Spoken Word Poet, Wandering Wordsmith & retired Magician. Author of the blog Vagabundus Sapientia.
The art of Mindfulness is both an easily accessible and equally illusive one; by which I mean you can practice it literally anywhere, but remembering to practice it in daily life can be difficult. The mind is a muscle that if not regularly exercised will wither, and mindfulness is no exception. It’s not something you can master in one session, it takes long-term practice to become proficient at it. But is essential to those who wish to be peaceful and happy.
One place that is good to exercise your mindfulness muscle is at work, because it’s a place you spend a lot of your time and especially if you perform a lot of monotonous tasks your mind can end up being overrun by mindless thoughts about the past or future, and endless chatter of pointless dialogue. Whether it’s reliving past experiences or playing out scenarios that will most likely never happen like a warped theatre production of rehashed misinterpretations.
Whilst at work myself performing the vast array of monotonous tasks that are entailed in my job description I have come up with a short list of ways to help cultivate mindfulness that can invite the bell to sound in your every day work life;
1. Constant repetitive occurrences.
I’m sure during everyone’s work day they are confronted with at least a few events that occur every day. If you can learn to recognise what these are you can utilise them as mindfulness bells. Every time you notice them you can stop, take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose and bring your focus to the rise and fall of your stomach. Then continue with your work, feeling refreshed and returned to the present moment.
2. When walking to a certain place e.g. the bathroom
There are certain places that you have to visit each work day, the most obvious of which would be the bathroom, but there can be others. For example if you have to climb a set of stairs when you enter and exit the building, or if you have to go photocopy some documents, or if you’re a waiter taking food out to customers etc. Whatever this distance is, aim to become mindful of each step you take and breathe mindfully as you do. You may work in a rather hectic environment but you should allow yourself at least little portions of calm to keep your mind centered and peaceful or stress will quickly consume and devour you.
3. Whenever you feel annoyed, stressed etc.
Which leads me succinctly onto the next point; we all have times when we find ourselves feeling annoyed at work, maybe with some mistake we made (by not being mindful of the task at hand) or by a situation out of our control. This is the perfect time to move away from the storm in your mind and return to your centre of calm. Remember that emotions are fleeting and to not let yourself become them.
4. During your lunch break
Mindful eating is a wonderful practice to get into, not only does it help anchor you in the present moment, it allows you to fully taste and appreciate your food. Taking the time out to consider how grateful you are for the food you’re eating and to contemplate all the people/effort that brought it to you is a wonderful practice to indulge in. I personally prompt myself to do this by saying the japanese phrases; Itadakimasu (I humbly receive) and Gochisōsama (You were a feast) before and after a meal.
5. Whenever you complete a task
It is important to reward yourself every time you complete a task no matter how large or small, because you know just how much effort you have put into that task (and often you won’t recieve much in the way of thanks from others). And what better way to do this than by breathing mindfully and reveling in the beauty of the present moment, instead of just going straight on with the next task. If no one else will give you loving praise for your efforts/achievements that’s fine, show yourself some, you know you deserve it.
6. Whilst performing monotonous tasks
I mentioned this in the introduction to the post but it’s often one people tend to overlook. Every job has a varying degree of monotonous tasks to be done. Some jobs may only have a few, while others are complied of nothing else. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Whilst performing these tasks; like stamping paperwork, chopping tomatoes, delivering papers, sending mass emails etc. We have the wonderful opportunity to let our minds relax. People feel they should always be doing something productive, if not physically then mentally. I for one spend a lot of time at work reciting my poetry in my head readying myself for future performances, which is fine some of the time. But the mind, like the body, needs rest. It was not designed to constantly be in use, mind chatter can be quieted, through mindfulness. Take these often rare opportunities to breathe mindfully and focus on the task at hand, without letting the mind wander. I view tasks like chopping tomatoes in the same way as the Zen practice of chopping wood.
These are just a few examples of ways you can practice mindfulness at work, I’m sure you can think of plenty of other ways specific to your job, I’ve only been able to give you some conceived from mine, but I attempted to make them as universal as possible. Feel free to mention ways you practice being mindful at work in the comments below. I, and I’m sure others, would love to read them.
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” - Lao Tzu