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Let Go And Flow
By Eli Bay   Printer Friendly Version

Without even bothering to ask for our consent, globalization and technological innovation are rapidly delivering us to a new world. In today's demanding work environment, there are few personal skills more valuable than being able to let go of the strain of adapting and being able to flow better with the accelerating and unremitting changes which are driving our workplaces and defining our time.

On the eve of the twenty-first century, it's important to understand and develop resilience to the unusual scale of today's changes. Over the next ten years we will likely undergo more change than has occurred in all of human history from the beginning of time until now.

Through a process called homeostasis every bodymind has an in-built tendency to resist change no matter whether it's good or bad. It's an amazingly complex system that wants to stay within narrow limits and return to that state whenever it is forced out of it. Our bodyminds evolved over many millennia knowing, that in order to survive, stability was needed. Hence it developed this automatic reaction to change that served our hunter and gatherer ancestors well. It just didn't account for the "out of control" changes imposed on us by our new technological reality.

This homeostasis, or equilibrium, is a natural mechanism that wants to keep things as they are. We experience this automatic resistance to change in ourselves and we see it in our organizations. The resistance is generally proportionate to the size and speed of the change, making the unusual scale of today's changes especially demanding on every body.

There is a growing recognition of the need for twenty-first century workers (us!) to overcome our natural resistance to change and become more flexible and open towards it. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the former editor of The Harvard Business Review, described "flexible" as the most important essential skill for organizational survival in the new economy, along with becoming more "focused, fast and friendly". But telling people to become more flexible (and focused, friendly, etc.) and not showing them how is like telling them to go fly.

To devise a strategy to enhance flexibility you must first understand that resistance to change expresses itself in the bodymind as an arousal state commonly called stress. Over time the wear and tear of too much stress plays a significant role in making us sick and impairing our performance. As well, years of accumulated stress tend to keep us mentally and physically rigid and inflexible, negative, tired, and mentally resistant to change.

That's why one of the most important skills for our time is what Harvard Medical School has labeled the "relaxation response". The relaxation response is a measurable state of profound rest which, when regularly called upon, permits the bodymind to effectively unwind from the chronic strain that incessant adaptation has imposed. Within minutes, it achieves a state of rest that would normally be achieved after four or five hours of sleep. All of the complex and interrelated systems of the body respond by letting go of excess stress and it affords an aging, tired and straining body mind a much needed chance to properly rest, recuperate, and repair.

It's a total response of the bodymind. The heartbeat becomes slower as does one's breathing rate. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels drop. Brain waves slow down. Even skin resistance changes. The entire bodymind system becomes quiet and has an opportunity to rebalance and replenish itself. Measurable self-healing occurs. Every system in the bodymind has an opportunity to regenerate and renew itself. It goes beyond the advertising hype and produces an actual experience worthy of the expression, "the pause that refreshes".

Decades of medical research has proven that everyone can be more in control of themselves by learning simple ways to properly unwind. By releasing stress on a regular basis we have a natural safety valve that keeps it from building to harmful levels. Almost everybody who uses the relaxation response discovers that they are much better able to withstand the strains of modern life. They can absorb so much more without negative side effects. They are able to flow more easily into the new structures as they emerge, adapt to new ideas, and creatively respond to new challenges.

Those hoping to steer their organizations through the white water that is clearly ahead would be wise to provide their workers with the "how to" of bodymind self-regulation, the relaxation response. My bet is that the greatest success in the new economy will come to those organizations and individuals who have learned best how to effectively let go and flow better with change.

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