By Rosemary Donnell
Having been a nurse my entire adult life and a nurse practitioner for eighteen years, I feel fortunate to be in a profession that easily lends itself to right livelihood. But consistently maintaining mindfulness is not easy. What has helped me to try to stay focused at work is Thich Nhat Hanh's practice of using little reminders. In the past he has suggested reminders such as using the ringing of the telephone to call us back to the present. Since my phone doesn't ring that often, I have come up with my own reminders. I share them in hopes that some of them may work for others on the path.
A practice that I find especially valuable is one I do as I enter the building where I work. I take a moment to remind myself how much I enjoy my job. Somehow this helps to keep the problems of the day in perspective. A different reminder allows me to keep focused on listening to the patient. As I close the door to the examination room and prepare to greet the patient, I say to myself, 'This is the only person in the world." This enables me to let go of the multitude of things going on outside the examination room and makes the interaction more concentrated and effective.
But workplace is not just our patients, clients, or customers. What can make a job pleasant or unpleasant are coworker relations. When I took my current job three years ago, I knew gossip and backbiting were a big problem at this clinic. I knew that I could not be a part of that but also that I could not exhibit a holier-than-thou attitude. All I could do was try and treat everyone with dignity and respect. That climate of gossiping is now almost completely gone. I felt it was because the top levels of administration had changed and people felt more secure in their jobs. At my most recent evaluation, I got a very unexpected surprise. My supervisor made a point to tell me that she knew the reason the gossip had stopped was, to a large degree, due to the fact that I had quietly refused to participate in it It only served to remind me of why it is important to try to follow the precepts and stay mindful. We have no idea how far-reaching our actions will be. Since many of us spend so much of our lives at work, if we do not integrate it into our practice, we will miss a great opportunity.
Rosemary Donnell is the contact person for the White Heron Sangha in San Louis Obispo County, California.