Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back to Work, Mindfully

Getting ready to go back to work after one-week hiatus in France, I notice a small twinge of apprehension. My workplace, any workplace is an ecosystem that is ripe for much mindfulness practice. Here are some wise seeds from U Tejaniya, collected during the flight back home.

The first seed:
Look at the thoughts you have when you do your work, look at the views and ideas you are holding, and also notice the feelings you have when these thoughts come up. You need to recognize that it is because there is too much effort that there is tension. You are using more effort than you need . . . The main reason why you are putting in so much energy is because you have anxiety . . . Now you need to understand why you are anxious. Are you not skillful in what you are doing?  . . . Whenever you get these feelings of anxiety, just recognize them. Ask yourself whether it is really necessary to feel anxiety. Is it necessary to have anxiety to finish a job? . . . You need to acknowledge anxiety every time it comes up. Watching these feelings will help you understand something and this will allow your mind to let go. Remember that the purpose of vipassana meditation is not to relieve you from what is happening but to help you understand what is happening.
Watching the anxiety rise, and how it feels in the body, in the mind. Investigating the troublesome thoughts at the root.

Now, the second seed:
When there is a lot of pressure, a lot of stress, practicing becomes difficult. Try to learn from the difficulties at your workplace. What makes the mind agitated? Why do you lose mindfulness? Why does the mind become eager? Is it necessary to hurry? Investigating in this way will help you deal more skillfully with difficult situations and will prevent unwholesome mind states from taking over . . . Just do as much as you can. Take and appreciate any opportunity to practice. While you are working, try to be aware of how you feel, of what kind of mind states you experience. But don't try to focus, do it loosely, lightly. If you make too much of an effort to practice, you won't be able to do your job properly. If you focus too much on the job, you won't be able to be mindful. You need to find the right balance. 
Finding the right balance. Being mindful, but not obsessively.

And the third seed:
Every time you talk to someone on the phone or when someone approaches you, try to remember to check how you are feeling. What do you think and feel about that person? Throughout the day, whether at work or not, make it a habit to always check what kind of emotional reaction you have every time you interact with another person. How do you feel when the phone rings? Is the mind eager to pick it up quickly? You need to notice these things.
Every interaction an opportunity to practice.

Last, the fourth seed:
Every time you are confronted with an angry or demanding customer, check to see how your mind feels. Their greed and aversion is their problem, you need to see whether there is greed and aversion in your mind . . . When the object is positive the mind tends to react in a positive way and when it is negative it tends to react in a negative way. It takes practice observing the mind to understand these processes. Through understanding, the mind gains a measure of stability and will no longer be so strongly affected by either negative or positive objects or experiences. As understanding matures, the mind becomes less and less reactive. it also realizes that every time it blindly reacts, it is not free. For these reasons, the mind will become more and more interested in what is going on inside and will put in more effort to investigate. 
Owning one's share of reactivity and negativity, and then dropping it when the time is ripe.

Wherever your place of work, may you too reap the benefits from these few seeds, now planted in your consciousness.


  1. This is terrific practical advice. Thank you!

  2. Dear Marguerite Manteau-Rao,

    Thank you for your posting the link to this blog via Twitter. I returned to work this Monday after a five week hiatus due to an illness; I know what you are feeling. The work I do involves daily interaction staying on top and ahead of schedules, costs, and quality of work performed that I am managing/observing. One day away is the equivalent to two or three days; five weeks away is…[I am not even going to empower my absence by assigning content or identifiers in an attempt to explain…my absence just IS].

    Your 'First Seed' is very valuable to meet right now. If I can handle my thoughts by being the ‘noticer’, and dismissing those thoughts that are unhealthy, or related to unawareness/unconsciousness, I have more effort/energy (your words). This wealth of effort/energy is then directed and utilized in a manner that not only benefits myself, but benefits those I interact with as well.

    My love and blessings; thank you!

    Twitter: TaoZen1121

  3. Thank you Stephen. I am glad this was helpful to you!

    And yes, I have found much of my energy at work is wasted giving into the hindrances, often times without even being aware . . . I too needed U Tejaniya's practical teachings to be reminded, and place work within the broader context of mindfulness.

    Work within mindfulness, not the other way around . . .

  4. Hello Marguerite and welcome sounds like you had the perfect companion with you on your trip. Makes me very happy. I pulled the "third seed" out for a post I wrote now a year ago (on daily life practice) but am thinking about for an essay I need to write as part of a new publication for SUT...It's always such a joy to see teacher's words come through my Google Reader feed. Thank you for sharing his wisdom.

  5. Yes, Katherine, and thanks to you! Love little U Tejaniya red book you gave me . . .


  6. All of the analytical aspects of U Tejanaya will make mindfulness practice a complex morass. Joko Beck and Ezra Bayda are some of the few teachers who have it right. Residing in emotion, not observing it, is also a requisite for healing and expanding awareness.

  7. Gerald, thank you for sharing your point of view here. And I am not sure we necessarily disagree . . . Different words, same truth. I am with you regarding sensing of all experience, including emotions. This is not about thinking about, but rather investigation with our whole being.

  8. Marguertite...this is EXACTLY what I needed to read in this moment! I just sent a message to a friend about noticing the anxiety I've been feeling lately...I'm going to pass on a link to your blog for her to read too.

    Thank you for these seeds, they will be well watered in my garden.

  9. Yes, hindrances. Such a waste of energy, and yet very much a part of the human experience! Thank God for mindfulness and the gift of wise seeing that helps burning out such calamities . . .