‘I don’t enjoy studying,’ said Rahul. ‘I cannot understand how people do things they do not enjoy.’
‘Yes,’ said Rinku. ‘It would be great if we could only do things we enjoy right, bhaiyya?’
‘What you enjoy can also become boring if it becomes ‘work’,’ said Rakesh. ‘For example, you may enjoy playing basketball but if you have to practice hard every morning and evening it might not be enjoyable anymore. Or you like gaming and it becomes a job, you may not enjoy it as much. So it’s not only about what you’re doing, but knowing the secret to enjoying ‘work’, that leads to real enjoyment and success.’
‘Are you saying we can also enjoy boring things like studying?’ asked Rahul.
‘Yes,’ smiled Rakesh. ‘In fact, many things that bring you success are what you might call ‘boring’. To become an expert at your ‘work’ you have to put in conscious and regular hard work that is always beyond your comfort zone. Doing mindless work does not bring improvement.’
‘So, what’s the secret that makes ‘boring’ things interesting?’ asked Rinku.
‘Mindfulness,’ said Rakesh. ‘Mindfulness is nothing but bringing your full attention to the present moment. When you bring complete attention to whatever you are doing you become fully aware of what’s happening. You see things with fresh eyes, without bringing in the past or the future. Thoughts like, ‘I didn’t do well last time’ or ‘I will fare badly in tomorrow’s exam’ do not drain your time and energy. When you are fully mindful of the present, there is no need to worry about the future. Success comes from doing every task mindfully, with all your attention.’
‘Hmm,’ said Rahul. ‘But can we be mindful about boring work also?’
‘ According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the well-known Zen Buddhist teacher, work is an expression of our being,’ said Rakesh. ‘It is not separate from your life. Your work and your home are connected. So you must find your home at your work.’
‘Whoa,’ said Rahul. ‘I don’t think I can find my home in my work. For me work and play are separate.’
‘If you do not enjoy your work, you may not reach your full potential at it,’ said Rakesh. ‘Instead of going into work or study with an attitude that says you do not enjoy it, why don’t you try mindfulness? You could start enjoying your work and even end up being good at it.’
‘Worth a try,’ said Rinku. ‘How can I bring my attention to the present moment, bhaiyya? My mind keeps wandering off.’
‘Focus on your breathing as you do your work,’ said Rakesh. ‘By breathing mindfully you unite the body and mind. The moment you bring body awareness, you become present.’
‘But bhaiyya, if we do not think of the past and the present, how can we plan?’ asked Rinku. ‘How can we organise ourselves efficiently?’
‘According to Zen Masters, the secret to success is non-thinking,’ smiled Rakesh. ‘It’s paradoxical but what they mean is that when we eliminate thoughts that are fear-based and rooted in past and future thinking, we give full attention to what’s before us. Mindfulness quietens these unnecessary thoughts which lead to poorly made plans and instead, presents you with a clear direction leading to deliberate, purposeful action.’
‘I’ll give it a shot,’ said Rahul. ‘How do we practice mindfulness, bhaiyya?’
‘First set your intention to live mindfully through the day,’ said Rakesh. ‘Give full attention to every activity — whether you are walking, sitting, brushing teeth, eating, driving, going out of the door, drinking a cup of tea and so on. Every moment is an opportunity to practice mindfulness, to be fully present. When your mind wanders bring it back to what you are doing.’
‘Well, that can be done,’ said Rinku. ‘And if we practice mindfulness, you’re saying it will help us get better at our work?’
‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘Firstly, the quality of your work improves because you are 100% there — not distributed in the past or the future. Secondly, since your results improve, you feel good about yourself. Thirdly, you find your home at work which means that nothing can bore you anymore.’
‘But bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘How about obstacles at work? How can we practice mindfulness amidst all these distractions?’
‘Good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘Whatever work we do, obstacles will be there. So accept them and be prepared to handle them — mindfully. Make conscious, mindful choices to reduce distractions like your smartphone by checking it only at designated times. Increase mindfulness practice by creating a space for mindful breathing, practicing mindfulness while walking, sitting, and sleeping. Be mindful of the words you use while speaking.’
‘Sometimes my emotions take over,’ said Rahul. ‘How can I be mindful when there’s fear, anger, frustration?’
‘When emotions arise, go into them mindfully,’ said Rakesh. ‘Let them go as they arise. If you are not mindful when emotions arise, you will end up fuelling these emotions with your thoughts and build bigger stories that hijack you. To be mindful when emotions arise, breathe abdominally. Follow your breath and bring body awareness. When you bring awareness back to your body, you are back to the present from your hijacked story. When angry, don't say anything until you calm down. Be mindful of the effect of your thoughts, words and actions. As you practice mindfulness in your communication, you will listen and speak with compassion.’
‘But this is all sounding like work,’ said Rahul.
‘Don't confuse joy and happiness with excitement,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘You can get momentary thrills from your mind by checking out something mindless on the phone, but creating something of value, something original, even a moment of real joy and happiness, requires you to be mindful and present.
By being mindful, you can practice being compassionate with yourself, the world, your work. Everything will engage you, and will be enjoyable. There will be no difference between work or play.’
‘Wow, worth practising, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘It does seem to have many benefits.’
Pro Tip: To enjoy your work and to do quality work, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is bringing full attention to the present moment. When you’re fully engaged, you do not get bored. You find deep fulfilment and creative insights that enhance the quality of your work and your life, leading to enjoyment and happiness.