February 23, 2014

Meditative & Mindful at Work. ~ Annabell Plush


Stop stress at work with some meditative experience.

I’m not very good at actually meditating; I’ve never taken a class or spent hours feeling weightless. I have experienced a sort of mindful, meditative way of working at various jobs.

The summer before I realized that I had developed the skill to meditate at work, I had a job as a cook at an employee-housing complex for sweaty, over-worked raft guides. In the summer heat, the employees would come home from long days in the sun; they were always hungry and usually grumpy.

Because I was the only one not part of the “raft guide club,” I was too often an easy target for their anger. I took it way too personally at the time, but I did start to really get caught up in my work. I can remember being in the poorly vented kitchen. It could reach 100+ degree heat, sweat pooling in my bandana, as I was dicing red peppers and trying to squeeze my whole body and soul into the bright red slivers. The vibrant yellow lemons I squeezed over pale, pink salmon cuts were all I wanted to focus on as the raft guides taunted me, nit picked my skills and defaced my belongings.

After that summer, I landed a job at a vegetarian bakery and cafe right out of cooking school. The cafe had been my muse while I was in school, so working there was incredibly exciting. During the four-part interview process (it was rather involved), my future boss asked me whether or not I could get into the food. She wanted to know if when I made curried pumpkin soup for instance, all that was going on for me in that moment was the soup and I. I had never really thought about that before, but once she spoke of it, I realized I had been doing that at jobs for years.

I made the curried pumpkin soup a lot at the bakery and every time I did I would remember the interview.

Being mindful in my job, being present, took on a meditative quality for me. I loved my job and through that love I was able to connect with the food I was creating on personal levels.

My next kitchen job I had after the bakery was at a generic cafe. I had higher expectations now, but the job failed to meet those hopes miserably. I had hoped to be able to create sandwiches and soups that were wholesome and delicious. I soon discovered the job involved slicing deli meat and cheese for six hours at a time. As a vegan, this job was about as repulsive as you can imagine.

Although I only worked there for a month, I was able to really perfect my skills of getting so lost in my work that all that existed was the work and I. Slicing meat for hours on end afforded me a chance to turn inwards and examine my inner life.

The rhythm of the slicer helped me focus on things I wanted to improve on.

Was I too caught up in my body image? Did I want to spend more time working on not judging?

Right now, I’m working at a really amazing organic food co-op in my new town in Tennessee. I managed to get a job creating healthy, delicious food in a deeply southern, meat-centric town. As I mixed off-white Udon noodles with crisp, bright yellow and red peppers, adding tan toasted sesame oil and seeds, I found myself yet again engrossed thoroughly in my job. I’ve found that the way to truly enjoy my job, or to truly detach myself and endure it is to allow myself to become so “in the moment” that I am unaware of time passing.

Of course, I’ve found the “flow” moments in my hobbies: running, kayaking and cooking at home. But at work, when I’m focusing so intensely on the avocados I’m slicing and smashing, allowing myself to really feel and be a part of the mushy handfuls of pale green flesh as I squeeze them into guacamole: I find myself truly enjoying my job.

We all dream of loving our jobs. I’m lucky that most of my jobs have been truly ones that I enjoy.

But the summer I first started escaping into my job as a way of enduring it still holds sweet memories, despite the often-brutal treatment of my co-workers. I remember the relationship I had with the potatoes I peeled and sliced, the foccacia I shaped and sprinkled with olive oil and fresh rosemary. Sometimes finding a place deep inside yourself while you’re at work is as beneficial as when you are sitting in a quiet space with your back straight and your hands at your heart in a meditative state of mind.

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     Editorial Assistant: Jen Weddle/Editor: Catherine Monkman

     Photo: Annabell Plush

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