Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Loud Silence

I read an article the other day in USA Today that inspired a little writing, and oddly enough it came from the business section. It was about a CEO of a large foreign energy group, Vijay Eswaran, and a unique practice of his that he claims is a factor in his success. Every morning he devotes one hour to complete silence, in which time he reflects the day before, makes short and long term goals, goes over notes of the previous session, and "prays" or in the words of his book, "communes with the Lord". Yes, he has written a book on it, called In The Sphere of Silence.

The inspiration for this practice, Mr Eswaran said, came from the Hindu practice called mauna, which was done with his grandfather. He said it was traditionally done during Brahma muhurta, "when the day is born again", the two hours before the sun rises. In my brief study of Hinduism, I had never heard of this practice. Of all the religions studied in my class, Hinduism was my least favorite because many of the ideologies and concepts didn't make sense. This simple practice oviously has it's benefits, so I may have to reconsider my opinion. Eswaran was reconnected with the practice, which he had stopped during college (go figure), when he took an oath of silence right after college graduation for 33 days as a lay monk.

Eswaran describes the hour of silence as "yoga of the mind", saying "silence is like exercise. A person who never does it would rather get shot than get started. Once started , he would rather die than stop". It really does seem beneficial. This hour stimulates memory by recalling the previous day. All the lessons learned that day come back and are put on paper so that they are not forgotten. Setting goals for the day, the week, even the months and years to come help to sharpen the mind and help us to make each daily action with a purpose in mind. All of us have goals, we all make resolutions, but often we forget these hopeful self changes in the fast paced world full of distractions. Eswaran comments on this. Though he says the silence is not a prayer, "It does have a spiritual side, a recognition that there is something beyond dashing around 9 to 5 that defines the purpose within us".

There are similar concepts that are practiced, though not quite the same. I play baseball, and I've been taught by my father to visualize myself getting hits, to visualize my swing, my at-bats, and the innings played defensively. The same went with wrestling. The idea was that if we could see ourselves doing what we wanted to do mentally, it would be easier to do physically when the time came. It does prove helpful, because how we see ourselves determines how we act and how others see us. If we see ourselves being successful, and getting each step to success clear in our mind, then we are more likely to succeed. It's not necessarily easier, because success never is, but we do become more prepared.

Eswaran has an interesting idea on the part of this "silent hour" spent communing with God. Not necessarily God, but as Eswaran puts it, communing with your maker, if you choose to believe in one". He doesn 't think of it as praying, but rather "a time of asking questions as you would to a buddy, looking upon your maker as a guide....The answers eventually materialize". This could be viewed as praying or not as praying, but the concept of asking "our maker" these questions is valuable. It's unlikely that God would make himself present to answer these questions, but just like the goals and dreams, it's important to keep the questions fresh in our minds so they may be answered in time through our own actions.

Obviously this man is highly successful, and the practice seems to make sense, therefore I believe it's worth a shot. The question is how many people can make time for a practice like it? Those who think one hour is too long to sit still will not likely take up the practice, but I think that an hour of completing the tasks that Eswaran describes could easily make the rest of the day more valuable and allow us to get more done in less time.

On a final note, the Company that Eswaran started is called Qi or Ch'i, taken from the Chinese character. I found it an interesting piece of information considering my class just finished a two week study of Chinese religion which focuses around the concept of Ch'i.

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