Books and tea

With the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic still very present in our lives, dedicating another article on the disease and how it has impacted our lives may seem pointless. However, my intention is to hopefully share a different perspective for us to consider an alternative impact, if you will, as the affects of the 2020 crisis won’t be over soon.  

In 1994 I had the privilege to cofound one of the most important nonprofit organizations in Mexico. I scaled up the corporate ladder from being an intern to becoming corporate director managing over 3,000 employees with so many responsibilities, that in my mind I had to work 24/7 to keep up. I did that for almost 20 years and there were obvious consequences in my life. It took me more than a year to recover from the burnout -only after lots of hard work and introspection. After closing that chapter in my life, I made a promise to myself, “never, ever, ever, would I work that way again”; and yes, I had an awesome job, with a great income, and an incredible position. Truth be told, I’m grateful for the opportunity, learned lessons and the lesson, and clearly, the lesson that life is so much more than work was a gift and continues to be one.

How is my story of burnout related to the Coronavirus crisis? Shortly after the quarantine began, I began coaching an international corporation, supporting employees while they navigated the crisis. I quickly saw a consistent narrative that ran through this company and in my personal experience with colleagues and friends, and that is—people are working 2 or 3 hours more a day from home than when they were working at the office before the crisis. Why is this happening?  Nobody from the office expects them to work more hours, and yet, people have become busier. The narrative is that everyone has more time on their hands. In my coaching, employees noted that scheduling “fun time” or “friends time” or “ladies’ night” over Zoom was close to impossible. It didn’t come as a surprise to me, to find that this dynamic was not only happening at offices, but also with many friends who usually stay at home.

Why is it important to talk about busyness, now more than ever? I truly believe that all this busyness directly contributes to daily burnout -this burnout in turn, prevents us from living our best lives. Burnout as the World Health Organization makes clear in its definition “is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”[1], but is it really about stress management? Is it really about impossible bosses or workloads? Is it really about meeting deadlines? Or are we facing a silent disease; the disease of being “busy”, and I call it a disease, because people are never at ease, so slowing down, even in the midst of a pandemic, is near to impossible. 

This silent disease is to be considered. I’ll take the risk to say that busyness is an addiction and that it has existed in our lives prior to Covid-19. The crisis that we are in didn’t create busyness, but it magnified it. People who live in busyness are addicts and if they don’t take a closer look, the pandemic will be over, and nothing will have changed in their lives. Some might say that –either I work this hard or I might lose my job-, but generally and in my experience, that’s not the case. I’ve met many wealthy people in my life who are not at peace with themselves; wealth does not bring happiness. Scarcity is not a disease rather than a state of mind. In that way, I would not necessary say that working hard in order to have an income is the root cause for burnout. So, in that order of ideas, it is possible that this pandemic as well as lockdown are an opportunity instead.

Without hesitation I would encourage everyone to be self-reflective and be open to a different approach, to revisit, to be open to new possibilities. And what’s there to revisit? …how about our own feelings for instance? How about the ways that we are BEING in life? What’s wrong with being human beings? Why is there such pressure to become human doings? The Coronavirus crisis might be a clear invitation to revisit and ask the big questions of life because it seems to me that with all this busyness we are in, we are avoiding. Avoiding slow down, avoiding connection, avoiding being present with what it is. Rushing, hustling, running all the time seeking validation, approval, what for? “to be busy in lockdown”. Why is external validation so important that it begins to control us? What’s underneath of it all? I would say, the great disease of all times is hidden, and by this, I mean- the disease of busyness; of not being at ease with who we are. 

“Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), a great teacher in the yogic tradition, used to say that to attain inner freedom one must continuously and sincerely ask the question “Who am I?”[2] Do you know who are you? What is your purpose in life? How are you living your life? Not easy questions to answer, and just by asking them, it will have an impact on our everyday life experiences. Begin by asking simple questions. Years ago, my partner would ask me, “how is your heart today?”, instead of the usual, “how are you?” and I loved the question simply because it immediately invited me to reflect and check-in before giving an answer. I know it is really possible to have a kind of existence where we can pause, dedicate some time before giving an answer, take time to reflect on our own existence, be in touch with our own hearts and souls.

I sincerely believe that the chaos we are experiencing is not a breakdown but a breakthrough, if we choose to see it as “A Great Awakening”. If we choose to see it as a beautiful time for transformation, if we choose to look at ourselves in the mirror, to look within and look at what it is not sustainable within ourselves, so that as we emerge from this, we leave behind things and ideas that no longer serve us; whether is a childhood wound, some limiting beliefs, patterns of behavior, addictions that we have, and realize that leaving those behind is quite important because we are required to transform, to make it happen in our external world for the better, we are required to “be the change we want to see in the world”[3].

Hopefully after asking questions, we wake up differently. We wake up to ourselves, to the truth of who we are, to being versus doing and, as a consequence, to an awakened, thriving new humanity. May women and men step in, step up and step out into a new consciousness, knowing that we are ready for a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. A world where we can acknowledge ourselves for the truth of who we are and where our hearts and our souls shine so bright as to enlighten our families, our workplaces, our beloved communities. It is only from this place of inner transformation that we would be able to show up for ourselves, for the economic effects of the so-called Coronavirus crisis and for our world, as we slowly emerge from the quarantine.

[1] World Health Organization, 28 MAY 2019 – Burn-out is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon.

[2] Michael A. Singer, “The Untethered Soul”, the journey beyond yourself, pg23. New H. Publications, Inc.

[3] M. Gandhi