Reflections from a Corporate MysticAug 21, 2022
When you don’t feel like an excellent fit with your work, the work day can seem like a drag. In today’s blog, I want to suggest a helpful reframe that might make your experience much more tolerable. Dare I suggest, fun, even?
When I worked in a corporate environment, I didn’t thrive on all levels. I think my quality of work varied from excellent to good, so I’m not talking about that. For me, it was an absence of a purpose. My biggest challenge was that I didn’t relate to one of a corporation’s most significant aims: reaping profit. It’s not because I’m against profit per se. I’m not some kind of communist.
In the financial services industry, a lot of the income comes from earning interest on people’s debt. That wasn’t inspiring for me. We also banked big time at Amex when people would forget to redeem their Travelers’ Cheques.
I told myself that credit cards were an excellent service to people: allowing them to pay for expensive things, cars even, without carrying a bunch of cash with them. I mean, the credit card was a huge enabler of the phenomenon of e-commerce.
These realizations made me feel better about my occupation, but I really started to enjoy myself when I thought about everything in a completely different way. I decided I was a Corporate Mystic.
First, I should probably explain what I mean by mystic. Admittedly, I’m using the term loosely. I think a mystic is mostly characterized by engaging in a direct experience with the divine. I do mean mystic in this sense if we think of the divine as being the mysteries of the universe, the stuff that we can't see and don’t really know how to prove or disprove yet. For me, a lot of this mystery resides in consciousness and how it seems interrelated to things outside of ourselves: the universe and other people.
I’m a huge fan of Carl G. Jung and his ideas about the collective unconscious, for example. Jung posits that just like our personal unconscious, there is a transpersonal unconscious, one that we can, and do, all tap into. And it’s not just a human consciousness.
Jung also examined synchronicities which are meaningful coincidences. I think the two concepts sort of merge. Here’s an example:
I was in Italy at a Jungian conference. (Jungian conferences are well-known for synchronicities widely witnessed). My friend, Father John, is talking about a middle-aged woman who lives with her parents. Now, at the same as he’s talking, there are all these birds flying about. They are kind of being annoying, flying low and squawking. They are interested in something on the building directly behind us.
One woman in the audience looks up and says, “Oh, it’s a nest!” as an explanation for the birds’ behavior. Several of us simultaneously look up toward the nest.
At this precise moment, Father John says, “she must leave the nest.” Then, a baby bird falls from the nest into the woman’s lap.
I’ve got a collection of these weird coincidences or synchronicities. I revel in them. They remain mysterious, but to me, they suggest that sometimes the events around us coalesce in the present energy and play out some drama to illustrate the underlying psycho-dynamics. In other words, what’s happening in our consciousness is mirrored in the physical world.
So, how does this relate to the workplace? Well, at some point I decided to stop honoring that boundary that we are supposed to have between the divine and commerce. For the most part, this didn’t change my behavior, but the way that I saw and thought about things happening around me.
One time, it did change my behavior. I was doing a weekly peace practice that Deepak Chopra suggested. On Wednesday, you couldn’t say anything negative about anybody. This was a big challenge for me. Wednesdays were the day that I met with my internal customer, Greta.
I needed to tell Greta about the behavior of her employee, Eric. Eric was dragging his feet on providing some data and generally causing havoc for my team. For my team’s sake, I really needed to surface the issue, but I didn’t know how to do that without saying something bad about Eric.
I decided that I would honor Chopra’s prescription.
What happened next was crazy. Greta and I talked about a few issues, mostly things that she raised. Then she asked about how things were with Eric. “He hasn’t given you what you need, has he?”
“OMG. This shit works,” I thought to myself. This was brilliant. It was so much better that Greta brought up the concern, rather than me.
It’s actually a rather old principle. Shakespeare coined a term for it in The Merchant of Venice: “The truth will out.”
That’s what I loved about being a corporate mystic. I relied on these universal principles rather than the ego-driven approach that I must be the one who pushes for results.
While attempting to be a corporate mystic was a challenge, it also helped me reap benefits, plus it was fun.
So, think about your own situation. Do you feel a sense of purpose in your work? If not, can you find one? Maybe focusing on your co-workers or customers will help. Maybe your purpose can be about how you contribute to them.
Maybe it’s just about providing for your family. If it’s that, how can you make that more of a presence in your work? For example, it’s not just about making money to pay for the things they need and want. It could also be about doing your work in a way that your children would be proud of.
Maybe you’re really an artist but find yourself in a corporate setting. How about approaching every aspect of your work in an artful way?
Have fun with this! Good luck finding your reframe. I’d love to hear what you come up with.
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