The Financial Times recently ran a piece on the value of meditation in the workplace. The article quotes several corporate managers discussing why and how they and their companies incorporate meditation at the office. “It helps you to get perspective and organise your thoughts,” says Jon Jagielski of Medtronic in an opinion echoed throughout the piece.
“There’s a need to reduce stress in the workplace and meditation is the best technique I know,” says Richard Geller of MedWorks, a company that runs several different corporate meditation programs. “You can do it any time, any place and anywhere — even for a second. It’s also very cheap: the return on investment is phenomenal.” Many companies apparently recognize the value; everyone from Reebok to Google to Twitter supports meditation in the workplace. The stress itself, according to Geller, stems from the way in which the modern world overworks our fight-or-flight response. What was once reserved for harrowing moments and life-or-death situations is now a constant.
That fight-or-flight reference reminded me of José Ortega y Gasset’s famous statement: “The most salient characteristic of life is its coerciveness: it is always urgent, ‘here and now’ without any possible postponement. Life is fired at us point-blank.”
Meditation as an antidote makes sense. So does prayer. The Psalmist talks about being in constant prayer: “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and [God] hears my voice” (Psalm 55.17). Then there’s Daniel. Daniel, exiled in Babylon, became a ruler over several dozen regional governors, and excelled in his performance because, as it says, “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6.3). It also says that Daniel “got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God” (6.10). One complains, the other thanks. Both take themselves out of hubbub of the day and put themselves into the presence of God.
I’m no David or Daniel, but praying the hours is central to my spirituality — and my sanity. I carry a prayer book with me wherever I go. I have (yes, I’m admitting this in public) a “man bag” in which I keep a couple of slim volumes, including my prayer book. It’s with me almost everywhere, especially the office. I find that starting the day with prayer and going back to my prayer book during the day buoys me against the floodwaters. It helps me keep perspective. It helps me detach from the crises. Most of all, it helps remind me of the God by whose providence the whole melee is governed and directed for my good and my salvation. Here’s one particular gem that I typically pray several times a day:
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforseen events let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of this coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray You Yourself in me. Amen.
The day may be crazy, but God is good. What more do you need to worry about?