  What does “nurturing” yourself mean? According to one generally accepted definition it includes: “Eat a healthy diet, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga or reading. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.”

If we are honest, all this only adds “more things to do” on the already overflowing plate of our lives, resulting in juggling more activities and stresses.

There is inherently something not quite right in the whole Work-Life balance movement:  How can one see “Work” separate from “Life,” as is implied in this framework? Do we not spend more time and energy at work, in our whole life time, than in any other activity? Do we put “Life” on hold when we are in the “Work” mode? It just does not make sense, does it?

Let’s look at balancing our life from a different perspective by approaching our work, relationships and money as the three key theaters in our life and that we play different roles on each stage in each of these theaters.   At work, we play roles as colleagues, subordinates or the boss.  In relationships, we are spouses, siblings, partners, parents, children and friends. With money, we are earners, savers, creditors, debtors and investors.  Much of the time, we play these roles without giving enough thought except, perhaps, at work where our performance is measured frequently and rewarded (or not) accordingly. Along the way, we inadvertently may play out parts of scripts of one role appropriate to one theater on to a different stage in another theater of our life.  For instance, what we learn about our roles at work may help us function with excellence on that stage, but if we bring that role into our personal relationships, without being aware of what we are doing repeatedly over long periods, we risk becoming substandard role players on the stage of personal relationships.   So being a great boss at work does not necessarily translate into being a great parent or spouse.  When such slips happen they are mundane instances of actions without awareness.

Only when we start distancing ourselves from the roles we play without identifying with those roles will we begin to excel in playing them over a cycle of days, weeks, months, years. To excel in all our roles in all our theaters of life of work, relationships and money, we need to learn how to act in awareness.

Awareness is a subtle potential that we all have. We can strengthen and deepen our awareness potential through specific contemplative, breathing and meditative practices.  With a deepened awareness potential we develop the ability to observe what we do and how we act out our roles , learn how to gracefully refine what makes sense and to let go of all that does not to achieve what we want for a balanced life.

For each one of us this set of roles, and the deft balancing acts that are required, is different at different times in our life.

Jayant Kalawar is the author of The Advaita Life Practice, available at Amazon.

Socializing, Intimacy and Privacy in the Digital Age: Socializing – Part 1

Is Your Socializing Fragrant 180701

Bring the fragrance of jasmine to your social group! (Photo by Socialpictures CH on Unsplash)

You may have noticed that when there are times we want to be alone and we give it a positive value. At other times, we may feel lonely even when we are amongst family, friends, colleagues and so on. The physical situation may be the same, but the time and place that the situation of being lonely is happening is something we do not want. Then we give it a negative value. What makes for being alone and what makes for being lonely?  I hope to write about this in a series of posts in a contemplative exploration of what being alone means, in the context of socializing, intimacy and privacy that each of us may relate to and practice in different ways.

Many people inhabiting the 21st century digital world feel that being alone provides the opportunity for rejuvenation within the boundaries of privacy. They want only a certain amount of socializing. And with certain individuals of their choice, they would like the intimacy. There is a balance between intimacy and socializing, which seems to be managed by signaling privacy boundaries.  When that balance is right, we may get to the alone time we value. When that balance is skewed, we may either end up with too little of the alone time or too much of the alone time, which at some point becomes lonely time.

This may happen both over time in different phases of our life cycle, and across the spaces we inhabit. When young, we may sense the need for more socializing and less alone time. When older we may feel the need for more alone time. It may also differ from person to person the same age group, due to a myriad of reasons. Join me in this contemplative, intuitive exploration.

In this Part I post I will explore socializing and what it means in the digital age. Future posts will cover socializing in the context of different degrees of intimacy and privacy factors, how we create boundaries and manage them and how it comes together in giving us positive alone time sometimes, and leaves us feeling lonely and hungry for company at other times.

Socializing

The framework I use for this contemplative exploration is from the Advaita Vedanta perspective (and this is just touching one point of the shore of the surface of the breadth and depth of the Vedanta framework on being human): the human is considered to have 4 capabilities – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. In these contemplations I articulate that perspective using 21st century memes.

