Monday, May 2, 2011

Seven Intentions to Stay Mindful at Work

I have been working a lot lately, and not just at home as I usually do. No, instead, I have been involved in a whirlwind of meetings, small ones, large gatherings. The pace has been picking up with not a day in the week not busy, not responding to 'important' emails.  All for a very good cause.

And I am also noticing the mind slipping in its careful watch of mind itself. Even my dedicated morning sitting practice no longer suffices to carry me through the day. Today, I woke up with a sense of urgency of needing to really 'wake up'. I realized the importance of not trusting a typical work environment. Chronic busyness, an emphasis on doing, and a permeating culture of mindlessness are all inherent characteristics of the American workplace. All factors of dullness that can overtake anyone's mind.

Of course, the responsibility is on nobody else but myself. In the end, it is up to me to create a portable structure for my mindfulness practice.  I need to make room for the triple gems of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha:

I go for refuge to the Buddha (Teacher) 
I go for refuge to the Dhamma (the Teaching) 
I go for refuge to the Sangha (the Taught)

And I contemplate these words from the Buddhavagga Sutta:

But when, having gone 
to the Buddha, Dhamma,
and Sangha for refuge, 
you see with right discernment 
the four noble truths 
— stress, 
the cause of stress, 
the transcending of stress, 
and the noble eightfold path, 
the way to the stilling of stress: 
that's the secure refuge, 
that, the supreme refuge, 
that is the refuge, 
having gone to which, 
you gain release 
from all suffering & stress.

Remembering the path that leads to the cessation of stress and suffering. And that no work outcome is worth forsaking myself. 

Concretely, what does this mean on a daily basis?

Here are my intentions:

To continue with early morning sitting practice.
To reflect on one teaching every day.
To make time for connections with one of my communities of practice.
To plan for regular practice pauses throughout the day, either short sittings or walking meditation.
To resist the pull of busyness, reactivity, constant doing, and dullness.
To dwell in awareness, one step removed from usual worldly way.
To connect with breath and body sensations, often.

How do you stay mindful at your place of work?


  1. Staying mindful at work...yes, that's been a challenge for me and something I struggle with on a daily basis.

    My mindfulness practice has allowed me to let go with more ease. Instead of getting wrapped up in myself at work and taking everything so personally, I know feel that I have a greater sense of equanimity at work....

    At the same time, my meditation practice has opened up a whole new can of worms and questions:

    1. Do I really enjoy what I'm doing?
    2. Is this what I'm meant to do?
    3. Am I attached to some certain image of how or who I should be at work?
    ...and on it goes

  2. Great post and great reminders. Yesterday, I was questioning my own need to always be busy at work and wondering where that need/attachment comes from so your post is very timely.

    For my own life, my work environment is also my home. And since my wife also works from home, that makes maintaining my own mindfulness, calm, compassion and equanimity a bit challenging from time to time as the small stresses of work pile up and are expressed towards my wife. This creates impatience, frustration and many other ego-protecting emotions that are misplaced and unskillful.

    How do I work on this? I work on it by reminding myself to express serenity, compassion and calm in every moment and with every breath. And to sit with the those moments in which I don't manage it - so that I can learn, understand and put those reactions aside.

    In breath - compassion; out breath - serenity.

  3. Nate, yes, you have had these questions for a while now . . . I just wonder how is it to sit with not knowing? I know for myself, there is usually a craving for answers. :)

  4. Beautiful, Chris!

    I also think we put ourselves sometimes in environments that make our lives more difficult than they need to be. I used to be in the same situation as you until recently, and can empathize :) I also have the example of friends, a husband and wife also both working at home, who have set up their work in such a way that they do not interfere with each other during their work days. A very wise arrangement . . .

  5. I'm trying a little gimmick - I bought a sheet of little coloured stick-on dots yesterday and stuck them on places I look at frequently - my phone, keyboard, monitor etc. to remind me to be present. When they start turning into wallpaper, I'll change the colour. Works so far ....

  6. That's a great idea, David! We need all the help we can get, don't we? :)

    Now may you dwell in mindfulness!