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Everybody Just Wants To Bounce Their Ball
Jun 20, 2006, 12:40a - Book Notes

2 weeks ago, I picked up Awake at Work with the hope that it would ease my anxiety at work and make me feel more alive in my life.

Suprisingly, it has.

For awhile now I've been feeling as if my consciousness has been asleep. I feel that the days are just passing by and, though I am ostensibly awake, I'm just going through the motions and not really *in* my body. Most of the time I feel like I'm wake-walking, with a few slivers of real consciousness sprinkled about. The conscious slivers come in bursts, usually due to some external circumstance. For example, I feel truly conscious after I write an exciting story for my blog or after I watch a great movie; the world feels more vibrant and alive somehow, though the moment fades within minutes.

The biggest symptom of my non-conscious existence is that I've started forgetting all sorts of things that I say, do, or have heard. I forget what people say, I even forget what I say. And I'm not talking years later, I'm talking weeks or months later - stuff everyone else remembers, I forget. I used to have a great memory, but ever since I graduated and started working my memory of my personal life has gotten worse and worse. My memory for work is rock-solid and always growing, so perhaps it's pushing out my memory of life...

So, in reading Awake at Work I was hoping to find a way back to consciousness after many months of non-conscious living, and I was literally hoping to find a way to wake up at work. The book was good, specifically because it encouraged me to really, consciousnlessly experience the current moment and to take life a little less seriously.

And with chapter titles like

"A bucket and a thumb",
"Welcome the tyrant",
"Avoid idiot compassion",
and (my personal fave) "Everybody just wants to bounce their ball",

I'm sure we can all learn a lot from this book :)

Here's what it had to say:

- "Maybe problems arise at work not as interruptions or intrusions, but as invitations to gain real wisdom. Perhaps, in some sense, work's 'complications' are exactly what we're looking for." (5)

- "Being hostile toward any of life's difficulties only amplifies our discomfort, and we end up at war with ourselves, arguing with our lives rather than living them." (6)

- "Rather than resist, we need to slow down and open up." (7)

- "What is required is surprisingly ordinary: simply to be who we are where we are, to subtly shift from getting somewhere fast to being somewhere completely." (8)

- Mindfulness: learning to be fully alert and available in the present moment (10)

- "The hecticness of succeeding, measuring up, responding to emergencies, getting somewhere fast, can keep us living in constant anticipation, robbing us of any sense of well-being and enthusiasm, making work a burden and distracting us from our lives." (27)

- "We cannot rely solely on muscle and will when facing work's challenges. Work often requires finesse and timing to see beneath the surface of a situation, apply creative imagination to an impasse, or build a bridge between colleagues." (27)

- "Something is authentic because it can draw on its original authority to make it unquestionably what it is, not a fake or imitation." (37)

- "The Buddhist path seeks to discover an origin, to determine firsthand the original authority within our very person that empowers us with unshakable well-being and gives us the confidence that we are exactly who we are, where we are, with no need of outside confirmation." (38)

- "We spend an enormous amount of time talking to ourselves and not being immediately present...we live our lives in a kind of rehearsal behind the curtain of our thoughts, rehearsing what we could have done differently and what we will do differently in the future." (39)

- "We discover that no stock option gods, no song of praise from a boss, no decree of promotion, no paycheck or bonus, no new job or project, no amount of political power - nothing can substitute for our basic confidence in our original authority. Such confidence is unshakable because nothing can confirm or deny it [like faith]." (41)

- "Confusious considered a leader's natural task in shaping human culture to be like that of a jade cutter: to bring forth the natural wholesomeness of humanity - to inspire and nourish li, thereby promoting the health, wisdom, and spiritual well-being of all citizens." (46)

- "We are awake at work precisely because everything is in question." (59)

- "When we acknowledge that there is no ground, no guarantee, just now, we become pioneers: this very moment, right here and now, becomes unfamiliar territory to explore." (60)

- "Most important, 'No ground, no guarantees, just now' reminds us that we are free. By acknowledging that who we are and what we do at work is never fixed, we discover a basic freedom, because anything can happen next." (61)