We socialize physically, by being present in a team meeting or on the playing field or at the coffee shop.  We cannot have the physical presence in our digital social interactions (yet – sometime in the future that may change given augmented reality and holograms and so on, they may be able to produce the sense of smell and touch, which is part of the core of our physical socializing).

During these social physical together times we interact emotionally, often times with the full range of emotions: from affectionately positively friendly to angrily upsettingly negative. Being in the same physical space and in a group, makes for moderating influence. We are more circumspect on both sides.  On the other hand, when we have emotional social interactions digitally, we may end up not being so circumspect. Losing some of our composure and expending physical energy in the process.

We socialize intellectually too: we have conversations about politics, education, health care, welfare. We have opinions based on our observations, we propose them using models we have in our minds. We defend and argue about our models. And learn and sometimes change our models (often surreptitiously, without admitting it) in the process, so we can argue better next time. Those are the steps of an intellectual process. Scientists and academics do that more formally. This type of intellectual socialization may work in a digital space, especially if we leave our emotional interactions at the door. That happens more in a physical setting, and not as much in digital settings, as we notice in the flame wars on social media sites.

As I have grown older, I find I value socializing less and intimacy (which I expect to explore in a future post) and alone time more. I manage it through setting privacy boundaries (which also I will explore in a future post in this series). I see a similar pattern both in those close to my age around me, as well as my children, as they get closer to 30. My work based socialization has become very focused individual or group based problem solving interactions, strategic and wide ranging as they may be. My socialization outside of work projects, coaching and satsanghs is down to a few select friends. My alone time is filled with long walks, meditation, chanting, reading, writing, doodling, sketching (and lately sporadically knitting a scarf).

I have reached over the 800 word limit already on this post, which apparently is the expected attention span of a digital interaction. I will continue in my next post.

Meanwhile, on a scale to 100, I would say I value socializing at 30, intimacy at 30 and alone time at 40 at this stage of my life. How about you?

Parenting Your Child in the Age of STEM

Coping Strategy in Age of STEM

Parents who connect with me under the 21BanyanTree often come for advice on how to manage the challenges of raising children these days. One common theme revolves around the intense competition in schools and growing anxiety about academics and helping their child navigate digital social interactions.  Mothers and fathers express feeling helpless and this sense of helplessness creates an anxiety spiral in the family.

The starting point of the anxiety spiral begins with worry about test scores, especially in STEM-related coursework, and the need for the child to excel in this area for future success.  The other concern, given the increase in online bullying, is how children might be interacting with each other on social media. Even the most educated, professional and well-meaning parent finds control slipping away as the child enters high school.

Why has this feeling of parental helplessness become pervasive and what can we do to get out of the anxiety spiral?

Self-help books suggest breathing and problem-solving techniques, and to focus on the positives, to influence and reduce your child’s anxiety.  These techniques work for some and not everyone.  The 21BanyanTree Coaching practice takes a different tack.  Our technique focusses on helping identify specific patterns of desires and fears, common to most parents, and the triggers that kick-start the individual anxiety spiral. Only when these are patterns of desires and fears are identified, through the self-discovery process, can you learn to control and influence the triggers of anxiety.  There are no cookie-cutter solutions.

For simplicity, let’s consider one area of desire and fear that is common among many parents right now: specifically, the desire to maintain a particular level of social status, and the fear that their child may not have the earning power to match the desired social status.

The Desire for Social Status: Modern consumer societies encourage the individual to attain and maintain a level of physical and social ‘well-being’ signaled by what we own and consume, our educational qualification and profession, and so on. For some, a bank balance and stock value (aka net worth) is integral to the social status portfolio, for others origin-country and skin color or even accents signal social status. In many ways, we are habituated to monitor status signals, and any loss in our personal social status portfolio becomes a cause for anxiety.

