Modern Etiquette: Time to take time out

Fri Feb 21, 2014 3:00am EST
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By Mary Mitchell

(Reuters) - My lodgings backed against the grand mosque at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) in Saudi Arabia. The calls to prayer that rang through campus began and ended my days there, and punctuated them every few hours in between.

I was in the Middle East to provide workshops on social savvy for scientists. Although thrilled to be working with such accomplished individuals from all over the globe, I knew that my perspective and expertise would be welcome. They might even be my contribution to modern science, since, heaven knows, I have no rightful place in a laboratory.

Yet the call to prayer stopped me in my tracks, and was indeed the most compelling contribution that KAUST made to me. There I was, processing what I was going to say to my audiences, fussing over my materials, making myriad mental notes to take it all in and not forget a single moment of that extraordinary experience. Hearing the call reminded me to stop, to get unplugged, to connect with a silent teacher who would bring out the best I had to give.

Albert Einstein stated that "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." When we forget that gift, we cannot expect the way we treat others - or ourselves - to be as constructive a force as it should.

We shoulder unreasonable deadlines, put in 14-hour days, and routinely skip lunch. We can't sleep. Our necks hurt, our eyes hurt, our hands hurt, our shoulders hurt. We run out of physical, intellectual, and emotional energy. As glorious as our technology is, it has become a leash that makes it impossible to separate what we do from who we are.

Yet it need not be so.

Meditation is like flossing our teeth. We all know it's good for us and that we should floss daily. Usually, though, we tell ourselves we just do not have time for it. And what, if anything, does meditation have to do with interpersonal skills and manners, much less business success?

The goal is to live in the moment, which is the only reality we know. That means clearing our heads of the noise, confusion, and clutter that sends us back ruminating over our past or into the fantasy that is the future.   Continued...