Turning Office Meetings Into
Ecstatic Moments of Spiritual Opening

Meeting

For me, going to a work meeting is a lot like going to the DMV to renew my driver’s license. Sure, I might get lucky and sail through in less than twenty minutes. But more often than not, I end up sitting around for hours, stalled by bureaucratic inefficiency.

On my way home from work last week after a marathon meeting, I found myself asking: “is there a way to turn the mostly banal and boring experience of meetings into a divine experience?” “What would it mean to make going to meetings a philosophical act?”

I began exploring the idea that meetings might offer the perfect opportunity to test out Thoreau’s provocative view of the present moment.  Here’s how he puts it in Walden:

“Men esteem truth remote, in the outskirts of the system, behind the farthest star, before Adam and after the last man. In eternity there is indeed something true and sublime. But all these times and places and occasions are now and here. God himself culminates in the present moment, and will never be more divine in the lapse of all the ages.”

Thoreau poses a deep challenge.  If it’s true that “God himself culminates in the present moment,” then this must be just as true when walking through the woods as it is when sitting in a windowless conference room talking about mundane matters of company policy.

In fact, meetings would seem to offer the ultimate test of Thoreau’s idea.  It’s relatively easy to experience “something true and sublime” on a trek through the Himalayas, at an ashram in India, or while marveling at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  The more difficult task is to find this same experience of the “true and sublime” in the midst of an everyday office meeting.

So for this week’s experiment, I plan to test whether it is possible to turn workplace meetings into an opportunity for a divine experience of the present moment.


Here’s the practice:

1. Be Here

Here’s how I approach most meetings.  I walking in thinking to myself, “I don’t want to be here.”   This attitude makes the divine experience of the present moment all but impossible to attain.  It creates an inner state of resistance.  The “I don’t want to be here” state of being leaves me lost in thoughts about other times and places, wishing it were over.  It’s a state of saying “no” to life.

The move out of the “I don’t want to be here” state is simple.  Be here. Rather than living in opposition to the present moment, open to it.  By shifting from an inner “no” to a “yes”, the “true and sublime” qualities of what Thoreau calls the “now and here” become available.

 

2. Breathe

I’m beginning to think that the difference between the stressed-out chaos of the workplace and the perfect relaxation of a beach vacation reduces down to this:  the breath.  If your breath is constricted, short, or forced, your nervous system will reflect these in the form of racing thoughts, irritation, and anxiety.  If your breath is smooth, deep, and effortless, you will be on vacation – even if your body happens to be stuck in an office chair rather than a chaise lounge by the pool.

So finding the “true and sublime” in a workplace meeting requires a devotion to the breath.  It requires the moment-to-moment practice of using the breath to shift into the infinity of the present moment (for more on breathing, check out the Breath Experiment).

I have experimented with Finding Enlightenment in an Airport Security Line.  But finding the “true and sublime” in the midst of an everyday meeting might be my greatest challenge yet.

What do you think?   Do you have any tips or practices for turning mundane meetings into ecstatic moments of spiritual opening?

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