First and foremost, you are not an office. You are not a desk with a fake leather chair. You are not spreadsheets or emails. You are not a board meeting or a staff meeting. You are not a mid-year review. You are not a raise or health benefits. You are not a 9-5. You are not a 5-9. You are not a 30-minute commute. You are not an interview, a job application, or a resume.
First and foremost, you are not sick days, paid holidays, staff retreats, Christmas bonuses, or anything that’s shiny in the moment and then fades.
You are not just here to put your time in.
Yes, you have lungs and intestines, veins, blood, tendons, and bones. You have fine motor movements, deep thoughts, cravings, urges, desires, strengths and weaknesses. You have drive to earn, create, love, and grow. Yet where does that all come from? You have these things; you use them to make a day, to make a life, yet first and foremost you are an initial spark, an inexplicable ignition of life, and that is Spirit.
Michael Tamura explains that it’s not two parents deciding to have a child, is it that spirit of the child deciding to have those two people as parents. Spirit arrives in literature as ghosts, as the existence of Jesus after death, as “spirits in the night,” of a handful of sort of eerie, creepy, and primitive definitions of “spirit”, all of which seem like something that once was in vogue and now isn’t. Like, spirit is for the Dark Ages, but this is the day of TV. Are there really spirits in the forest anymore?
When we carve away the layers upon layers of Being, everything from red blood cells to a fiscal year financial report, we get back to that spirit. For me, being in a field of growing vegetables and fruit helps get me there. Live music gets me there. Even theater productions, a good fantasy novel, and definitely walking barefoot in the ocean gets me there- back into the beginning, what the Taoists call “The Great Nothing”, and this is not a negative nothing, not a somber shadow. This nothing is the blissful undoing of crap. Notice how all my examples of connecting to spirit have to do with returning to nature and using my bare feet and hands.
Currently, I work 25 hours a week at an office job. It’s more than doable. I have worked 40 hour a week office jobs, and those are wretched! Even people that enjoy computers, sitting at desks, the quiet of an office, and everything else that comes along with the workstyle, suffer, whether conscious of it or not, by the lack of movement and disconnect with nature.
My family was talking the other night about Spain, where a few of us have been, and my sister and friend lived for a stretch of time. Part of the European lifestyle, Spain breaks for a siesta, which may be a nap, but is most definitely stepping out of the office, enjoying an unbelievable delicious cup of coffee, and a sugary treat. It may include a walk, or simply chatting it up with friends. This nourishes the soul, if not the stomach, too. My sister said, “You know, then everyone goes back to work until six or later.” Now, in my society, here in the U.S., the thought of working that late- or going back to work after leaving- sounds awful, but not only is it part of the culture in Spain, but it also follows the nature of the human condition. The majority of humans are focused and energized in the mornings, 9am-3pm. Notice how I didn’t say 8am, which is when most of us get to work, or 7am, when most of us haul it out the door to focus on the road and get to work- or 6am, when some of us get up early to fit in going to the gym. Humans are meant to take it easy in the morning. No alarm clocks. No rushing. 9am-3pm.
3pm-5pm is a dead zone. Humans are at their most lethargic. How much good work do you get done around then? Not much, but it is our most creative time. For me as a writer, after a Saturday doing yoga, eating brunch, and going out for errands and a walk, getting home at 4pm, when I’m actually really tired and want to nap, I find ideas flowing through me. Returning to work for another two hours would set me up to accomplish a lot, especially if I had left the office, napped, and eaten sugar and caffeine to fuel me.
Even night owls function well on this schedule, although oftentimes reversed- 9am is their lethargic, creative time, and 5pm is their get work done time. But when are we expected to be on fire at the office? 9am-5pm, perhaps our worst times to do anything. It’s when the sun’s out. The day is happening and we’re not a part of it. When the day is beginning, we’re going to work, and when it’s ending, we’re coming home.
If we look at this from an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense. If we’re out hunting and farming, we want to be out early in the morning dew, then we take a break when the sun is highest and hottest, and then we go back to check on things before an evening meal and going to sleep. Our bodies operate in a curve of energy, rising until noon and in decrescendo afterward. Doesn’t that make sense? Yet the office has fake lights, fake temperatures, and lots and lots and lots of metal and plastic. Nothing is even wood anymore. We wear shoes and ties. We don’t move around a lot and we strain our eyes while deadening our other senses. We step very, very far from what our bodies naturally want to do, and because of that we’re open to the illness of Modern Life.
Working part-time in an office environment is great for me. I get into work at 11. I work for a bit, take a break for lunch, and get back to it until 4:30, when energy drops. Then I head home. Before work, I get up, eat well, do yoga, write these blog posts, essays, and scripts, play with the dog, and clean up around the house. Office work has to happen. Office work keeps track of data, proves theories, makes phone calls. My office work is important because it keeps the organization going. The issue is simply that between the waking up to go to work, the going to work, the working, the coming home from work, and the getting ready for work the next day, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to stop and listen to the natural curve of energy.
I don’t say all this to depress you. I’m telling you this so that you forgive yourself for being exhausted, frustrated, and maybe even angry. I have had office jobs where I love the work I do more than anything, but the office life ate at me. We can love our work, but the grind can, well, grind us up!
