There is a Buddhist saying “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” Thus, any perspective we have is only a relative truth; there are always 2 sides to every story. Another often quoted way to say this is “The opposite of what you believe is also true.”
I love that concept and it can really help in sticky workplace situations. We often come into a meeting or situation with our minds set on what the outcome should be. So, how do we spend our energy with that perspective? We (okay, I) usually come in to a meeting ready to defend my position and convince others about how “right” my way is. When that happens, are you really listening in the meeting? Of course you are not. Everything you “hear” just provides you with more ways to push your idea. And guess what? The others in the meeting may be in the very same mind-set, attached to their ideas and with an agenda to “be right."
When that happens, we find ourselves truly rooted in our own minds, living completely “above the neck” and believing that our thoughts are what is real. The Yoga Sutras state, “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.” For the workplace, I’d like to reinterpret this as “When controlled by your own thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of." In other words, change your perspective. Perhaps simply open it to include the perspectives of others. In the Sutras, Pantanjali is giving us a great method to control our thoughts, rather than to be controlled by them. The method is to bring in the opposite thought.
So, step one is to create space for the opposite thought, or another perspective, rather than confusing your thought as “rightness.” Then, consider that the opposite of what you believe is also true. This tends to be challenging at first, and freeing after that. Once you open to the possibility that many perspectives may exist, you will likely find that others will open as well.
Of course, yoga offers us other vehicles for changing our perspectives. Inversions may be the most obvious. You may not be able to come into a headstand or handstand before a meeting, but you might be able to lower you head below your heart while at your desk chair. This physical action can set the stage for opening your mind and heart to other perspectives.
Try it in your next challenging interaction. Take a moment to acknowledge that you can replace your thoughts with opposite ones (that may come from others, or you may open up a fountain of creativity and have many more thoughts of your own). Take a moment to physically change your perspective. Then, release all expectations and join your meeting, being in each moment as it presents.
Lisa Feder is a Yoga Instructor, Personal Trainer and Corporate Wellness Consultant. Read more