Tag Archives: sleep

tony schwartz: the way we’re working isn’t working

the following is an interview with tony schwartz, who you may know as co-author with donald trump in the art of the deal.  tony just came out with a new book which i think everyone who has ever worked (so about 90% of the adult population) should read.  it is called the way we’re working isn’t working.  in susan lyne’s words

for two decades, tony schwartz has been observing and teaching the fundamentals of great performance.  his new book looks at why working harder doesn’t translate to working better.  backed by research and his own case studies, he offers a path to better results and higher rewards that should be hugely valuable to individuals and organizations alike.

isabella: you say that a good way to make deep and lasting change in your life is to create new rituals.  can you give an example in your own life where you have done that?

tony: wow! i actually have a life filled with rituals. i start every day by working out. that’s a ritual.  i begin my work day by doing the most important thing first, for 90 minutes, and then take a break. i take a break every 90 minutes throughout the day. i ritualize 8 plus hours of sleep. on saturday mornings, i sit with my wife of 32 years and we talk: she first, usually, with me listening, and then me, with her listening. building rituals that serve my life well has transformed my experience. my  rituals assure that i do what’s important to me, no matter what else is going on.

isabella: one of your tongue-in-cheek headers is “what do you want, and what will you do to avoid getting it?” i think this is a central question for everyone, whether at work, in relationships, in personal goals or anywhere else.  asking this question point-blank raises people’s hackles; have you found a way to ask this question so that people will actually reflect on it?

tony: well, interestingly, i think that it turns out you’re often better to start by helping people to build behaviors that serve them well ” the sort of rituals i’ve described above.  and then, almost inevitably, they’ll run into unexpected roadblocks and resistances.  that’s the opportunity to start exploring what’s getting in their way, because then you’ve got the energy of a person’s frustration working for you.  this helps explain why i believve that enduring change is ultimately a blend of many approaches: deepening awareness, cognitive work around the stories we tell ourselves, and explicit work aimed at changing specific behavioraa.

isabella: the idea of rhythm and balance (e.g. spending/renewing energy; work/rest; right/left hemispheres) is central to your book.  it reminds me of one of the seminal early new age books, george leonard’s the silent pulse. are you familiar with his book, and if so, could you touch on one or two areas where you have similar or different views?

tony: george leonard had an intuitive sense that building a rhythmic life rather than a linear one was the way to go.  he  was a lyrical writer, not a researcher.   what i’ve tried to do in the way we’re working isn’t working is to really lay out the multidisciplinary evidence for the fact that we’re designed to be rhythmic  and to really show how this works across all dimensions of our lives. physically, we need to balance rest and movement, eating and not eating, waking and sleeping. cognitively we’re at our best when we learn to move flexibly between left and right hemisphere dominance. spiritually we need to balance taking care of others with truly taking care of ourselves.

isabella: you propose that awareness has three dimensions:  “how long is your perspective? how wide is your vision? how deeply are you willing to look?”  how did you develop the idea of these three dimensions?

tony: most of us have a very narrow, superficial, short-term perspective built around avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. it’s our evolutionary inheritance. we want, above all, to survive, and reproduce, and not to be in discomfort.  awareness ” consciousness ” is an evolutionary leap, and it’s a capacity that separates us from every other species. we’re the only ones with the capacity for self-consciousness — reflection about ourselves. with that in mind, the question become “how spacious and embracing is my awareness?”

there are only so many ways to answer that. you can have a wider vision, which means more inclusive. you see your connections to others, and you’re capable of empathy.  you can also have a longer perspective, meaning the ability to see beyond your immediate needs and preoccupations. that’s possible only when you learn how to delay gratification, which is an extraordinary ability, and also the key to doing almost anything enduringly meaningful in your life.

and finally, there is depth.  most of us live at the surface, focused on the external world and how we’re managing it. depth is about interiority isn’t it? it’s about the willingness to look within, to peel away the layers, to overcome our infinite capacity for self-deception.  the whole journey really starts with depth, because depth is about working your way towards your ground, past the layers of conditioning, and reactivity, impulsivity and rationalization, defenses and blaming.  depth is what makes life rich. it frees up the ability to take a broader and a wider perspective.

isabella: below are two other quotes from your book that i found interesting.   do you have any wise words on them that you may not have been able to include in the book?

“we tolerate extraordinary disconnects in our own lives, even in areas we plainly have the power to influence”

tony: this goes back to our instinct to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  one of the shocking truths about a really satisfying life is that it necessarily involves pain ” the pain of growing, of pushing past our limits, of seeing through our delusions, illusions and premature conclusions.  when the researcher anders ericsson studied violinists at various skill levels, all the violinists agreed on one thing: practice was not only the most important single thing they could do to improve as violinists, but also the most difficult and the least enjoyable.  that helps explain why so few people achieve greatness.

“meaning and significance are a unique source of energy that ignites passion, focus and perseverance”

tony: well, meaning is a big subject, but there is a simple answer here.  when something really matters to us, we bring vastly more energy to it.  many of us spend our lives trying to please others, or live up to some external standard.  that’s not nearly as powerful a source of motivation as simply loving something for its own sake, regardless of what anyone else thinks.  i feel exactly that way about all of the ideas i’m talking about here.  it gives me joy every day of my life to engage with them, and to share them, and to believe that they have the power to improve people’s lives.

buddhist carnival – september 2009 edition

welcome to the september edition of the buddhist carnival, where we showcase treasures from the buddhasphere. today we have compassion and helping hands, cockcroaches, sleep, returning to the centre and a bunch of (no)selves. as always, let’s start off with a poem:

we dance around in a ring and suppose;
but the secret sits in the middle, and knows.
– robert frost

thank you, zenbananas, for giving this to the buddhasphere.

