Spiritual and emotional intelligence;Consciousness and intellect

This article was published in the August edition of the magazine “The management compass”
Intro: The magazine version pdf file is here- spirutal-intelligence-august-2008

More than intellect, it’s spirituality that leads us to bliss.

In my previous two articles, I tried to explain emotional intelligence from a life purpose and a practical perspective. Another word that one comes across is the word spiritual intelligence. Some years ago, I attended a workshop which covered spiritual concepts for successful management. The conductor of the workshop mentioned that the byproduct is to become happy, peaceful and balanced, which more or less matches the goals of emotional intelligence as that would help in good inter-personal relations. The word spiritual however has a wider connotation and would encompass wisdom, compassion, connection with the higher self etc.

In this context, one of the best definitions of spiritual intelligence is by D Zohar and I Marshall. They define spiritual intelligence (which they abbreviate as SQ) as “the intelligence with which we address and solve problems of meaning and value; the intelligence with which we can place our actions and our lives in a wider, richer, meaning-giving context; the intelligence with which we can assess that one course of action or one life-path is more meaningful than another. SQ is the necessary foundation for the effective functioning of both IQ and EQ. It is our ultimate intelligence.” While emotional intelligence is based on the notion that the ability of managers to understand their own emotions, and those of the people they work with, is the key to better business performance, spirituality assumes that one needs to become fully conscious of the emotions before one can feel what lies beyond — love, joy, peace.

Emotional intelligence is operative at the cognitive/intellectual level or level of the mind, whereas spiritual intelligence is operative at the consciousness level or beyond the mind. One comes across people who gloat about being spiritual rather than intellectual or sometimes go overboard in expressing consciousness vis-à-vis intellect. The objective here is to put things in proper perspective while exploring the common ground between spiritual and emotional intelligence.
In the book, The power of Now, it is given that thinking cannot exist without consciousness but consciousness does not need thought. Identification with mind causes thought to become compulsive. The basic error is to equate thinking with being and identity with thinking. Enlightenment is a state of wholeness or felt oneness with being or consciousness and can bring about the end of dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking, which prevents one from the realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being. The author states that if one is able to observe the mind as the witnessing presence rather than be swayed by it, one can be in a state of constant peace, if not happiness.

Vipassana meditation explains the significance of experiential wisdom vis-a vis the intellect very well. Vipasana is a meditation technique that was introduced by Gautam Buddha 2,500 years ago. Vipassana literature states that with his strongly concentrated mind, he penetrated deeply into his own nature and found that the entire material structure is composed of minute subatomic particles which are continuously arising and vanishing. In the snapping of a finger or blinking of an eye, he said, each of these particles arises and passes away many millions of times. An American scientist discovered the same thing through a bubble chamber and found that in one second, a subatomic particle arises and vanishes 10 to the power of 22 times. However that scientist is not an enlightened person and has not been freed from all the suffering because he has not experienced truth directly and is therefore more of intellectual wisdom.

However, intellect is also important in its own place. For one, one needs intellect to have a basic understanding of consciousness. My first understanding of consciousness came from a book which stated that just as you cannot be your shirt or trousers, as anything that is yours cannot be you, you cannot be your body or your mind. Then who are you? Osho said once that you are nothing but your consciousness. When one is able to respond to situations purely as a witness or with equanimity, this may be the pure or witnessing consciousness. This is because it is free from greed and fear, craving and aversion or as described in certain religions, Raga and Dvesha.

The Power of Now further states that emotion is the body’s reaction to the mind or a reflection of the mind in the body and arises at the place where the mind and body meet. If there is an apparent conflict between them, the thought will be the lie and the emotion will be the relative state of the mind at that time. Awareness in the context of emotional intelligence however has more to do with the intellect. People who recognise their emotions and their effects know the emotions they are feeling, can label them, can realise the effect of emotions on their actions, can know how their feelings affect the quality of work and working relationships and can readily acknowledge the gaps between the actual and espoused goals and values. People who have this kind of self awareness are more objective and are able to respond to day-to-day situations with poise, self assurance and sound judgment. Emotional intelligence is more about understanding emotions but spirituality is about transcending them.

