Posted by Marcus J Freed
There are two kinds of shortcuts in life – short-shortcuts and long-shortcuts. The short-shortcuts are the ones that work, and the long-shortcuts are the kind we’ve all experienced when our driver (usually male – myself no exception) **insists** this route is going to be faster, but it ends up taking twice as long. If we are to keep our bodies healthy, our minds clear and our businesses successful, everybody needs to balance work with rest. Not too much rest, but a certain degree of dynamic relaxation to ensure that we remain refreshed and alert. When people do not sleep for days on end, the results can be seen on their levels of concentration and productivity.
Although artificial stimulants appear to provide a solution, with endless cups of coffee being downed, or the caffeine tablets that abounded during exam-time at university, the body will eventually say ‘enough’. How many times have you partied for several nights in a row, or worked for days upon end, only to discover yourself in bed with the flu or suffering from a bad cold?
There is a Biblical shortcut to increased productivity and blessing, although it appears to suggest a slowdown in business: “on the seventh year there shall be a complete rest for your land, a Sabbath for God; your field shall now sow and your vineyard you shall not prune” (Leviticus 25:4). Although this is presented like a gentle suggestion, the tone sours later on with a series of curses, “if you will not listen to Me and not perform all of these commandments (Lev. 26:14).
What if we were to view this not as a commandment but as a law of nature – a kind of universal proclamation that is stating the essence of reality? Although it appears to be a shortcut in business to keep on working throughout the day and night, to continue answering emails on our telephones throughout the weekend and to make sure we are available to customers 24/7, perhaps this is actually the ‘long’ kind of shortcut. If we are not able to take a break, if the land is not allowed to take a hiatus from productivity, then maybe it will eventually be forced to take a break out of necessity rather than choice.
Many people say “I do not have time for a vacation”, “I do not have time to exercise”, “I do not have time to pursue my own interests” or “I do not have time to meditate”. Today, try considering these activities as essential shortcuts to increased productivity.
HOW TO APPLY THIS IN THE BOARDROOM:
1)Where have you been avoiding self-development activities? Is there a course you’ve wanted to do for a long time but have avoided signing up for? If you can’t afford it, consider the University of Youtube – millions of hours of seminars and information for free.
2) Have you been avoiding taking vacation time? Is it time you gave yourself a rest of some kind? Budget should not be an issue; there is always the option to engage your creativity to create a great staycation!
HOW TO APPLY THIS ON THE YOGA MAT/MEDITATION CUSHION:
Are you able to deeply rest? Not just to go to sleep at the end of the night whilst exhausted and falling asleep in front of the TV, but to experience that deeper, inner sense of peace and equilibrium? Here are two practices that can take you into that space of quiet:
1) Yoga Nidra – a practice for yogic relaxation. CDs/MP3s are available online, as with various instructions.
2) Longer meditations – when we sit and meditate for a period of longer than 20 minutes, the brain is able to reach deeper levels of relaxation. Try sitting for between 20-45 minutes.
Based on the Torah readings for Parshiot Behar-Behukotai.
For more than 15 years, Marcus J Freed’s purpose has been helping people optimize their inner talents and live to their highest potential. He has many entrepreneurial endeavours, fuelling his passion for life. Marcus founded the business consultancy Freedthinking, and developed Bibliyoga and the Kosher Sutras, helping transform the lives of thousands. A regular broadcaster for BBC national radio, and past President of the Jewish Yoga Network, Marcus has written for publications including The Washington Post, The Independent and The Jewish Chronicle, and has appeared on Fox TV news networks. A trained actor, Marcus performed his Biblical comic plays in over 20 countries and appeared in the movie Saving Lincoln. His new Youtube channel Marcus Recommends is dedicated to connecting people with great ideas and celebrating life. Marcus happily lives in Los Angeles and London. You may reach Marcus at www.marcusjfreed.com.
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April 12, 2013 | 7:11 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Few questions are more challenging than "How did we get here?". That moment of discomfort when we find ourself in a predicament that appears to have suddenly occurred - a client has disappeared, the business is in a crisis, a relationship is going down the tubes. There are two immediate options that come to mind, to blame someone else, or, take responsibility.
The latter is more hard work but can yield phenomenal results.
