Flow, cycles and rituals at work
Flow, cycles and rituals at work
Work is very much associated with effort and struggle. It is very common in workplaces to have a coffee at the start of the day and a few more to follow throughout the day.
It is also very common to hear expressions such as ‘looking forward to the end of the day’ or ‘I can’t wait until Friday’ and so on. The symptoms of exhaustion and lethargy or the simple and very common feeling of discontentment are a normalised phenomenon in our workplaces. But does it really have to be this way?
I have worked in two countries and have observed the very different ways of approaching work given the two different cultural backgrounds: Greece and England. In Greece the day had a very sluggish start, involving people complaining about another day starting, accompanied by a coffee and a biscuit from the nearby bakery shop, or even better, if someone had his name day, a box of sweets that would be empty by the end of the day. In England on the other hand, the workplace ethic was slightly different. The day started fast and with a quick coffee, then going from one task to another almost in a frenzy. Hectic corporate environment that was very stimulating, keeping one on edge craving sweet things and coffees to survive the day. The snacks on the desks for the employees were at the reach of one hand; the medicine for when the energy levels were dropping, when boredom was kicking in or when the stress levels were at their peak.
So despite the cultural differences, the way to deal with work using food and sugar was the same. Is this in truth normal or is there another way of approaching work that does not force you to reach for coffees and snacks?
When I came across The Way of The Livingness, I was introduced to the word ‘flow’ which changed the way I worked and the way I was at work ever after. I realised that the reason why I was reaching for sweets was because I was not ‘in flow’ but rather ‘in effort’. I was making work about everything ‘I do’ rather than 'the way I am’ during the day.
So, what is flow? Flow is the way in which you can go from one task to another, one step to another, one breath to another by holding your energetic quality at all times. By energetic quality we mean a poise of re-pose and surrender, in other words: a consistency of energetic quality that stems from the way one moves and expresses during the day – a connection with our innate grace, beauty and elegance that is very naturally there when we listen to our body and everything it communicates with us. An example of this is simply surrendering on your seat while working, having no agenda about what happens next or even what you want to happen next. Just executing the task that is before you without focusing on any outcomes and expectations, but on being present and feeling everything around you makes one detached from the imposition of deadlines, the small talk of the colleagues, and instead the focus is on how you move observing life happening around you.
Could it be that the reason why we reach for coffees, sweets and other stimulants including gossip, which is rife in work environments, is because we place too much emphasis on ‘what we do’, the temporal reality and its stresses right in front of our eyes, rather than zooming out, looking at the bigger picture which is the way we are, the way we move and express in every single second with ourselves and with others? What if our actual job, alongside of getting things done, meeting the necessary deadlines, as we cannot avoid the simple facts of life, is to first and foremost look after the quality of expression, which is the energetic quality we are in and take responsibility for that?
The above put a stop in the momentum I was in my workplace, living on three coffees a day and many snacks in between, being stressed and anxious, working until late to do as much as possible and as quickly as possible. The word ‘flow’ restored a quality of harmony in life that I would never imagine possible, while embracing new standards of self-love and self-care.
Life works in cycles. What if we considered our work life a part of a cycle during the day, rather than some-thing that we have to do because it is obligatory, mechanical or something we have to do out of function or to pay our bills? What would change if we considered work as a cycle in which we are called to claim more love for ourselves in the way we are and express, and in the way we are with others. And what if each day was an offering to express and embody deeper love and wisdom, rather than each day being another boring Groundhog Day in which we react to our colleagues and bosses? We cannot but react if the basis of life is merely functional, robbed off our multidimesional connection with the universal love we actually are and come from.
I used to be very reactive at work. The realisation of the workplace being a cycle allowed me to clock patterns and behaviours that I had to discard because they were not true to me and drained me of energy and vitality. Caffeine and sweet things were a mechanism to avoid seeing what was actually going on; the bullying, competition, jealousy and the various more subtle forms of emotional imposition such as the angry person everyone tries so hard not to upset.
The willingness to see what was actually going on was a painful yet necessary extraction out of a momentum of raciness and excessive nervous energy. It was also a necessary step to acknowledge the greater role we are to play in our workplaces as an equal part of the team that has little to do with meeting deadlines and much more to do with the quality and the integrity of how we are with ourselves first and foremost.
Every cycle comes with its rituals. And rituals at work are very important as they become the foundations with which we can deepen our quality and live each day. The foundation that will keep us steady when we find ourselves in reaction for example.
- Every time I was sensing that I was in effort in what I was doing, I would stop, make myself a tea or move on to something else until an awareness dropped in of how to complete what was started.
- I would organise my desk in a way that was supportive for the day and place the objects the way I felt was needed.
- I would tidy everyone’s desk at the beginning and at the end of the day if I was the first and last person to leave the office.
- I would make sure the way I typed was gentle and not smashing my keyboard.
- I would take a lunch break, not to check out but to come back and restore the quality within, by having a walk along the river.
- If I was sensing reaction in me, I would stop what I was doing and feel everything, rather than avoid it and turn to chocolate.
- I stayed steady, focused and surrendered by connecting to my body and the way I was breathing when a deadline was coming my way. In that movement I had the space to feel the energy of the deadline and how it was pulling me to become anxious and racy. I had the space to respond to what was needed rather than react to it by becoming myself anxious and racy.
Flow, cycles and rituals are an essential energetic cocktail that can assist one's steps out of effort and to naturally close the gap of needing to have coffees and sweet stuff during the day. There is in fact nothing more natural than being in flow. And every day is a new opportunity to see more and deepen.
Work does not need to be confined inside the four walls of the office, neither is it a big chunk of the day that needs to be done. In flow, and in connection with ourselves everything is work, life is work and work is life. Raising my two-year-old is work, washing the dishes is work, going shopping is work, preparing for bed is work in the most loving and profound sense, because work is being in a consistent movement of responding to the universal love you are by holding your quality at any given point in time. Every moment in connection to ourselves is a moment of connection with our universal and multidimensional grandness and therefore it is work.
In separation, we feel alone, the struggle of having to work things out by ourselves, getting frustrated and being in all forms and flavours of distress. In connection with our universality, work is not something you strive to achieve but a quality you deepen into day by day.