Parents who desire a social status portfolio for their children may pressure them to take coursework [for e.g., several APs] to get into top-tier or near top-tier schools. Regardless of their interest or passion, children are encouraged to become doctors, engineers, investment bankers or tech entrepreneurs – professions and businesses that are viewed as providing the earning power to maintain the desired social status. Any indication of a decrease in the future social status portfolio, like lower grades that jeopardizes getting into the Honors or AP track, sends parental anxiety into a tail-spin.  To get the child ‘on track’, parents react with intense tutoring and restricted hours of play and down-time to control the environment.

The fear, corresponding to this desire, is that the child who cannot make it onto the STEM ramp will become a misfit, unable to succeed and make a living in a society that is rapidly becoming powered by AI.

To be fair, not all parents strongly desire or are compelled to motivate their child to acquire social status portfolios. Yet, even here, we’ve observed children become anxious and influenced by signals in schools [ranking by STEM education; eliminating or reducing coursework like art, or educing recess and play time, in favor of STEM classes], and peers on digital social media.

The problem underlying this current dynamic is driven by political, social and cultural considerations and cannot be solved individually in the short-term. What can parents do at the personal level, in addition to providing all the resources required to get onto the STEM ramp, to help themselves and their child in this environment?

Self-discovery:  Everyone has deeply embedded patterns of desires and fears, many we are not aware of and that we continually act upon.  Each pattern of desires and fears arises from our social, economic and cultural background.  The process of self-discovery begins with recognizing and acknowledging our social, economic and cultural selves.

One way is to visualize that we are all living in a dense socio-economic-cultural city of karmas that we’ve built on our collective sentient desires and fears accumulated over time.  In this city are hubs of karmas: the positive hubs shower us with peace, joy and calm, the negative hubs are painful, while others neutral.

To navigate this city of karmas, we first need to become aware of who we are and how we got here – that is how the city got built – before we can understand how our karmas affect us.

Self-discovery begins with the discovery of stories embedded in the three layers- biological, socio-economic and cultural, and personal –  that make up our individual configuration of desires and fears from birth.  When we become aware of our nature, of who we are in the karmic city, can we begin to manage our fears and desires.

There are many options available to managing anxieties arising around raising your child at this particular time. Medications are one and talk therapy is another.

The third option is guided self-discovery with a focus on uncovering the patterns of desires and fears that have most of us in the grip of the anxiety spiral.

At 21BanyanTree we focus on your unique story to help you discover your strengths and competencies as parents, and as individuals to disentangle yourself from the anxiety spiral.  We help you become the parent who can help your child navigate this apparently increasingly uncertain and ambiguous world.

The Feminine and Masculine in Each of Us: Dancing with our Chakras

Reading my previous post may give the reader context for this post.

The Chakras and their Significations

There are six subtle energy centers, which we call chakras, aligned along the spine.

These centers channel energies, which then drive changes in the physical body, and actions by the physical body.

The energy combinations channeled through the six chakras, at any given moment, give rise to our actions.

The MooldhArA chakrA is the root center. Its energy drives actions to support the instinct to survive and grow physically.

The SwadhisTAnA is the creative and pro-creative center. Its energy drives creative energies, including pro-creative actions out of and within the physical body. It manifests as sexuality, which may be channeled both positively and negatively.

The MaNipurA is the acquisitive center. Its energy drives appetite for acquiring and storing all things material. It manifests as risk-taking behavior. It is sometimes described positively as courageous and ambitious and at other times as greedy and deceitful. In the negative it gives rise to actions based on fear.

The AnahatA is the emotional center. Its energy drives nurturing and affection on one hand. It can also give rise to the opposite: anger and hate.

The ViSuddhA center provides energy for articulation. Its energy drives vocalization and expression of the balance between the energies of the AnahatA and the AjnA centers. Depending on which of the two centers are more dominant, the ViSuddha will channel more emotional or more analytical expression.

The AjnA is the center for analytical intelligence. Its energy drives processing of information gathered by the 5 senses, comparison with memories of past experiences with corresponding actions directed at the action centers of ViShuddha, AnahatA, MaNipurA, SwadhishTAnA and MooldhArA.

