“Ohm” Away From Home

Since the birth of my daughter a couple of years ago, I have struggled with finding a time and place to meditate at home.  A staple daily practice for most of the last seventeen years suddenly became a major challenge to accommodate in our new life and I found myself needing to find new ways and places to fit meditation into my day.

When I first started down the spiritual path, I was pretty unconcerned about sitting out in the open and meditating for all the world to see.  Now that I have been working in the corporate world for almost fifteen years, I’m less inclined to be found cross-legged in the crowded outdoor venue at my work chanting “Ohm.”  It’s not that I’m ashamed of my beliefs or my practice, it’s more that I’m really not interested in being a focal point for curious onlookers or engaging with co-workers in a debate on my worldview.  I’ve done that before at previous workplaces, actually, and it wasn’t very satisfying. (Not to mention that being branded ‘the weird one’ now meant I must be interested in everyone’s alien / ghost / paranormal story.  I literally had one co-worker say to me, “Oh – this is weird, it made me think of you.” Gee, Thanks.)  For the most part, I don’t really care, but work has it’s own challenges; why create unnecessary friction for myself?

I have tried meditating on the train to and from work with some success, but I just don’t enjoy it the way I usually enjoy sitting meditation sessions.  The periodic blaring announcements are sometimes louder than my head-phones and the sudden, screeching halts of the train at stops aren’t super conducive to maintaining a relaxed body and mind.  Meditating at my desk is out of the question as people stop by at all times and passersby are just likely to think I’m sleeping on the job. Downtown Chicago is large and anonymous enough you’d think it would be easy to find someplace to meditate quasi-privately over lunch. And on a case-by-case basis, if the stars are aligned, it’s possible.  I mean, if I can get to the 311 lawn early enough to snag a chair (this, of course, depends on my meeting schedule) or if I can spare the time to walk twenty minutes to a site and back – plus meditation time – then I usually can have a decent meditation session and just quickly eat while I work at my desk in the afternoon. The problem is that it’s impossible to predict how that’s going to work out and it’s not a very sustainable practice.  Being in Chicago, the weather is also a factor – even in the summer, meditating outside is not always possible.  It may sound like I’m being overly picky, and perhaps there is some truth to that, but one of the first lessons when beginning a meditation practice is that you should find a quiet place where you are unlikely to be disturbed and where you can set up a routine.  It’s not that I can’t meditate in any of these places, it’s just not a relaxing way to have my regular meditation sessions; the ones I depend on to maintain sanity in this crazy world. 🙂

So, Finally, I turned my eye back to work and I confess I was a little sad and indignant that this was such a challenge.  Our modern, corporate world is supposed to be somewhat accommodating of all faiths – why can’t we have a “worship” type space set up for any person of faith to use if they feel a need to practice devotion during the day?  I know the Muslims pray multiple times a day – I certainly don’t mind sharing space with them and using off-prayer time for my own meditative reflection.  I don’t even mind simultaneously sharing the space with others provided their worship practice is relatively quiet (as mine is).

Since my current workplace does not have anything like that, I started reserving small, private conference rooms over  lunch and meditating there.  This was the best accommodation I had found so far, except that I felt slightly guilty to be hogging a whole conference room to myself so that I could sit quietly in the dark with my headphones.  In order to resolve this final hindrance, I decided to come out of the closet a little bit.  I’ve been at my current workplace for a few years now and I knew of a few co-workers who also periodically meditate.  None of us are very public about it – but sometimes you can tell by demeanor who is likely to be open to the idea.  I approached a couple of people and asked if they knew anyone else interested – stressing the idea of keeping the group small in the beginning (especially since the conference room I found only seats six comfortably).  I’m delighted to say that we now have a little meditation group that meets daily for thirty minutes over lunch.  Of course, so far the only daily attendee is me – but people are entitled to make their own decisions about how this fits into their lives and work schedule.  I’m lucky enough that right now I can find the time daily to do this – but like all things that is subject to change.

Have you encountered a challenge like this?  I’d love to hear how you handled it…

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