Applying Passages To Difficult Situations

By Abhijeet

Stories From Meditators

Can passages help a difficult work relationship? Abhijeet in Tomales, California, answers “Yes!” and shares some of his application strategies. 

One of Easwaran’s teachings that has always intrigued me is that obstacles are opportunities for growth. I would like to share how inspirational passages helped me in a work-related situation. In my previous job, I was a part of an amazing team of engineers. All of us came from different cultural backgrounds, and although we enjoyed each other's company, work then became an opportunity, as Easwaran wrote, “to practice patience and rub off the sharp edges and corners of our personality that separate us from others.” In one such project, I was working closely with a guy who was not easy to get along with. Our style of communication was quite different and I felt that there was always a palpable tension between us. Understandably, this did not make work fun and I felt very challenged and resentful. One of Easwaran’s other quotes that struck a chord with me was “Unite against the problem; don’t go scrapping among yourselves”. However, I did not have a clue about how I could practically implement this or try it out in daily life.

The answer came in the form of meditation on an inspirational passage. I had heard Easwaran describe an amazing example of how the inspirational passage can be used as a peg to drive out negative and deeply conditioned thought patterns. The neat thing about inspirational passages is that they enabled me to substitute those negative thoughts and emotions with much higher and positive ones. I had something to hold on to when my mind was spewing negative thoughts at an alarming rate. I learnt that I had no control on the external events but as Easwaran says, if we train the mind “we always have a choice in how we respond to life around us”.

I browsed through God Makes the Rivers to Flow, which is an anthology of inspirational passages ideal for meditation. It was like seeking a wise counselor or friend who had the answer to my challenging situation. Towards the end of God Makes the Rivers to Flow is a section titled “Using Inspirational Passages to Change Negative Thinking.” After going through that section, I short-listed a few passages that appealed to me – Discourse on Good Will, Evening Prayer for the Sabbath, and Whatever You Do.

These passages reminded me of the qualities I wanted to cultivate in dealing with my situation at work. I started to memorize them, and used them one by one in my morning meditation. A couple of those passages were available in the mp3 format so I downloaded them on my iPod and listened to them on the bus to work.

Before starting my work day, I would take 10 minutes to write a part of the passage as a way to commit it to memory. The words of the passage would remind me to look for positive qualities in my colleague and myself. When I would get upset during the day because of an interaction with him, I would come back to my desk and read the passages I had posted next to my computer screen.

I wrote stanzas from those passages on flash cards so that I could continue memorizing them and also read them when I needed inspiration, support, guidance and wise counsel.

I remember one challenging day when nothing seemed to be going well and I was truly disappointed. A thought of taking my colleague out to an Indian restaurant and ordering super spicy food for him crossed my mind! Part of it was coming from trying to inject humor in the situation, and part of it was coming from trying to get even. However, these words from the passage came to my rescue: “Let no one deceive another, let no one anywhere despise another, let no one out of anger or resentment wish suffering on anyone at all.”

The passages taught me that the best way to get even was to actually try to get to know my colleague a little better. Every day, I started making an attempt to converse with him about something other than work. I noticed that he had pictures of his family in his office, so I started asking him about them. For a long time, I felt that nothing was changing. When I returned home, I used “Evening Prayer for the Sabbath” for my evening meditation. Here is an excerpt from this passage that gave me a lot of solace:

“I must do my allotted task with unflagging faithfulness even though the eye of no task master is on me. I must be gentle in the face of ingratitude or when slander distorts my noblest motives. I must come to the end of each day with a feeling that I have used its gifts gratefully and faced its trials bravely.” 
– Jewish Liturgy

Gradually, over a period of time, things started shifting a little. I learnt that he was a good family man who loved his wife and children. He also liked American football. Although I knew nothing about this sport, I started asking him more about the rules, the games during the football season, and his favorite players. It was quite refreshing as I realized that amidst all the challenges and our differences, there was some human connection. I also started enjoying listening to how he spent his time with his family on the weekends.

We worked on the project together for more than 6 months and I confess that our differences did not completely disappear. Yet the passages helped me see many positives in my colleague, myself, and our project too. Our working relationship improved over the course of those six months. I was truly amazed by the power of the passages and the benefits of meditating on passages. In the past, I would have fallen sick under the stress and lost hope. However, this time I somehow managed to conduct myself rather well under the circumstances. When I would get agitated before, during and after meetings, I used the passage, Whatever You Do: “Whatever you do, make it an offering to me, the food you eat, the worship you perform, the help you give, even your suffering.”  Thanks to the powerful words of the inspirational passages and the eight-point program, I got a lot of comfort and support when I needed it.

Most of all, the passages became my buddies and I felt that I could hang out with them whenever I needed to.