Meditation and work stress suddenly became the topic of conversation while slowly rolling down a busy, music filled, sensory overloaded Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale. The exchange was synchronistic in nature.
Engaged in conversation with a radio jock who hosts a national show and an author who hails from news, we had much to discuss. Our workplaces were like Las Olas. There are lots of lights, stimulating conversations from many sources, and breaking news stories competing for attention. So when the dialogue turned toward meditation, and the possibility of grabbing a deep breath of awareness at work that could lead to a meditative state, cynicism and wonderment filled the car simultaneously.
“That laundry list, and especially the things I forgot to do, pop into my head and it’s hard to concentrate on breathing the right way,” said the radio personality who effused that during meditation in his yoga class at lunch (while he had a few moments of calm) he couldn’t quite jive with the program and relax his mind fully. Nor did he feel especially enlightened when he headed back to work. He tried to meditate at work but was quickly discouraged.
But I explained that there was nothing wrong with his experience. In fact, it was a gaze into the path of stillness, contemplation and mindfulness that comes along with the journey in the meditative process, even at work. Here’s what I shared with him:
- Observing the breath for just a few minutes is valuable: Simply observing the laundry list and then bringing attention back to the breath is an exercise in presence. The breath can bring one back into the “now” – the moment. It’s often thought of as minduflness meditation. The thoughts don’t simply go away, they are acknowledged and then become less charged. In fact, I shared that eventually those thoughts might fade a bit as he became a witness to the them instead of steeping in them. I recently wrote about how to use the breath to break work stress at Huffington Post.
- New ideas can emerge from just a little silence: The things he “forgot” to do, emerged from a deeper space within him that was more contemplative. As he examined his own consciousness, he had epiphanies. It’s not that he found a cure for cancer, but he did have a small shift in the mere “remembering” of something that needed his attention after class.
- A few tastes of meditation at work can be cumulative: Ultimately, meditation can help one to reduce stress over time, and there is plenty of science to back this up. But meditation is not going to calm your mind or enlighten your soul overnight. However, the more you practice, the more you may reach a state where there is a cessation of those circling thoughts that many refer to as monkey mind.
- Find what works for you: Do sounds or scents, pictures or images move you? Engage your senses at work. Are you a visual person? You might take a gander at a family picture for a few minutes to clear your mind and focus your breath. For others, inhaling some lavender oil for a few deep breaths can reduce stress and also help you to focus more on your breath. Listening to some music on your I-pod can also help you bring your attention back to your breath.
- Take the time to take a meditative break: We often rush through our days without scheduling any downtime. Just take five minutes a few times a day, the brain responds well to a break from the noise. It’s a great way to find some clarity out of a cloudy afternoon when your energy hits the breaks. I have more about this in a recent article 5 Daily Rituals to Manage Work Stress.
Sitting in a full lotus and chanting “OM” toward a deep meditative experience is not necessarily the end-state for most mediators, nor should it be the goal. Depending on the school of thought, meditation is different things to different people. The preliminary stages to get there are numerous. Ultimately, what emerges from using tools of concentration, at the very least sets the stage for a taste of meditation.
Is it that hard to meditate at work? Any suggestions? Please continue the conversation with me @JudyMartin8.