I’m delighted to welcome Dan Zandt from Stillmind today.
Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart. ~ Rumi
The word “spirituality” is banded about a lot these days. To be called a “spiritual person” is a compliment. Bookstores have dedicated sections, usually next to the one labelled “New Age.” We talk about spiritual paths, disciplines and teachings without a second thought.
Yet do we really have a clear idea of what the word means?
In his book Seeking Spirituality, Ron Rolheiser writes that human nature is marked by a “fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace.”
We can, I think, see this truth wherever we look.
The ambition may differ – wealth, security, sex, family, truth, insight – but its root remains the same. There is within us a force that endlessly compels us to movement. We are always striving for something. Human life isn’t a peaceful affair scattered with moments of unrest. It is a frantic, fuelled, passionate pursuit, in the midst of which stillness occasionally arises.
Our spirituality, Rolheiser would argue, is our way of handling the fundamental energy that drives us. It comprises the practices and habits we foster to channel it. We can either use this energy to move towards peace and meaning, or to stoke the fires of frustration and boredom.
In this article I’d like to look at some ways we can do the latter, particularly as it relates to our working lives. I’d like to share a handful of exercises and philosophies that have helped me find joy in my own work. I hope you enjoy them.
1. Discover and Align with Your Deepest Values
Our ability to bring our core values to our work doesn’t depend on the activity we’re doing. Maia Duerr, of Liberated Life Project, talks about moulding our job to fit our beliefs, rather than the other way around. If we’re aware of our true convictions, our felt notion of how the world should be and our role in it, we can integrate them into our daily activities, whatever they may be.
When we instill that deeply-enlivening sense of purpose in our work, we instantly feel more satisfied. Yet the change is a relational one. It’s comes from inside us, not from our circumstances. The environment stays the same but we interact with it in a different way.
I’ve had a string of boring jobs. And I mean boring! Things changed, however, when I began to see the mundane tasks as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. As I shifted my attitude, I was no longer aching for the day to finish but saw the work as an opportunity for spiritual growth! So I was stacking shelves whilst at the same time fulfilling what I felt was the real reason I’m here.
Try asking the question, “How can I approach my work in a way that realizes my purpose and passion?” Then see if you can do it.
2. Act With Compassion, Your Direct Link to Happiness
We feel happier when we help others. This is a simple, scientifically-grounded, truth.
Acting with kindness towards others is one of the easiest ways to both contribute to a greater good and feel happier. This doesn’t mean going out of our way to be altruistic. Rather, all we need to do is be aware in our intention to help others where appropriate. Throughout the day, there are so many opportunities for small considerate acts. It might mean offering somebody friendship, helping share a workload or even just a kind word.
When dog-eat-dog defines our environment, I feel it’s all the more important to make space for compassion. Competitiveness is encouraged nowadays. I remember a friend telling me about the giant computer screen in his office that ranked every single employee by their real-time sales figures. He found it so discouraging. The office seemed almost designed to create resentment.
3. Welcome the Pain
Daily we’re presented with difficult people, boring tasks and stress-inducing deadlines. Boredom doesn’t even need mentioning! But when we see these things as blessings, not scenarios to avoid at all costs, their power over us is diminished.
What if we can use those moments as a trigger to cultivate mindfulness? To practice dealing with difficult feelings with awareness and self-compassion?
Rather than shunning or pushing away the pain, we can instead say, “Today I feel melancholic or upset or angry, but that’s OK, I know the territory and I can deal with it without losing my peace of mind.”
In this way, we’re able to keep our stability in spite of our in-the-moment emotional circumstances. We no longer fear the negative.
4. Overcome “Unbridled Busyness”
It’s been remarked that our modern environment is counterproductive to fostering balance. How can we connect with ourselves and our work when so many voices are squalling in our ears? To sit with a single task, to give it our fullest attention and effort, can be hard. Yet with only one commitment in front of us, we can ease into flow that much more effortlessly.
For me, the first step was to stop multitasking. Not only is it completely futile in terms of increasing productivity, it hinders our ability to fully engage with what we’re doing. Before I sit down to work I set the intention of staying only with what I’m doing, consciously “coming back” whenever I notice that I’ve been distracted. Much as we do in meditation, we can develop the habit of “returning.” We can mindfully notice the pull to Twitter or Facebook or our email client and let it pass.
The second step I took was to set myself mindfulness reminders. I began to explore how I could actually use my computer to avoid distractions. I developed mindfulness triggers – switching between a tab in my browser, opening up Gmail, finishing a paragraph – to prompt me back into the present moment. All of these things helped me to stop being pulled to and fro between a hundred little interruptions.
So there it is, my four steps to joyful work.
Do let me know about your own experiences in the comments section below.
Dan Zandt writes at Stillmind, a blog about using simple mind-body practices, like mindfulness and meditation, for peace at work.
Thank you so much for reading. Please help me reach others by sharing this post. If you’re new, please subscribe for free updates by email. With love, Sandra