As I write, much of England is in the midst of turmoil over the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher and the newspaper headlines following her death ranged from "The Woman Who Saved Britain" (Daily Mail, April 6th 2013), to "The Woman Who Divided A Nation" (Daily Mirror, ibid.), to harsh attacks from the left-wing press such as The Guardian. There were parties celebrating her passing in working-class areas such as Brixton, while the Metropolitan Police is gearing up for a state funeral next wednesday on par with that of Winston Churchill.
Most interesting of all, her death has sparked up old controversies and rows as if this were 1988 all over again with people furious about her approaches to taxation policies, privatisation and social benefits. I want to say, "excuse me ladies and gentlemen..but that was 25 years ago. Maybe it is time to stop blaming, get over it and start taking some responsibility?".
Alas, it is easier to blame someone else for our misfortunes whether it is the government, the former boss, grumpy relative or estranged spouse. "If the recession hadn't happened, my business would have been better, my life would have been great, I could have been a contender, blah, blah blah".
Whilst it is easy to criticise others, how often are we guilty of being stuck in a blame culture? How frequently do we retell an old story about something that happened in our youth and use that as the basis for our current situation? The chaise longues of many a therapist are replete with people regularly replaying the past, and keeping themselves entrenched in the past as a result.
One approach to dissolving our current problems and empowering ourselves in a new direction is to look to our modern situation lethrough ancient eyes. Leviticus tells of the Metzora, someone who is in a state of suffering that, the rabbis teach, has come about as a result of their actions and behavior (1).
"This is the law concerning the Metzora when he is purified and placed under the jurisdiction of the priest. The priest shall go outside the camp, where he shall examine the Metzora to determine that the [physical manifestation of the behaviour] (2) has been healed…The person undergoing purification shall then immerse in a ritual bath (mikveh) and thus complete [the first part] of the purification process. He may return to the camp, but he must remain outside his tent for seven days" (Leviticus 14: 1-8) (3).
Let's go ritualistic! We can do a contemporary reading of this which will directly apply to our business and to our life.
As soon as we take responsibility for a situation which we do not like, we are effectively becoming the Metzora. This is not about blaming ourselves or making ourselves wrong, but merely making the statement that we have the power to change things in our life. We are taking back our power rather than blaming somebody else.
The next stage is to invoke our "inner priest"; to ask where we need to change our behaviour and to question what we can do differently. We metaphorically - or literally - immerse ourselves in water which washes away our old behaviours and ways of being, and we spend some serious time reflecting on how we can act differently. The seven-day period is a metaphorical space to think about all of the many ways that we can use our power now that we have taken it back into our personal domain.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), Stephen Covey talked about the then-groundbreaking idea of the 'circle of influence', looking at how the most effective people will primarily take the actions that will have the greatest affect. So, spending time complaining and moaning is unlikely to grow a bigger client base or improve a relationship, whereas actively networking or buying flowers may have a greater return on investment!
Today - as with every day - is an opportunity to take back your power, redeem unhappy situations and create a life of success.
HOW TO APPLY THIS IN THE BOARDROOM: Identify a currently unsuccessful situation and ask where you are retelling old stories that disempower you? Take 7 minutes (corresponding to the 7 days) and meditate, reflecting on all the areas where you can have a positive effect. Also, look at all of the situations where you are blaming other people. Make a big-ass list of all the times you're pointing the finger at someone else and start taking responsibility for the changes that you are able to make!
HOW TO APPLY THIS ON THE YOGA/MEDITATION MAT: Identify a situation which makes you unhappy and drop into a deeper meditation where you lightly hold this question and see which answers emerge: "How can I act differently?". If you have a physical injury or emotional discomfort, consider ways that you may have in some way contributed towards the current situation, or at least name some active steps that you can take to make some improvements. In a yoga posture, for example, you may explore what you are able to do in any posture, rather than focusing on what you can't do within the pose.
Based on Parshat Tazria-Metzora with teachings from Rabbi Matis Weinberg and Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum.
(1) It is usually associated with negative speech (Lashon Hara).
(2) My own translation of this phrase
(3) Translation from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan "The Living Torah"
March 31, 2013 | 6:23 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Pesach/Passover is often seen as a bundle of neuroses and hassle for many, but it can - and should - be a gateway to freedom and liberation!
Discover new stuff at www.marcusjfreed.com.
December 13, 2012 | 12:42 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
The night after my Grandmother’s funeral we had just finished a ‘shiva’ (memorial) service and one of my young cousins was playing with a flashing bouncy ball. An older relative stood by, intrigued, and said “that looks fun. I should get one of those”. My 10 year-old cousin didn’t miss a beat; “I’ll sell it to you for £10. Tell you what, I’ve got two of them for 20 quid”. Money changed hands and I was impressed with the forthright fearlessness of my young cousin. My Nana would have been proud of him.
