Mindfulness at Work

By Jorgen Hannibal Recently, as a medical doctor in Sweden, I was on-call for twenty-four hours in the emergency room. At some point, I was eating my lunch, and I became aware of the physical and mental tension present in me. I directed my attention to my in-breath and out-breath, and I realized there was no difference in the process of eating while on-call in the emergency room or while sitting at a calm lakeside. Eating became much more pleasant as I really ate my bread and banana and stopped eating my tension. I then became aware of my mind ruminating with my experience and composing a piece for The Mindfulness Bell, and I smiled.

Somewhere in Buddhist literature I have read about the importance of cultivating the capacity to be silent and to refrain from interfering. On the other hand, there are situations that call for action with right mindfulness, right understanding, and skillful means. Recently I found myself in a situation calling for professional action—but I did not act. Afterwards I felt ashamed of myself for not having acted. I felt the creation of "internal formations" and karma. In processing what took place, the teachings of Thay and the Buddha helped me. The situation is gone, and only as part of the past is it present. Only as such can I change it by the way I process what happened. The part of me responsible for not having acted adequately is still the part of me deserving loving kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. I am not just the part that did not act; I am more than that. I experience how the unwholesome action represents energy that can be transformed and, as compost, fertilize the growth of beautiful flowers.

Jorgen Hannibal is a medical doctor in Helsinge, Denmark.

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