8 Ways To Introduce Buddhist Teachings To Your Work Life

Download Audio
Roy Lobdell an assistant councilor at law meditates during his lunch hour in the tower of the John Hancock Building in Boston on February 4, 1977. (AP)
Roy Lobdell an assistant councilor at law meditates during his lunch hour in the tower of the John Hancock Building in Boston on February 4, 1977. (AP)

Are you having a happy Monday? If not, you're far from alone. For many, "happy Monday" sounds like an oxymoron. After all, it's the start of another five days at work, where more than half of Americans say they are unhappy.

Low pay, poor leadership, annoying co-workers, tight deadlines and shrinking resources are just some of the problems many confront in the workplace.

So, is there a way to find joy and satisfaction in a place where we spend the majority of our time — the office?

This conversation originally aired on September 22, 2014.


Lodro Rinzler, teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage and founder of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership. Author of "The Buddha Walks into the Office: A Guide to Livelihood for a New Generation." He's also author of "Walk Like a Buddha" and "The Buddha Walks into a Bar." He tweets @lodrorinzler.

8 Ways To Introduce Buddhist Teachings To Your Work Life

1. Meditate:
Lodro Rinzler:
"When people...come to my talks, they're often leaving college and they don't know exactly what they're going to do for a career...[They] say, 'I want to help the world. I'm not sure exactly what I want to do.' And meditation can help us get specific about that...One of the Tibetan words for meditation is 'gom' and it's more directly translated as 'become familiar with.' So, we're actually becoming more familiar with what's going on in our own mind. And that's helpful both for finding out what we want to do for our livelihood, but also who we want to be."

2. Set intentions:
"One thing I like to encourage people to do is, right when they wake up, to set an intention. You know, if I'm saying, 'I'm meeting with a lot of people today.' My intention might be, 'I'm going to be very present with all of them.' If I'm doing more volunteer work I might say, 'I'm going to be very generous with my time and my energy and maybe my money.' Whatever it is, you sort of gear it toward your day. And then you set reminders. You can set a reminder on your phone, you can put a post-it on your computer, you could write it somewhere that you'll see it regularly and then at the end of the day you reflect back and you say, 'How much did I actually live in line with that intention?'"

3. Slow down:
"If you're like me, you're constantly surrounded by speed, aggression, we've got to get things done, so it's saying, 'I'm just going to slow down.' It's very counter-cultural in some sense, that we're just going to be present enough to see a situation clearly and then respond skillfully as a result and that, actually, when you start to do that I think other people in the office start to notice as well and they start to pick [it] up."

4. Build a "mandala":
"This is one of many contemplations that are offered in 'The Buddha Walks into the Office"...You start to say, 'What do I want to base my life around? Do I want it to be — I'm going to be the CMO of Starbucks? And base my life around that? And all of my aspirations and my day-to-day revolves around that goal?' Or do I say, 'I want to be a kind person. Or, I want to be a generous person.' And then, if we build our life around that sort of quality that we want to cultivate, there's a much greater chance for happiness than if we say, 'I need to be this specific job title.' Because that's very hard. There's billions of people on the earth, there's only one CMO of Starbucks. But there's a lot of opportunities to be kind, a lot of opportunities to be generous and our career can be built around that."

5. Be mindful:
"How many distractions do we have today?...The idea is, can we actually get one-pointed with our work and just become fully present. So, we talk about mindfulness. It's such a catchphrase these days. Mindfulness is saying you're going to be fully mindful of something. Mindful of my eating, mindful of my work, mindful of the conversation I'm having right now with you. So, it's bringing our full self to something. So, if you can do that even when there's so many distractions, that's when you know your meditation practice is working."

6. Take breaks:
"For many of us, we give into the habitual momentum, you could say, of work. It's like, if I know I have to do something by 5 p.m., I put all of my energy into it and I start neglecting my own self care, I start tuning out all of my environmental cues, I'm just one-pointed, and then my work isn't as good as a result. One of the things I often recommend for people who are really on intense deadlines is to do something, once again, a little counter-cultural. You set a timer on your phone, every hour when that timer goes off, you just lift your gaze a little bit and if you're at home right now you can do that. And just take a breath, reconnect to your body, and just rest your mind. Raise your gaze, rest your mind for about 30 seconds, a minute, and then come back to your work. So you actually take a fresh start point of view and that's when creativity actually starts to seep in."

7. Just do it:
"At a certain point, you're well-trained, you're present because you've been meditating regularly...And there's some aspect here of 'just do it.' And it's such an interesting thing because this was adopted by Nike, right? Like, you know, it means let's get quicker, let's get speedier, and here, 'just do it' is just show up for whatever is right in front of you."

8. Show, don't tell:
"You don't need to let everyone know that you've been meditating. It's the fact that you start showing up and you're really there with people. You're showing up for work in a way that you may not have before and they pick up on that and that sort of creates a different culture. I don't think you need to go in and, like, warn everyone that you've started this weird Buddhist thing. It's probably better that you don't. It's better that you just manifest the practice without having to say a lot about it."


The Huffington Post: The Buddha Walks Into The Office: Be Who You Want To Be

  • "I found that in determining who you want to be when you grow up, it is helpful to physically map some things out for yourself. And a mandala can be useful as a map."

The Daily Beast: Meditation Teacher Lodro Rinzler Rebrands Buddhism To Deal With Drinking And Sex

  • "Attired in jeans and bowties, the atypical guru Lodro Rinzler teaches 20- and 30-something acolytes in New York how to use the religion in everyday life — even in bars and the bedroom."

This segment aired on September 3, 2015.


More from Radio Boston

Listen Live