Thursday, February 14, 2008

Zen And Work

It is a very cold morning. Most of the landscape is covered with ice and frozen snow. In fact, I almost went sailing off my front porch this morning when I inadvertently placed my foot on a very slippery section of ice. In spite of this I heard birdsong today. It was full of hope and faith that spring is not too far away.

I may rethink the daydream of having a cabin in a remote area. Several people emailed me and asked, "Michael, have you seen the Kathy Bates movie based on Stephen King's book entitled "Misery"? Yes, I have seen the movie and I still have a phobia about women with sledgehammers and blocks of wood.

My wife and I are in our mid fifties. It is a time of life where we are not on the same page about the actual room temperature in our home. I am always cold and she is always hot. 70 degrees for me is 90 degrees for her. In her world it is always summer. Sleeping in our bedroom is like camping out. The window is open and the ceiling fan is about to shoot off into space because it is twirling so fast. She is covered with a sheet and I have my electric blanket on high. I jokingly tell friends and family that I wear a hat and gloves to bed. I am actually thinking about going to sporting goods store and buying one of those bright orange pup tents that mountain climbers use when they camp out on the side of a mountain during raging snow storms. I think they make them small enough to fit on my side of the bed. One of my irrational fears is that a military jet will fly over my home in the middle of the night and accidentally release a heat seeking missile that will come in my window and blow up my bedroom. It will be my wife's fault.

Yesterday was a hectic and busy day. Much of the day I was in Human Resources interviewing perspective employees. Such days challenge my Zen approach to life. It was a day that pulled me out of my comfort zone in the sense that I was not always able to work as I prefer or to keep the balance that I strive to have. I admit that I am a creature of habit and I prefer some routine in my day. I do not like to work in a manner that makes me feel like my hair is on fire. The daily routines I have for myself provide a framework on which I hang all the other activities of my day. As much as I tried to be faithful to this framework yesterday, I kept getting pulled away. Such is life some days. I accept it when it happens and I can deal with it. In the work environment I do prefer days where I am busy but not overwhelmed. Routines are not a bad thing but we can be too attached to them. If everyday went like I would prefer, I would soon feel like Bill Murray in the movie "Groundhog Day". On such days you feel like you are living the same day over and over again. Like the Bill Murray character, however, we can eventually realize that by changing our behavior we can wake up each new day and correct the mistakes from the previous day. Routine helps me to stay focused but I must also have an openness to the surprises and other unexpected things that happen to me. This openness, coupled with a faithfulness to some routine that keeps you "centered" will do much to keep your hair from bursting into flames.

Zen at Work

One way in which you can integrate Zen practice into your job is to focus on a single task at a time. These days there is a lot of pressure on employees to multitask and many people get quite good at it. The problem is that when you multitask, you scatter your energies. Resolve to stop doing more than one thing at a time. We all know how hard it is to get something done properly when we are distracted. This does not mean that you have to finish one task completely before beginning another one; simply that when you are working on something, you should bring your undivided attention to it. If you are filing, file; if you are answering calls, then answer calls. If you are processing claims, process claims. Be where you are and do what you are doing.

Be like water.
Flow around obstacles.
Control your emotions or they will control you.
Recognize the inherent harmony of everyday life.
Seek balance in your life between work and home, work and family, work and yourself.
Recognize the priceless irreplaceability of the present moment.
Empty your cup and fill it with today's lessons.
You are getting feedback every moment of everyday...use it.
Focus on process, not product. If you attend to your present work properly, you will meet your goals.
Train yourself to respond unconsciously, not intellectually. Simple things, including most "people skills", are most effective when they spring, unforced, from your true nature.
Most of our fears are about the future, which hasn't happened yet and isn't real. Fear drains energy from the present moment.
Allow yourself pauses. It is the rest that refreshes. Without the pause, all you have is noise. Make time to clear your mind, because only a clear mind can act, and react, effectively.
Remove distractions and free your mind. The aim is to make your work environment reflect a calm and still state of mind, uncluttered by distractions. The undistracted mind is more efficient and free to react quickly to all circumstances.
Zen encourages graceful flow and movement.

These thoughts are from the book entitled "Zen in 10 Simple Lessons" by Anthony Man-Tu-Lee and David Wei

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