Joy at Work

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

photo of woman using her laptop

Do you remember the last time you worked so well that you were whistling away and the job just got done quickly and efficiently? Certain conditions need to exist for that to happen and we will discuss them in this article.

Peace is what we are after and this needs training. Actually, it is easier to have peace but our habitual tendencies tend to make us waste our energy and ‘work’ towards making ourselves miserable. But this is merely a habit which can be easily replaced if we put effort into it.

When we perform a task with full attention and awareness, we will find that it has a calming effect, and brings joy. The work actually gives us more energy instead of leaving us feeling tired. However, this does not happen all the time due to our negative habits. It is useful to understand them so that we can be aware of them as and when they arise.

Stress in our daily life is due to the habit of rushing around and jumping from one task to another. Time is just a concept of the mind. When you are rushing, you artificially make the time ‘shorter’ and create unnecessary stress. Stress manifests itself in our physical body as a feeling of tightness in the chest area and tension in shoulder area. Our  breathing becomes very shallow.

We know that stress harms the body. This life is precious and as such, we must give our body a lot of attention in the process of understanding the ego. Whenever the physical manifestation of stress appears, make it a point to stop whatever you are doing and take a short break. Just do one thing at a time, step by step and watch the things fall away. Relax, concentrate on your breath and place your attention on your chest area. Eventually, you will feel the relaxation in your heart. You will be able to complete the work at hand more efficiently.

Stress needs certain conditions to exist before it can manifest. One of the conditions is the perception of a lack of time. A complicated task is challenging or interesting when we have more than ample time to complete it. If a time limit is imposed and it is perceived as insufficient, the challenging task becomes a stressful one. We may not be conscious of the perception, which may be operating sub-consciously and we may be rushing unnecessarily. So, one way to reduce stress is to remove the condition for the feeling to sustain itself, for example, when we stop to get ourselves a drink of water whenever we are under stress, we remove the perception of a lack of time and this helps to reduce stress.

We also remind ourselves that when we are under stress, we tend to make more mistakes. The reasons are obvious; we skip from one task to another and this affects our focus. In addition, the perception of a lack of time will prevent us from reviewing our work and detecting our mistakes. So, rushing can never be justified.

Once upon a time, a Spiritual Master saw a young disciple sweeping the floor. The Master had to rush to another place to give a talk but instead of rushing, he walked towards the young disciple, placed his hands on his shoulders and told him, “If you want to do something, give it your best shot”. What the Master was advising him to do was to sweep the floor with full awareness and truly enjoy it. Yes, sweeping the floor can be enjoyable if it is done consciously.

“When something is done well, it generally means that it was done by someone who was fully conscious as to what they were doing. Undistracted by the petty desires of the mind, intelligence is able to channel itself intensely through the person, with force and inspiration,” – MG Satchidananda.

Another condition is the perception of the enormity of the work on hand. Our minds will be thinking of the next thousand steps to complete and the more steps which we are unsure of, the stronger our stress becomes. We should not mistake this for planning. To remove this condition, we need to focus on the immediate step to complete. We tell ourselves that we will address the immediate problem and focus on future problems as and when we reach them. Thinking this way reduces the perception of the size of work from a mountain to a mole hill.

Our mind tend to make our problems look bigger that they actually are. With awareness, we see the reality of things. Such is the power of awareness. Remove the two conditions whenever stress tries to show its face and pretty soon, you will be singing away while doing your work.

For the first few times, the effort to take short breaks and to think one step at a time will be a conscious choice. However, over time, this too will become a habit and stress will be an unusual occurrence. Try to leave some time after lunch to meditate or practice Yoga Nidra (conscious sleep). This will remove the tension in the body, which is another factor of stress. Meditation will slow down the pace of our thoughts and reduce their emotional charge.

Recognize that when we feel over-loaded, the situation is not permanent. Stressful and relaxing days overlap each other over and over again. During stressful days, we remind ourselves that they are impermanent and calm ourselves down. Recognise that certain tasks can be done during the relaxing days. During relaxing days, we remind ourselves that they too are impermanent and stressful days will come. On such days, we prepare for the stressful days. We try to get as many things out of the way as possible. Whenever we have some free time, try to improve on our knowledge and skills so that we can complete our work quicker and more effectively during the stressful days.

This is similar to our spiritual practice. During the better days, when there are no major problems, we use them to prepare ourselves with intense spiritual practice. We increase the period of our practices to strengthen our awareness. This increases our ability to recognize the feelings in our body and the mental formations that brings us suffering. When we recognize them, they become smaller and smaller; less daunting. Remember, bad days are impermanent. Good days also are impermanent.

Another habit that can take the joy out of work is complaining in our heads. One way to bring joy into our work life is to go to work with the conscious intention of not judging and complaining in our minds. This enables us to retain our energy and focus them on our work. When we do so, the work becomes enjoyable.

There is a good and bad side to everything. This is the law of this world of duality. If asked, is wealth good or bad, we will not be able to give a definite answer. When we do not like someone, we can shift our thoughts towards his positive trades and pretty soon, he will no longer seem too bad. In Buddhism, this practice is called Mudita. When we judge others, let us stop and think if we are also guilty of the same  behavior. In most cases, we are. There is a wonderful passage in ‘The Voice of Babaji’ which states, “There is no such thing as an accident in the cosmic universe. Grow bolder in all adversities, waxing warmer with the heat of everlasting light. Let all condemnation of others be deemed your own. If you adjust the microcosm, the macrocosm will adjust itself for you. You cannot see outside, what you are not inside”.

When we complain to ourselves, it is like someone nagging at us constantly. Our own mind is very good at finding the points that can really stir us. If we cannot and would not tolerate someone else nagging at us constantly, why do we allow these complaining thoughts to arise and carry on in our mind? When these thoughts arise, know that they are not fruitful, and the nagging must stop. Don’t give them strength. Note the thoughts and move your concentration to your breath. That will help us to understand ourselves by understanding the thoughts that arise within us. Gradually, our mind will become peaceful again.

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