compassion – even when it is difficult

this blogger extends compassion to the person who ended the life of george tiller, who died earlier this year because of his commitment to helping women who need abortions

in mahayana buddhism, the bodhisattva kshitigarbha, best known by his japanese name of jizo, is the helper of beings who suffer in the hell realms and of children who die before their parents, including those who are stillborn, miscarried, or aborted. for the past day i have been thinking that jizo will protect dr. tiller, who did his best for the unborn whom jizo helps to good rebirths. as i was reading about him this morning, i realized that jizo will help the doctor’s murderer, too, if he wants to get out of the hell he’s in.

for the rest of the entry, read here.

and the new heretic makes friends with cockroaches

instead of swatting at and smashing and scurrying about the roaches so i could paint, i simply talked to them (yes i talked to them) or at other times just waited and thought kind words towards them, and asked them to move so i could paint… and they moved out of the way.

buddha’s judas

saradode shares an interesting dream; she reflects it was about betrayal, and makes a connection between the biblical judas and bddha’s brother-in-law, devadatta

as for devadatta, the scriptures…assign him a role that is similar to judas in the gospel story.

i understood right away that this was what my dream had been about. i kept reading, and came to the story. devadatta had become (or had always been) egotistical and ambitious, and wanted to take control of the sangha from buddha. he plotted to kill him, but that didn’t work.

the book described how devadatta then “decamped” with 500 or so of buddha’s monks, whom he had convinced that buddha had become “given over to luxury and self-indulgence.” as i read that part, my lip began to twitch quite violently (one of his ways of getting my attention), and i saw, again, “last supper.”

devadatta’s plan, however, failed, and the monks returned to buddha. the next thing i read stunned me:

some texts tell us that devadatta committed suicide; others that he died before he was able to be reconciled with the buddha.

this dream really intrigued me. my first thought was, how do we betray ourselves in life-denying ways?

return to centre

a beautiful image and a few quick thoughts on this topic:

“things get crazy and we forget to work from our center.”

so, i began to think, “how can i start to do that again?”

well, tonight, grace summed it up at the beginning of our meditation practice at blue heron sangha.

“tonight we begin as we hear the sound of the bell, returning to our center.”

somehow the realization came that we begin to work from our center again by returning to our center. and, how do we do that?

start with something simple. pay attention to something. anything. breath is always good.

sleeping and samsara

liza solomonova, a graduate psychology student from montreal, blogs about sleep, dreams, and states of consciousness. in this post she reports on allan wallace’s shamatha project

the goal of such practice is to experience the subtle level of consciousness, a ‘substrate consciousness’ from all mental stuff originates and into which it essentially returns. every one of us experiences this ‘substrate consciousness’ when in deep sleep, in dreamless state, there is no identity, no imagery, virtually nothing, as if our ‘self’ is dissolved into something more basic. similarly at the moment of death, according to buddhist thought, we experience this subtle essential state of consciousness. in a metaphorical way, we die every time we enter deep sleep. and then… from that subtle consciousness, from that non-discursive state – dream arises! a whole world, a whole new and compelling identity (it is new if you are not lucid dreaming, of course) is ‘born’, and with it a whole range of emotions, feelings, sensations and so on. as the first rem cycle is over, we ‘die’ again, return to the deep sleep. and then another dream arises, and with it a whole new world, which probably has nothing to do with the previous dream world, and is only marginally related to the world of our waking life. and then we die again…

the self – what self?

in a fabulous (and long) interview with zen teacher shinzen young, interspersed with illuminating videos, har prakash khalsa delights us with shinzen young’s take on the nature of the self and enlightenment as it is perceived in buddhism, hinduism, christianity and the jewish tradition. here are a few excerpts from his thoughts on the self:

hpk – when you say “the perception that a thing inside us called a self” goes away, do you mean completely away?

szy – the ambiguity is the word perception. the actual word is ditti in pali, or drishti in sanskrit, which i think you know means “view”, literally. in this context ditti or drishti refers to a fundamental paradigm, or concept about something. so in this case perception is perhaps not the best word. it’s more like the fundamental conviction that there is a thing inside us called a self disappears. according to the traditional formulation after enlightenment that never comes back. however, if by perception of self we mean momentarily being caught in one’s sense of self, that happens to enlightened people over and over again, but less and less as enlightenment deepens and matures.

i like to analyze subjective experience into three sensory elements: feel (emotional-type body sensations), image (visual-thinking) and talk (auditory-thinking). those sensory elements continue to arise for an enlightened person forever. sometimes when the feel-image-talk arises the enlightened person is momentarily caught in them but even though they’re caught in that, some part of them still knows it’s not a thing called self. that knowing never goes away. the frequency, duration and intensity of identifying with feel-image-talk diminishes as the months and years go on as you go through deeper and deeper levels of enlightenment. there are exceptions, but typically it takes months, years, indeed decades learning how not to get caught in feel-image-talk when it arises.

so to sum it up, what disappears at enlightenment is a viewpoint or perception that there is a thing inside this body-mind process called self.

… and more (or less) self …

ambud has a series of posts on critics of buddhism. here he, too, reflects on the idea of no-self, a concept that is hard to grasp for anyone, let alone critics who typically haven’t spent a lot of time steeping themselves in buddhist ideas.

the author stumbles and misstates his argument by equating anatta with nonexistence. buddhism isn’t nihilistic, anatta refers to soul-lessness; the idea of non-self in the ultimate sense. anatta isn’t an argument against a ‘self’ as defined by physical properties etc., of which we are all aware, it is instead, a statement about that which has no inherent existence, that which is caused.

if you have any articles you’d like to see here, let me know. the next edition comes out on october 15.

image by axel buehrmann