A Practice Story: Reflection

Submitted by a student in the Meditation at Work Class

I’m a Human Resources Director at a large non-profit. Many areas of my job require me to deal with stressful situations where employees are troubled or I am trying to mediate disputes between co-workers, an employee and a manager or many other situations involving workplace conflict. I learn a lot about employees’ personal lives and the problems they struggle with both personally and professionally. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at not reacting in the moment and in keeping my own counsel. The result, however, is that I obsess about problems at work, about how to help employees who come to me and about how to handle my own work and work-life.

Zen at Work has encouraged me to consider taking time outs. When I’m obsessing about something, I consciously think about just letting it go. I still think through the problem as much as I think I need to. But then, I remember to let it go!

Meditation has encouraged me to take a break in the day and has given me permission to do so. Can I claim that I’ve meditated every day since class began? Honestly, no. Have I missed more than one day in a row? Honestly, yes. However, when I do meditate, I feel relaxed and peaceful. Prior to beginning meditation, I can hardly remember feeling either relaxed or peaceful.

Meditation has pulled me back into myself. It has given me permission to spend 20 minutes a day on myself, not thinking about anything specific and, indeed, trying hard not to think about anything during that time. Although thoughts and concerns enter my mind, I try to let them float back out of my mind as I sit peacefully and listen to the silence around me. It sounds good!

Today, I faced a particularly troublesome problem at work. I concluded the meeting and deliberately chose to leave the building for a short walk. I found a bench in a grove of long grass. And I sat quietly for 15 minutes, watching the grass and deciding to let go of the issue that was troubling me. I went back into the building ready to work again, ready to let go of the anger that had been troubling me and ready to think constructively.

I’m intrigued by the Buddhist teachings that I’m learning. The idea that everything is fleeting and that nothing is permanent is far from the Western thought that I’ve been raised with. The teachings of Buddhism that we’ve been learning are difficult for me to grasp. However, relating to work the concept that everything is fleeting and nothing is permanent helps to put work problems in perspective. What seems monumentally important one day recedes into memory as days pass.

The Zen at Work class has made a positive impact on my life. By focusing on myself through meditation, the converse happens in other areas of my life. I can focus on others more effectively. By being more relaxed myself and by putting problems and concerns in perspective (letting them go), I can focus on doing my job better.

I’m not so sure that I “get” Buddhism and meditation completely yet. But I’ve gained a fresh perspective on a way of life that I didn’t know much about. I’ve gained a respite from a too busy life. I hope to make Zen practice even more important in my life as I continue to meditate and learn about meditation. It has helped me to manage my own life better.