Thriving vs. Surviving in the Workplace

Susan offers her thoughts about bringing spirituality into her work in a genuine way.

I recently performed a standard physical therapy treatment on a patient. The conversation took a unique turn once we ran out of topics to discuss such as the weather. He spontaneously started talking about where his path has lead him thus far in his career, family, etc.... As the treatment continued his pain began to increase. He started to concentrate on his breathing then laughingly stated, “I’m trying to get there.” He was referring to a meditative state. I gently smiled and said, “There’s nowhere to get to.” He paused then laughed as if he understood. His comment made me think how we all are often trying to get somewhere, especially in regards to our career path. There are so many people focused are getting to the next step instead of focusing on where their feet are placed in the Now. A few more minutes passed. His silence finally broke when he softly asked, “Why do you do this?” He was referring to my job as a physical therapist assistant. I paused for a brief second asking myself the same thing. A moment of clarity came to me not until after the conversation. Experiencing these precious intertwining moments of healing between patient and therapist is the reason for why I do what I do. We are here for each other. There is no ‘One’ or ‘Other’, but only Each other. The question is when will we stop grudgingly viewing our jobs as “work” instead of a great opportunity to serve each other with compassion?

Practicing compassion for each other can be difficult at times. Don’t get me wrong. There are those days when a co-worker won’t be a team player, and your boss is perfectly content checking the latest news on Facebook while you are working your butt off. There’s gonna be those days when the dog poops all over the apartment and the kids will do anything but behave themselves. That is going to happen. Those seemingly negative aspects of a job are intertwined in the ebb and flow of life. Change is inevitable. Neither is good or bad, it just is. The one thing I can do amongst all this change is to be aware of the change that happens within. I am often the one that makes these events a problem in my mind when it doesn’t have to be. The moment I bring acceptance to whatever happens in my day, is the moment I have the freedom to change (Brach, T. Radical Acceptance). This is the point where I am reminded that I always have a choice.

Choosing the type of work we do may not seem like a viable option at this time, especially considering the troubled economy. Spirit may not have us in our dream job right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a purpose for where we are right now, either. Whether you feel stuck like you are in a never ending re-run of the movie, “Office Space” or constantly feeling the need to discipline your child, there is always a purpose for where you are in this moment. I like to view it as the ultimate opportunity to know one’s self more deeply. That’s why we have a daily practice. It’s in the moments of yoga class, meditation, dance, conscious breathing, etc. that we are able to align ourselves with whatever is happening throughout our workday.

I can recall discussing an issue with a co-worker a few weeks ago. The discussion could have readily turned into a battle of egos. Without thought, I immediately began to look at my coworker with a compassionate heart, starting with focusing on my breath. Although my ego desperately did not want to hear her point of view, I chose to be present and listen to what she had to say. It wasn’t until that moment when I felt a noticeable change in the air between us. It felt very clear rather than dense and full of fear. That was a clear example of how easy it is to create problems in our mind instead of using the tools we have to create a space of acceptance.

As I implement compassion towards others, I am learning it is just as important to cultivate those qualities within myself. I’m finding it easier to notice the thoughts of the ego, but it seems difficult at times to allow them to flow freely through me. I’m sure many of us have heard the term, “misery loves company.” I notice that my ego loves being around that. It’s so easy to get caught up in the drama of a work environment. The ego will do anything to feel accepted in a group. This is why I have found it incredibly important to honor what I am feeling. My ego likes to think that I should only have compassionate/loving thoughts in all situations. That’s obviously not what being human is about. I’m finding when I feed these thoughts it only creates more of an imbalance, causing me to feel less grounded and less heart-centered.

These tools have also helped me become more aware of the career path I am following. There are many people who aren’t working in a job that is aligned with their path. A good example is working in a butcher shop when you are a vegetarian. As mentioned before, some say that they don’t have a choice. Others say they couldn’t imagine doing something different because they’ve been on their present career path for so long. That’s where fear inhibits us from becoming aligned with our path.

Maintaining a daily practice is incredibly important for me to stay true to myself throughout my work day. It helps me stay clear throughout the day, taking one moment at a time. It is one of the many things that helps me know the difference between thriving and surviving in the workplace. It is a daily reminder for me to know that we are all interconnected to benefit each other. It is a daily reminder for me to ask myself, “Why do I do this?”

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.


  1. Just grand! I find I take my boss a little less serious now and it makes a huge difference in the relationship.


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