Are You Afraid of Your Boss? Zen Says: You Have No “Boss”
Imagine the anxiety; your boss asks you to make a presentation for a group of potential clients whose investment is important to the future of the company. He stresses that the quality of the presentation is crucial to whether they come on board, and he hints at a promotion if you do well.
Your stress level skyrockets when you realize you have no experience giving presentations, and that you have a lot of work to do if you want to impress these people.
Pressure is high from the get-go, because you want your presentation to be adequate for your boss and for these people you’ve never met. You don’t know what their standards are or what they want to hear, and all you can really do is try your best and hope for success.
Realize Your Underlying Unity
Fortunately, you can be free from the stress involved by realizing that the authority your boss or anyone else holds over you is an illusion. We find this wisdom embedded in the philosophy of Zen Buddhism: we are one with everyone and everything around us.
There’s no simpler way to state it. Our differences aren’t real. If you could tap a higher state of consciousness with meditation or something similar for a single moment, you’d realize there are no actual differences between you, your boss, your company’s clients or anyone else. Thus, you have nothing to fear.
Your boss is a soul, just like you, inhabiting a human body and playing a predetermined role in order to help them evolve. When you realize that we each decided the role we would play before we began this life, you’d see that your boss is just another spark of God playing the role he or she wanted.
Everyone Has Something to Teach
Just like your boss, you chose to be where you are in this exact moment because these circumstances are the most conducive for your spiritual growth.
Your boss, your clients and everyone you meet at this stage in your growth has something to teach you, and likewise, you have something to teach them. Underneath the layers of narcissism and superficiality that have kept humanity so buried for so long, you’re no different from any of them. We’re all students and teachers, and we’re all family.
If we can learn from each other and use our experiences to help those who are just beginning to awaken to oneness, we can approach any stressful or intimidating experience with confidence and, most importantly, love.
Authority: A Human Concept
The first step is to understand that the titles we give each other are meaningless in the big picture. They only have meaning on this planet, which is less than .1% of the universe, and they mean nothing from a cosmic perspective.
Thus, to fear your boss is to fear yourself, and if you realized how much you have in common as human and spiritual beings, you’d know that you have as much (and as little) authority as them.
Only in their mind and the minds of those who reinforce their title do they have power, and you give your power away by being afraid or intimidated. Authority is a human concept with no universal meaning, and if you can see this false authority for what it really is, you can transcend fear and emerge triumphantly in the face of any challenge.
If you can see potential clients not as people who hold the key to your success, but as people who are trying to survive and live meaningfully, just like you, you can tap into the authentic human experience we all share, relate to them on a personal level before you ever speak with them, and use it to your advantage.
You might make them more comfortable by being yourself and giving them the freedom to do the same, but you’ll make a bad impression by being nervous or building them up in your mind as authority figures whose approval you are in need of.
You Don’t Need Approval
On a soul level, you don’t need anyone’s approval to survive and prosper. You only need to love yourself, and this will translate into love for mankind when you realize that our commonalities far outweigh our differences.
You can then transform a nervous presentation into an inspired speech, and in the place of anxiety and hesitation will be authenticity and passion.
You’ll welcome challenges and new experiences in the workplace (and everywhere else), and your boss might pick up on your enthusiasm and include you in more challenging projects you can engage with your whole heart and soul.
You just have to get past the unnecessary fear of authority to take on incredible challenges without worrying whether you impress anyone.
The Monk With Sweaty Palms
A monk noticed that a Zen teacher who was supposed to officiate at the funeral of a well-known nobleman had sweaty palms as they awaited the arrival of the guests. His obvious nervousness in facing royalty made it clear that he wasn’t finished with his studies, because he had not yet grasped true oneness. He still distinguished between himself and people of a ‘higher’ social class, so he left his disciples to become the student of another master. He returned enlightened eight years later.
In my opinion, this story serves as a lesson to observe how you feel and act around people who are different. For example, if you meet someone you consider a celebrity, observe your reaction to see if you change when you’re around them.
If your boss asks something difficult of you, observe why it makes you feel the way it does, and instead of giving into stress or fear, examine these emotions and let them go. Don’t let social status change the way you behave toward any of your human family, because like Krishnamurti said, violence begins the moment we let our differences define us.
When you’re afraid of your boss or star-struck around a celebrity, you’re acting on the notion that you’re different or lesser than them. You’re not.
Let Oneness Fill Your Heart
“We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for any one and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe.” ~ Amit Ray, Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Life Style (source)
Instead of giving in to the illusion of separation, let oneness fill your heart and let unity overcome fear. Try to make someone else’s life better, and try to help people like your boss; not because you have to, but because serving them is akin to serving yourself.
Open your heart to a fragmented world where people have forgotten about their sacred connection with each other, and try to remind them that on a deeper level, we’re all the same. The only differences between us are the ones we create and empower, and as easily as we created them, we can transcend them.
The first step is to stop seeing your boss or anyone else differently, and if you’re ever in doubt, feel free to study Zen texts and lectures given by remarkable Zen enthusiasts like Alan Watts.
They’ll remind you of your inherent unity with all of creation, and then, you’ll see your boss in the same way you see a friend or even a tree outside. We can do away with authority and bring humanity together (or just give a successful presentation), but we have to realize we’re already one on a soul level and go from there.