Though connectedness with the being of higher consciousness may enable one to stay at peace with oneself, in day-to-day life, what one says in response to various life situations can be deemed equally important. At a press conference after the 9/11 when mayor of New York, Rudy Guliani was asked what he thought the body count would be, instead of saying that he didn’t know or the figures were not complied or passing on the question to his aids, he replied “I don’t know what the final number will be, but it shall be more than what we can bear”. With those empathetic words, he was able to emotionally connect with twelve million New Yorkers who began to then look upon him as the person who would see them through the crisis. Being connected with the higher consciousness may put one at peace but what one says at the spur of the moment spontaneously in response to situations would come within the realm of intellect. Emotional intelligence here is a kind of talent. Some of the greatest leaders in the world, being superb orators have been able to emotionally connect with their audience because of their dexterity with words.

In the context of emotional intelligence, empathy has a prime place. However, one has to be clear on where empathy works and where it does not work or may not work that effectively. Empathy is generally considered one of the best tools to connect and bond with people but there are certain situations where it may not be required or not be effective. For instance, in human interactions associated with activities like credit collections, empathy can prove more to be a liability than an asset.

In addition to being spiritual, being intellectually clear on specific issues is equally important.. This would also be issues like violence for instance. The Dalai lama had this to say about violence in one of the books written on him, “Violence is fundamentally wrong but in some external circumstances with an altruistic motive, when there is no other alternative, one can consciously and full awareness of karmic consequences, commit such an act.” Even Mahatma Gandhi had to clarify once in the context of Hindu Muslim riots: “To stand by and do nothing when your brothers and sisters are killed and raped is not Ahimsa but cowardice.” These statements clearly show that intellectual discretion and discrimination is equally important, especially on critical, provocative issues. At the same time this should be in the right proportion. Considering that “Knowledge is food for the ego” endless intellectual discussions is against the very essence of spirituality.

J Krishnamurthy was perhaps able to put things in the right perspective. He said that meditation of the heart is understanding, which is the very basis, the fundamental process of meditation.. Understanding means giving right significance, right valuation to all things — the right value of property, the right value of relationship, the right value of ideas. The beginning of meditation is self knowledge, which means being aware of every thought and feeling and action as it arises. Here the implication probably is that if one looks at a negative emotion like jealousy/ envy without understanding the false importance or over valuation to certain things/issues which caused the emotion to arise in the first place, the whole practice of meditation would be superficial. The conscious mind has to understand the significance of its own activities and thereby bring tranquility to itself. According to Krishnamurthy, the mind is an excellent instrument of thinking and communication in the functional context. However, the very same mind in the psychological sphere could create severe problems if thoughts and emotions are not observed without reaction and transcended

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In the original article, the editor chose not to mention this but I consider it important:-

One of my cousins who lost his son in an accident told me that being a person of spiritual orientation helped him cope with the tragedy better but he could empathize with others who had lost children better after losing his own child . So equanimity from spirituality need not translate into empathy; spirituality cannot be the be all and end all of everything .

Emotional intelligence explained practically

This article was published in the July’2008 issue of the magazine Management Compass. The magazine version is in this pdf file eintel-practical-july-2008

In my previous article on Emotional intelligence, I had tried to throw light upon emotional intelligence and life purpose or self actualisation. One wonders how emotional intelligence applies to more mundane issues. I was surprised to read in one article on board exam suicides as how to emotional intelligence should be taught in schools. In his book Working with Emotional intelligence’, Daniel Goleman has said, “Our entire system of education is geared to cognitive skills. But when it comes to emotional competencies, our system is sorely lacking.”

Though emotional intelligence primarily depends on empathy and social skills, the practical skills are based on five elements — self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy and adeptness in relationships. All this is irrelevant to students because they involve group dynamics of working in a team. Emotional intelligence issues are so complex that many a time, they require one-to-one session with the counsellor. Among the various guidelines for emotional competence training that Goleman has given, providing role models can be applicable to the young as a kind of example. As it is, it is said that “Attitudes are caught, not taught” and role models that one may come across, maybe within the organisation or the ones that one may come across in day-to-day life from people’s conduct even if they need not always fulfil common goals.

