As my colleague Rusty wrote last week, you shouldn't get mad at work. But sometimes it just happens. One minute you're typing up a memo, and the next, you realize it's been a good minute since you took a breath. Anger has a devilish way of sneaking up on us—especially at work.
But here’s a cure: walking meditation.
At the onset of anger, the best thing you can do for yourself and your career is get up from your desk and walk away. Implement these steps for a successful walking meditation session, and your quality of life at work will dramatically improve.
The goal is to observe the act of walking while becoming completely aware of your body, your breathing, and your surroundings.
Step One: Schedule walking meditation practice on a daily basis. As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. One of the keys to maintaining equanimity is to incorporate regular meditation into your daily life. By scheduling a daily walk, you will improve your meditation skills, ensure you get up from your desk, and create a routine, which gives you a better shot at achieving success. By practicing regularly, you’ll learn to squash anger quickly when it arises.
Step Two: Choose a walking meditation route. One of the goals of this practice is to quiet our minds. We all spend much of our day multitasking at work, while juggling our personal lives as well. Choose a route with little vehicular or pedestrian traffic. The ideal route will be straight, flat, and outdoors. However, walking meditation can be practiced anywhere; a stairwell, quadrangle, or even the office lobby. Try several different routes until you find one that works for you. The best routes are ones that give you enough to observe, without over-stimulating your mind.
Step Three: Before you get started, take several deep breaths. Stand still. Take air in through your nose and feel your abdomen rise. Make yourself aware of the earth under your feet. Enjoy the miracle of being alive. Forget whatever brought you to get up from your desk and temporarily walk away. Tell yourself that you are about to take a walk and clear your mind because you deserve to feel good—even at work.
Step Four: You are now ready to begin your walk. Take measured steps and get in tune with your body. Notice how your feet feel against the ground, how your legs are gliding you forward, how the air feels against your face. Remember that this is not a race. You are enjoying this walk and the world will be fine even if you check out for a few minutes.
Step Five: Keep your mind quiet. As you walk, thoughts will pop into your head. Some of them will be negative thoughts about work. Others might be about how you have 1,000 things to do when you get home tonight. As each thought comes up, acknowledge it, let it go, and concentrate on the walk. This walk is to clear your mind—not clutter it. It is important not to become angry with yourself if this task is difficult for you. Most people are surprised about how difficult it is to shut off their brains for a few minutes! With some practice, it will become easier for you to quiet your mind.
Step Six: Wind down. Ideally you'll be able to devote 15 minutes a day at work to your walking meditation practice. However, not everyone has that luxury at work. With some practice, a successful walking meditation session can be as short as the walk from your desk to the bathroom. Remember, the goal is to regain your balance and not allow yourself to get angry, upset, or overly emotional at work. Also, don’t end your walking meditation abruptly. Ease yourself back into work life by coming to a planned halt.
Step Seven: Use a mental checklist. When your walk ends, notice how your body feels compared to the beginning of the walk. The good news is that you can't fail at meditation; there are only varying degrees of success. Don't have any expectations, other than you know this exercise is good for your body and mind—even if the results aren't obvious.
Walking meditation has done wonders for my mental clarity at work, and I hope it helps you too! There are many different approaches to this practice. Let us know what works best for you.