In classical yoga, non-violence (ahimsa) is one of the primary tenets. However, this doesn’t mean you are expected to walk around defenseless. Quite the contrary.
If you consider a weapon to be something that gives you an advantage in times of conflict or difficulty, then your yoga and meditation practice will serve as your sword and your shield time and time again. Whether you work from home or you are surrounded by coworkers and customers, you are going to run up against many of the same combatants in your professional life.
Too Much to Do, Too Little Time.
Whether you have trouble prioritizing tasks or simply staying focused on the task at hand, meditation is designed to help you cultivate greater levels of focus, deeper states of concentration and more rapid discernment of what matters most.
A recent study on the effects of meditation showed more stability in the ventral posteromedial cortex of participants who practiced meditation than in non-meditators, while performing tasks. This region of the brain is linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind-wandering; thus, more focus was observed in the brains of meditators. Whether you are waiting tables, freelance writing from home, or calculating payroll for your office, you must find a way to focus, prioritize and follow through.
Someone Else is Holding the Ball.
When you have done everything you can and now you are waiting on that email, or that order, or that detail about your deadline, you must learn how to wait and when to act again. There is no better training ground than a practice that typically asks you to be physically still (although not always) and to practice the art of non-reaction.
In the practice of meditation, you learn to deal with your thoughts in the same way that you deal with uncooperative managers and customers–you accept that they exist and, rather than tell them how awful they are and what a mess they are making of your life, you practice redirecting your attention to a point of focus that you have chosen.
This is not to say that you leave that table of indecisive customers in the lurch forever, or that you give up on moving forward with your budget calculations entirely. It simply means you might benefit from taking a deep breath and walking away from that roadblock momentarily so that you can place your attention on other areas where you can make progress. Doing this will provide you with a feeling of strength rather than helplessness when you return again to the challenging situation.
How Can You Practice Meditation at Work?
In short, you need time, a place, and the willingness to experiment.
1. Find a place where you can feel comfortable looking as if you are doing nothing (some commonly used places are a bathroom stall, your office with the door closed, or a stairwell.)
2. Try to schedule meditation time into your workday on a daily basis. Do this by scheduling your practice to follow a regular habit that will trigger your memory (perhaps after your bathroom break, before you begin eating your lunch, or just after you have parked your car). It may feel impossible at first, but predictability and consistency will dramatically improve the benefits of your practice.
3. Set a timer for as little as one minute (on your phone, watch, or an old-fashioned kitchen timer) or as many as you can allocate in your day.
4. Set your attention on something you’ve chosen (like the feeling of your breath entering and leaving your body, or a phrase that you silently repeat, such as “I am [inhale] here [exhale]”) and bring your awareness back to that until the timer tells you it’s time to move on. If you’re new to meditation, you can also try out guided meditation apps to help you discover meditation techniques that are effective for you.
Now, raise your sword and shield. It’s time to get to work.