awakened af : how to

the key to effecting change in the workplace is practicing mindfulness

Bring your Inner Monk to Work

If you’re unhappy with the culture of your workplace or the general level of professional behavior in your office, there is no better way to initiate the change than to start with yourself and consistently be the best version of yourself each and every day.

When you bring your inner monk to work, you show up as the same person you are when you’re on the meditation cushion. I realize that just by possessing a positive outlook and modeling positive behavior isn’t often enough to bring about changes in others, but as a Buddhist practitioner, it’s the place you must start. 

When you bring your inner monk to work on a consistent basis, you’re no longer the person who allows the 90-minute bus-train-walk commute to transform you into a raging a-hole before you get to the office.

You don’t check your values at the elevator but, instead, you bring them into your meetings. You don’t pass on idle gossip about coworkers on whom you have to depend, instead, you feel compassion toward those affected by the gossip and go out of your way to show them kindness.

Being a monk at work isn’t about being a ‘goody two shoes,’ it’s about being the same person you are in your private, most introspective moments. It’s about being fully human full-time.”

Bringing your inner monk to work can be seen as the continuation of the insightful meditative state you experience when you practice and it’s the prerequisite for becoming whatever change you want to see at the office. The most helpful tool I’ve found to achieve this way of working is the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the perfect workplace practice

Mindfulness is the human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” -Mindful.org

While you may not actually role out your yoga mat at work or assume the lotus position on your desk and meditate during your lunch break, you can easily adopt the practice of mindfulness at any time during the day.

Being mindful becomes key to nourishing your inner monk at work or at home; in the cafe or at the doctor’s office; in a meeting or while taking a walk after lunch.

Since there isn’t a place where practicing mindfulness is a hindrance, why wouldn’t you want to practice it at work?

How to begin a practice of mindfulness at work

Mindfulness is a state of awareness that we can access at any time. The most effective way to begin is simply to focus for about 15 seconds on your breath. Your breath is the connection between your mind and your body.

Observe your inhalation and mentally say to yourself, “I am breathing in.” As you exhale, take note of the fact that you are exhaling and, again, mentally recite the sort phrase, “I am not exhaling.”

Repeat this for about five breaths. Then go about your work. When you begin to write an email, mentally note, “I am writing an email.” When you walk to the coffee area, your silent mantra becomes “I am walking, I am pouring coffee, and not I am walking again.”

Like zazen (sitting meditation), your mind will wander, phones will ring, and work will distract you. That’s normal. When you notice that you’re not being mindful, simply take a breath and start over.

Repeat this throughout the day. Before you think you’ll become a robotic automaton who walks around the office in an emotionless existence, I assure you that you won’t. Mindfulness practice, in the beginning, is a deliberative process and over time the need for mental narration fades and a mindful state becomes the default.

While this may sound repetitious and mundane, I assure you that it isn’t. Anti-awareness is our default mode of thinking and it’s also a silent narration, but the difference is that we are usually thinking and repeating mental checklists that have nothing to do with the present moment.

Mindfulness not only connects and grounds you in the present moment, it guards against the kind of suffering that arises from anti-awareness. If we aren’t in the present moment, then where are we?

It’s postulated that the human brain experiences 30,000 thoughts each day. Very few are of the life-changing kind.

As one of my heroes, Mike Dooley, continually says, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.” ™

Mindfulness helps you to initiate the change at work by first initiating a change in you…from within. It leads to less suffering and moment-by-moment nourishing of your inner monk.

Over time, others will notice something uniquely different about you. Some may comment on it or even ask you directly. It’s your choice whether or not to tell them about your mindfulness practice.

But sharing this wonderful tool that promotes real awareness, perhaps they will begin a mindfulness practice as well. Most likely, it will change their behavior as well.

It could indeed be the change in your workplace that you’ve been hoping for.


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