Who do you think you are? Dealing with Avidya at the office
What do you say when someone says to you, “tell me about yourself?” Do you launch into a series of tales about your travels? Share something about your family? Talk about your job? Your hobbies? Your last relationship, or marathon, or project? We all have roles, experiences and activities we identify with, and those uniquely “us” things become the stories of who we are. But do we, when we tell those stories, really reveal who we are? And what about the stories and roles we assign to others, either based on preconceived notions or on our experience with them? They are our stories about ourselves and others, but they are not our truth. They may provide a structure for us to do our work, but we often get confused and think the stories are who we are.
Getting caught up in our stories often brings us to the concept of “avidya”, which is a basic ignorance of who we are and of the underlying reality that connects everything in the universe. It is the confused notion that we are somehow separate from everything else. And it leads to a lot of friction in the workplace.
Recently, I have been part of a restructure at work. The role I believed I was there to fill has changed, as have all of the expectations of the role. It creates quite a challenge as I test my way into my new role. I find myself struggling with an attachment to my old role I was hired to do, and had specific notions about how to do it. I find myself becoming angry when others expect things of me that I don’t believe are within my new role, or when others are confused about my role. Sometimes I feel threatened by the roles others are taking on.
As I work through these changes, I try to become a witness to my thoughts and feelings. That is a great first step in getting out of “Avidya”. I am constantly reminding myself that we are all connected—we are not as separate as we have been conditioned to believe. So instead of becoming angry with my new role at work, I can take a look at the other person’s perspective. Both of these actions—becoming the witness and embracing our connectedness—have helped me to regain perspective during the day and to be more productive. Rather than dwelling in my old expectations, I am just trying to be my best Self in the moment.
Just for fun, imagine someone you just met says “Tell me about yourself”. Make a list of your responses and see how many have to do with the roles you serve and the expectations you or others have placed on you. While those all provide good information, keep going with your list until you unearth your real Self, and vibrant being, connected to all others. Oh the stories you will be able to tell!
Lisa Feder is a Yoga Instructor, Personal Trainer and Corporate Wellness Consultant. Read more