Rinzai monk in Arashiyama, Kyoto

I'm going to be stringing a few different concepts together here, so bear with me...

My Dad works as an engineer, fixing complicated data storage sytems in mostly oil companies and government hush-hush black holes around the world. He's got a favorite saying: when resolving an issue depends much more on the natures of the people involved than the physical electron-routing problem itself, he likes to call this an "Electro-Political Issue."

Apt title, if you ask me. And I know that even if you work at McDonalds flipping burgers for a livin', you deal with politics to some degree. People want to get what they want, and sometimes that means that the right thing, the thing that needs to happen, doesn't. What's more, in order to do the thing you're being paid to do, sometimes you're going to have to bend over backward to get someone else what they want.

I've always been intrigued with the concept of Zen. It's become a very fashionable term: "That's so Zen," or "I just had to zen out," or even Everything Zen. If you take a look at the true meaning of the word, it comes from a form of Buddhism - a religion whose main goal is the end of suffering. Zen seeks to obtain insight into the end of suffering through long periods of meditation; specifically, a seated meditation called zazen. This is a moment of complete self-denial, in which one seeks to completely remove the mind of all thought, so that it may be opened to a new enlightenment. Again, this is the true key of Zen, whether practiced in meditation, archery or even motorcycle maintenance - complete denial of self-thought to focus on a task, even if that task is to clear the mind entirely.

If you work very long in a corporate setting, you'll find plenty of people who want very much to be successful. They put their whole heart and soul into a task to squeeze every last drop of gain, improvement or recognition. Workaholics, we may call them, because their exhaustive grip of passion is so engaged with their work that they can't take a moment to detach and nourish their personal lives. And through this process, could we call them truly successful? Even if they earn tons of money, can we call them a success if their personal lives are in such shambles they have nothing of true worth to spend it on?

Sometimes we get so caught up in playing the game: working the people, gaining the influence, putting my pedestal higher and higher, running after this dangling carrot of a goal. We run and run and run, and even if we finally reach what we want, we find it wasn't worth it in the first place.

What we need at work is a good dose of ZEN, and I think it's the completely Christian thing to do.

I'll show you: take a look at this verse:

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." -- Colossians 3:17

You see, we get all entangled within the vain passions of work when we do it for US. When we put in those extra hours so that WE can get noticed or WE can produce more than the next guy. Our priorities get out of whack because WE think that we can sacrifice the personal to gain in the professional. And yet, when we follow that kind of path, it seems like both suffer in the long run.

Paul here advocates a Zen-like approach to work - a complete denial of self by doing EVERYTHING for God. We don't work to promote ourselves or our agenda, we work because that's what God has put in front of us, and we give it the attention and passion it deserves. BUT, when God puts something else in front of us, like a family that's expecting us home for dinner and kids that need a strong parental role model, we put down the one task to take up the other. There's no regret or hesitation in doing this, because we're completely focused on HIS agenda, not ours. Considering whether a task is worthy of our time takes on a higher meaning, because we've got a whole new paradigm to frame it in.

And, when the office gets political, when things get snippy and catty, when people promote themselves within the guise of a job, we don't take the bait. Why? Because we're only doing God's work on this Earth, and we don't NEED the recognition of a false sense of accomplishment. We don't need to hang our self-worth on an initiative or program, because God makes the call, and we are genuinely content with His answer.

There's a concept in sports called "pushing" or "forcing" your game. It happens when you're so driven to succeed, you start to make rash decisions in the hope of an ever diminishing return. You drive the ball instead of passing, because you want that next hoop so bad. You swing at a pitch that's outside the strike zone, because you want that RBI for your stats so much. You really try to smack the ball off the tee as hard as you can, because you want those extra few yards on your drive. Of course, the result of this phenomenon is that you actually end up getting LESS: more misses, more whiffs, less distance.

When we give up our own agenda in the workplace through a Zen-like medition on what's important to God, we protect ourselves from pushing our own game. When you're not forcing a task into place - trying to will a job to work the way YOU think it should - you're actually MORE productive. Denial of self actually makes your self work BETTER.

Perhaps the Psalmist says it best:

"Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass."
-- Psalms 37:5

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