We live in a world of constant distraction. We’re always reachable. We feel the need to connect, even when we take time off, to check in and make sure the office isn’t burning down. In a lot of ways, this attitude can help ensure the success of our work and our ability to ‘get stuff done’, but only at the risk of burning us out. We needn’t always be busy. This is a lesson that’s hard learned by someone like myself, who can find idle time uncomfortable.
When Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh led a day-long meditation seminar on the Google campus in 2014, he was surprised by the change in attitude that came from putting some of the most cutthroat workers in the world in the same room, to just ‘be’. He remarked,
“There’s a silence, there’s a peace that comes from doing nothing. And in that space, they can realise the preciousness of time.”
In the tech industry, we have the ability to disrupt, to change the landscape of the world, for better or worse. Thich Nhat Hanh writes,
“When they create electronic devices, they can reflect on whether that new product will take people away from themselves, their family and nature. Instead, they can create the kind of devices and software that can help them to go back to themselves, to take care of their feelings. By doing that, they will feel good because they’re doing something good for society.”
So, how can we return to ourselves? Especially in an open office, where music is always playing, where people are always chatting and where our time can be infinitely available to others? In the absence of daily mindfulness, we can easily find ourselves out of touch with ourselves.
Thich Nhat Hanh recommends the practice of returning to one’s self throughout the day. We can eat mindfully, by contemplating the food we eat, away from our desks, while giving thanks for the nourishment it provides. We can count our breaths as we walk to the water cooler, or remind ourselves of our posture at our desks. Another way to achieve this while working is through the mindfulness bell. In Zen Buddhist temples, guided meditation is often accompanied by a singing bowl that is rung to remind the student to return to the present moment. The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation has a variety of resources for programmable mindfulness bells to bring us back to ourselves throughout the workday.
This week, the challenge is to return to yourself. To prioritize your well-being and take care of your own energy.