The thing worth noting that Goleman has said in his book Working with emotional intelligence is that emotional intelligence is not about being nice. He says, “At strategic moments it may demand not being ‘nice’ but bluntly confronting someone with an uncomfortable and consequential truth they have been avoiding. It means managing feelings that they are expressed appropriately and effectively.” I was reminded of this when, in one of the test matches of the recently concluded Australian tour, in response to sledging and all kinds of other tactics employed by the Australian cricketers to win the test, our test captain Anil Kumble, who has a reputation for being a nice guy, summed it up in one sentence: “Only one team was playing in the spirit of the game.” That was not a very nice thing to say for the hosts but it was said in a very tactful and dignified manner to befit the stature of the elder statesman of cricket which Kumble has become. Even the Australian media and Australians in general did not mind this. If there was one good example of communication as a tool of emotional intelligence, this was it,

Even at the end of the 2007 World Cup when India did not do well, former Australian cricket captain Ian Chapell commented on how Sachin was playing only for records and should contemplate retirement. Kumble, who, had always maintained a low profile and never spoken controversially, stood up for Sachin, saying “Mr Chappell is entitled to his personal opinion but since he is not so knowledgeable about Indian cricket, they should be ignored. “Since Sachin and Kumble had their cricketing debuts in 1989 and 1990 respectively, they probably played together more than anybody else and when the situation called for it, Mr Nice Guy Kumble stood up for him in a dignified, inoffensive manner.

Just as it is said in management that one has to move southwards to move northwards, one can also learn from negative examples how to control oneself. One also gets to read that the need for emotional intelligence is more as one moves higher up the ladder. One reason for this perhaps is that one also has to set an example for the people lower down. The obvious cricketing example is the slapping controversy where the captain of the Mumbai IPL Team, Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth of the Mohali team on not being able to control himself after Mumbai lost to Mohali. Goleman has given the example of Mike Tyson, “When Mike Tyson became enraged and bit of a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their 1997 heavyweight title match, it cost him $ 3 million and a year’s suspension from boxing”. Though Harbhajan did not get that physical, the one thing common is that according to newspaper reports, he lost Rs 3 crores because of the slap. Perhaps Harbhajan Singh needs training in emotional intelligence — identifying his trigger situations and dealing with them. One may add here that some time ago in Australia, the whole nation stood behind the very same Harbhajann Singh when he was provoked by the Australian players. In my view, if one has to solve the problem at the root or nip it in the bud, the person causing the problem should also be dealt with to eliminate the problem in the long run.

Another sports star that Goleman mentions in his book is Michael Jordan. He says that the game comes so naturally to him that he may not be as good a coach as he was a player. Peter Drucker had also said “Those who excel at something are rarely able to explain it”. The issue is not only of communication alone. The main thing involved in coaching is being able to have good relations among and with players while commanding their respect.

One person who comes to memory in recent past is former cricket coach of the Indian cricket team, Greg Chappell. He had been a great player himself and from the kind of presentations he made, he impressed everyone with his cricketing knowledge. Lacking self-awareness and self-regulation as a coach, he was too high – handed and hardly adept at handling relationships as he antagonised both senior and junior players in the team. Despite having far better credentials than his predecessor, John Wright, this situation was typical of what Goleman says, “People with high IQ performed poorly at work while those of moderate IQ did extremely well.” Whether as captain or coach, leadership positions automatically entail a certain finesse in relationships and in this context, having very good cricketing knowledge or experience did not suffice.

Other recent examples of nastiness was when some of the leading stars of the Hindi film Industry chose to write nonsensical things about one another on their blogs and later apologised. Internet as a medium facilitates self regulation in the sense that internet discussions tend to be the way they should be — detached, objective and rational, without the element of strong emotions. On the net, one can read the other person’s point of view without interruption, which also aids empathy and avoids friction. However if the people concerned themselves choose to say provocative things, no medium can help. Aamir Khan saying that he had a dog named Shahrukh does not befit a man of his stature and reputation- a cerebral actor with so many unique films.

In sports, coaches often have to face the kind of situation that was faced by Shahrukh in the movie Chak De when he had to exhort the two major players to put their egos aside and work for the common goal. Talking of Mr Khan, he is himself not a bad example of emotional intelligence in real life. I am reminded of one of his episodes in Kaun Banega Crorepati where in response to his traditional parting gesture one lady who was a teacher remarked, “I don’t need your hug.” Without being ruffled, Mr Khan responded, “With your kind permission, can I hug your mother and give the award money to her.” It is said that your natural self is tested only in spontaneous crisis moments and the way he handled it was as good an example as any. This was functional emotional intelligence at its best.

