I've been trying to write this blog on meditation all day, but I kept getting interrupted. Sound familiar? In most workplaces, doing one thing all day isn't the norm – we're constantly asked to multitask to the point where it feels like our minds are spinning in a circle, and we're no further to completing what we really need to finish that day.
As a certified yoga instructor and meditation guide, I find this is not unlike any other portion of our lives. So why do we neglect ourselves at work, often when we need to take care of ourselves the most?
It's certainly easier to concentrate without lots of noise around you, but even if you work in a noisy environment you can cultivate a little moment of peace. All you need is yourself and an intention to be mindful.
Gregory Burdulis, a former Theravada Buddhist monk and 25-year meditation practitioner, teaches mindfulness in Boulder, Colo., at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. He holds weekly mindfulness meetings with employees to help them manage stress, become more aware in the workplace and increase their stability during times of change. He spoke today at New Hope Natural Media (more on that in Delicious Living Editor-in-Chief Radha Marcum's blog) and led us through a few minutes of meditation – which reminded me of how simple, and essential, it is to bring your meditation practice into the office.
Whether you have a strong practice or are just starting out, here are some building blocks for creating mindfulness at work. A note of caution: If you receive lots of interruptions, consider closing your door, putting up a sign, or going someplace where you can be alone for five to 10 minutes.
1. Perk up your posture.
Sitting at desks, we spend most of the day slouching forward. Do your spine a favor and sit up tall in the middle of the chair, without the chair back's support. Place both feet flat on the ground. Rest your palms on your thighs and gently drop your shoulders away from your ears and your shoulder blades together on your back. Tuck your chin down just slightly and pull your belly in and up. Take a nice, deep breath and close your eyes.
2. Tune in to your breath.
Spend a minute or so simply breathing. Follow the breath as it moves up and down the spine, and be aware that the breath is not just in the front body – it's a 360-degree effort. Notice how the side bodies expand and how the back body responds. A great technique that Burdulis shared is noticing the temperature of the breath above the upper lip and how it changes on the inhale and exhale.
3. Relax the whole body.
As you continue to breathe slow, deep breaths, begin to relax your body. I like to start either with the feet and work to the crown of the head, or vice versa. Bring your awareness to each portion of your body and mentally give it permission to relax. Don't skip your jaw, your eyes and your forehead, common tension-holders in addition to our shoulders and hips.
4. Truly listen – first, without and then within.
Now that you're relaxed, bring your awareness to what's outside of you. Listen as if through earmuffs, allowing the sounds to exist but not becoming attached to them. Now, shift your focus completely internal, listening to the sounds within your body such as your breath and heart beat. If you can't hear yourself, simply strive to hear. Sit in this way for five to 10 minutes. As thoughts arise, simply bring your focus back to the breath.
You might find it hard at first to concentrate or detach yourself from the day's stress, but don't judge or second-guess yourself. There is no right way to meditate, and there is no failure. Any quiet moment of reflection will do, if only a nanosecond. As Burdulis said: "I don't know anybody who won't benefit from this."
The key is to keep at it. Schedule yourself mindfulness appointments and stick to them. The more you practice, the "easier" it will be to drop inward and find your center amidst a busy workday.