Wherever we are, we have the ability to be present. On the meditation cushion, we can be present with the physical sensation of our breathing. Off the meditation cushion, we can be present with the people we encounter, our morning commute, the food we eat, everything. That is the purpose of meditation practice: to become more present and aware of every aspect of our life.
When it comes to work, we always have a choice. We can schlep through our day-to-day existence, considering those hours we are working to be a waste of time, constantly looking ahead to our time off, or we can engage it in a way that makes us feel like we are participating in a life worth living. Meditation practice helps us slow down and be present enough to recognize the small joys about our work, as well as its frustrations. It helps us sort through the muck of our own mind, know our intention clearly, and live our lives fully. For a short video on how to meditate, click here.
I recommend that people start their day with meditation, when their mind is fresh. However, the timing for when we meditate is going to look different for different people. Some people love to meditate when they get home from work. Others like to take some time in the middle of their day, during their lunch break. Regardless of what works for you, try to start off with ten minutes a day, as many days a week as you can. It is said that after eleven days of doing anything in a row it becomes habit forming, so if you want to start meditating regularly try sticking to it for that consecutive period. Over time, if you miss a day here or there no need to beat yourself up.
That daily meditation practice can be the foundation for your spiritual journey. However, to think that you leave your mindfulness on the meditation cushion when you're done with a meditation session would be foolish. We are, after all, practicing for something. That something is the rest of our life.
Since we spend so much time at work, it is helpful to take moments to practice meditation throughout our day. If we have one meditation session at some point in our day we can use that as the jumping off point for very short sessions throughout the rest of it.
With that in mind, there are a few techniques I would recommend in practicing meditation at your work, be it a post office, an auto body shop, a library, or even a busy department store.
The Ding Meditation
One thing I like to do is set a timer to go off once an hour. I set a reminder on my phone, and after sixty minutes it will go "ding!" No matter what I am working on I am reminded to raise my gaze, connect with my posture, and meditate for a minute. I don't set a timer for that part of the process, I just practice for what feels like a minute or two then reset the timer and go back to work.
The Red Dot MeditationMy very first meditation instructor offered me this technique when I expressed interest in meditation as a child. He knew I would grow restless if I had to sit still for long periods of time so he recommended I take red circular sticker dots (you can find them at any stationary store) and post them around my house. When I walked by one and noticed it, I should think of it as a tiny STOP sign and pause, connect with my body, pay attention to my breath for a few moments, then move on. Try to do this in your own work environment. They are small enough that very few people will notice them, and it cuts through the habitual way you might rush about the place.
The Buddy System
It's often helpful to have a community of other meditators who encourage you to practice regularly. With that in mind, try to figure out if there is someone else in your place of employment who is interested in pursuing meditation. If so, you two can carve out some time during lunch or another break and meditate together for ten minutes. You don't have to practice meditation at home all by yourself; you two can find a quiet spot on the grass outside or on a bench somewhere, set a timer, and enjoy one another's support. Granted, it is extraordinary to find this sort of spiritual friend at work, but if you can you will experience a great level of support for your meditation practice; it's worth asking your colleagues if they are interested.
The more we begin to offer ourselves the gift of meditation, both in longer sessions and in little moments throughout our day, the more we are able to connect with the present moment. By enjoying the present moment we are able to connect with the details of our life, and experience every moment as an opportunity to connect with our basic goodness. From there, our strong mind can support us throughout our day.
Adapted and excerpted from The Buddha Walks into the Office, by Lodro Rinzler, © 2014 by Lodro Rinzler with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA. In bookstores now. www.shambhala.com