Staying Slowed Down In the Work Place

In the YA eSatsang, our online fellowship group, we’ve been having a rich discussion about slowing down in the workplace. In the YA eSatsang, YAs who practice passage meditation from around the world email into the group to share ideas and request suggestions for their practice.

We’ve enjoyed the responses of our larger YA community on this topic of slowing down and we’re pleased to be able to share some of them here on the blog. Below you’ll find the message from Adam which launched the discussion and responses from Preethi and Isaac.

 Adam – San Francisco, CA

Over the past couple years, I've increasingly seen being sped up at work as a major samskara (that is, a compulsive habit) for me, which sometimes feels like it is blocking my path to spiritual growth. I race through emails and to-do lists, never quite feeling like there is enough time. As I race, my attention gets divided, and I waste time by going back and forth between tasks, checking email too often, and somewhat compulsively visiting the New York Times website for a "break." Also, in defiance of my aim to keep good posture, I often find myself slumped at a 45 degree angle in my chair, not quite sure how I got there! ...And when I sit down to meditation, I sometimes feel my mind pulsing from the speed of the day.

I've tried a lot of strategies to change this -- strategies from 8PP and from self-help productivity books. And there have been some successes, but it has been slow going. I've been inspired by strategies from many of you, like regular mantram walks, and have been writing mantrams on little sticky notes so that the size of the page is more inviting. I've also stationed Easwaran's photo right in front of my monitor, and even made a special browser homepage with Easwaran's photo and direct links to him reading passages (my strategy there is to make it at least as easy to go to EE as NYT :-). 


And I've meditated on passages like Tukaram's The One Thing Needed ("Of what avail this restless, hurrying activity?) and Think on His Name ("While thou art busy at work, think on His Name").

I wanted to tell you all about this struggle because I think publicly committing to continue to work on it may help. ...I think for me this may be one of those big "piggy bank" samskaras Easwaran mentions -- if I can shake it, a whole lot of prana (energy) may come out!

And I wanted to tell you all about it to continue to benefit from your inspiration -- so if you feel like replying with any stories of your own small successes regarding slowing down at work, that'd be great. 

Preethi – New York

Thanks for the email!  I too have struggled with slowing down and being one-pointed at work.  My workplace is filled with constant interruptions and I often feel like there is a false sense of productivity when things are hectic, but true productivity only skyrockets when I pace myself.  I found the following small steps helpful:

  • Focusing on being one-pointed.  I became more flustered and hurried when I was juggling different activities, until I finally learned to be assertive and to say no to interruptions until I completed my current task.
  • Setting a time limit for email/ websurfing.  I was obsessed with checking my email, posting on social media websites, and surfing the web for amusing but largely inconsequential stories.  I quit social media altogether, and then I started giving myself "timed breaks" at work to browse the web and check emails.  I don't give myself more than a 10-minute slot every few hours to do this, and this has been a "diet" of sorts for my mind.  It frees up a lot of time for real work!
  • Don't let to-do lists and emails build up!  I was guilty of building extravagant to-do lists of 30+ items and then feeling instantly discouraged looking at the long list.  Now I don't keep more than 4-5 top priority items on the list, and I am slightly less likely to procrastinate doing the tasks.  

As for the posture, I actually asked my colleague last month to point out when I was slumping in my chair.  He called me out on it incessantly, which started off being slightly annoying, but it has since helped me get in the habit of sitting taller to avoid neck and shoulder pains.  

Isaac – San Diego, California

Great topic! I struggle with the same issues and kept thinking "me too!" many times as I was reading your email. All types of instant messages and so many ways to be connected, support and sometimes outright demand speeding up. Unfortunately, our current work culture idealizes speed and productivity and most don't seem to realize that the two don't go together well at all! I think that the fact that you recognize that you are being sped up and have devised strategies to counteract being sped up is evidence for great progress already. I'm willing to bet that you are much less sped up because of these efforts, probably more than you realize :)

Thank you for the reminder of picking passages to help work on samskaras, I think I'll have a look at Tukaram's The One Thing Needed again tonight. In the past I have intended to memorize this passage but haven't yet.

I fully agree that there is a lot of prana (energy) tied up in the pressure to speed up at work and getting sped up. I sometimes have days where I feel like I'm going 100 mph from one fire fight to the next and at the end of the day think back to what I've accomplished and looking back it seems like almost nothing! But how could that be, I'm worn out and was working hard all day!

Since I too struggle with this issue daily, I don't have an answer, but here are a few of the strategies that I've found help:

  1. Reading Easwaran's Thought for the Day as my computer boots up in the morning.
  2. Reading YA Satsang emails during small breaks (when I can remember and not get sidetracked by some other online media :))
  3. Mantram walks around the building (I shoot for 1 every 1-2hrs and it seems like the more I get in the more slowed down I can stay)

I look forward to hearing others stories and strategies. This is a struggle that seems so universal, that we can all benefit from hearing others tips and tools :) 

We’d love to hear from you! Share your strategies for staying slowed down in the work place in the comments below.