Zen Business: the Eightfold Path to Peace and Productivity at Work

“We must never forget that it is through our actions, words, and thoughts that we have a choice.” ~Sogyal Rinpoche

Our work lives are made up of a million tasks, relationships, deadlines, duties, commitment, and goals. We are often at a loss as to how to communicate difficult news, create consistency, or even just feel less stressed during the day.

When we work with teams, we can find ourselves trying to be the best to the detriment of the whole or we start gossiping in the break room, even when we don’t want to do those things.

In my years of working with management of large corporations, community groups, non-profits, and small businesses, I have seen some deplorable communication skills, folks ripping each other apart to get ahead, and teams clueless to their impact to the larger project or individuals. There has to be a better way.

When I was managing a creative group in San Francisco, I found it difficult to deal with the ups and downs of a changing workplace (this was just after the DotCom bust). It was especially challenging because I wasn’t skilled at addressing the  raw emotions of workers who were undergoing work and family stress.

This led me to seek a meditation teacher who could at least share some wisdom about finding balance on a black cushion sitting on the tiled floor of a church basement.

It was in that first introduction that I realized that I lacked a guiding set of rules for dealing with my staff, coworkers, clients, and management. Learning about the ideas inherent to the Eightfold Path I was able to start the timid steps towards a new way of communicating and finding balance both at work and in the rest of my life.

I did it through the idea of Zen Business.

The Eightfold Path of Zen Business

Right View

The beginning of the path is to see the world as it really is, not how we want it to be. We all have dreams, filters, and baggage that we bring to the workplace. If we can drop that for just a moment and see our work just as it is, we can see that it is always changing and our flexibility will benefit us.

Right Intention

Trying not to harm one another seems obvious; we aren’t out to get our co-workers. But when we start to slip into gossiping about the accountant down the hall or we undermine someone to get our way we might not be on the right path.

Setting an intention to work towards the good of the whole can change how we interact with everyone around us.

Right Speech

A no brainer! You can’t gossip about your cubicle neighbor, you can’t yell at your co-worker when they didn’t do anything, and you can’t lie to your customers. Simple stuff, but often harder to practice then we think!

Right Action

Assuming that you are basically doing work that matters to you and aren’t engaged in stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, you have Right Action down.

When I was going through a merger of a corporation, practicing Right Action was harder. Management didn’t want us to tell the staff what was happening, but I knew in my heart that not telling them how this would impact their lives was wrong.

I finally convinced them that we were not practicing good management. Also, productivity would suffer if our teams were worried about being laid off, so we shared the truth.

Right Livelihood

This gets tricky because the idea is that you work in an industry that does no harm, but when these were written there wasn’t a complete picture of what harm we could be doing to the environment, people, and our future generations.

I find that doing the best we can to be aware and make good choices about the products we buy, the companies we work for, and the lives we impact is, at least, going in the right direction.

Right Effort

Every aspect of every job has things we do not like to do, but the idea of Right Effort says that we do everything with self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness.

Doing billing is one of my least favorite tasks and I will put it off for as long as possible, which can leave my bank account in a bind. In months when I decide to be a grown up about it and do it on time, my clients are happier and I am too. It just takes the discipline to do something I don’t enjoy.

Right Mindfulness

With all this talk about multitasking and the benefits of having lots of irons in the fire, research has now found that we might not be as good at it as we thought.

Instead, they are thinking that completely being absorbed in a task might actually make the outcome better. By doing this, we are calmer and we can start to enjoy our work. Practicing single-tasking might be the right thing in this over connected world.

Right Concentration

The idea is to practice all of these ideas, and the best way that I have found is by meditating. Having the discipline to sit twenty minutes on the cushion each morning starts my day in the right direction. I can begin with the intention to listen to my team members, not react out of anger, and to work together for the common good.

Work can be tremendously rewarding, but it can also be filled with potholes of unkindness, difficulty, and stress. Finding a path to walk down that guides our actions can be liberating and calming.

The best thing is that it is just a practice; there are no right answers. We are all working towards being the best people we can be, in and out of the office, on and off the meditation cushion.

Photo by CyboRoZ

About Jacqueline Wolven

Jacqueline Wolven blogs at A marketing consultant to small businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs, her passions are doing good work, Zen business, and living the life you create.

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