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Meditatiom Makes Bus Rides Safer
Meditation Makes Bus Rides Safer



Education of the drivers creates a better working 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 dumb!"
     "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 the courses.
     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 understanding."
     "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 drivers.
    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 human."
    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 human beings."
    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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