IN MOST DISCIPLINES of meditation, the
first thing a student learns is how to concentrate. The Master
gives the students techniques. In some cases, students may be
instructed to count their breath. In other cases, they are given
a word to repeat over and over. Sometimes they hold a visual
image in the minds eye or focus all their thoughts on a
There are hundreds of different techniques,
but they all have one aim in mind: to teach students to hold
their attention on one thing and prevent their attention from
wandering away to other, more interesting things.
But this is America. The meditation practice
of sitting still for long periods of time may have been perfectly
appropriate for an unmarried, childless Brahmin priest who was
a member of a caste that was supported by the government, but
you and I have to make our own living. We dont have such
an enormous privilege of time and guaranteed income. We need
to be up and doing. And theres a lot to be done.
The ability to concentrate is the core
ability, the essential skill. Control your attention and you
control your mind. But the discipline to control your attention
doesnt have to be done sitting still. It can be done with
anything including your job.
Your job can become a spiritual
discipline. The practice is simply to keep your attention on
your work. And unless its a challenging part of your job
that compels your attention, your mind will tend to wander, just
as it does in meditation. Youll get distracted. You may
get sidetracked with a daydream or playing a computer game or
talking on the phone. In some studies, researchers found that
while people were at work, fully 25 percent of the time they
werent actually working.
The practice of meditation is to bring
the mind back to the task every time it wanders. Over and over
and over again. This is meditation.
Do that with your work, and you are meditating.
Do it often and you will slowly but steadily increase your ability
You can make any job challenging with this
technique. Lets call it the Productive Meditation Technique.
Simply do your job with the intention of paying attention to
what youre supposed to be doing. When you notice you have
gotten off track, get back to the purpose. Get crystal clear
on the purpose and function of your job and the part it plays
in the overall scheme of things, and then pay that purpose all
of your attention. Your mind will wander. When you notice youve
strayed from the purpose, bring yourself back. Again and again.
Then take the practice home. Sweep the
floors or listen to someone you love as a meditation.
Whenever your thoughts wander, bring them back. Practice mowing
the lawn with your full attention. Cook dinner with your full
attention. Talk to your child with your full attention.
This ability to keep your mind here in
this moment is not a trivial skill. It may not get you reincarnated
as a higher being, but it will make you more alive right here
When you notice your mind has
bring it back to the task at hand.