This kind of response apart, if one is witty and good at repartee without causing offense, that can he a vary handy tool of emotional intelligence. There is a saying ‘Humour is a rubber sword. It allows you to make a point without drawing blood.’
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I had given an example on empathy which could not be included above because of lack of space. I feel it deserves a mention:-

One cannot conceive of emotional intelligence without empathy. Some years ago, in some TV programme on Children, Shahrukh Khan gave a very good speech on what society and the world was headed towards and wondered what kind of world would we leave for our children. He had seen in the TV news how a father was trying to shield his child desperately from gunfire is some area in the middle east. He stated that being a father himself, he could empathize how that man must have felt and what the world was coming to was a really sad state of affairs. Considering Shahrukh’s witty and smart image, I was pleasently surprised to learn that he could speak seriously so well. His speech reminded me of what J.krishnamurthy always used to say “Man has progressed technologically but regressed psychologically”

Emotional Inteliigence and Life purpose

This article was published in the June’2008 issue of the magazine Management Compass. The magazine version pdf file is eintelligence-and-life-purpose-june-08

When work’s delight

It’s better to do what we love doing, even if rewards are greater elsewhere

In addition to my previous article on concentration that appeared in the May issue which made it to the Times Wellness Book , another article titled Emotional intelligence and life purpose I had written for the Times of India also made it to the Times Wellness Book. This is the elaborate version of that article:

“There was once a salesman, who because of his predisposition to be authoritative hated his job, as he had to be continually subservient to customers, which revolted against his primary nature. After he opted for a career switch and became a policeman, all his complaints vanished because in the new occupation, he was calling the shots.

“Research has revealed that our emotions, more than anything else, make us tired and cause serious health problems. Daniel Goleman, in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, says ‘Great work starts with great feeling.’

“Psychologists use the word “temperament” to describe the emotional aspect, which can be a reflection of the person’s personality. Type A personalities by their very nature strive for achievement and personal recognition, and are aggressive, hasty, impatient, explosive and loud in speech. They should be careful because they are prone to stress and heart disease.”

Since the title and thrust of the article is emotional intelligence and life purpose, it is preferable to focus on this part. In my personal opinion, if the person concerned is struggling hard with himself like the example of the salesman above, any further analysis or expecting emotional intelligence out of that person is useless unless one gets to the root of the problem and solves that first, which in this example was to a drastic change in profession. Emotional intelligence and life’s purpose inevitably form a virtuous circle in the sense that if you are engaged in your life purpose for a majority of waking hours, you are in a better position to be emotionally intelligent, which in turn can rebound and result in high quality work or fulfillment of your life purpose.

Daniel Goleman’s book is virtually considered a Bible on emotional intelligence. His views on the same are worth reflecting:-

“Except for the financially desperate, people do not work for money alone.. What also fuels their passion for work is a larger sense of purpose or passion. Given the opportunity, people gravitate to what gives them meaning, to what engages to their fullest commitment, talent, energy and skill. That can mean changing jobs to get a better fit with what matters to us”

I once came across a site called careerspice.com, where they had actually listed the options in the order of passion, strengths and skills. Though earlier, a list of passions, skills and strengths were listed on the website in that order, they have made the passion module more specific while maintaining the overall order, which only goes to show the wisdom of Mr Goleman’s words. In the previous decades, strengths and skills used to matter more. Another site worth mentioning in this context is passioncatalyst.comwhich again makes passion the main focus.

Though flow is a term introduced by psychologist and social scientist Mihaly Czikszentimihalyi who described it as being totally absorbed in whatever one is doing at the moment, Goleman’s comments on it in the context of management are worth noting:-

“Flow blossoms when our skills are fully engaged… by work that stretches us in new and challenging ways. The challenge absorbs us so much that we lose ourselves in our work, becoming so totally concentrated that we may feel out of time. In this state, we seem to handle everything effortlessly, nimbly adapting to shifting demands. Flow itself is a pleasure. Flow is the ultimate motivator. Activities we love draw us in because we get into flow as we pursue them. When we work in flow, the motivation is built in — work is a delight in itself. Though there are rewards in terms of salaries, bonuses and stock options , the most powerful motivators are internal, not external. It feels better to do what we have passion for, even if the rewards are greater elsewhere.”

