How is real happiness at work possible for us human beings struggling in the work life merge? Mindfulness could be part of the equation, says world renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg.
I had the opportunity to interview Sharon via Google Hangout as we discussed her new book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace,
Most would settle for just being less stressed at work, let alone being happy. It seems so elusive and reminds me of what a teacher once told me, “Judy Jaya, (a spiritual name she had given me) once the real decision is made, the doing becomes effortless. Just be happy.”
The Being of Happiness
Oh, how we all try. It’s an ongoing practice. Simply, it’s not so easy to “just be happy” at work. But through years of trial and error, I learned being more present at work is a starting point, through practicing meditation. Now, Sharon Salzberg, who co-founded the Insight Meditation Society and has been teaching meditation for 35 years, makes being a bit more mindful at work, more digestible for the masses.
In her new book, Real Happiness at Work Salzberg offers practical methods toward practicing meditation. Although her roots originate through the lens of a Buddhist context, what she teaches here is not about any one dharma or spiritual path, its about the intrinsic ability we have as conscious human beings to be responsible for our own happiness and inner calm. In a workplace that has been ravaged by recession, work overload and ever increasing digital exuberance it’s a tall order, but one that can be massaged with mindfulness.
Mindful Compassion and Communication
Salzberg suggests mindfulness is helpful to resolve conflicts with compassion, allowing us to more skillfully communicate with co-workers and even superiors, “We discover that it’s possible to be competitive without being cruel – and committed without being consumed,” she writes in her book.
Consume or be consumed is one way to look at it. But in Real Happiness at Work, Salzberg writes less about the negative, and instead focuses on the positive in managing obstacles at work through what she calls the Eight Pillars of Happiness in the Workplace.
“In formal meditation practice, we look at which is more helpful for changing behavior: endlessly castigating ourselves for a mistake, or learning how to begin again,” writes Salzberg.
The Interconnectedness of the Dharmic Path
This resonates so deeply with me as a yoga teacher . Each posture is a lesson in awareness. It’s not about whether our pose is perfect, but in the knowing that as we breathe every breath in an asana, we can begin again in that moment toward a more balanced practice. We come gently come into and inhale of presence and an exhale of restful awareness. And as we cultivate such awareness, we accumulate the stillness from which we can draw upon in more difficult moments in the life or work scenario. Such practices have no borders and can be found in many belief systems. Salzberg effuses, “ One of the greatest skills we can develop is the confidence to not relinquish our inner home when we hear the knock of anger at the door of our mind.”
Chronic Work Stress
Chronic work stress is a companion for many in an increasingly complex and uncertain era of work overload and digital exuberance. Our minds, bodies and souls simply can’t meet the 24/7 demand. And our hearts and brains can’t help but wonder if being happy at work is just a pipe dream.
But scientific research tells us other wise. Confirming what the mystics have said before us. The new world of work and neuroscience is feeding a new niche of awareness. One that tells us our lives can be healthier and our work lives more fulfilling if we take note of the poignant changes in our response to the new world of work.