The SahasrArA is the center for conceptual abstractions. Its energy drives the direction of the other six chakrAs described above, more towards spiritual, and relatively less towards the material.

Correlating Chakra significations with Gender: Role of the Physical Body

The female physical body manifests capability to pro-create and nurture. To activate these capabilities it draws upon the energies of the MooldhArA, SwadhishTAnA, MaNipurA and AnAhata.

When the female body is more focused on acting out its role of pro-creation and nurturing, its Vishuddha center expresses more emotion reflecting the active AnAhatA than the analytical energy of the AjnA.

The male physical body manifests capability to acquire and protect what it has acquired. It therefore draws upon energies of the MaNipurA and AnahatA (channeling those energies more towards determination and fixedness and competition, than towards nurturing and affection and collaboration), which it expresses through Vishuddha.

The entire range of energies are available to all physical bodies, whether female or male.

Which energies the body draws upon depends on which aspect is most open to be activated in a given phase in life and in particular social configurations and contexts:

  • Different phases in life e.g. whether in puberty and youth, vs in old age, for example.

 

  • Different social configurations e.g. whether in hunter-gatherer, agricultural, industrial or digital social configurations.

Social rules of thumb, in different social configurations, have been formed over time with general observations about what works best to sustain that particular social configuration.

These social rules of thumb, to enable sustenance of a particular social configuration, may lead to gender differentiated roles and expectations.

For example:

  • certain expected division of labor for pro-creation and maintenance of family, on one hand

and

  • acquisition and accumulation of material requirements for sustenance, on the other,

in an agriculture based social configuration

  • may have led to certain social rules of thumb of roles to be played by those with female bodies and those with male bodies.
  • This in turn would have led to the need to access different combination of chakra energies by female bodies, as compared to the male bodies.

As social technologies (i.e. how technology is used within a society) have changed, so have the social configurations and the possible roles played by individuals, whether with female or male bodies.

The lines between the social roles played by those with female bodies and those with male bodies may become blurred, especially as the need to for focus attention and energy on basic survival and pro-creation decreases, as we move from agricultural and industrial configurations to digital configurations, as we move from agricultural and industrial configurations to digital configurations.

When Gender Generalizations and Differentiations Do Not Work: Welcome to the 21st Century

As the demand for varying combination of chakra energies to survive, pro-create, acquire and accumulate decrease in a particular social configuration due to changes in social technologies:

  • individuals, with both female and male bodies, tend to move towards drawing upon the energies of AnahatA, AjnA and SahasrArA to express through the VishudhA.

The social technologies of the 21st centuries appear to be going, at least in early 2017, more towards the human body making less demands of both the basic survival and pro-creative energies from the MooldhArA and the SwAdhisTAnA. The acquisitive, accumulative energies still continue to be in demand, at the moment. We therefore see corresponding changes in how human bodies are acting: mostly by accessing MaNipurA (acquisitive), AnahatA (passionate determination) and AjnA (analytical intelligence). This configuration does not need to differentiate between male and female bodies.

Social roles based on gender differentiation focused on basic survival and pro-creation now make less sense.

Social context in practice of vibrational mantra for activating energy centers

Vibrational mantras (set apart from contemplative mantras) are practiced to activate specific energy centers.

The GAyatri mantra is a vibrational mantra, practiced to activate the AjnA energy, to enable access to analytical intelligence.

Practice of the GAyatri mantra on a daily basis over a sustained period of time may lead to more energy channeled towards analytical (AjnA) actions and relatively less energy towards survival (Mooldhaara) and pro-creative (SwadhisTAnA) actions.

The VishudhA expressions may also be more analytical and less compassionate and nurturing, by those practicing the GAyatri.

The GAyatri mantra practice, therefore, may not make sense to be practiced for those with female bodies, who wish to be mostly active in pro-creation and compassionate nurturing.

In the 21st century social configurations there are many with female bodies who do not find themselves in roles requiring long-term focus on pro-creation and nurturing.

They may be expected and required to perform roles which require sustained access to analytical energies.

