If we wish to make our time at work meaningful the best thing we can do is meditate while we are there. This does not mean we have to sit down in the lotus posture and chant “OM”. Rather, meditation can be done while you are working. Here is how to turn your work into a meditation tool.
Why meditate at work?
We spend most of our lives at work. Some of us will have the same job we have now til the day we die and we will be there from nine til five every single day. If we do not use our work time carefully we will waste a significant portion of our existences doing something that we resent.
The way to change that is with meditation.
Meditation has many notable benefits. It can reduce stress, increase levels of happiness, increase your capacity to retain information and so on. One of the most important benefits, however, is that meditating at work allows you to take your work from an ordinary daily pursuit to something that can truly change who you are and the way you live your life.
What EXACTLY is meditation?
I want to share with you the Tibetan word for meditation: “gom”. Gom literally means “to familiarize” and this translation gives us a great insight into what meditation truly is. It is about training the mind, beating bad mental habits and developing and nurturing positive qualities that are already present within us.
How to meditate at work
In this post I want to take a look at a few ways that you can use your work as a meditation tool. All of these techniques are simple and effective. They can be used by anyone in any type of job.
1. Focusing on the breath
One of the most simple and ancient forms of meditation is a mindfulness meditation that is focussed on the breath.
How to do it
The idea is simple. When you are sitting at your desk or walking around the office you want to bring your attention back to your breath. The aim is to count up to ten rounds of breathing. A round of breath is one inhale and one exhale. If you lose count then simply start again until you reach ten. Try and do this several times a day.
The goal of this meditation is something called “single pointed concentration” where a person is able to focus their mind on one object for as long as they want. To achieve this is very difficult and takes many years of serious practice but we can still extract some of the benefits.
For example, by practicing breathing meditation we will be able to increase our levels of concentration for our work. We will not be distracted as easily. Furthermore, breathing meditation will help us get our stress and anxiety in order and stop the torrent of excited thoughts from washing over us all day long.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness is a lot like breathing meditation except that instead of focusing on our breath we are focusing on only what we are doing. This might seem simple and obvious but can you actually say that you truly focus on what you are doing during the day? I can’t.
If we think about it when we are typing up a document we are actually thinking about what we are going to have for dinner or what the hot girl down the hall just said to us. We are never really focussed 100% on what we are doing. If we do achieve true focus it only lasts for a few fleeting seconds.
How to do it
Mindfulness meditation is the simplest and the hardest of all. The task is to simply bring your full attention to whatever it is that you are doing. If you are writing you should only be writing. If you are walking you should only be walking.
The reason it is hard is because our minds are so used to wandering around without any control at all. One of my buddhist teachers likens the mind to a wild monkey that does not want to be put in a cage.
However, when you are doing mindfulness meditation it is important to bring your focus back to your task every time your monkey mind wanders off somewhere else. You may have to do it every two or three seconds. Eventually, with practice, the time will increase and increase and before long you will be actually working!
The benefits of mindfulness meditation are vast and extremely important. Once you start to become mindful you will begin to notice harmful thoughts and emotions before they get a chance to take a hold of you. This is like a side-benefit of the practice. We are concentrating on what we are doing but we are also becoming more aware of the monkey mind and gently bringing him under control by shifting our focus back to our work.
Mindfulness meditation will also help you relax and slow down. You will not experience as much stress.
The main work benefit, however, is that you will not feel like you have wasted your whole day doing tasks you don’t care about. By truly focusing on your work you will find a deeper and more profound meaning in even the most simple of tasks.
3. Meditation on compassion
“Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.” – Shantideva
As I said at the start of this post, meditation is not about sitting down with crossed legs and doing “mental gymnastics”. It is about much more than that.
After you have been meditating for a while something amazing happens. It happens very slowly but it happens to everyone. You feel compassion. Compassion is where you wish that other people could be free of their suffering. The reason you feel compassion after doing some meditation is because you soon realize that your own happiness depends on your own mind – and no one else is getting it. You feel compassion because you wish they could meditate too!
However, compassion is more than a “side-effect” of meditation. It is the most important meditation of all. If you meditate on compassion you will achieve all other meditations. The compassionate mind that you can develop is powerful, serene and very peaceful.
How to do it
If you want to meditate on compassion you need to take the support of the people around you by looking at your own situation. This is what I mean: all other people want to be happy, just like you do. No one wants to suffer, in the same way that you don’t want to suffer. Everyone is going about their daily life thinking that what they are doing will make them happy, just like you do.
Compassion meditation is easy because we have compassion within us naturally. We have all experienced compassion in our lives. And the strongest compassion of all is that of a mother and her child. A mother would do anything for her baby, even if it meant she herself would be in danger. By thinking about this example and thinking that everyone is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son we will soon start to consider them with the same compassion that we do our own family. Compassion meditation is thinking like this all the time and whenever we deal with another person.
Compassion meditation will make you a more loving and kind person. You will be a better parent, parter, sibling or workmate. You will become a pillar for other people to lean on. You will also become strong and independent because you have shifted your focus away from your own ego to the plight of others. This is why warriors are so brave: they are focussed on their country or their comrades or their king. Not on themselves.
4. Meditation on death
“Like lightning illuminating the night for a brief second, so too is our life short.” – Shantideva
In the buddhist tradition one of the first things you learn about is death. Your teacher tells you that death can come at any time and when you die you cannot take your money, family or posessions with you. Once you get a taste of the fact that death can come at any time you are then told about something called the “precious human rebith”. That is, your buddhist teacher tells you that you have been presented with an amazing opportunity to bring yourself and others peace. When death is looked at in conjunction with the precious human rebirth it can become an extremely liberating realization.
How to do it
Meditation on death is easy. All you need to do is consdier that today might be your very last day. You could be hit by a car or choke on your lunch and you would be gone forever. If you think in this way you will be less likely to get frustrated and angry. You will not be bothered by small little things around you and you will feel great compassion for other people as they too are going to die one day.
The benefits of death meditation are that you no longer spend your days in a useless way. You are motivated to make the most of the time you have an this gives you a sense of energy and power that you didn’t have before. If you start to get depressed after meditating on death then you are doing it wrong. Death meditation should make you more motivated, not less.
Meditation can be a very valuable thing. There are millions of types of meditations available. What has been presented here is like a little teaser to get you started on the path to making your work-life truly meaningful. Let us know how it goes!