- "No one is indispensable...No matter how capable we may be at work, the humbling reality is that we are all replaceable." (65)

- "We feel anxious not because of the reality of uncertainty but because we continually struggle against it, pretending that things are not so precarious...Insisting that work provide security means that we sometimes find ourselves spending more time and effort holding on to our jobs than actually performing them." (67)

- "Creative challenges are simply what they are: challenges, not a matter of survival." (68)

- "Accepting criticism, listening deeply, collaborating with others, respecting privacy, discussing difficult topics thoughtfully, and being precise in our speech - all are part of how we skillfully and consistently build a workplace free from fear. To step beyond the silence of fear is to deeply appreciate the suffering many of us experience each day in getting our jobs done and to admit that all of us are worthy to be free from anxiety and fear at work." (75)

- Personal margin note: Money = Concentrated Power.

- "Proximity to power, our own or others', makes us feel uneasy because we intuitively sense that something may be said or done that could change our life in unknown ways." (77)

- "Power never stays in one place but is constantly shifting and morphing...Power shifts from person to person." (78)

- "The sharp candor of cynicism leaves no room for mortgaging our authenticity out of insecurity or indulgence. To be cynical, in this sense, is a noble gesture of honesty and an act of personal courage." (84)

- "Recognizing that we are, in fact, authoring our tyrants - that our hopes and fears are what fuel their power over us - is central to regaining balance. In the Buddhist tradition, coming upon such irritating and oppressive people is highly valued. Any life circumstance that can expose our insecurities is considered a gift to be welcomed and explored." (110)

- "To welcome the tyrant, we must be willing to let go of our inner defensiveness - even for a brief moment - and experience our tyrants without bias or preconception." (111)

- "Once we pacify with gentleness and curiosity, we can be generous and promote sane resolution by inspiring others to feel empowered and supported...Magnetizing seeks contributions and resources from others in order to overcome conflict and difficulty." (120)

- "Credentials of all kinds can build trust or invite suspicion, foster accountability or irresponsibility, communicate expertise or mask weakness." (129)

- "We want our jobs and livelihood to shape an identity for us - to provide us a story line of who we are." (130)

- "A good conversation, whether at work or elsewhere, is one of life's great gifts." (136)

- "The greatest mistake we can make in a conversation is not to listen...assuming we know what the other person is about to say - in effect trying to get somewhere fast - is simply insulting." (138)

- The wheel of six confusions depicts a profound irony. It points out that it is in trying to rescue ourselves from life's difficulties that we actually end up imprisoning ourselves in them. The six confusions:

1) Work as Drudgery - if we examine this mind-set, we discover that the burden is not the work but our stubbornness.
2) Work as War
3) Work as Addiction
4) Work as Entertainment
5) Work as Inconvenience
6) Work as a Problem

- "Our culture would have us believe that something must be wrong if we are bored. There must be a problem, since we're not achieving anything." (158)

- "Don't take yourselves so seriously, gentlemen, for if you do, you will miss what it means to be human. Your logic and correctness, your rationality and thoroughness, can actually blind you, lock you out of the game, prevent you from becoming who you most deeply want to be." (164)

- "All of us want to do our best and have a chance to contribute and shine. All of us want to leave behind something to be proud of and to be remembered as an inspiring person...we all want to make life better for others and show what we can do. We were all children once, wanting to be our best." (164)

- "We construct our world for convenience and then end up feeling impatient and frustrated when we can't speed past the present moment." (177)

- "This impatience to get somewhere else rather than be where we are has become a vast and disastrous addiction to forgetfullness." (179)

- "We may be, for example, impulsively trying to solve a problem that should probably remain unsolved for the time being." (207)

Read comments (2) - Comment

omar - Jun 22, 2006, 1:11a
if you like the mindfulness stuff, you should read Jon Kabat-Zinn, see

he is a major pioneer on the subject in the west, and has written some great books on it (and has some audio tapes). my sister is into it and finds that mindfulness meditation has improved her life...

ps did anyone ever tell you that the pithy post is the read post? ;)

nikhil - Aug 18, 2007, 3:57p
here's a video interview with Kabat-Zinn (which I'm planning to watch but haven't seen yet):

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