In his book Resistance is Useless – The Art of Business Persuasion, Geoff Burch describes the approach of children when trying to get an ice cream from their parents. The situation is comic as they are utterly relentless and will say ANYTHING to get what they want. Our problem is that as we grow older, doubts set in and we develop huge taboos around asking for what we want. In short, many adults get scared of having that sales conversation.
There is a fascinating Biblical sales process that took place between Joseph and Pharaoh. Joseph outlined a problem – that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine – and explained that it would need someone ‘wise and discerning’ to help the country survive and not go bankrupt (1). Pharoah promptly decided to appoint Joseph as the country’s Chief Operating Officer and everyone was happy.
How can we replicate this process in our own life? How can we cultivate massive confidence and make these big sales? Joseph was a prophet, but we are all blessed with the ability to gain deeper insights into the world around us when we tap into our intuition. This intuition is what helps us see opportunities everywhere.
If we silence our mind and create regular times for stillness and quiet (2) then we open up the possibility for those ‘Eureka!’ moments. Enlightenment is close by. Here’s the price we have to pay; we can only deepen our intuition when stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’. That means introducing self-discipline into our sometimes coffee-addicted text-message-distracted lives.
With increased stillness we can increase our intuition. This leads to a kind of self-confidence that can transform people’s lives for the better. And yes, it may well give you the boost you need to start selling things at your Grandparents’ funerals…although I wouldn’t recommend it.
==>HOW TO USE THIS IN THE BOARDROOM: Consider where you have been having self-doubts with regards to sales conversations or presenting yourself. Carve out some time to consider the problems that your clients may be facing. Ask them questions, drill deeper and then create more thinking time to see where you can offer solutions.
==>HOW TO USE THIS FOR YOGA/MEDITATION: As you step into a yoga posture, notice where are you holding back from going for it 100%? As you meditate, where are you allowing your mind to wander, instead of staying focussed and disciplining your thoughts?
Based on Parsha Mikeitz
(1) “Let Pharaoh seek out an understanding and wise man and appoint him over the land of Egypt” (Chp 41:33)
(2) We can take this reading one stage deeper. Joseph spent time in a non-distracted environment (i.e. prison!) which was an essential stepping stone to his success. If we actively create a non-distracted environment through meditation, this will seriously contribute to our growing clarity.
September 13, 2012 | 8:22 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
What if life doesn’t seem to deliver all we'd hoped for? How do we get more of what we are lacking (money, clients, relationships)? Today’s Kosher Sutra reveals more…
Moving from England to Los Angeles was a big culture shock and I still haven't become used to the driving style (or as they'd say here, "gotten used to..."). They didn’t call this the ‘Wild West’ for nothing - if you’ve ever tried changing lanes on the 405 freeway then you’ll know what I mean. The British custom is to indicate and another other driver will slow down to let you in, but if you indicate in LA then many drivers will actively speed up so that you can’t get in front of them! One of my native friends explained that she only uses her indicator immediately before changing lanes because she “doesn’t want to reveal her hand” until the last possible moment. Ignore local wisdom at your peril!
Our Kosher Sutra is from a final speech of Moses where he says that people should ‘Choose Life! (Deut 30:19) and Rashi (11th Century) comments that it is like a father saying to his son ‘take a look at my estate, choose the piece you’d like…take it!’. Interestingly, the verb is not ‘wait and receive’ but to actively ‘take it’.
This is a metaphor for successful driving in Los Angeles AND achieving success in life. Nothing much happens to people who sit around in this town and wait for things to happen. If you want to get where you’re going, you have to actively go out there and get it. That could be pursuing your dream career, improving your personal relationship or taking your space in the adjacent lane on the freeway.
The Yoga Sutras offer a thought which can help us enjoy and become more successful about going and getting the most out of life: stay unattached to the results. It taught that “non-attachment is the mastery of consciousness” (1:15, Stiles trans.) – that is not to say that we shouldn’t have ambition, but if we just focus on choosing life itself, then everything else is a bonus.
What are you waiting for? Fire up the ignition and drive safely.
Marcus J Freed is the author of The Kosher Sutras, to be launched Fall 2012, and you can buy his book at pre-sale price here - http://marcusjfreed.com/marcuss-new-book-the-kosher-sutras/ .