THE BLOG

How to Meditate During the Workday

02/06/2015 12:28 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015
Courtesy Hwansan Sunim

In my recent posts ("How to Meditate Sitting in a Chair, Parts 1 and 2," "How to Meditate Standing Up," "How to Meditate Lying Down," and "How to Set Up a Meditation Practice at Home"), we have learned how to meditate while sitting, standing, and lying down, and we have learned how to schedule meditation into our daily routine. The next step is to bring meditation into our actual daily living. But please remember it's imperative that you take the time to practice meditation until you're proficient in the three basic postures of sitting, standing and lying down.

By "proficient," I mean that we must be practiced enough so that as soon as we assume proper posture, take a diaphragmatic breath, and intone "Yi-mwot-go?" on the outbreath, we quickly, if not immediately, enter into the meditative state of Great Doubt. It should feel like you can enter the meditative state at the flick of a switch.

In order to get yourself to this level of proficiency, you need to follow a daily practice of meditation, if possible twice a day, morning and night, as described in my previous blog post ("How to Set Up a Meditation Practice at Home"). If you're consistent and focused in your practice, you can reach this level of proficiency within, say, a few weeks or a month. That may seem like a major time commitment, but please remember that scientists have found that even a few minutes of meditation in beginners immediately produces beneficial changes in the brain and body. You reap the benefits of meditation as soon as you begin meditating. But for there to be real psycho-physiological change, the beginning of true mastery over mind and body, we'll need to put in a few weeks or months of steady meditative training.

Don't be put off by this. It's really not so different from getting into shape. The same rules apply. The training is tougher and more frustrating at the beginning, but after a couple of weeks you get used to it and feel perceptible change both mentally and physically. After a month or two you feel you're becoming transformed. After a few months you feel like a new you and you burst with pride at how much you've changed and advanced. However, if you quit along the way, you very quickly go back to where you started and it will be like you had never done it all.

So set up a reasonable, but disciplined meditation schedule and stick to it. Gain that level of skill in meditation. You won't regret it. In fact, in a very short time, it will dawn on you, and you will feel it in your heart, that until now you've only been using a small fraction of your total potential. There are levels of perception, feeling, and self-regulation of mind and body that you have never dreamed of. All that you are capable of will seem to stretch out endlessly to the horizon. You'll see yourself for the first time as you truly are: an undiscovered continent. And you will ache with the thrill and yearning to explore the unvisited world and universe that you actually are.

This sense of wonder and delight will energize your practice and motivate you to reach that level of meditative skill where you can enter into the Great Doubt by simply straightening your back, taking a diaphragmatic breath, or intoning "Yi-mwot-go?" in your mind. When you can do that, you're ready to weave meditation into the endless string of tasks that daily living is comprised of.

So let's get started.

How to Integrate Son Meditation into My Workday

1. When you have some free time, sit down with a pen and pad in a comfortable chair.

2. Close your eyes and imagine waking up on a typical workday.

3. Now carefully visualize the first thing that you do as you enter your daily routine. What do you do after you get up? Do you go shower and brush your teeth? What do you do afterward? Do you sit down for breakfast or take it on the run or skip it altogether? Then, what do you do? Do you drive to work or do you take public transportation? Or do you stay at home to work or take care of the kids?

4. Visualize in careful detail everything that you do until lunchtime. Play your morning life like a movie in your mind that you can rewind, fast forward, and replay at variable speeds.

5. And as you do this, look for small spots of time of 3-5 minutes or more where you're in one of the three primary meditation positions, i.e. sitting down, standing still, or lying down.

6. Record these situations in your pad. "I'm usually standing at the bus station at 7:30." "I'm sitting on the subway at 8." "I'm always standing on line at the coffee shop at around 8:30." "When I get to work and turn on my computer, I get on the Internet for 10 or 15 minutes and just sit there, staring at the screen." "I take a power nap on my office couch for 10 minutes at 10:30."

7. These are windows of opportunity to work some meditation into your daily routine. If you have the ability to enter into meditation at will, you can meditate in various postures in these isolated spots of time.

8. Now visualize your day from lunchtime to dinner. Here don't just focus on moments of staying still. Try to find the times when your mind is most disfocused, when you just sit there daydreaming or struggling with scattered thoughts. Statistically, because so many people experience drowsiness at this time, mid-afternoon is the least productive time of day as well as the period when most accidents occur. If you have a tendency to fade out at this time, try to schedule in small sessions of meditation at your desk or even standing to refresh yourself.

9. Finally, visualize the remainder of the day from dinner until bedtime. Here look for unproductive habits such as watching too much TV, Internet surfing, or chatting senselessly on the phone. See if you can replace one of your less helpful stress-relieving habits with meditation.

Through this visualization we plot a map of our path through the day and look for potential rest-stops along that path, places where we can cleanse, recharge and refocus our minds and bodies through meditation. In this way, our workday does not become one long draining withdrawal of our physical and mental energy. In our journey through the day we plant oases along the way, private havens of stillness, clarity, and revitalization.

Each time we take a moment during our workday to meditate, the deep calm, energy, and illumination created by our short meditation infuses the task that we perform immediately afterward. These short meditation sessions resonate like the intermittent gongs of a temple bell, reverberating into and softening and brightening our facial expressions, the light in our eyes, our physical bearing, the sound of our voice, and the tempo of our movement. Daily life takes on a musical quality, an organic rhythm as we alternate between stillness and motion, silence and speech, internal contemplation and external behavior. This cycling between meditation and action reveals itself to be an echo, reflection, and extension of the natural rhythm of life at work in our bodies as we inhale and exhale, as our hearts beat and rest, and as our minds awaken and sleep. We become artists as we learn to improvise in our weaving of meditation and work, and what we begin to create each morning is a day of profoundly meaningful, rewarding life. A day of beauty and grace that comes shining through the endless frenzy of modern life.

The most important element in the integration of meditation into our workday is our meditation schedule. At the very least, we should be meditating once a day, either in the morning to start the day or at night before sleep to end it. The best thing, of course, is to perform formal seated meditation both in the morning and at night.

If we can pull this off, then through this simple meditation schedule we'll be able to bracket each end of our day -- when we wake up and when we fall asleep -- with meditation. Son meditation monks are fond of saying that when we wake up in the morning, we're born to a new life, and when we go to sleep at night, we die to one life. Meditation directs and shapes this daily process of birth and death. In the morning, meditation is the midwife who guides our birth into a new day, a new life. At night, when we're tired and ready to lie down, meditation is the nurse who leads us through our dying.

But the dying doesn't need to be a plunge into disintegration and non-existence just as the progression of days and nights over the years doesn't have to be a downward spiral through deterioration and debilitation. Through the transformative power of meditation, this nightly dying becomes a time of spiritual pregnancy, an harbinger of rebirth. Because of meditation, in our sleep tonight our minds become pregnant with who and what we can be tomorrow. Through meditation, we cast off the influences of the past, become fresh and new again, a babe in the womb of night, so that we can be reborn the following morning, completely new and completely free, unbound by past assumptions and unshadowed by past emotions. Meditation is the path of the rebirth of our consciousness and our life. In meditating, the course of days and nights becomes an evolution to higher levels of understanding and perception, a path of nurturing emergent abilities and insights. All of these teachings and practices that I'm trying to share are an invitation to that path.

Palms together,

Hwansan Sunim

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