Joel Levey, Ph.D., and Michelle Levey, M.A. are founders of Inner Work Technologies, Inc., a Seattle-based firm that specializes in developing the resilience of organizational cultures in which team spirit, community, creative intelligence, life-work balance, and inspired leadership can thrive. Their clients include NASA, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Sun, and over 200 leading organizations around the globe. They are co-chairpersons for the Center for Corporate Culture & Organizational Health at the Institute for Health and Productivity Management, and served as core faculty for the International Center for Organization Design. The Leveys have served as faculty of Antioch and Bastyr Universities, and as directors of clinical stress and mind body health programs at Group Health and Children's Hospital. Widely published and recognized as leaders in their field, the Leveys' corporate programs and popular workshops have inspired tens of thousands of people around the globe.
We live in a culture where stress has supplanted happiness as the most common state of mind. Despite the rapid growth in technology and availability of material goods, polls indicate that the typical midlife American is ten times more likely to be depressed than our grandparents were. The very things that are supposed to save time and give us the opportunity to relax and enjoy life are too often the cause of hassle and worry. The abundance of information, including the profusion of both paper and electronic mail, can be overwhelming. The realization that the Earth’s resources are perilously close to depletion and that population growth is now exponential fills many of us with angst. The response to this situation has largely been one of denial and “business as usual.”
Run faster, work harder, distract ourselves with television and movies, take stimulants and follow exercise regimens that are meant to relax us but often feel like one more tasks to fit into an overflowing schedule.
The simple truth is that we won’t be able to heal the world until we can come to balance within ourselves. We can’t even use our full creative potential or enjoy the blessing of intimate relationships when we are chronically worried and on overload.
In the early 1900s, two Harvard physiologists, Robert M.Yerkes and John D. Dodson, discovered that a little bit of stress enhances performance, but too much stress is paralyzing. I ran a stress-disorders clinic at one of the Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals during the 1980s. Many of our clients came from the corporate world and were afraid that if they learned to relax and meditate, they would lose their edge. Most were surprised that their performance improved dramatically as they learned the kind of simple exercises that Joel and Michelle Levey describe so brilliantly in this book. Working at our edge means acquiring the tools that prevent us from going over the edge. And in the process, we learn unexpected and invaluable lessons about the nature of the human mind and the deep web of interconnections in which we live and move and evolve. As we begin to clear and focus the mind, senses become sharp and fresh, creativity explodes, we find ourselves inexplicably joyful, with the realization that life is an inexpressibly awesome and sacred gift. We learn to see with new eyes and recover the sense of wonder that we had as children.
Every spiritual leader has given similar advice. All human beings are alike. We all want to be happy. The road to happiness isa simple path, paved with actions that arise from the powerful intention to be kind and compassionate, just as we would wish others to behave toward us. A detractor once asked the first century Rabbi Akiva to summarize the entire teaching of the Torah while standing on one foot. He replied that we should be kind to others and refrain from doing to them what we wouldn’t want done to ourselves. Jesus, another first-century rabbi, gave exactly the same teaching. We know this as the Golden Rule,and while most of us would agree that it is a great idea, it is often hard to act with this degree of consciousness and caring. The true value of meditation becomes apparent over time, as kindness and caring become second nature. The fruits of practice are much more beneficial than lowered anxiety, better health, and enhanced performance. As we learn to let go of the extraneous chatter that clutters our mind, we discover that our true nature—our essential self—is actually a center of awareness, peace, and compassion. Acting with loving kindness toward others becomes our authentic state of being rather than a mere external performance.
The Lakota holy man Black Elk said, “There can never be peace between nations until we know the true peace which is in the souls of men. This comes when men realize their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and that the Great Spirit is at its center; that all things are his works, and that this center is really everywhere. It is within each of us.” Joel and Michelle echo this powerful teaching of Black Elk when they remind us that “relaxation is not something that you do. It is a natural response that you allow to happen. Relaxation is what is left when you stop creating tension.” When the tension melts away, we discover that we are at peace, at the center and naturally in sympathy with all creation. I used to tell my clients that they were already whole and healed—words that come from the same root as holy. The purpose of the tools they would learn in our clinic was to peel away the layers of stress that covered their naturally wise, peaceful, and compassionate hearts.
As I read this book, I was struck by the humble clarity with which very powerful teachings are given. I have known Joel and Michelle for a decade, admiring their strong and unwavering in tention to be of service to others by sharing the wisdom they have learned from some of the most luminous spiritual teachers of our time. Their authentic, compassionate presence is always a joy to experience and a reminder that through time-tested practices, we, too, can recover peace and happiness. It was a great honor to be asked to write the Foreword to this “simple” book, which is, I believe, the most complete primer of meditation and spirituality that has ever been written.
You hold in your hand a precious jewel, a treasure with the power to transform your life and to heal the world. If it were the only book you had to study and work with for the rest of your life, it would be all that you need. Use it well and share it with others. We have all been blessed that such profound teachings from the world’s great spiritual traditions have been rendered with such stunning simplicity, beauty, and grace. In a time when so many superficial books are being published, it is a rare opportunity to own a book of this depth and breadth, written in a way that allows each of us to develop our minds and hearts at exactly the pace we need.
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