Last Updated on October 15, 2020 by Paul Farrell, MRP, JD, PhD
“The process of meditation is nothing more than quietly going within and discovering that higher component of yourself. …
It teaches you to be peaceful, to remove stress, to receive answers where confusion previously reigned, to slow yourself down, and ultimately, when you adopt meditation as a way of life, to be able to go into that peaceful place anytime.
I do mean anytime.
In the middle of a business meeting, in the midst of a tragedy, during an athletic competition – anytime.”
– Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Real Magic
Office breaks are not only a perfect time to meditate, they are absolutely essential. Seriously, you spend eight hours every day, sometimes twelve or more hours, on the job, at work, confined to your office. All too often you’re forced to complete one impossible task after another on an insane timetable. And yet, as every one us knows that, our days are filled with big and little opportunities to meditate and reduce the stress. Take them, often!
“Corporate Athletes” Need Serious “Time Outs”
Office breaks fit into a cycle: “The key is to structure episodes of stress and recovery,” says psychologist Jim Loehr, whose Corporate Athlete programs are designed to help executive achieve peak performance at work. “You perform in waves. You cannot be at your best all the time, so you pick your times. And you have to pick your times of recovery as carefully as you pick your peak times … You find ways to break the cycles of stress.”
How? Take a tip from athletes. Loehr uses tennis players as an example. They recover fast, “between points. If they use that precious 25 seconds they’re less likely to stress out.” It’s no different in the work environment, when 25 seconds may be all the time you have to meditate and recover from the latest cycle of stress – you jump on the opportunity.
Break the Cycles of Stress
There are so many simple ways to meditate during the work day. Many you already do naturally. A brief moment glancing at a family portrait, wishing success for one of your kids, health to a parent, hugs to your spouse. Maybe you could fill your office with some classical music. You could get a cup of hot water for tea and just sit feeling the warm cup. Just “sitting quietly, doing nothing,” imagining you’re at a simple Japanese tea ceremony, or relaxing at your favorite coffeeshop in the “Starbucks experience.”
Or maybe just turn your chair around toward the window for a minute or so, lean back, close your eyes and repeat your favorite affirmation as a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing today and the goals that drive you. Take a moment and write a gratitude list, a short, quick list of all the special gifts you’re grateful for this lifetime.
Make Your Work A Meditation
The truth is, work often is a stressful grind, even when you’re doing what you love. It feels like something you’re forced to do out of duty, or just for the money, when you’d rather be doing something else. Even then your work can be meditation – out of necessity, to recover from the stress cycle. Yes, it’s great to “do what you love and money will follow,” but as paradoxical as it seems, a lot of the time you probably won’t be madly in love doing what you love to do!
Remember, meditation is focusing in the moment on whatever you are doing – living your life mindful and aware of what you’re doing in this present moment, however it feels, good, bad or indifferent, there’s no escaping the realities of your life. So, in work and in meditation you focus only on what you are doing – whatever it is, however it feels – and nothing else. Period.
When You Work, Forget the Cosmos, Just Focus on the Work
The first time I fully understood what this meant I was working with CBS MarketWatch. It was a very long day of hammering out columns and proposals, editing copy and tweaking the website. Finally I realized that it was dark out and very late. The day had passed while I was absorbed in my work.
Everyone else left a couple hours earlier. When I finished what I was doing, I packed my briefcase, shut off the lights, locked the doors and walked down the hallway to the elevators, alone. The long winding corridor walls had no artwork and were a dull, lifeless gray. Then out of the blue, I realized that I hadn’t thought about God and the ultimate mysteries of the universe all day, which I occasionally do. Moreover, I hadn’t consciously done any meditations during the day – I became the work and was totally lost in it all day long.
Meditating? Enlightened? No Big Deal!
And as I walked down the hall I felt an overwhelming sense of peace with myself. Then I became amused with the fact that I hadn’t thought about God all day, and yet, it occurred to me that maybe God, whoever he, she or it was, must of been thinking about me all day, while I was working. And that was okay.
Which reminded me of Veronique Vienne’s delightful book, The Art of Imperfection. Toward the end she lists “ten good reasons to be an ordinary person,” and the last fits here: “You are enlightened, though you don’t know what it means, let alone care about it.” That’s the ultimate in meditation and in enlightenment. No big deals. Tomorrow you just get up and go to work again.
An Attitude of Gratitude the Only Meditation You’ll Ever Need
Perhaps even more important, I became profoundly aware that I had felt that same way many times before, I just didn’t understand it was peace I was feeling, and I didn‘t have to label it anything. Moreover, it has happened often since then, for which I’m thankful.
Gratitude, the ultimate prayer. The great 14th century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart once said “if the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.” Actually I learned that quickie meditation from a senior partner at Morgan Stanley that I worked with for many years. He said “thank you” often, even the smallest things. That impressed me. It’s a habit what’s stuck with me.
