Education of the drivers creates a better
environment and decreases stress
Svenska Dagbladet [Sweden]
The driver is taking his mini-break at the end
of a run. But not in the usual way by smoking a cigarette or taking a
short walk. Rolf Dahl is closing his eyes, straightening his back and
breathing silently into his belly – he is meditating.
"I can manage myself and my thoughts better
now," he says. "It has become easier to detach myself from being
upset." Rolf Dahl is a bus driver in the inner city of Stockholm. Since
early autumn he meditates regularly and has recently become one of the
meditation leaders, helping his colleagues, who now take part in the
psychosocial health program.
The project involves a major commitment to the
well being of the staff. After finding that 80% of the staff suffered
from psychosomatic symptoms like pain in the neck and back, the
management decided to do something about it before it got worse. They
introduced courses in awareness training, conflict resolution.
Rolf Dahl used to practice yoga and, since
October, is now practicing meditation in this program at work. "To be a
bus driver is very stressful, and the thing is that one should not take
it personally when passengers are angry or unreasonable. Before I
started meditating I used to argue with them."
Does one become angelic by meditating?
"Well," he laughed, "you cannot generalize
like that. But you become more aware of yourself, about your feelings,
and why we react. Meditation gives you a solid foundation. It becomes
easier not to take insults personally or to react emotionally."
This very day Rolf has been approached by a
difficult passenger who loudly complained about the bus number missing
at the back of the bus and shouted at Rolf that he "must be a bit
"Yes, I replied to her calmly that, 'Yes,
sometimes I'm a bit dumb, but in this particular case I'm not at
fault..." he said mildly, smiling.
The health project has met with a good
response. Of 315 bus drivers working full time, 150 have signed up for
Isn't it difficult to introduce meditation to
such a male environment? – only 20% of the drivers are women.
"No, I don't think so," says Rolf Dahl. "It is
now quite accepted that one feels better mentally and physically by
relaxing and meditating."
Bo Svantesson and Willy Granath, both
production leaders at SL, are nodding affirmingly. "It sure is true
that men have more difficulties showing feelings – and largely our
meditations include doing that," says Willy Granath. "But these
occasions are occasions when it is totally legitimate to scream and
shout! You're allowed to do that.
"I think everyone also needs a spiritual
perspective also," says Willy Granath thoughtfully. "In our secularized
society the soul has almost disappeared. But we are more than
just a body in the universe. The soul also needs time and
"It is important to remember that meditation
is only a part – even though an essential part –of a large health
program," Rolf Dahl says. "Relaxation, physical exercise, massage and
natural medicine are other parts, and groups, where you talk about what
awareness training is."
"Meditation is awareness training,"
says Bo Svantesson. "It can be somewhat of an 'Aha!' experience
when you realize that your sorrows and miseries can be stuck in your
body as knots in the muscles and pain in the neck. It is when you
become aware of them that they start dissolving."
The others are nodding approvingly.
Both Physical and Spiritual Training
The psychosocial program started one year ago
with those who volunteered to go through health tests. From a physical
health profile they then made a health commitment to themselves, for
example, to have better eating habits and to start physical exercise.
Then follows sharing in groups, to learn how to handle stress. This is
combined with physical training, work out and water exercises. Conflict
resolution and transaction analysis is taught in a group, and then
comes the phase of meditation.
"It is not enough to treat symptoms," says
Hans Schneider, who is the manager.
"Our staff is our best resource, and if the drivers aren't feeling
good, they don't do good work. That's how simple it is.
"Maladjustment, pain or alcoholism are
symptoms that the whole human being is not functioning well," says Hans
Schneider. "It is not only something to do with the job, and to put it
right one has to go deeper within oneself. That's the philosophy behind
this whole project.
"The qualitative goal with this project is
that the people will feel good because then they function better in
this service," says Hans Schneider. "In the long run this will lead
even to quantitative goals: less sick leave, less accidents and lower
fuel costs because of calmer driving."
Tension Gives Pain
The room is large and light. This is where the
Dynamic Meditation is taking place. "People usually walk around
carrying tensions from childhood. Muscles are tense and cause pain in
the neck and shoulders," says Ingeborg Forshed, who is a gestalt
therapist and body worker. She leads the courses in meditation.
"Really, this is a general education I am
providing," she says. "Very few people are aware about the connection
between pain in the body and pain in the soul. What I am doing is
showing how body and psyche are connected and need each other for the
person to feel good."
The Dynamic Meditation that Ingeborg is
teaching starts with strong releasing breathing exercise. After that
comes catharsis and expression; after that you stand still for 15
minutes and watch your thoughts. Lastly follows dancing, which leaves
you with relaxed muscles.
Driving Yourself Sane
If Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's most
important daily puts it on the front page with a half-page photo, it
must really be news. "Stockholm bus drivers are meditating to find
peace" was the headline of a recent article about a heath-care program
created by SL, Sweden's biggest bus company, which employs 500 bus
Participation is strictly voluntary and counts
as regular worktime. One man says: 'Today, I am a totally
different guy: nicer, happier, calmer," and another observes: "The
stress and tension in my work situation is almost gone."
The project was launched thee years ago by
managing director Hans Schneider after he found himself "wondering if
it made sense to invest hundreds of millions in the area of buses – the
machines – but almost nothing on the care of the bus drivers – the
Osho's Dynamic and Kundalini meditations play
an essential part in SL's "Richer Life" program. Having experienced
their healing effect in a meditation course held by Bergt Stern,
Sweden's leading management coach, at his country retreat in
Mullingstorp, Schneider incorporated them into the stress-management
training his company set up. This was after discovering that 80% of the
staff suffered from psychosomatic stress symptoms like neck and back
pain, with high rates of sick leave and heart attacks.
In an interview with Svenska Dagbladet, another
big Swedish daily, Schneider said: "Meditation is an essential
part of his unique program. The accident rate among Stockholm bus
drivers has been halved over a two-year period. The program, half
of which is paid for by the government, costs $40,000 a year, which for
a company of 500 employees is a minor investment compared with the
enormous financial savings involved. Several organizations have already
approached us and soon this will start happening in most companies."
A follow-up article in Dagens Nyheter
reported on a 3-day seminar at Mullingstorp Institute in late spring
attended by 25 Volvo managers. The seminar focused on energy issues
such as openness to others and total control vs. heightened self–
awareness, and the participants did Kundalini Meditation.
Hans Schneider informed them about the dramatic
changes in SL's bus drivers' attitudes and long-term benefits of his
company's meditation programs, saying: "Many bus drivers have said
that this is the first time that the company is caring about them as
Osho's physician, who was invited from London,
also gave a talk to the Volvo managers. Dagens Nyheter writes:
"He has specialized in studying how meditation affects health...the
Volvo managers were looking at his research graphs, diagrams and
figures with great interest."
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