• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • I was climbing the stairs in my office building one day and noticed a small crumpled gum wrapper lying on a step. Should I pick it up, or leave it there? I decided on the latter and continued to climb. The next day the wrapper was still there. I started to get curious about how long it would stick around, and after a few days, started to view its restful state, there on the step, as a symbol of my own intention to be more clear, focused and centered at work. That gum wrapper became my going-to-work meditation for quite some time—until the day a janitor or some other conscientious soul took it away.

    The little details of your workplace environment have the potential to bring you back to present-moment awareness—if you give yourself a little space to pay attention to them. I have a particular fondness for stairwells (in one of my jobs I was fortunate enough to have a few chanting friends—we’d sing together at lunchtime in a very resonant stairwell space), but lunchrooms, hallways, lobbies, and many other possible spaces have equal potential. A gum wrapper or sticky note might hang around for years without being noticed.

    Athletes talk about the sensations of being “between the lines”: on the field, under pressure, where the action is. Practices on your own time like running stairs, doing yoga or meditation, or being in nature are essential for building the muscles of focus. But when you walk through doors of your office building the atmosphere changes. The air is thicker, the lights are brighter, and it’s a little more difficult to breathe. Wherever you work, when you’re engaged with your email inbox or on the phone with your boss, it’s a lot more difficult to stay open in the present moment. There are a lot of survival and social issues that conspire to pull you away from your center.

    That’s the great thing about little anchor points like gum wrappers. See if you can co-opt something small to use as a point of focus you come back to regularly, to remind you to stay in the present moment. It doesn’t really matter *what* you focus on, as long as you use that focal point to bring you back to curious, open noticing.

    Try It: Find an anchor point in your workplace that can remind you to pause and come back to the present moment. Each time you see this object, engage in a brief mini-practice like taking a few deep breaths or feeling your feet. This object could be something personally meaningful, or it could be a completely random item that serves its function by its very ordinariness. The most important thing is that you remember to keep noticing this object during the day, to the point where *not* noticing it would start to seem strange, like not putting on your seatbelt when you get into a car or leaving the house without your wallet. And each time you see it, remember that mindful attention belongs in the workplace just as much as outside of it.

    Photo: r. nial bradshaw https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/