You know the days. Yesterday’s to-do list is still to be done, you forgot your egg salad on the kitchen counter back home and somebody left an open package of toner on the photocopier lid that you flipped onto your white-clad self.
A day at the office, we are regularly reminded, ain’t no walk in the park.
It’s moments like these that bring into sharp focus the eminent value of meditation. Long relieved of the new-age associations that preserved its reputation in the granola-crunching realm, meditation is now regarded as a legitimate (and, dare we say, almost mainstream) tool for alleviating stress, fortifying the mind and improving overall physical health.
Less publicized? Its legitimate application to those occasions when one doesn’t have the luxury of a silent stretch of time or a spongy yoga mat to melt into. Like the workplace.
What a small-minded approach to such a big-minded topic.
Indeed, children and money and remote control possession notwithstanding, what causes more tightening of the jaw and clenching of the gut than work? Stress is an occupational hazard that spreads its poison into every professional pursuit, no matter the job. And while a little bit’s useful for motivation, too much can rob you of health.
What’s more, an individual who meditates is a boon to her company for the increased productivity and harmony she’ll bring back to her work. Research has shown that just a few minutes of daily meditation can make workers happier, relaxed enough to be less prone to mistakes and generally healthier.
If you’re lucky, your workplace offers a meditation at work program, whether on site or through a community space. But if you’re on your own in this peacemaking pursuit, fear not. The expanse of time and space required for meditation isn’t the matter of material limitation you might think. Bum in office chair in front of computer screen is setting enough for relief.
To wit, then, some suggestions for low-key meditative exercises one might perform on the job without the need of extraneous equipment or the worry of alarming coworkers:
• Sit high in your chair and allow your arms to dangle at your sides. Close your eyes. Beginning with your toes and moving up, tense and relax your muscles. Ankles, legs, buttocks, stomach, back, shoulders, arms, face. Tighten, release. When you reach your hair roots, stop. Breathe deeply. Drink in the calm. Done.
• Stop what you’re doing and rest your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply, directing your breath to the lowest depths you’re able. Take two counts for every inhalation, two for every exhalation. Concentrate on the passage of air through your body—and nothing more. Mindful breathing stabilizes blood pressure and increases oxygen flow to the brain. Done.
• Close your eyes and breathe. Visualize yourself in a safe, nourishing place in your life, maybe a beach towel, or the lap of a parent when you were a child. Close out your technology-buzzing surroundings and concentrate on the details—the sights, smells and sounds of this place—and how they made you feel. Transport yourself wholly, and spend a few minutes on this rhythmic mental getaway. Open your eyes. Done.