I didn’t know what to expect when I attended a week-long Zen retreat back in July, but it ended up being an unforgettable experience. Many of the lessons I learned can be applied to work life as well as personal life; I’d be remorseful if I didn’t share them with you!
Could you use a bit of Zen in your daily life? Keep reading.
Zen in a nutshell:
Trust me, I am aware of the stereotype that pops to mind the moment the Zen word is mentioned. Contrary to popular belief, though, Zen is not a practice of religion or anything of the sort. It is simply a mental practice developed centuries ago to help people focus and be happy. It is a mindset that turns bad stress into good stress. The most amazing part of Zen is that it does not matter who you are, where you are from, or what faith you believe in (if any). It is merely a method of awareness that helps people take control and have a chance to achieve the best result in anything they do.
Did you know that the human mind processes around 70,000 thoughts a day, and that 80% of them are negative thoughts? That is incredible and sad all at the same time. That means if you think negatively at your workplace, then you’ll eventually associate negativity with that setting even if it had nothing to do with your job in the first place! One of the objects of Zen is to help us find that place in the universe that consciously connects us and to recognize our role as a small fragment of a bigger picture. There is the realization that the human species is unique one in that we are aware of our conscious thoughts.
With the help of Zen, you won’t be shrouded in negativity and stress. I realize that is easier said than done, but you can do it! Here are a few Zen concepts that will ease the burden of stress and make you (or your employees) a little happier at work! Please note that this is only a starting point; there are thousands of written works and ideas on the subject, so this breakdown is meant to inspire a little enthusiasm or curiosity about Zen. There’s plenty more to learn if you like what you see.
- BE POSITIVE! That seems silly, but you would be surprised at how far a little optimism will uplift you, your neighbor, a stressed out co-worker, a stranger, or that angry driver in a traffic jam. Even though we have 80% negative awareness, even a single positive thought, comment, exchange, or smile is enough to reverse the effects of an entire month’s worth of negative stress. You’d be shocked at how contagious a positive attitude can be! Positivity will influence your customers or co-workers. I dare you to smile at someone today and not get a smile back!
- BE PRESENT! By that, I mean stay centered and focused. Your awareness of the present keeps you grounded. Don’t worry about the past; it does not exist anymore. Don’t worry so much about the future, either, because it’s unpredictable and you shouldn’t trouble yourself about things that haven’t happened yet. In the action-packed world we live in today (with computers, advertisements, television, cell phones, etc), we all need to take a moment in the present to just be aware of ourselves and our bodies. When you feel overwhelmed, it tends to spread quickly and cause your body to enter panic mode. You may not be consciously aware of the negativity and panic, but your unconscious brain absorbs it and can cause your work life to suffer. So, the next time you feel overwhelmed (you know what that feels like!), take a moment to understand why you feel overwhelmed instead of freaking out.
- BREATHE! Sometimes it’s hard to breathe when you’re anxious or panicked. When you take a moment to concentrate on your breath, stress relief begins both physically and emotionally. Your brain receives more oxygen when you take deep and concentrated breaths, and it provides a moment of relaxation to sort out the negativity. Deep breaths also free up the part of your autonomic nervous system (called the parasympathetic nervous system) that helps you calm down, stay grounded, and be at peace on a physical level. I have little reminders in my cubicle to remind me to breathe, and it really works!
Work stress affects all of us at one point or another, whether we’re at jobs that make us happy or at jobs that make us wonder why we even try. Just remember there’s a Zen technique for that! You shouldn’t feel like a victim of your own anxiety. Workplace Zen is catching on to the point where major companies all around the world, like Apple or Google, have found its benefits in a work setting. Happy employees are not only more productive, but they have better home lives as well.
Simple Zen techniques may seem trivial when we have extra bad days, but remember that even the worst days (like everything else in life) will pass. It is said that it only takes 66 days of doing something repeatedly for it to become a habit or routine. So with a little consistency and an open mind, you will notice the difference not only in your work life but also in your personal life!
I merely scratched the surface of this amazing practice, but there’s so much more to learn about Zen. Are you inspired to try it and do more research on your own? Have you used Zen when you’ve been overwhelmed or overworked? Which technique is most effective for you?