I always get asked by managers and entrepreneurs about how to cope with stress.
When I first travelled to the US a few years ago, wherever I went, people were talking about “stress management.” I couldn’t understand this, because in my understanding we manage things which are precious to us: our money, our wealth, our children… Why would anybody manage stress? It took me a while to understand that people have taken for granted that stress is a part of their life.
Stress is not a part of your life. Stress is just your inability to manage your own system. Stress is not because of the nature of your work. A CEO is complaining of stress, the peon is also complaining of stress. Every other person in between says his job is stressful. So you’re suffering your job. If I get you fired, will you be joyful? No. So, stress is not about your job, obviously. It is just that you do not know how to manage your body, how to manage your mind, how to manage your emotions, your energy, your chemistry… you do not know how to manage anything! You’re functioning by accident, so everything is stressful.
Entrepreneurs should understand what it means to be an entrepreneur: someone who has chosen to do what he wants with his life. This is the greatest joy that you can have. But slowly, you forget that you are doing what you want, you start working to meet somebody else’s expectations. Success is not only in terms of size. Success must also be looked at in terms of finding full expression of who you are, your capabilities and your competence. If you compare yourself to somebody else and put the numbers together, their numbers may be bigger—that’s not the point. In your area of life, finding full expression is success. There is no need to be pressured by peer groups, media, this and that, as long as you are able to do this, and above all, establish your way of being. You are doing what you want to do, and you should continue to do that.
An entrepreneur does something that he cares for. It matters to him; his work is important. Once your work is important, the most important thing is that you must work upon yourself. Managing a business essentially means you are managing thousands of minds. If you can’t manage yours, how will you manage theirs? If you manage yours, where is the question of pressure? Where is the question of stress? There is no such thing. Work is not pressure. Work is not stress. It is your inability to manage yourself which is the stress.
I’m saying the way you are is the first step. What you do is the next step. But everybody is trying to fix it the other way around! It’ll never work. If you’re happy, your body and mind will function at their best. If you’re in a certain level of calmness and sweetness within yourself, your body and your intelligence will work at their best. If you deal with that, outside situations are a play. To what extent can you play? Maybe not like someone else, but you will play to the best of your capability, and that’s fine. Depending upon your individual competence and situations, events play out as they will.
So this is about playing this life out, not about proving something to somebody. If you want to succeed, you must learn to harness your physical body and your mind to the fullest possible extent. Of course, harnessing the external situations matters, but that harnessing essentially depends upon how well you can harness your own intelligence and your body.
When you create pressure, on one level what it means is, your intelligence has turned against you. It’s not working for you, it is working against you.
Stress is like friction in a machine—there is not enough lubrication in the system to function smoothly and easily. If you know how to manage this human mechanism, there is no question of stress. You can bring your system to a frictionless state of function with simple practices. The yogic sciences offer you tools for a stress-free life. There are cultural and religious lubricants, but best it is addressed in a logically correct and scientifically verifiable manner.
The term “nadi shuddhi” literally means cleansing the nadis. There are two basic nadis. The pingala—the right or masculine energy channel—and the ida—the left or feminine energy channel. This is the energy physiology of a human being. With nadi shuddhi, we are talking about cleansing the pingala and ida so that the energy system works in balance.
There is a connection between your breath and your mental structure. Bringing balance to your thought is very important if you want to bring balance to your activity, your emotion, the results of your life and the impact you have on others’ lives.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev is founder of the Isha Foundation.