Can we bring our practice to work with us?
In some work environments, the more stressed someone is and the busier they are, the higher up in the corporate hierarchy they are perceived. This in turn equates stress with job security.
What have we done? Does being calm and happy mean that we are not working hard? What if we are having a great “fun” day at work? Is that bad? Does that mean our position is not needed or that we are a slacker?
I would like to challenge this thinking. It has been proven that someone with a calm spacious mind is more productive, more creative, less accident prone, better at communication, and improves company morale.
Recently I did some research for a corporate wellness project that would bring meditation to a leading international shipping company. My research has been enlightening. Here are a few stats I found interesting.
• World Health Organization study 2012: Cost of workplace stress in the US is $300 billion annually
• Bureau of National Affairs: 40% of job turnover is due to stress
• Northwest National Life: 1 million workplace absences per day are stress related
• 2012 Absence Management Survey by CIPD (A global HR development organization) found that stress was the most common cause of long-term sickness absences
• 1/4 of large US Companies have launched stress reduction programs
Making Work Your Meditation
Whatever activity we are doing we can always bring mindfulness to it. Mindfulness, kindness, and mortality building are all fertile grounds at the workplace. There is a saying; “If you think you are enlightened go live with your family”. Well, often times our workplace becomes like a family.
Here are 3 reasons why work is the perfect place to expand your meditation practice.
Karma Yoga: Karma Yoga is a practice of selflessness and non-attachment while performing activities. At the retreat centers that I lived at for several years, we would call Karma Yoga any task that one would perform that was unpaid and done with the intention of selfless service; retreatants did it as a way to give back. Of course, the workplace is one of reciprocal exchange involving monetary compensation. Yet, I see this as a matter of intention.
The people that seem to rise to the top in their respective fields usually have a passion or love of what they do that extends past what they are paid. We have all come across someone in retail, for example, that emanates a genuine warmth and kindness. Whatever we do, it involves people; customers, co-workers or those we connect with to get the job done. All of it can be used to build our patience, compassionate communication, selflessness and equanimity. Which leads us too…
Relationships: In spiritual circles we call challenging relationships the “rubbing of stones”. When we rub stones they get polished. In relationships, people become our mirrors, revealing our hidden obstacles. When we encounter something that we have opposition to, it is like hitting a snag. When we are free from internal opposition we can respond without coming from a place of defensiveness. Defensiveness comes only when there is a created “self” that needs defending.
We can respond appropriately and take action, and if we can move beyond a selfish perspective, we can do so from a place of peacefulness and loving intent. Creating a working environment with such mindful intention can be a strikingly beautiful way to work and it starts with just one person dedicating himself or herself to this conscious choice.
Focus: Concentration is a pillar in inner development. It is not much help to sit on the cushion and meditate for hours a day only to let it all go the moment we leave the cushion. Work on the other hand gives us many opportunities to settle the mind on a task. The key is to break up your tasks to smaller chunks and then make a firm commitment to bring the mind back to that task. This can work anywhere. I have worked in retail, construction, corporate marketing, and as a solopreneur and I have always found segments of my day to turn into meditations.
Here is a big tip: Practice analytical meditation during work. Many forms of meditation are geared toward turning the mind away from thoughts but with analytical meditation you can take a problem, planning project, or creative endeavor and make it the support. If the mind wanders into an off subject area, simply bring it back.
We spend a large portion of life at work, and 100% of our life can be conscious. We never need to be asleep to the fullness of what we are. Letting go of the finite version of oneself can be liberating no matter where we are or what we are doing. There is no work/life balance, there are just moments. Throw out the notion of meditation and post meditation, of spiritual life and work life. Bring in the intention to make each moment a sacred, whole, unified fulfillment of truth.