Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting Calm, Clear and Wise—At Work!

As we head back to work after a long holiday weekend, it may feel challenging to return to a routine and responsibilities, even our co-workers or boss. Is it possible to carry our inner peace, clarity and wisdom with us as we go? Is it possible to root it there, despite challenging circumstances or office drama?

I wanted to share a column I recently wrote for a women's magazine. I'll hope that it will offer you some ideas for how you can stay serene and productive, 9-5, Monday through Friday.

Drive thy business or it will drive thee.
~Benjamin Franklin

This thought by one of our wise forefathers poses a powerful question for working women today. I’ll re-state it for us in modern terms. Whether you work inside the home or out in the wider world, consider this: Is your “business” driving you or are you driving it?

I imagine that many of us would hesitate to admit that our place of business—our work environments and the people who inhabit them—do drive us. But it’s true. It is far too easy to be drawn into work pressures, stressors, and co-workers’ moods. Sucked into “office drama,” we lose any sense of equanimity with which we may have started the day.

Whether your “office” is a battered desk in your children’s playroom (my first!) or a cherry-trimmed beauty with a riverfront view—the stressors are the same. No matter where we find ourselves, it is up to each of us to create moments of calm throughout our day so we can function effectively.

Office Oasis
Instead of arriving at your desk or office each day dreading what will greet you, create mini-spaces that help you focus or shift your attention from stressed to serene. Dedicate a corner of your desk, a section of bulletin board, or a space on a bookshelf and create a “portrait of peace.” Place objects or pictures there that calm and center you. People you love, places you visited, even sacred objects that have special meaning for you or bring comfort. At various intervals throughout the day, close your door, turn off the phone, close the laptop, and sink into a few moments of peace by focusing on your “sacred space.”

Human beings think in pictures so by focusing our attention on images that create feelings of love, awe, or appreciation we nurture ourselves with a few visually serene moments. Consider them “mini-vacations,” forays away from the pressures of work to places of ease inside of you. 

Use this time to do some conscious breathing too. So easy and effective! Simply bring your attention to your breath. Focus on “belly breathing” and inhale to the count of 6 or 8. Exhale to the count of 8 or 10. Feel the relief. Do this for as long as you need to “drop in” to a calmer version of yourself.

When workplace tension arises or a disgruntled co-worker comes into your space to kvetch, bring your attention back to your “portraits of peace” and do your breath practice. No one will even know what you’re doing; how you are creating a pipeline to inner calm—even in the midst of chaos.

Cultivate Clarity
It’s been said thousands of times before, hundreds of books written on it— a cluttered desk, office, or house creates inner turmoil. It’s true. I know it is for me. I cannot write (even a column like this) if there is disarray around me. It is as if my mind picks up the exterior mess and dumps it back inside creating an inner landfill.

Before you begin your workday, clear and organize your desk as best you can. Even if what’s there is in piles, that’s better than loose-leaf papers strewn all over. Organize the desktop on your computer. A monitor screen cluttered with documents can set the mind awhirl. By taking a few moments each day to stay organized, you set the stage for clearer thinking. The calmer you are the clearer your mind will be. That’s a fact.

As “working women,” with multiple roles and responsibilities, it is up to us to be as calm as possible—and to access it as often as we can throughout the day. Our homes and businesses need us to be “grounded” and clear thinking. Their success depends on our ability to be present, not scattered; effective, not exhausted.

Know what simple activities plant you back in your calm center—then do them! Step away if you need to. Take a music break. Go outside and breathe in Mother Nature. Walk on your lunch hour. Your inner peace quotient is up to you. It will rise and fall with every choice you make.

I once asked Jungian analyst and author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in an interview what wisdom was. Her answer? “Wisdom is what works.”  I was taken aback by the simplicity of her response, but I knew what she said was true. Wisdom—especially women’s wisdom—is sourced in the practical. It is what we know works, especially what we can and should do to keep things running smoothly—and to take care of ourselves in the process.

Today, begin to take the first steps toward bringing a greater sense of calm into your workday. When you do, I guarantee you will feel your clarity return. And out of that clear-mindedness, your wisdom will rise and make itself known to you. Life will begin to look and feel different, even behind a desk or in the boardroom.

Calm, clear, wise—that’s the magic formula for a successful business and a stellar life.

1 comment:

mermaid said...

Jan, I appreciate everything you've said her. Pictures, breathing, organized workspace, they all help to ground when my mind is running ahead of me and I need to bring myself back to here. Thanks for the reminder.

Especially enjoyed Estes comment, "Wisdom it what works.!"