This past week my sister-in-law died. Nothing like a death to put things into perspective. I reminded my in-laws as they were worried about details of the funeral, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. After seeing their sister die, it was an easy message to get across. After that ordeal the type of flowers or coffin decoration really wasn’t that important. Does it take a death to put the small things into perspective?
What are you worried about these days that really in the end don’t matter that much? Are there things at work that generally annoy you but if you took a 10,000 foot view isn’t really that important? Would you worry about those things if you were lying on your death bed?
I heard an expression once about holding on to kindness and letting go of grudges. If you have grudges, annoyances, harsh judgements or built up resentment about people at your work- let them go. If you are still carrying memories about people who have done you wrong or made foolish decisions, travel lightly. Do you really want to be carrying that extra burden around with you every day? What could you do more of if you channeled your strength and extra energy towards acts of kindness? Let go of these small burdens and move in more peaceful ways. Walk lightly and carry only those things that serve you well.
Here’s a tip to figure out what you can release – for each resentment, negative judgement, complaint or grudge- ask yourself – how is it serving me? Do you want to stay in victim ‘ain’t it awful’ mindset or bring peace to your work and yourself? The choice is yours. Every day you wake up and go to work, you choose your attitude. What do you want to carry with you to work tomorrow morning?
I love this Buddhist story of the monks crossing the river. Two monks arrived at a river that was quickly rising. A young woman held on to a basket of clothing she was washing. She looked worried about getting to the other side with her wash. The older monk asked the woman if she needed help. When she replied yes, he quickly handed the clothing to the younger monk, picked the woman up as he stepped carefully across the rocks through the rushing water. He set the woman down on the other side and kept walking. The younger monk quickly followed with the clothes and left them with the woman without speaking or looking at her.
The two monks walked for over an hour in silence. The younger monk pondered repeatedly in his mind how the older monk talked to the woman. Didn’t that go against their vows of silence? What about his physical contact with women? The young monk couldn’t get the image out of his head as they walked, replaying the scene dozens of times in his head. Finally after nearly two hours of this constant stream of thoughts crashing through his mind, he stopped and asked the older monk – ‘master why did you pick up that woman?’
The older monk nodded in silence and replied. ‘I assisted the woman across the dangerous waters. Then I set her down. You have been carrying her ever since’.
As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us – Peace is Every Step.
For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.