Excerpted with permission from Park Street Press a division of Inner Traditions International.
Relationships with other people especially at work are the best and quickest means to find out who you are.People at work are particularly important because it is impossible to run away from them. Work forces everyone to deal with everyone else. Working with other people helps to expose strengths and weaknesses in ways that can never happen when working alone. When working with people, everyone is forced to face the peculiarities of their own personality. They are not allowed to indulge their own desires and stamp their feet and point. They have to compromise. If you are paying attention and your motivation is correct, the daily events and the people you are working with can become an invaluable mirror.Each evening as you review the day, think about your relationships withother people. Think about how you felt. Did someone make you feel small when they trivialized your work or left you out of an important decision? Yes? Then examine it. Look at your feelings. What was it that you wanted? And then ask yourself, "Could I have discovered these things about myself without this experience? What if no one ever criticized my work? Would I understand how it feels to be belittled? Would I have the empathy for someone else in the same position?"As painful as it might have been, recognize that this other person has given you a precious gift, one that you could never have discovered for yourself or at least not nearly as quickly or as thoroughly. Even though the experience may have been comparable to a root canal, recognize how important this lesson was to your self-development.It is always good manners to thank someone when they do something kind, even if they didn't mean to. While it may not be practical or sensible to walk up to the person who yesterday told you that you didn't know what you were doing and thank them for their opinion, for just a moment at the end of your evening session, send a thought of gratitude that person's way. Even if the pain or disappointment is too bitter at the moment to feel much sincerity, still make the effort. If necessary, come back to the experience at a later date when you review your journal. Perhaps then you can feel a little more sincerity.You can begin to look on other people with true gratitude. They are not the problem that you thought they were. They are the solution. They are the vehicles that allow you to see yourself more clearly. Without them you would never have the courage to find these things out for yourself. Working relationships encourage you to achieve things that you couldn't on your own.
There is a story that the Tibetans are fond of telling that illustrates this attitude toward work relationships. Atisha, the Indian pandit who first developed the mind training techniques being used here, was getting ready for his first trip to Tibet. Atisha, being not just a scholar but also a serious practitioner of mind training, was working hard to develop patience. To accomplish this he hired the surliest, foulest tempered Bengali teaboy he could find to accompany him on his lonesome and lengthy journey. What better way, he thought, to develop patience. The Tibetans take some perverse pleasure in noting, however, that within 15 minutes of arriving in Tibet, Atisha realized that the teaboy was entirely unnecessary.Everyone works with more than their fair share of Bengali teaboys, such as in this story. Rather than seeing them as obstacles to personal happiness, however, recognize such people and events as opportunities. In a sense, work becomes a testing ground, a place where you can keep trying until you get it right.The process of using work as a vehicle for self-discovery can't help but change our relationships with other people. Events can be recognized as opportunities to find out more. Difficult tasks and people need no longer be approached with dread. There is no need to avoid them or be defensive when they intrude. Because other people show you the true nature of your mind, it is possible to become profoundly grateful to them--especially when they cause mental upheaval. Instead of protecting yourself, it is possible to learn how to do what is appropriate for the situation; what is best for everyone. In this way, gratitude and compassion are developed naturally and spontaneously. Gratitude because people, especially those who differ, are like mirrors in which your true self can be seen; compassion because it is possible to empathize with others who are experiencing the same emotions.With this recognition comes a new awareness of the value of work. Work is the laboratory, the testing ground, the hospital: everything that is needed to bring value into life. The more you focus on this, the more you can take advantage of the work experience. And the more progress you make with self-improvement, the more valuable, its most important component--other people--will become more precious. And the more you value other people, the more effectively everyone will work together.