We've all experienced it - that total absorption in our work (or play) where we experience total connectedness with the subject at hand, things become effortless and time seems like it's standing still. In Buddhism, this state is called "Samadhi." In sports, it's called being "in the zone." This is, in fact, where our best performance, our best ideas and our highest levels of satisfaction come from. So the real questions are:
Can we cultivate this state for easier access?
How much more could be possible if we operated from this state on a regular basis?
Setting the Stage
Our ego delivers constant brain chatter in our daily lives - all day, every day. While this voice can serve us well and keep us out of harm's way, in many respects, it limits our ability to explore other options, including the very option of turning it off:-) In order to encourage Samadhi arising in us, we need to temporarily quiet this voice so all of our senses can be engaged in the task at hand. In the work environment, this also means eliminating as many distractions as possible. The simple act of shutting your door and turning off email alerts sets the stage for fewer distractions. If you are in a more open work environment, develop a signal, even if it's just a sticky note stuck to your cubicle, that says "no interruptions for awhile."
Center Your Breathing
Why do we do this? Because Samadhi cannot be intentionally created. "Samadhi arises on its own. It cannot be willfully entered because that which would "will" it is non other than the stand-apart "I" (ego). That said, the body and breath can be developed in ways that become conducive to this condition arising," states Ginny Whitelaw in the book, The Zen Leader.
Mindful breathing brings the body and mind in focus together. These 3 simple breathing exercises are a great way to quiet the mind and bring it in sync with the body. Remember, the thought, "I want to be in Samadhi," is not the same as being in Samadhi. The thought, "Let me have a quiet mind," is not the same as a quiet mind. Becoming one with our breathing is a way past thought into a more deeply absorbed state.
God is in the Details
So, you've eliminated some obvious distractions, have entered through breathing, and can now bring the same condition of total absorption to your work. Whether your approach is slow or fast, perform every detail with the same quality standard you expect for the whole. You are now the creator, addressing all considerations… with all things considered. Take satisfaction in completing each step with mindful excellence, feeling into and one with the whole creation.
Someone once said that "God is in the details." It's through these details that I can get completely lost in the moment. Think of it like a symphony tuning up before the concert begins. One by one, you hear each instrument come into harmony… each one dependent on the others while maintaining its own creative voice. If one were left untuned, the performance would suffer. The same holds true for your project.
From Contolling to Connecting
Moving from controlling to connecting is one of the important "flips" discussed in The Zen Leader. Although this chapter focuses on our relationships with people, I see how it also has a lot to do with how we tackle a problem or perform a task. Forcing an answer is not always in our best interest. Developing a solution from a connected state is always more sustainable in the long run. Why? Because through our own connectedness we are able to lead from a "big picture" perspective - it's at the very heart of being connected.
The more we can optimize our conditions for Samadhi arising in us, the easier and more likely it is to happen. Sitting meditation has long been a proven way to clear and concentrate the mind. Simple tasks can also work if done mindfully. And what is a major project, but a bunch of simple tasks all linked together?
Do you have some special way you engage yourself more fully in the project at hand? Please share.