I want you to notice your energy throughout the day. When are you creative? When are you focused? (These two rarely happen at the same time.) When are you inspired? And then do you feel guilty for taking breaks at work? Do you feel guilty for wanting to eat a meal that wasn’t warmed in a microwave?
It’s okay to take breaks! Studies show that people that take 17 minutes of break for every 23 minutes of work get more done than those that try and work for an hour straight. Why? Because we are not desks. We are not spreadsheets. We are not deadlines. We are not socks and shoes. Breaks remind us we’re alive. They reset us.
I always say that the first step towards change is noticing and admitting. Denial keeps us in the cave. Noticing and admitting is the torch and the light to guide us outside again. It doesn’t have to happen in one day, but if we all become a bit more conscious we’ll start making changes.
Maybe sit at your desk barefoot. Keep a pot of dirt near you to touch periodically. Make sure you have a window near your desk to see nature! Set up a fountain for running water. Paint the walls sky-blue and grass-green! This isn’t rocket science, but we’ve been doing it this one way for so long that we don’t think that it could be done another way. Isn’t an office- isn’t work- supposed to be draining and boring and awful?
But I’ve heard this in the past from coworkers. I’ve heard, “We’re having too much fun.” I’ve heard, “We’ve wasted enough time at lunch.” What!?
Emails, smartphones, Bluetooth, and Google Drive have made it easier to do the work we need to. There are more people in the world than ever before to do that work. And you know what? There’s not much more work to be done. If anything, there’s less, and now it’s easier to do. So we are like raindrops on a desert. If we’re only few, we have a big responsibility to replenish the dryness. But this modern world is a downpour, and we simply don’t have to spread ourselves so far.
Even if your job isn’t an office job entirely, any job that disrupts human nature is going to eventually get into us and hurt. We shouldn’t sit all day, yet neither should we be on our feet all day. I used to work at a video store where there were no chairs in the building because the manager didn’t want us sitting down on the job. We had one 30 –minute break for lunch and one 15-minute break in the afternoon. Neither was enough time to go home, run errands, or even slow down while eating. Even though it was just a video store gig, and could have been easy and fun, as well as productive, it ate at the employees. Why would you want your employees at a video store to be anything less than excited and rested?
The problem with my part-time job is that I’m not making enough money. I make enough to survive, but not pay off loans, save for a vacation, or anything like that. And I don’t qualify for benefits, so hopefully I don’t get sick or need to go to the chiropractor. But if I could work part-time and make enough for a house and a new car, then the office portion of my life would have near inconsequential affects on my life. I’d garden more, grow my own food, play more, eat better, exercise more, and go to work every day refreshed. That sounds like farfetched optimism, but you feel the same way about your job, don’t you?
That’s because it’s true. The irony is that when you have health insurance and sturdy income, you don’t need to work as much because your basic needs are covered, and yet likely work full-time, whereas if you’re working part-time you need to work as much as possible to have money for when you are sick. When we start to think in terms of earning we could consider earning time and connection to nature. When we start thinking that way, our spirit wakes up inside of us and starts a conversation.
I think of spirit like a dog. When B and I are gone, Colby sleeps all day. He sleeps all night. He doesn’t seem to mind. When we’re home on weekends, however, he’s up more. He walks around with us. When we go outside he has near unlimited energy to run and play. But then on Monday he sleeps again. I don’t know how an animal can live like that, but Colby doesn’t seem to mind so much. Spirit is similar. If we aren’t there to play with it, it can nap, but all it takes is that clink of a collar and leash to have it leap up and go to the door, ready to play.
So, forgive yourself for being upset because your spirit is asleep. Then start asking for change. And I don’t mean start asking your manager or the owner for a raise. Go over their human heads. Ask the Universe. Your boss may not ever give you want you ask for, but the Universe provides. It can be in prayer, meditation, asking aloud throughout the day, writing it in a journal, or however you best speak with the Universe. We tend to ask the wrong questions. “Send me a million bucks!” Nope. Sorry. The Universe can’t even interpret that because humans made money. “Help me access my spirit more on a daily basis.” Ah! There we go! The Universe can help. Change starts inside of us. Imagine an entire office staff connecting with spirit more and speaking with the Universe. Undoubtedly there would be changes in the office (or department store, gas station, or wherever you work that’s not listening to human nature).
I’m amazed sometimes how spiritual healing, psychology, biology, and common sense all link up, and tack on a Taoist verse and it seems odd that we do anything incorrectly, but we still do. That’s okay. Human error. No problem. Treat life like a sailboat, which never sails to its destination. What it does is follow the wind and waves, constantly redirecting its course, and eventually reaches the harbor, but it can never travel a straight line there. So ask for more time with spirit awake and playful. Start there and if we all do, we will be the change we want to see in the world. When old companies die and new ones are born, the shift will happen.
This modern way of the world is very new, only about 50 years old. For most of existence we weren’t staring at screens. There were fewer people. Industry didn’t even exist! People worked hard, though. They had to grow food, hunt, build homes, migrate, and stay warm and safe, but guess what? People were happier because they were spirit, along with the rocks and soil and lakes and wind. God didn’t need a name and connotations because god just was.
Forgive yourself if you feel lost, sad, depressed, scared, and anxious. There’s a lot on you that’s new to the human mind. Breathe deep. Seek the Universe. The change will come with collective integrity.