While volunteering during the 21 Day Retreat 2018 in Plum Village, among others I looked into the question “How do I integrate love and work?”
This question soon transformed into question and answer in one: “How can I bring the same energy that I put into singing into other jobs?”. In Plum Village, I had great inspiration from our amazing chefs, who guided us into healthy and delicious cooking with ease, smiles and authentic presence. Moreover one of the brothers, also organiser of the 21 Day retreat, gave a great example of how to work with joy and ease. He made sure that everyone, including himself, other monastics, and the volunteers, had the chance to really participate in the retreat despite their responsibilities.
On re-reading the list below, I realise that I could have put it in a single word: presence. After all, the dullest job can be rich and magical once we bring our true presence or mindfulness to it (and the opposite is true as well). I will share the list nonetheless.
- Dare to stop and look at our system (breath, physical sensations, thoughts…) without judgement. Such a small yet revolutionary thing to do. It allows me to see habit energies as well as to try out new, healthier habits.
- Bring affirmations or investigation questions to the workplace. These can remind us to consciously ‘breathe in, breathe out’. They can also function as a tool of investigation and rewire our awareness, e.g. by finding conditions to be grateful of right now.
- When struggles come up, share and ask for support timely instead of trying to deal with it oneself. Sometimes support is a practical solution, but often to be ‘seen and heard’ (by oneself and someone else) is already sufficient.
- Before each shift we shared a short meditation and offered incense in the kitchen. That way, it was easier to remember that the practice in the kitchen is of no less importance than the practice in the meditation hall.
- Furthermore, I find it helpful to nourish a sense of purpose. To know that my work and the energy I do it with does matter, it is meaningful on a collective as well as personal level.
- Next I practice taking responsibility for the decision I made to do this job (or making a new decision if necessary). This also includes making healthy choices that support this decision, for instance sleeping enough the night before…
- …but also trusting and accepting the (unexpected) flow of life is key. For instance embracing sleeplessness when a singing circle the night before your early morning shift takes on intergalactic measures, or accepting boring tasks or difficulties (no mud, no lotus).
Want to read more insights/experiences that spring from my time in Plum Village during 21 Day Retreat 2018? I also wrote about my difficulties and nourishments from the practice, unconditional (self & sister) love as well as an ode to people, nature and music.