Though the above contents of the book Working with Emotional Intelligence were first published in 1998, even now, 10 years later, one keeps bumping into new sites which reveal the wisdom of those words. One recent site that I came across is careershifters.org, a UK-centric site, where more than 15 career coaches have come together to inspire and facilitate lateral career shifts. The very fact that so many people have come together on one platform indicates that it is a serious problem in that country.

There is one more thing that Daniel Goleman has said which deserves a mention:

“By midlife, there are many many corporate executives and lawyers pulling down seven-figure salaries who wish instead that they were doing social work or running a restaurant. People who feel that their skills are not used well on the job or who feel that their work is repetitive and boring run a higher risk of heart disease than those who feel that their best skills are expressed in their work.”

Goleman’s above extract brings to mind an American consultant, Craig Nathanson of the vocationalcoach.com/ who specialises in helping the kind of people that Goleman has mentioned in his article, who maybe facing a midlife crisis in their early Forties. The irony in all this is that despite it being such a problem in the western world, despite their comprehensive recruitment systems, one wonders how bad the situation in India is. When one talks to HR consultants on lateral career transition or mid- life crisis, one gets an indifference response.. It is almost as if the problem does not exist.

The book The Art of Happiness at Work, which Howard Cutler has co-written along with the Dalai Lama, mentions several other psychologists who have done research on the subject, which again reflects the magnitude of the problem. As for the work being repetitive and boring, even if one is in the profession of one’s liking, some of it is inevitable. Professor Debashis Chatterjee quotes Mother Teresa in his book Break Free, “When you do small work with great love, your work will automatically become great.” Chatterjee advises ‘watch as you work’ and says that to be fully alive is to be fully functional in mind, body and spirit. The real motivation is to be fully alive and to be fully absorbed in the work. This is a kind of voluntary forced flow and even if the work does not become great, one can at least feel great if one is able to do this successfully. One has to face a reality that a lot of work is repetitive and either one tries to do them with full attention or makes games out of them as some management books suggest.

The Dalai Lama also suggests that if one thinks one’s work is boring and repetitive, one should see things in a wider perspective and see how one’s work benefits a lot of other people. This shall enable one to pursue one’s work as a calling if it is not so. If it is, all this can be managed but if one feels completely out of place in the major activity itself, this can be an additional burden. It is like that expression in Hindi- aate me namak ya namak me aata. It is the matter of a sense of proportion. The Dalai Lama says that certain kinds of fruits have a bit of sourness in them and the sweetness cannot be separated from the sourness as they are bound to be mixed. Therefore, one has to brace oneself for repetitive tasks.

As for the state of flow, the Dalai Lama indicated that while it may be possible to achieve flow by meditation and engaging in the work of one’s liking, one should remember that it is not possible to remain in that state throughout the day. One can improve upon one’s emotional intelligence in this context if one tries to apply what all is written above.

India seems to be on the threshold of an economic expansion but if countries, which have achieved material prosperity, are talking about non-materialistic fulfilment to such a degree, one wonders what is in store for us, especially considering the articles that keep appearing from time to time on how executives face stress and burnout. The Dalai Lama pointed out that a career orientation with primary focus on promotions, job titles and designations can be an acute source of misery. In his book Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman while asserting that personal satisfaction is rapidly gaining on financial rewards as a determining factor for choice of work, says, “Our economy is rapidly changing from a money economy to a satisfaction economy” which is actually a paradigm shift in emotional intelligence.

With achievement of 9 per cent growth rate achieved in the past few years and bright prospects envisaged for the future, the Indian economy is becoming a money economy all right but whether it becomes a satisfaction or happiness economy is the moot point.
Since prevention is better than cure, we have a lot to learn from the developed western world. When Japan prospered economically, it also faced a lot of social problems. The Japanese term Karoshi, implying death from overwork, and Pokuri Byo, meaning sudden death, are a reflection of that time. They actually indicate a deeper malaise — a distorted emotional intelligence; Goleman has indicated above how people not fully engaged in work are more prone to heart disease and it is a well-known fact that the impact of negative emotions are manifested in the body in one form or another.

With our size and population, we cannot afford to miss the wood for the trees. One wonders what is in store in the long run. Will the collective emotional intelligence of a country known for its spiritual legacy go hand in hand with economic progress? Will Individuals flow and India glow, or a truly prosperous economic boom turn out to be some kind of doom ?