When I envision spiritual practices done on a daily basis, I tend to think of monasteries with their regular prayer times, emphasis on silence and hours of contemplative reflection. These are not activities compatible with business environments. Telling your boss you need to sit in silent meditation every afternoon probably isn’t going to be met with much approval, especially not on deadline. Nor is refusing to talk because you are keeping a period of silence or dashing out of meetings to pray at specific times.
Because we view spiritual disciplines as something other people who don’t have “real” jobs do, incorporating specifically spiritual activities into our workday doesn’t come naturally. But it can, and perhaps it should.
For a spiritual practice to be applicable to a work environment on a regular basis, I believe it has to have at least three characteristics: 1) it has to be simple, 2) it has to be quick and 3) it has to be private. If it’s too complex or requires too much preparation, it isn’t going to last. If it takes too much time, it isn’t fair to the company and if it is public it goes against the Lord’s admonition to keep our good deeds to ourselves.
In order to fulfill these three requirements, we need to think outside the box of our usual spiritual practices and expand our ideas of disciplines to include some activities that might not seem spiritual at first glance.
With that in mind, here are a few ideas to try.
Praise before criticism. Make a point to always say something positive to a co-worker or employee (if you are the boss) before launching into the negatives. Along the same lines, decide to never take part in gossip or negativity. Note: this is a lot more difficult than it might seem. According to several of the early Church Fathers, mastery of one’s tongue is the key to great spiritual growth.
Strive for excellence. If Brother Lawrence could find God in the pots and pans in the kitchen, we can find him in the editing and email at the office. Approach each undertaking with the idea that you will do it to the best of your ability and in doing so, transform it into a gift to the Lord.
Forgive imperfection. This is the flip side of striving for excellence. While we should hold ourselves to the highest of standards, being willing to accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and the people we work with are going to make mistakes can be a great spiritual gift to us and to them. We don’t have to condone sloppy work or overlook errors, but we can make a conscious decision to understand that people, being flawed, will make the occasional mistake. We can forgive them, even as we help them correct the problem.
Smile. How can smiling be a spiritual practice? Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "Peace begins with a smile." Call forth peace into the world with your smile.
Time your prayer. How often do you look at your watch or check your computer clock? If you really want to add some spiritual discipline to your life, try to say a short prayer such as “Son of David, have mercy on me,” whenever you check the time. Or make a point to say a short prayer at the top of every hour. Or every time you get a cup of coffee. If you link your prayer to an activity you do throughout the day, you’ll soon be praying throughout the day.
These are, of course, just some suggestions to get you started. The idea is not to impose a massive new spiritual regime on your workday, as if it were yet another line item in your job description, but to find small ways to incorporate a deeper sense of the holy into the ordinary, and thus transform our work space into a holy place.