Many years ago, I remember listening to Speaking of Faith host Krista Tippett’s interview with Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vietnamese Zen monk, poet, and peacemaker. While I’m not a Buddhist, a lot of what “brother Thầy” says rings true for me. (Thầy is Vietnamese for teacher, and they call him that affectionately.)
One thing in particular he talks about is the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, the act of paying attention to whatever is happening in your life while staying in the moment. Some people think it’s about removing yourself from reality. But in fact, as he tells us:
True mindfulness is not an evasion of any kind.
It’s a serene encounter with reality.
Benefits of mindfulness at work
Rather than getting caught up in the drama of something someone else said or did and finding yourself carried away by emotion (which only weakens your chances of reacting in a way beneficial to you), it might be a terrific time to practice mindfulness.
- Observe what’s going on without becoming the drama.
- Stay in the moment rather than drawing on old anger or creating visions of future hurt.
- React to the reality with as much serenity as you can muster.
Emotions are only human
We all get carried away by emotions at times. Some of us many many times. But you can even practice mindfulness at work in those moments by learning to watch yourself get carried away, recognizing that it’s ok to be human, and staying in the moment as much as possible anyway.
And when you are ready to let go of the emotional hot-air balloon that wafted you away — recognizing we can choose to stay caught in it or let go — you can then come back down to earth and return to handling the situation with your best shot at serene mindfulness.
Mindfulness at work to defuse rage
Any situation you’re handling will be the better for mindfulness techniques. And sometimes, especially when a colleague is coming at you head-on with emotional weapons blazing, countering his attack by meeting him or her with serene mindfulness can actually deflate their emotional balloon.
As part of the podcast, we also hear a police officer telling how she used that technique to defuse the rage in a man she was trying to arrest. Seriously. She now teaches the technique to fellow officers.
What about in your own work life? Can you think of any situations where mindfulness might have been useful? Have you ever faced down a head-on attack with your own version of serene mindfulness? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.
~ Ronnie Ann
[NOTE: Post updated in 2020]
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About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.