Practices such as yoga, meditation, chanting help you bring some sense and balance to your life. But this is confined to a specific time. Indeed, one cannot be meditating or practicing yoga asanas all day long. Once you step out of the yoga class or conclude your meditation for the day, the marathon of your thoughts begins again. However, the home and workplace itself provides with ample opportunities to be ‘mindful’.
For many of us, daily chores become an opportunity to think about other things while doing them. We are so accustomed to doing these activities that we no longer need to be aware while doing them. So the key is to bring mindfulness to the most basic things that we do.
As you wake-up
When you start the day, with brushing your teeth, pay attention! How does the toothpaste taste? What temperature is the water? What sensations are you experiencing in your mouth? Notice your body posture; are you tensed over the sink? Experiment each day; with different aspects of your morning. Take those few moments of doing something ordinary and let it become something extraordinary. Even to appreciate the ease with which we do miraculous things like breathing, can assist us to take a short break from the constant chatter of our minds.
Off to the office
If you walk to work, try changing it into a walking meditation. Be sure your back is straight and your shoulders relaxed. Then, as you walk, turn your attention to your breath and notice if your breath is coming from high up in your lungs or from lower down in your abdomen. Good breathing comes from your abdomen. When shoulders are slouched the breath is restricted and the body does not receive enough oxygen. Once you are breathing and walking comfortably, turn your attention to your body. Notice how one foot goes up as the other comes down. Feel the weight of your foot. Walk faster and notice your breath change.
Notice your surroundings
What temperature is the air and where do you feel it contacting your body? Can you hear birds singing or is the traffic noise too loud. If traffic is bothersome, consider the people in the cars, also hurriedly rushing around. Maybe try to feel a sense of connection with them; ultimately we are not so different from one another.
The working day starts
Depending on your job, there maybe many people you interact with or only a few. Either way, develop more consideration for your colleagues. Be mindful of how you affect them. Have consideration for others and do not let yourself be too self-absorbed in your own duties. The work place can be a breeding ground for conflicts, politics, and misunderstandings. If you usually find yourself reacting immediately, take a moment to recognize that and try a different response. Take a deep breath, notice where the tension is in your body and breathe it out.
Zen is very simple and hence a very difficult practice. It begins with watching your breath and nothing more. The practice is to keep coming back to this breath awareness, over and over and over again. It is a life practice. Do not be dependent if it takes time to bring mindfulness into your working day. Try small things; take it one step at a time. Eventually mindfulness will feel natural and ‘normal’.
If we can observe ourselves with a degree of honesty we can learn to take ourselves less seriously. Some humor in the workplace can help alleviate stressful deadlines. It is not that we must laugh about such matters, but perhaps become able to laugh at our reactions to them. Our bodily posture can affect our mind and the state of our mind is reflected in our body posture. Stay alert to both. What you are aiming for is to stay calm and balanced.
Attention to work aids can be the most helpful tool. If your desk is cluttered and you can never find what you want when you want it, re-organize it. Being able to instantly reach for a report or a pen when you need it helps the mind remain calm and balanced.
Make time for silence
Something else you may like to consider is having a period of silence in your working day. If you have group tea breaks, ask your colleagues if they would like to see how it feels to have that time in silence. View it a time to rebalance, to silently watch your breath while allowing your mind to settle down too. In the long run this helps improve your concentration and creativity. In a still mind, ideas can more readily surface. Lunch time is also an ideal time to utilize mindfulness. Eat in silence and as you eat, taste each mouthful; distinguish different flavors and become aware of chewing and swallowing your food. Enjoy it!
Mindfulness and bodily awareness are tools that you can use anywhere to regain a sense of calm and balance. The beauty is that no one even knows you are employing this technique unless you want them to.
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