Several years ago after I presented a workshop entitled “Spirituality at Work: Because You Can’t Leave Home Without You?” I got a phone call from someone who saw the program booklet. She was very interested in the topic and wanted to know how to “get it” at her company. She went on to ask, “How can I implement spirituality in our organization?” My response was simple. “You can’t. Spirituality isn’t something you implement; it’s something you are.”
From that point on I became an ardent observer of this new “hot topic” and it’s evolution in the corporate world. Let’s be clear. Spirituality is not religion. Spirituality is an inner search for deeper meaning-a personal private journey. Or as Peter Block says in Servant Leadership “The process of living out a set of deeply held personal values, of honoring forces or a presence greater than ourselves. It expresses our desire to find meaning in, and to treat as an offering, what we do.” If you want to bring spirituality into your company, just be spiritual.
Given that you can’t leave home without you, your work can then become a place for your spiritual practice. Plus, some of the great spiritual teachers like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, HH The Dalai Lama, and Confucius, have much to teach us which can be directly applied to how we interact and live while at work.
For example, if you want to reduce stress and also become a better communicator, meditate and practice mindfulness. HH The Dalai Lama says, “Everyday I experience the benefits of peace of mind. It’s very good for the body. As you might imagine, I am a rather busy man. I take many responsibilities upon myself, activities, speeches, trips. All that no doubt is a very heavy burden, and still I have the blood pressure of a baby. What’s good for me is good for other people. I have no doubt on that score. Good food, a struggle against every excessive desire, daily meditation, all that can lead to peace of mind. And, peace of mind is good for the body.” Not only is peace of mind good for the body, it is also good for the mind. Conscious, mindful communication reduces misunderstanding and increases productivity. Here’s a simple exercise you can do anywhere, anytime to help you develop your present moment power.
Sit quietly by yourself. Follow your breath…sense the feeling of it as it comes in and goes out of your body. That’s all there is to it. Just feel your breath and know you are breathing. Don’t think about your breath, just be aware that you are breathing…normal breathing pace and depth. Simply note your breath…in breath…out breath…breathing in…breathing out…don’t worry about getting anywhere…just stay with one full in-breath on its way in and one full out-breath on its way out. Keep your mind empty to just this moment. When thoughts appear, return your attention to your breath. Practice this ten minutes a day and you’ll see an increase in your ability to be present moment focused-the key to better communication and deeper understanding. If you want to read more about this, pick up Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Wherever You Go, There You Are.
In Buddhist traditions, the Nobel Truths have much to teach us about how we interact and how we deal with change. The first says pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. Therefore, if you suffer, you choose to suffer. The second goes on to say that clinging causes suffering. So, if something isn’t going the way you would like it to and you continue to dislike the situation, you are clinging to it and will most likely suffer. The solution is in the third Nobel Truth. Liberation happens when you let go. By letting go of those things you cannot control, you can be liberated. Now, let’s see how this plays out at work.
Changes happen regularly and we often resist them. What you resist will persist. So, if you are clinging to negativity and resisting the change, suffering happens and you probably will be miserable at work. On the other hand, if you make a conscious choice to let go of what you cannot control (the specific implemented change) and accept it, you’ll be liberated. Acceptance is not approval, consent, permission, agreement, compliance, support or even liking what is. Instead, acceptance is saying, “It just is.” Another “spiritual practice” with work-related benefits can be found in the martial art of Aikido. If you translate it literally translated, it means the way of blending energy. In his book The Magic of Conflict, Tom Crum refers to Aikido and says, “all of life, including a physical attack, is energy with which to dance. Attacks are considered just another of the endless gifts of energy to be used creatively and harmoniously. It is important to accept and embrace the attack rather than try to get rid of it. Direct the flow of energy instead of being pushed around by it.”
For example, an employee comes storming into your office upset about a decision you recently made. He’s really angry and is clearly attacking you. Your first thought is to defend your position and so you do. This leads to a bigger argument, more defending and ultimately no one wins. What if you were to take an Aikido approach and via your self-talk, embrace the attack and direct the flow of energy through your words and body language, in other words, C.A.L.M. yourself? Let the employee rant and attack.. All the while you are Controlling your response, Assessing the situation, Listening carefully and Moving toward understanding. Once the attack is complete, respond with empathy i.e., “It’s clear you’re unhappy about this; let’s explore what can be done.” Maybe nothing can be done; at least you’re showing that you care. (Be sure you really do care, however, because if you don’t it will come through in your voice and body language and you will have defeated the whole interaction.) By not becoming defensive you have maintained your power, helped defuse the employee’s anger and set the stage for an interaction where the probability for understanding has increased.
Once you jump on the spiritual path, it’s hard to jump off. Those of us on the journey can choose to look at work as the ultimate spiritual classroom. Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Let’s simply be spiritual and spirituality will be at work.
About the Author
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About the author of this article: Through her workshops, seminars and consulting projects, Nancy Stern MA, helps people keep connected through conscious communication because how you say what you say matters?.