Mind & Body

The Art of Work

Being unhappily employed can ruin your physical and emotional well-being. How do you find a way to do the job you love and love the job you do?
The Art of Work
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The Right Approach
Sometimes it's not the job you do but your approach to it that makes the difference in how much joy you get from your work. There are two approaches to creating a gratifying work experience, says Darlene Cohen, L.M.T., a priest of the San Francisco Zen Center and author of The One Who Is Not Busy: Connecting With Work in a Deeply Satisfying Way.

First, take a truly refreshing break. Cohen describes a South American tribe that walked day after day, but took frequent rest stops "to let their souls catch up with them." You can let your soul catch up with you by shifting your full attention from work to something else, then back again. The time period can vary from gazing momentarily out the window to observing a day of rest ("I love the concept of the Sabbath") to taking a long vacation.

Cohen calls the second approach "simultaneous inclusion." Keep your soul with you by doing whatever is in front of you with your whole heart and mind. Learning to focus and sustain your attention at will is the most important way to improve the quality of your working life.

To hone that skill: Pay attention to what you are doing at the time, rather than being distracted by what you are not doing.

Resist chopping up time into arbitrary stress-inducing segments that we label busy/not busy, important/trivial or business life/personal life. "All of it is our own time," says Cohen. "Think of it as a seamless flow of both time and movement."

Be engaged by the activity itself, rather than being invested in the outcome.

Practice mindfulness by eating, walking, listening to music and conversing with others consciously and with your full attention. Turn everyday activities into meditations.