The number of those with female bodies who will be playing these analytical roles may increase quite substantially in the next few decades.

Whether they will be assisted in their endeavors by chanting the GAyatri in a sustained manner in the long-term, is something that would need to be observed.

To sum up, ChakrA energy centers by themselves are gender neutral. The female and male physical body requires varying combination of energies from each of these energy centers in different phases of their lives, depending on the roles they are playing in the particular social context they find themselves in.

A well-designed comparative empirical study, of a carefully chosen test group and control group of women (and a similar parallel test and control groups of men), would certainly help to validate (or otherwise) the implicit multiple hypotheses, laid out in this article, about how vibrational mantras may impact male and female physical bodies differently.

The comments and suggestions from readers are welcome directly via email to the author at 21Banyantree@gmail.com .

21B Case Study: Taurus Rising

Your ascendant is Taurus. You have the potential to undertake courageous initiatives in collaboration with select individuals with nurturing capabilities.

case-study-chart-for-taurus-rising-170208

Moon, Sun, Mercury and Saturn channel benefic energies through you. Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Rahu and Ketu channel energies which may impact you negatively at certain times. There are traditional practices to strengthen your benefic energies and sublimate energies that may impact you negatively. These are discussed and arrived at in individual coaching sessions.

Summary

Your strongest energy is the Moon energy. Moon energy is nourishing and nurturing. Strong Moon energy signifies an individual with affectionate nurturing qualities which flow into all their behaviors. Strength of the Moon energy gives indication of supportive mother (or maternal figures), social behavior, emotional peace, financial solvency, happy married life, inheritance from the mother’s side, as well as love and care in general.  In your case, the Moon also additionally gives you energy to pursue a career by taking up and bringing to fruition initiatives that channel nourishing and nurturing energies. The Moon energy channels very strongly through you. Consider it your best guide and supporter for your career.

Your Saturn energy is also very strong. Saturn drives the direction of your career. This Saturn energy is also likely to guide to finding your long term partner, who may very well be from your career area. This long term partner is likely to hail from a location distant from your birth place. Saturn will expect and motivate you to practice your career with perfection, spirituality, detachment, reliability with discipline, honesty, sincerity, stability, longevity. It gives consistency and enables detailed work over long periods of time.

Thus, the combination of the Moon energy and Saturn energy will be your most reliable guides in your life and career.

Mercury and Jupiter channel relatively weak energies through you. They are required for your career success. Mercury energy provides you with creative and analytical intelligence in your daily career activities. Jupiter energy gives insight into the mysterious and the occult, which you need for the career area you are most likely to choose (something concerning nourishing and nurturing).  You should, therefore, incorporate daily practices and have coaching sessions to strengthen Mercury energy and propitiate Jupiter energy.

Your Sun energy, signifying your father, is well meaning but weakly channeled through you. It is unable to be of support to you. This results in weakness in your ability to acquire and hold home and assets, as well as support from influential people and gains from investments. There are ways of strengthening the Sun energy through practices and coaching, which you should explore.

Your Mars energy is weak and negatively impacts your relationship with your Sun energy. This may cause you to have disturbed sleep and allergies causing inflammation in your body. You should explore ways to propitiate Mars energy.

Your Venus energy acts very negatively for you. It not only weakens your Sun and Mercury energy and is reflected in your sense that you need to substantially increase your ability to channel creative and affectionate energies as well as nourishing and nurturing energies towards children.

21B Case Study: Libra Rising

The ascendant point, in your Jyotish chart, is in the Libra zodiac sign (sidereal chart). This indicates that you are motivated and energized to set and achieve goals for yourself. Your goals are likely to be a mix of acquiring advanced knowledge and peace of mind. Acquiring a home and portfolio of financial assets may also be important to you. When you project your image in an ethical and balanced manner, you will likely come across as an attractive, intelligent, even charismatic, person to people at large. Those in one-on-one personal or business relationship with you, however, may sometimes see you as being passive, not assertive enough with your creative, affectionate and nurturing sensibilities.

case-study-chart-for-libra-rising-170208

Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Moon and the Sun channel positive energies through you. Mercury, Rahu and Ketu channel energies which have negative impact on you from time to time. There are therapeutic ways to strengthen your benefic energies and sublimate energies that may impact you negatively. These are discussed and arrived at in individual coaching sessions.

