The Spirituality of Becoming Aware

Dina Steiner, Founder and Director of Spirit at Work ATX

The word “spirituality” is enough to give some folks the heebie-jeebies. Even if you take the religious element out of it, spirituality just seems a little too new-age and “woo woo”, especially for the workplace. But, in reality, spirituality is simply about awareness. Awareness of ourselves as more than just a body, awareness of others as more than just annoyances, and awareness of the world around us as more than just a resource for us to exploit.

Awareness seems like a luxury these days. We go through life hustling. Always moving forward to the next big thing, especially in the first half of our lives. We focus on the progression of college, career, and family, often to the exclusion of any sense of awareness. Seems like we’re always in a rush. “So busy” is the automatic response to “How are you?” Our minds are constantly chattering at us, which is why the Buddhists call this the “monkey mind.”

But I would like to offer you a space and permission just to slow down, to purely experience, to see and to be aware.

Richard Rohr writes, “To focus your monkey mind you often need to pay attention to one thing, almost like a kindly stare at something, until you can feel your mind and emotions settle down.” (Just This, 2017)

A few years back, it looked like the slow culture movement was going to be “a thing.” Slow food.  Slow child rearing. The Blanton Museum in Austin even started offering “slow looking” art events. But the more I observe the culture around me, it seems that things have just kept speeding up.

What we all need is to take a breath – literally. Until we stop to focus, we will never achieve a sense of transcendence – whether it is a sunrise, a rare bird glimpsed in the forest, a Beethoven sonata or a baby’s first smile. These are things that take us out of ourselves. We start to see ourselves as more than just an agenda or a busy calendar. Pittman McGehee, an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst has said, “Spirituality is the deep human longing to experience the transcendent in our ordinary life—it’s the expectation to experience the extraordinary in the ordinary, the miraculous in the mundane, and the sacred camouflaged in the profane.”

Humans are more than just the mind and body. There is something in us that wants to be elevated. Our emotions are waiting to be sparked. Moments of joy and transcendence, along with meditation and mindfulness have been shown to increase our release of serotonin, the “happy transmitter”, and other endorphins and hormones, which in turn increase our overall sense of calm, well-being and general good feelings.

So what to do? Savor five minutes of complete silence. Practice focused breathing. Take a walk without headphones. Get down on the floor and focus on building a Lego fort with your kids. Sit on a bench and watch a squirrel bury nuts. Bake bread. Start writing your memoirs.

What does this have to do with the workplace? The more we slow down and become better acquainted with ourselves, the better we can relate to others around us. The more grounded we feel, the less reactive we become when faced with difficult co-workers or customers. A greater awareness of others and the world lead to increased meaning in one’s work. We can begin to see the “big picture.”

Spirituality is awareness – awareness of ourselves (our needs, our wounds, our desires and our authenticity), awareness of others and their needs, and awareness of the natural world around us. The more we get in touch with these, the greater our connection to a sense of the spiritual. Spirituality is not something optional for the church-goers and crystal gazers. It is part of our essential selves.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” —Teilhard de Chardin