Let’s envision for a moment that everything in the world is normal. And, indeed, it will be eventually, and we’ll have to go back to the daily grind. What does that look like again?
The parking lot is nice today. The birds are singing and there is a hint of sunshine. Off in the distance, there are trees and water, and somewhere far away from here, children must be at play. People smile while walking down the street and the air is just crisp enough for a brisk walk in the forest. Everyone seems so happy and content.
The sigh you make as you glare at the entrance to... (shudder) work… is audible enough to disrupt the flock of happy, little birds near your vehicle, and they get the hell out of dodge. It’s going to be a long day. I’d say it was for the birds, but they know well enough to avoid the day in day out trudge through life that we “brilliant” humans have created for ourselves.
There has to be a better way.
Better or worse, there are bills to be paid and people dependent on what you do, so muscling through, you take your bad attitude indoors. On the last stretch between “outside you” and “regular you,” you try to remember to be good and thankful and full of gratitude and employ all the things you’ve learned about positive thinking. But, you’re not feeling it today, and you’d sooner put your head in a grinder than have to deal with your co-worker’s crap on a sunny day.
Look out, KAREN, here I come.
I recently explored the idea that understanding of the self provides a sense of alignment in how we work daily and what work we chose to do. The job itself (or any activity) can simply serve as a process that allows us to understand a deeper level of work, which is self-awareness and understanding. But, that can easily go out the window when the day is beautiful, and we’d rather be anywhere else.
Believe it or not, this is an area that I find to be the substance of real growth. It is when we pay attention to situations that we’d rather not be involved in that we can recognize different parts of ourselves and come closer to what really motivates us and gives us purpose.
That doesn’t seem like much help at first when confronted with the challenge of getting through the day without a tantrum or self-defeat. Who wants to go home and dissolve into a puddle of tears or constrict into a ball of rage. It leads to unhealthy actions, misplaced emotions, or obsessive self-soothing. (You’ve seen yourself destroy a sleeve of cookies. You know what I’m talking about.)
But, kidding aside, this is the type of unresolved frustration that leads people deep into depression and addiction. If the goal is not to fall into extremes – rage or retreat, agitation or anxiety – it is important to police your actions and reactions to find balance. It expands upon the process of self-awareness. In fact, the outside world becomes your testing ground for the self-development you do in private.
So, what’s the spiritual approach to such a conundrum?
Well, I’d be lying if I said there was one cure-all. And, I’d encourage anyone to be skeptical of any claims that say as much. But, it is simple for anyone to recognize the value of feeling out undesirable situations and becoming aware of your emotions and actions. It doesn’t just happen at work, but we spend a lot of time at our jobs and this creates a rich environment to monitor our behavior.
Be heartened that there are many tools in the workshop of spiritual goodness to help you deal with lousy workdays on sunny afternoons or any other agitation that could send you spiraling leaving your emotions in control of you and not the other way around. I can speak for one tool that I find particularly effective and Buddha approved.
Be mindful. Be present.
Yeah, you’ve heard that new age malarkey a thousand times. But, I find that many have a skewed concept of mindfulness. And, those that understand the basic principals often see it as a private practice and seldom bring it to the light of day where it gets the best use.
For those of you who might be newbies to the concept, mindfulness is a practice that allows you to achieve a mental state of peace by focusing your awareness on the here and now – the present moment. You recognize and accept your feelings and thoughts calmly and without self-judgment through awareness of your mind and consciously perceiving your body to create a sense of peace.
Sounds serene, doesn’t it? It sounds, kind of boring actually. Like you have to slow down and be super chill all the time. It feels like you need to neuter yourself against any sense of passion you might have in a situation that might call for passionate thinking. That’s where most people get confused about mindfulness. And, in my practice, I see so many people trying to cancel out their sense of humanity to become peaceful zombies – no brains on the menu, just love and light.
How does that fit into a day that feels like a s*#%storm?
No, don’t react with destructive actions or with untamed emotions, but learn to react properly. The practice initially calls for you to slow your pace down and become aware of your thoughts. That much is true. Start by taking time to wrestle with the big rocks in your head in private. Bring up the emotions and ideas that bother you and become aware of your body. You’ll notice that certain areas will react.
Feel the emotions physically and turn your attention to them. Like relaxing a muscle you can guide that energy in a new direction. Honor those thoughts and the energy associated with them without labeling them as good or bad. You don’t have to solve the problem, but you have to sit with it long enough to be aware of how it affects you.
Ask why it bothers you without getting lost in it. Breathe and visualize positive energy – white light, perhaps, though I prefer green – loosening and releasing the emotional energy. Be thankful that it came to you and let it go. Be aware that this feeling has given you the opportunity to know yourself better.
In this practice, you can dig deeper into the things you perceive as problems and come closer to your own core values by evaluating your thoughts in the moment. After this process, you can even take the time to write and evaluate the experience to ask why certain situations make you reactive. There are clues in that about what truly motivates you.
Then take it outside.
Karen is being a real tool again. Why does my solar plexus pinch every time she does that? Is that a chakra thing? Release the energy that would turn into a snappish retort and be aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. That’s when you react. And, you’ll find that you react not passively but honestly and without harshness.
Mindfulness is a practice of finding honesty in ourselves.
Taking the time to become aware moment to moment allows your soul to shine outward and speak purely and passionately. Try it on for size. I won’t tell. Don’t be surprised if after a few weeks you feel less phased, more involved, and prepared to take on the day.