This article is about giving and mentoring
While driving, one does not perhaps realize that a lot of the action comes from one’s sub conscious mind. If you have been driving along a familiar route, the autopilot of the subconscious informed by previous experience takes over and many a time you realize that you have driven quite a distance via various traffic lights and specific lanes without conscious thought. This Zen effect comes from within you. It also guides you when consciously facing the travails of morning traffic, unless you want to just stop and sing as they do in La-La-Land.
The morning traffic gives you a vantage point to glimpse life in the raw. People trying to get ahead of you without any consideration to the danger they are causing. People glaring at you, staring at you, ignoring you, threatening you, imposing on you, pleading with you and even trying a few tricks to gain a minor advantage. Some are disciplined and civilized. Others are not. Some are skilled drivers. Others are not. However, everyone has to move, they have to go from place A to place B perhaps via place C. Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye.
Thus, one day, my internal Zen though told me to give way to anybody who wanted it. Here was a clear situation where I had the right of way and the woman merging in from the right was supposed to wait and let me pass. My Zen pal stepped in to guide me and I let her car merge into the traffic ahead. She gave me a wide smile and gratefully acknowledged my gesture. I felt great. Something about giving something to someone makes you happy. You expand and go up the level of your own consciousness. Giving way to deserving people always led to mental satisfaction. Yeah, some of my fellow drivers would look at this as a sign of weakness and take advantage. Nevertheless, that is life. One has to be firm while ‘giving’ and Zen pal will find ways to make you look less of a fool, even though nice people and good behavior are taken advantage of. It is easy to stop this kind of negative human behavior on the road to make sure that the nice guy does not come last. Stick to your route, come what may. People tend not to damage their own cars while being nasty to others. The age-old lesson from driving in the chaos of the morning office traffic is to appreciate that the art of giving makes you happy.
One has suddenly jumped from Maslow’s basic needs (driving from point A to B) to a higher level of self-actualization and one has somehow touched the Zen level of a supra-conscious universe that one does not see. Somehow, one realizes that the process of receiving gives us momentary satisfaction that wears away with time. The art of giving, even the small gesture of giving way in traffic, lasts longer and feeds into the subconscious as a continuous feedback loop that helps in the pursuit of happiness.
Some take the shortcut in the ‘giving’ gesture. Write a check to charity and be happy. Some think a bit more while giving to charity and think of what good it will do to society. By the way, ‘giving to your family comes first, happens without conscious thought, and brings joy and happiness. Giving to people you do not know on the other hand like the woman in the Toyota in the next lane, is a bit more difficult and needs a bit of Zen practice.
I’ve found that giving to unknown people or organizations who then utilize your contribution to evolve, develop skills, improve a subject or simply help their community is superior to just giving money away to tide over basic needs. Human behavior is such that some people give money in order to remove their own guilt. Some politicians in India are known to donate to temples from the taxpayer’s money. The art of giving might also be full of potholes of moral hazard. One has to watch carefully sometimes, but for me my Zen pal does it all. Personally, I have found that educating the girl child in backward and remote communities, gives me great joy. I have paid for girls’ school education and books, none of whom do I know personally. I have done it in Odisha and I have done it in the Sunderbans in Bengal. They write to me, I see the joy that is in their eyes, and I know that the spark spreads like wildfire when that girl becomes educated and guides her own family and her village or community out of negative social practices and out of poverty and into the modern world.
Then it becomes clearer. Why do some give their time to volunteer service? Why do they work in soup kitchens? Why does my rich friend in Toronto spend time with the First Nations People trying to fight their drug problems? They all ride the rainbow to happiness.
In the workspace, there are great opportunities to practice the Zen art of giving. If you have navigated some part of your life and learnt some skills, lessons and developed networks, induce the new generation into your network and into your learning. There is no greater joy or happiness from helping the next generation reach their full potential. People, who do selfless mentoring, even if it is part of an organizational program, come out happier out of the experience. Unlike the car that had driven away and the driver you will never meet, the people you mentor will give you joy and happiness through their own growth and contributions. And, it happened only because you decided to give away some of your quality time from your mad career drive and frantic rush, to pause, think, and guide someone on the highway to success.