Meditating During Business Meetings
When I was with Morgan Stanley our offices were in the upper floors of the Exxon building in New York City. Investment banking is a demanding business, and intense work focusing on corporate financial, economic and legal documents. I needed frequent short meditation breaks throughout the day.
During staff meetings in the board room I’d sit with a view of the Hudson River and focus on airplanes coming in low on their approach. Often it was a toss-up between staying totally focused on the moment during one of those boring rah-rah meetings or concentrating on the moving aircraft. The slow flight paths of were those planes often won, as a more satisfying meditation, better than counting my breaths or muttering a mantra in silence.
“Hollywood Meditation” Serenity Prayer Speeds Boring Negotiation
Later, after relocating to the West Coast, a Hollywood film producer client told me about how he meditated during boring and/or tense business meetings. He would mentally leave the meeting for a minute or so and say the Serenity Prayer or some other prayer.
He said it helped him put the meeting in perspective. That’s right, those brief moments in meditation helped him better focus on the meeting when he returned mentally. When he was fully in the meeting he’d laser in on what he wanted out of the deal, without compromising. If he got it, fine. If not the meeting was over, short and sweet, and he’d move on to something more important or more interesting that he really wanted to do.
Get on Your Knees and& Pray in the Executive Bathroom
If you’re under stress, a few minutes in the restroom can be a great way of meditating, and holding onto your sanity! My first day as ExecVP with the Financial News Network I reported early, before we went on-air live. That very morning the Los Angeles Times published an expose detailing past financial shenanigans of the founder and president – the guy who hired me away from a successful position as associate editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner!
I was in the dark about the drama until I walked into the FNN studios my first broadcast day, about 5 a.m. and was barraged with questions from on-air talent and crew. After an embarrassing display of ignorance I ducked into the executive restroom, locked the door, got on my knees and said a brief prayer: “Okay whoever you are up there, you sure have an odd sense of humor. I hope you know what you’re doing, because I don’t.” A brief meditation, then back into the action. Ten days later, the board terminated the president and I became the network’s executive vice president and executive in charge of production.
In The Corporate Athlete psychologist Jack Groppel discusses a similar situation with an executive getting negative news just before walking into a major negotiation. A few moments in the restroom “recovering” from disturbing news was a good idea. Another would be a short five-minute walk, preferably up and down a few flights of stairs, “literally changing your heart rate and chemistry.” Deal with the bad news before going forward.
Corporate Athletes Take Charge do it Quietly and Win
While each of us has our own individual path through life, most of us have one thing in common, work, and that means the office, with all its stresses. To succeed as corporate athletes, says Groppel, we need to control our unique cycles of stress and recovery. And for all the differences, one of the surest ways to take responsibility is to approach your work day as a meditation, all day, every day – just don’t take yourself too seriously, it’s no big deal.
You don’t have to think that what you’re doing is spiritual. And you don’t have to label what you’re doing as meditation. When you take a break in the office – that cup of tea or coffee, a warm glance at the family photo, a confidence-boosting affirmation before a big meeting, a quick thank-you for the gift of serenity during a tough negotiation – you do not have to think “now I am meditating.” You just do it, without making a big deal out of it. Remember, anything can be a meditation if you focus on whatever you’re doing and nothing else – “meditation” labels are not necessary!
Enlightenment (and Meditation) are Like Winning the Lottery, Just $50, Not $1,000,000!
Live that way at work and you may get rich and maybe even get enlightened in the delightful way Veronique Vienne describes it in The Art of Doing Nothing:
“Reaching enlightenment is a bit like winning the lottery – not a million-dollar bonanza, mind you, just fifty bucks …
You probably weren’t meditating. Chances are you were waiting for the light to change at an intersection, or looking out the window while talking on the phone …
On a scale of one to ten, it was probably a number four insight ….
Enlightenment is just another word for feeling comfortable with being a completely ordinary person.”
About the Author
Dr. Farrell is a Behavioral Economist. His books include The Millionaire Code; The Millionaire Meditation: Stress Management for Wall Street, Corporate America & Entrepreneurs; The Zen Millionaire; The Winning Portfolio; Expert Investing on The Net; Mutual Funds on The Net; and The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing.
He also published 1,643 columns on DowJones-MarketWatch and for years was their #1 traffic-generating columnist. Before the Internet, he edited & published FNX: Future News Index, a financial newsletter for stock market traders. Earlier he was a Wall Street investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Executive Vice President of the Financial News Network; and Associate Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
He has a Doctorate in Psychology, Juris Doctor, Masters in Regional Planning and Bachelor of Architecture. He worked on the Esalen organic farm and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant in aviation computer technology.