Work as a Spiritual Practice

I made a discovery recently.


Lots of people  are going to work drugged, perhaps slightly intoxicated with drugs or alcohol, to numb themselves or highly overstimulated with everything from Red Bull to what we used to call uppers. I know this to be true because people have been telling me about in hushed, confessional, frequently whispered conversations., followed by fits of nervous laughter.

I have no idea what all the reasons for this are, of course. None of us, as far as I know, has a super power that lets us read minds or know what’s really going on in the hearts of others. Exploration of this kind of thing is the stuff of books handled by writers wiser than me.

But I do know this. We suffer frequently because of what’s going on in our own hearts and minds, because of anger, frustration, lack of compassion for ourselves and others.

And that?

That’s something we can do something about. We can practice loving kindness at work. Here then, are some guidelines for simple, portable, adaptable practice. I invite you to give it a try and see how it goes for you. Of course, I’d love to hear back from you, how it goes, what questions might come up along the way.


Loving Kindness Practice

We start with ourselves because we so infrequently give ourselves the kind of TLC that we all really need but perhaps do not receive very frequently. I think of it as being at least for a few moments, ideal parents for ourselves.

May I be safe

May I be happy

May I be strong

May I live with ease

Then we extend the circle further to include some beloved one in our lives, human or otherwise. Pets are okay too!

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be strong

May you live with ease

Then we extend further still to include some familiar stranger. Someone we see around in our daily lives but don’t really know. We might not even know their names. Just the face is familiar.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be strong

May you live with ease

Next we expand our circle further to include even those who we feel has caused us some suffering or some trouble. It’s probably a good idea not to pick the most traumatic or most difficult person or situation right off the bat. No need to overload ourselves. Vulnerability doesn’t mean, throw yourself under a bus.

We can try to remember that everything this person has done and in fact everything we ourselves do arises from a desire to reduce suffering, stress, agitation, unhappiness. Obviously sometimes, this doesn’t go so well and pain arises. But because we tend to place ourselves at the exact center of the universe and find ourselves faultless, (compared to all those other folks out there, we can forget that we are all culpable. We are all implicated in the world’s suffering.

And so, to the best of our ability, we can work with this with some compassion and spirit of generosity. When we feel harmed by someone, instead of going immediately to anger, we can call up the opposite feeling and send wishes for peace and so forth to the target of our anger or frustration.

You may feel some resistance doing this. That’s okay. Just notice what’s arising and if it feels a little too intense, just allow yourself to back off some and move on to the next step in the progression. Otherwise, just work with what you have right here and now, whatever capacity you may have, even it’s a very tiny sliver of compassion, the most infinitesimal spark of lovingkindness, and send what you have out there as sincerely as you can.

May you be safe

May you be happy

May you be strong

May you live with ease

Finally, we send these wishes out to all beings with whom we share this planet/time: visible and invisible, seen and unseen, known and unknown, large and small. We recognize that all beings, even the tiniest, one-celled organism moves toward food and away from toxicity. Are we not the same? We all want what feels good and all feel a desire to move away from what is unpleasant.

You might say that in terms of going off the cliff of anger, that allowing ourselves to do this, unconsciously all the time, makes no more sense than driving our car off a cliff. I mean, we wouldn’t have to think twice about that. It just doesn’t make sense to drive our car off a cliff. (Everybody dies!) In the same way, it makes no sense to go off the cliff of anger.

We can practice with remembering that we’re all in this together and just keep sending out the good vibes. When this feels hard to do, when we feel ourselves getting irritated, we can simply remember that this is why we call it practice!

May all beings be safe

May all beings be happy

May all beings be strong

May all beings live with ease

The more we practice this, the easier it gets to be. The words may run just under the surface of everything we do and becomes easier to call up into the moment. We can practice at work, on the train, on public transportation, when in line at the grocery store.

With time, we find the world and our own hearts softening just a bit. We may notice we’re slightly less inclined to fly off the handle. The ripple effect of this is huge.

Think of it. It’s easy to see that each moment is most colored, affected, shaped by the preceding moment. If we’re angry in this moment, we’re more likely to be cranky and angry in the next moment. It becomes snowball of negative emotions. On the other hand, if we aiming for peace and happiness in this moment, we’re more likely to feel peaceful and happy in the next moment too. That’s a much nicer emotional snowball to have rolling don’t you think?


I urge you to try it wherever you are. Sharon Salzberg calls this Street Lovingkindness. We can in this way, enter each moment more aware of what’s going on, less reactive and more responsive. Once you do the practice a lot, the words will be right there for you. And feel free, if you can remember them exactly to let them go and just use whatever words of kindness come to you in the moment.

Thanks for stopping by.




Author: Hillary Johnson

Improvisational documentary and fine art photographer.

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