Summary of Your Karmic Strengths and Areas of Improvement

Overall, you have two very strong positive energies, of Venus and Moon, channeling through you. You have four positive, but weak, energies, of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Sun supporting you. You have one negative energy, that of Mercury, which from time to time misleads you through over analysis and wrongly presenting an apparently rational view of the world.

Karmic Strengths

Your Venus energy is positive and strong. It helps you set your goals and project your image. It is most supportive when you are active in:

  • acquiring knowledge
  • achieving peace of mind
  • acquisition and maintaining of home
  • acquiring financial assets portfolio and
  • focusing on your career and social status.

As you begin to accept these as your core goals in life, you will gain clarity on what broad direction you to take in your life.

Your Moon energy is strongly positive and flows to you through your mother. However, the Moon energy is in the shadow of Rahu, the north node of the ecliptic axis, in your birth chart. This causes you to make demands on your mother and from time to time be in conflict with her. Please be aware that the Moon energy, through your mother, gives you guidance in spiritual and material matters, including:

  • Social connections
  • Ethical matters
  • Relationship with authority figures
  • Pursuing advanced studies and
  • Long distance travel to expand and contribute to social connections.

These actions, driven by the Moon energy, open up the potential of you flourishing in your career and reflects positively in your social status.

Connecting directly, through appropriate breath-work, chanting and meditation, with the spiritual aspect of the Devi may ensure this strong Moon energy to continue to support you all your life, and at the same time free your mother’s energies for other ends. It will also help in dissipating the sometimes demanding / conflicting interactions you may have with your mother.

Personal Branding is a Process, Not a Goal

Personal branding is required for those who are striving for success in business and in social settings. It is a cost effective tool for persuading all the people in your business and social worlds that you relate to and transact with. Personal branding says that someone is valuable. It says what they represent is valuable. People with personal branding do not have to keep repeating how great it is what they do and so on. Their personal brand says it all. That makes personal branding highly cost effective to build your business, career and social circles.

What is Personal Branding

Elon Musk is a personal brand, associated mostly with Tesla and SpaceX. Peter Thiel is a personal brand in venture capital, associated with PayPal and now with the conflict and downfall of Gawker. Kayne West is a personal brand in Entertainment.

Donald Trump is a personal brand associated with deals in real estate and reality TV. He has very cost effectively used personal branding to relate to and persuade voters in the 2016 US Presidential elections (at the time of this writing he is a presumptive Republican nominee).

If you are working with a largish firm you may have heard about the need to brand yourself. You may also know personal brand labeled as a ‘go-to person’: not exactly an expert, but someone who can be relied upon to get certain complex things done effectively. Or they may be called stars: they are successful at sales, achieving budget targets, leading mergers to successful implementation, opening a new store from soup to nuts and so on.

These are just some of the many examples of personal branding process that many of you are already familiar with.

So What Makes Personal Branding a Process, Not a Goal?

A goal is something that once you reach it, you are done. Personal branding is never done. It is something that has to be nurtured all the time. It has to keep growing and changing. It has to be defended.

The more successful a personal branding, the more imitators will be nipping at ankles. You know about that process already: brand rip-offs of successful designer apparel, for example.

So personal branding is something people have to keep working on. Especially those who want to be successful in their companies and businesses.  They have to find ways to keep differentiating themselves. That is an ongoing process.

So how do you keep differentiating your personal brand?

One way may be to finding yourself a personal coach who has been there done that and uses non-mainstream tools to give you the differentiating advantage.

21B coaching guides you to grow and deepen your personal brand. Check this out to see how to accomplish personal branding with the differentiating advantage of a happy and energetic life: https://21banyantree.com/personal-energy-self-awareness-grid/