Monday, December 19, 2005

Mental Static

Mental Static

The extremely sparse entries in my blog recently is an indication of how hectic my work schedule has been this year. But that's alright for I always enjoy making full use of my time. My only regret is that I won't get a chance to travel to Jakarta before 2005 ends.

I spent the entire weekend doing some programming work. It has been a long time since I've done any software development but slowly, I'm regaining my old touch again. As long as I'm given a few uninterrupted days of quiet work, I can pick up any programming language. But alas "uninterrupted days" have become such a luxury lately!

It's probably not very healthy for me to be always working over weekends but I've kind of turned it into a habit. Weekends are the only time when I can be "uninterrupted". The week is starting again, so here comes another tsunami of SMSes, phonecalls and e-mails!

The best way to handle work-related stress is to see work as just a series of actions that need to be performed, irrespective of who you are dealing with. If we only focus on the task at hand and not worry too much about the response and reaction of the people whom we have to work with, work becomes less of a pressure. I've given the analogy of a craftsman at work before as the model to follow.

It is people that gives you stress, not work. You are afraid that your boss will be mad at you if you are late in submitting your report; you are afraid that your peers will look down on the quality of your work, you are afraid to be embarassed in front of your colleagues--all these things contribute to stress. It is your ego's reaction to the world that gives you so much pain, nothing else. So get rid of it.

Stress is a mental thing. It is a disease peculiar to the modern man because we have consciously chosen to lead a mental life. Animals don't face stress because they react to the world instinctively. We react to the world mentally: the result is fear, worry and stress.

An animal in danger will instinctively fight or take flight, depending on the enemy. Life is simple. Animals never commit suicide. They just live and die. The average modern man is rarely in mortal danger but somehow he makes a big fuss about dying and spends his entire life worrying about it. I'm not saying that we should be driven by our animal desires--these are usually the least of our problems--but it is craving of the mind, that incessant mental noise that is the cause of so much of our problems.

Our brains, in its "normal" mode of operation is like a short-wave radio with poor reception--full of irritating static. If we know how to eliminate it, we will achieve a much greater level of creativity and efficiency. If you are one of those who suffer from this man-made mental disease called stress, then you should know that the cause of it is nothing external but the incessant static in your head caused by compulsive negative thinking.

How do you reduce this mental static?

First, recognize that it is static. Any thought that is not creative or life-enhancing, is potentially noise. Observe the thoughts that arise in your head: how many percent of them are either negative or fear-driven? Some people have a habit of constantly criticizing the world around them: their backstabbing colleagues, their stupid customers, the incompetent government. These comments usually don't serve any useful purpose except to elevate the ego; it is merely an indirect way of emphasizing your own superiority: "I'm not like those ignorant masses". "I'm smarter than them". "I've done more than them".

After a while you'll recognize how repetitive your thoughts are. Nothing much that is new actually arises in your mind--it's the same trite negative thoughts playing itself again and again like an old record. Once you see this pattern, you've gained a step further in curing yourself of this chronic mental disease.

As long as this static occupies the greater part of your mental bandwidth, your mind will forever be operating in a degraded mode. So to regain the creative dynamism of your mind, get rid of this static first!