In my most recent post in my series on how to make work more meaningful, I outlined a framework for making your work a spiritual practice. That’s all well and good, but how about taking the idea out of the conceptual world and into the world we all live in? How, specifically, do you make your work a spiritual practice?
The answer to that could fill a book, but here are ten practice areas to get you started. Each of these merits a post (or more) of its own, but for now let’s get started with this overview.
10 ways to make your work a spiritual practice
Love: Imagine love – deep, accepting, unconditional love – as a character in a play. Now look at your experience at work through the eyes of that character. How would love see this challenging situation? How would love see this opportunity? What action would love take? What would love say? How would love hear what this person is saying?
Looking through the lens of love is a way to shift your perspective, stepping away of the small and restrictive stories we layer onto our experience and into a more expansive heartspace.
Note that coming from a space of love doesn’t necessarily mean a non-stop hippie ride of peace, love, and understanding (though that can certainly be a part of it). And it definitely doesn’t mean you’re a weak pushover. Sometimes it means making the tough choices and doing what’s hard (like firing a flailing employee who is a poor fit for a job), but coming from a place of love.
Compassion: On a related note, you can look through the lens of compassion and let that guide your actions and words. And that’s not just for people who are obviously hurting. It’s also for people who are angry, or irritating, or confrontational. You can use any of those instances as an opportunity to step back and say, for example, “This person wants the same thing I do. They want to be happy. It must hurt to be angry like that.”
Looking through the lens of compassion recognizes a deeper underlying humanity and desire for happiness that we all share and helps you not get sucked into the reactive story.
Compassion is also internally directed practice, showing the same compassion for yourself that you aspire to show others. In fact, I would go so far as to say compassion for yourself is a vital piece of being able consistently come from a place of compassion for others.
Service: This is simple and straightforward. It’s about both looking for opportunities to serve and to help and recognizing how you already are. It’s about stepping out of me, me, me and focusing on how you can benefit the world around you. It can be about both the intention to come from a place of service and the actual action.
Mindfulness: There’s not a second of your work day that doesn’t bring with it the potential to practice mindfulness. Whether you’re in a meeting, helping a customer, answering e-mail, or in heated negotiations, the time is ripe for coming back to the present moment.
Letting go: How many times during the course of a day do you have the opportunity to let go? To let go of the illusion that you’re in control? To let go of your expectations? To let go of your attachment to things being a certain way?
Patience: Impatience pulls you out of the present moment. Worse, it replaces the present moment with resistance and struggle against what is. You can’t feel peace and impatience at the same time. Where are the opportunities in your work day to practice patience?
Connection: Many people spend their lives isolated in the middle of the crowd. This can be especially true at work where so many are wearing their “professional face” and staying one step removed from showing up authentically.
Connection opens the door to caring. It opens the door to recognizing an underlying commonality we all share. And a connection that goes beyond the superficial requires openness, authenticity, and vulnerability.
Seeing the divine in others: In India, “namaste” is a greeting that can be translated as, “I bow to the divine in you.” If the word divine doesn’t work for you, you can think of it simply as a deeper spiritual core, however you perceive that.
Think about how that idea might apply at work. How often do you judge others? How often do you see them as what amounts to a caricature, a distorted two-dimensional picture of who they actually are?
Any time you notice yourself doing that, you’re presented with an opportunity to step back and look at the person in question as a spiritual core wearing a human costume, with all its quirks and fallibilities.
Stepping out of the center: We live in a me, me, me culture. And that me-centricity is a recipe for both getting wrapped around the axle and losing touch with our spiritual core.
Our jobs present us with no end of opportunities to step out of the center. Maybe that means helping someone when it’s not convenient. Maybe it means really truly trying to understand where someone is coming from in a disagreement instead of succumbing to a knee-jerk reaction. Maybe it means making sure that everybody involved with a success gets credit.
Across spiritual traditions around the world, you could describe one of the key themes as getting out of your own way to clear the path to something greater. Persistently, consistently looking for opportunities to step out of the center at work has the potential to be a powerful practice.
Discipline: This is a decidedly unsexy but vital component of spiritual traditions around the world. It takes discipline to bring your practice out of the realm of philosophical abstractions and into the world you live in. It takes discipline to say no when your ego/small-s self wants to say yes. It takes discipline to focus on the long-term good when you’re feeling the pull of short-term gratification.
Discipline is a muscle that has to be exercised. Whether that discipline is getting organized (and staying that way), or saying no to the compulsion to overwork, or committing to dive more deeply into any of the ideas I described in this post, your job provides countless opportunities to develop and strengthen discipline.
Make it your own and put it into action
These aren’t they only practice areas. They might not even all be ones that you feel called to diving into.
You can start the process of making this your own practice by going through each of the ten areas and asking if each of them speaks to you. If one doesn’t, cross it off the list (at least for now). If you’d like to go even farther, brainstorm other areas that align with your own spiritual perspective.
Once you have come up with a list of practice areas that speak to you, you can start visiting them on a daily basis. To keep from getting overwhelmed, try picking one or two you want to focus on.
Keep exploring additional practice areas as they become more naturally integrated into how you approach your job.
Experiment with it for 30 days. See what happens. Keep what works. Toss what doesn’t.
Let your on-the-job spiritual practice evolve and see where it takes you!
Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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