What does being “mindful” mean? Very simply put, it means being aware, being present in the moment. Or like our favorite phrase at OBOlinx, it simply means being “Happy in the Now.” In our endless pursuit for success, and achievement of goals in the world of work, we focus more on achieving the end result, rather than on the journey to get closer to our goals. Being mindful means to invest all our focus in the present moment, and not in the future. Practicing the miracle of mindfulness at work means to realize that it is only when we start moulding ourselves to become more ‘process’ oriented, instead of being ‘result’ oriented that we will succeed in being ‘happy in the now’.
The phrase, ‘Miracle of Mindfulness’ is a book by the Zen Master, and Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh. In this book, he speaks about how practicing mindfulness in everything you do can help you truly evolve and grow as a person. We thought it would be worthwhile to adapt the meaning of mindfulness in terms of our professional lives. Hence, this post is an attempt to capture what practicing mindfulness at work might entail.
Before we aspire to take charge of anything, we must aspire to first take charge of how we breathe. He says in his book, “breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” To utilize our potential fully, in the professional realm, the foremost thing we need to accomplish is to bind our dispersed thoughts together. This is possible only when we are mindful of how we breathe. In our fast paced lives, we are always anywhere else but where we actually are. Our mind is constantly taking flight – which is possible only when we permit it to do so.
By being conscious of our breath we are able to bring our minds back to the immediate task at hand. We have all forgotten how to breathe, these days we breathe to survive and not to live. Begin by practicing mindful breathing for 5 minutes every day, and keep increasing the limit until you teach yourself how to breathe mindfully throughout the day. At work, take frequent 5 minute breaks to do nothing but breathe. And watch the magic of mindfulness unfold.
Mindfulness emerges from your body, as much as it does from your mind and your soul. A prerequisite to practicing mindfulness at work is maintaining good posture. Our posture, especially how we sit while at work influences our productivity beyond an extent we can imagine. For our mind to be alert, aware, and completely at the disposal of the task we sit down to accomplish, our body needs to complement our state of mind. The efficiency and energy with which we pursue our task is determined by the ability of our body to endure it.
In order to be at your productive best, be mindful of your body while at work. Maintain erect posture, take frequent breaks to get up and walk around, and to do a few stretches every now and then. Through this, you will be able to bring your focus back to your task, and control the flow of your thoughts.
3. Being Present
To be present is probably the key to achieving mindfulness, and therefore, could be the hardest thing to achieve. To be present means to be nowhere else, to do nothing else but what the present moment asks of you. Being present means to give your entire being to accomplishing the current task at hand with all your attention, love and care. This beautiful excerpt from the book, “Miracle of Mindfulness”, will illustrate how one can practice being present, and how it guides you to be ‘happy in the now’!
“…we sat under a tree and shared a tangerine. He began to talk about what we would be doing in the future. Whenever we thought about a project that seemed attractive or inspiring, Jim became so immersed in it that he literally forgot about what he was doing in the present. He popped a section of tangerine in his mouth and, before he had begun chewing it, had another slice ready to pop into his mouth again. He was hardly aware he was eating a tangerine. All I (I here refers to Thich Naht Hanh) had to say was, “You ought to eat the tangerine section you have already taken.” Jim was startled into realizing what he was doing. It was as if he hadn’t been eating the tangerine at all. If he had been eating anything, he was “eating” his future plans.”
To be able to be mindful at work, focus more on living in the present and doing only one thing at a time. Pursue it dutifully before moving on to the next task, or before planning for your future. This is the only secret you need to unlock to be happy in the now – embracing the present moment, and being your productive best in each moment.
This aspect of practicing mindfulness at work is inextricably linked to the previous factor of “being present”. It is only when you live in the moment and for the moment that you gain the strength and the discipline to tether your mind and move single mindedly towards your goals.
To illustrate what this means, Thich Naht Hanh uses the metaphor of washing dishes.
“While washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly: why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing these bowls is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”
How do we incorporate this metaphor into the world of work? Well, it is simple. Make discipline your motto. And seek discipline in every act you pursue. It could be something seemingly insignificant like filing papers, or something which appears to be more life/career defining like a proposal presentation. No matter what the action is, invest the same amount (i.e., maximum) of discipline into every task you take on.
To Sum it Up
Being mindful is a means and an end at the same time. To practice being mindful at work means to channelize the highest levels of energy within yourself towards a purpose you have chosen for yourself. It could also work in the reverse manner, i.e., being mindful at work could help you realize your true calling and purpose in life. A win-win situation, isn’t it?
Are you still wondering what mindfulness is? To sum everything we’ve said before this, in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh –
“Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. It is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.”
What are your stories of mindfulness at work ? We would love to hear about them!