How to Meditate at Work
Trying to practice meditation at work can be difficult. During our daily lives, we get into the rush of getting things done and forget about our practice. We’ve been asked quite a bit about how to meditate at work, so we thought we’d offer a few practices we use in our daily lives and workplaces.
You may have a job that is a bit different than ours, but we work in offices behind a computer. At a desk all day, it can be a wonderful reprieve to meditate for a few minutes. You can do so at your desk, on a break, and without anyone knowing you are even meditating while working!
There are many reasons to practice in general, and there are certainly some benefits that apply directly to our work life. For example, multiple studies have found that mindfulness can boost productivity. In addition, our practice can help us relax, release stress, and return to our present-time experience.
I find that even a few minutes of meditation scattered throughout my weekdays can dramatically change my experience. I am able to notice when stress is growing, and respond before I fall into habitual reactions. Practicing meditation at work allows me to stay in tune with what is going on in my experience, and not fall victim to the ways I react that cause suffering for myself and those around me.
The benefits of meditation at work include:
- Pain reduction
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Improve self-esteem
- Boost your creativity
- Improve working memory
- Focus better on the task at hand
- Work better with stress and deadlines
- Increase ability to solve problems
You can read more about the benefits of meditation and find research about meditation in our recent post 29 Benefits of Meditation: What the Research Tells Us.
Quick Meditation Techniques at Work
There are many different ways to practice, and we have just a few here. These are our favorite quick meditation techniques at work, but you may adapt many different meditation practices to work with your job and lifestyle.
1. Walking Meditation
Walking meditation is something many people don’t take seriously. However, the Buddha himself recommended walking meditation many times, as he does in the Satipatthana Sutta, his words on establishing mindfulness. It’s a powerful practice we can use any time and any place.
You can try a formal walking meditation practice in your free time to familiarize yourself with the practice, but you can also do walking meditation any time at work. You may choose to do it during a break or lunch, or you can practice walking meditation while walking around the office. One of the reasons walking practice is so useful in the workplace is that you can do it without anyone even realizing you are meditating!
To do a walking meditation while working, simply begin by tuning into the feeling of the feet as they touch the floor. You may notice the sensation of the heel-to-toe movement as the feet come into contact with the ground. You may also feel the experience of the feet lifting to take the next step. The investigation can continue to include sensations in the legs, hips, and torso as you move.
This practice is a great way to ground yourself during your day, and can help us to both relax and return to our present-time experience. Give it a shot on a break or while walking to and from your desk!
2. Body Scan and Awareness
A body scan is another great practice you can do anytime. You can do a body scan meditation while walking, while standing, or while sitting at your desk. If you want to learn how to meditate at your desk, we recommend starting with a body scan meditation as it is relatively simple and always accessible. There is a guided body scan meditation practice for beginners at the end of this post, so you can familiarize yourself with the practice before doing it on your own at work.
In body scan practice, we move through the body to see what is present in each part. Generally moving from the head down to the toe, we practice observing our experience and tuning into whatever is present. This can help us ground ourselves, lower blood pressure, and build some concentration. You can do this meditation practice right at your desk, without changing posture or closing your eyes. This is a wonderful practice to return to as we always are carrying our bodies with us!
Guided Meditation CD’s
3. Mindful Listening
Mindful listening is a powerful practice we can do any time, on or off the meditation cushion. We can practice mindful listening while in a meeting at work, while talking with somebody, or simply while sitting at our desks and getting work done. Although it may seem relatively quiet, there are almost always noises going on around us.
To meditate with mindful listening, take a moment to check in with what is going on in the realm of hearing. Notice what sounds you can hear. Maybe you notice sounds of other people working, cars going by outside, or your fingers typing on a keyboard. As you begin to drop into awareness of sounds, you can play with it. See if you can focus on sounds that are nearby, then switch to sounds that are farther away.
When there is conversation going on in the office or workplace, be present. When the mind wanders off onto other things, come back to the experience of listening to the person who is speaking. You can do this any time, and return to it again and again to arrive back into your present time experience.
4. Mindfulness of the Breath
Mindfulness of the breath is perhaps one of the most popular and well-known meditation practices. It’s a great way to build concentration and can help with anxiety and stress. You can turn toward the breath any time, and you don’t need to breathe in any special way.
To practice mindfulness of breathing, turn your attention to a place in the body where you can naturally feel the breath. You can allow the body to breathe itself; you don’t need to control the breath at all. Find a place where you can feel the breath easily. It may be in the abdomen or stomach, the chest and lungs, or the nostrils. Work with whatever part of the body feels most accessible to you.
It can be helpful to start by using some sort of mantra like “in” and “out” with each breath. Doing this for a few breaths can help you bring your awareness to the present-time experience, and you can let go of the words after a few breaths. You can tune into the body breathing while doing almost anything at work. When the mind wanders, simply bring it back to breath. You can do this to keep yourself grounded in the present moment and to help regulate heart rate during your day.
Below is a quick guided meditaiton practice that takes just 60 seconds. You can watch this at work with the sound off any time.
5. Metta Meditation at Work
The previous four practices have all been related to mindfulness and insight practices. Although these are useful, we can also work with heart practices like metta, or lovingkindness. This is the practice of cultivating kindness, friendliness, and an open heart toward ourselves and those around us.
You can do a formal metta meditation in order to familiarize yourself with the practice and how it is done, but you can also practice metta at work all day long. When you have a phrase or two that feel right, you can offer them silently to yourself and those around you. Nobody needs to know you are cultivating metta. You can offer phrases in your head to different people around you, yourself, and those you interact with. This is a fantastic way to stay in touch with our intention to respond with kindness and care during our days.
We also highly recommend checking out Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace for more great ways to practice with our work lives, especially in regards to metta meditation.
Guided Meditation at Work
Here are a few practices you can do during your day. These guided meditations may be done on a break or when you have a spare moment. If you’re interested in leading a guided meditation at work, you can check out our guided meditation scripts.