Work is Real Life

June 16, 2014
Lately I’ve been thinking about the nature of work and how we often view of our work-lives as separate from our “real” lives. But work is just like life. It includes everything, the full range of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Wherever we are, however we are, the entirety of our lives is always with us. It informs who we are, how we see the world and how we act.
For most of us, we hope our work sustains us in ways beyond our economic needs and desires. Whether we are owners, managers or staff members, we are all trying to manage ourselves and our relationships at work as skillfully as we can. 

We typically want the same things from our jobs regardless of our title: respect, trust, recognition, care, empathy, clear communication, a sense of community, and the freedom to creatively use our minds in ways that access our skills. 

Managing our jobs and our businesses with mindfulness at the core creates a healthy and dignified work environment for everyone. But what is it really and how do we bring it into our work lives?
Mindfulness is the process of steadying, training, and quieting the mind to see what is actually happening around us and within us, in our minds, hearts and bodies. As our awareness develops, we’re more able to step out of the center of our own stories increasing our capacity for curiosity, expanding our tolerance and resilience, and decreasing the mind’s habitual patterns of unhelpful judgments and internal criticism. 

By training the mind and body to notice and pay attention to what’s happening, the tension in the mind and the stress in the body often decrease. This gives us more access to our innately clear minds, our naturally kind hearts and our discerning wisdom which in turn lead to skillful, wise action and effective response.
It’s important to recognize that mindfulness is not about becoming a better this or that. It’s about becoming fully aware of whatever is happening, whether we like it or not, whether it’s pleasant or painful, and finding some ease even with difficulty. In essence, mindfulness increases our capacity to manage the day-to-day challenges and joys of life wherever we are.
Quick & Easy Practices:
You can use mindful awareness practices anywhere, anytime and they are especially effective at work. Here are a few practices you might like.
Mindfulness of the Body:
Anytime you feel stress, anxiety or fear, see if you can feel the bottoms of your feet on the floor. If you’re sitting in a chair, try getting a sense of your bottom in the chair. Try it now. Notice what happens. What do you feel? What are you thinking about? 

What happens when you do this, is that it immediately stops the mind-chatter about other stress. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it re-directs your attention and brings the nervous system back into balance while you focus on these sensations. This works because the brain will not advance two story-lines at once. Try that, too. See if you can focus on the sensations of your feet touching the floor while you think about the cause of your anxiety. You probably can’t do both.
Mindfulness of the Breath:
Taking a deep breath is a powerful and immediate way of calming the nervous system and letting us see a situation with a little more clarity. Try to get a sense of your breathing. Just feel your breath coming and going. Notice how breathing happens on its own without you controlling it, though you can certainly change its rhythm and depth. 

Placing attention on the breath functions similarly to noticing the feet on the floor. It re-directs the attention from whatever is happening in the mind and allows both the mind and the body to quiet.
Busyness at Work:
We all know what it’s like to have too much on our plates. The pressure and expectations are high. We want to do well, and it feels impossible to keep up. When you find yourself in this situation, try to slow down. Do one thing at a time. The brain does not naturally or effectively multi-task, even though we sometimes pride ourselves on how much we think we can do at once. Being thorough task-by-task is ultimately much more efficient and effective.
These practices are a beginning. Those that focus on how we talk to one another, how we talk to ourselves, and how we cultivate well-being at work are also vitally important. Stay tuned for more one this subject. 

When we develop and integrate mindfulness into our work environments, it becomes a way of being individually, with our co-workers, bosses and customers. It defines the culture of the work environment itself.