In a recent post, guest blogger Tricia Malloy wrote: “To me, a spiritual practice is any routine or ritual that connects you to your inner wisdom and helps you be less stressed and fearful and more positive, focused and productive. It’s often how you communicate with your subconscious mind. It may or may not relate to any religion or belief.”
Over the years, I’ve integrated many spiritual practices into my life and work: meditating, taking a moment of silence, being grateful, walking, visualizing, spending time in nature, or journaling. Some of these practices I learned from others; some I invented or adapted. All have led to rich and sometimes surprising insights for work, money and the rest of life — provided they fit my life, not some idealized notion of what the spiritual life ought to be.
The best practices are those that work for us — whether or not they are normally defined as “spiritual.”
If you’re like me, you have to live your spiritual life in the midst of your ordinary real life, not a monastery. I really look forward to my early morning walk with my dog, and to my practices of finding some quiet moments during the day (yes, during work – particularly when I can step outdoors and go for a brisk walk), some free space for dreaming when I ride the subway, spiritual reading at night, or to our family evening meal together. Each practice helps ground me in my fast paced world, and provides some calm, solace and perspective. I am disappointed when I need to skip any of them.
Another practice is gratitude. I find the more I practice gratitude for the big events, the more I’m also grateful for the little things (the subway arrives just as I do), and also not only what happened (I finished my report on time), but what didn’t happen (my flight arrived safely). Each of these gives me a sense of calm, acceptance, and inner peace.
If we just do a spiritual practice because we “should,” it probably won’t work. True practices aren’t requirements, but life-enhancing tools. Yet, it’s too easy to treat them like yet another thing we are “supposed” to do, and find ourselves outwardly agreeing but inwardly resisting. When we do, the practices probably won’t happen.
I often hear the comments “I’m too busy to exercise” or “I don’t have time for a practice.” I’ve found it’s important not to just remind myself to make sure I have time for practice, but to also affirm why this is so.
We can always find time for what is important to us. I have learned as a mother that if I don’t take care of myself, then I have less to give my children and husband. If I don’t take care of my body and nurture my soul, I can feel grumpy, tired, unhealthy, and agitated, which affects my work, my relationships and my attitude. I have less to offer at work, with friends, and with family. Yes, practices are good for our life; when I remember the good in the practices, I am more likely to embrace them.
It’s amazing how powerful just a change of attitude can have.
When I began working at the World Affairs Council many years ago, the hours were long and I found myself grouchy. Much as the purpose of the Council was aligned with my own, I was so focused on the high pressure of the situation that I lost the joy of the work. I became frustrated that I wasn’t being paid enough to work such long hours, and I was hungry and tired each night when I went home. About a month later someone said to me, “You are so lucky to get paid to be at these amazing programs that most people have to pay to go to. You have one of the best international positions in the Bay Area!”
I went home and thought about it and realized two things were true: I really did enjoy my work so I needed to shift my attitude from what wasn’t working to what was working. I also needed to take better care of myself at work. I decided to eat more for lunch, and have a healthy snack in the afternoon. From that moment onwards I began to love my job, blossomed in it, made many connections, and grew in many ways. The only thing that I changed was my attitude, but that made all the difference.
I’ve learned about many practices from many people.
- Start staff meetings with a moment of silence.
- Decorate our work spaces with items that matter to us, and create our own workplace altars.
- Take a day off periodically for nurture and renewal.
- Initiate a conversation with colleagues about what spirit at work means to each person and how to live it at work (there are many resources for this conversation).
- Review your company mission statements, policies and procedures to ensure they include a triple bottom line of focusing on people, planet, and profits.
- Create an evolving mission statement employees are proud to live by.
- When possible, hold at least some meetings outdoors.
- Encourage creativity, openness and honesty.
What practice do you have that works for you?
If none, what draws you from the list above? Am you willing to try it?
If you have other practices that work for you, we’d love to hear them.
Kimberly Weichel is a social pioneer, educator, author and specialist in global communications, leadership and peacebuilding. She is co-author of “Healing the Heart of the World” and director of the Institute for Peacebuilding. www.kimweichel.org.