Zen and the Art of Nursing – Seven ways to make the most of each workday

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

The word “Zen” is often bandied about. Although many definitions of Zen exist, it’s simply the art of being present in everything you do, giving full attention to each action, each interaction, each task. Unfortunately, we often are mentally on to the next thing before we have finished what we’re currently doing, thus shortchanging the task at hand. How can you adopt a Zen philosophy in nursing? Here are seven suggestions:

Set your intention each day. Before going to work, decide what you wish to accomplish, not in terms of tasks or projects, but in terms of an overall philosophical goal. For example, your intention might be to be patient with everyone you encounter — staff, family members and clients — and consider that they all are carrying a heavy load. Your intention can be the same each day or take a different focus.

Ground yourself. Take at least five minutes before your workday (and during the shift as necessary) for meditation, prayer and contemplation to center yourself. Spending even a few minutes with your eyes closed or cast downward, focusing on your breathing, connecting with your spirit will help you stay in touch with your inner voice and wisdom. Grounding brings you into the present moment rather than projecting into the future or obsessing about the past. A racing mind that reacts sensitively to little things has lost its spiritual power. Meditation restores that.

Create good karma. The word “karma” is derived from the Sanskrit word kri, which means “action.” It is the universal law of cause and effect that says every thought, word and act carries energy into the world. Therefore, do not judge or criticize others. Absolve not to partake in gossip or negativity of any type. Look only to help, support and encourage. Your thoughts and actions directly impact your environment.

Affirm your path. Remind yourself daily of the sacredness of your work — your chosen life path. It is truly a privilege to walk the path of the healer. Although the road may be rocky and steep, the destination is worth the journey. You save lives. You help bring new life into the world. You are there to ease the transition when life departs the body, and are there for every other aspect of the life cycle. Your work has value and meaning.

Aspire to new heights. Each day, consider how you can become a better person and a better nurse. Always be moving forward in your career and life, looking for ways to improve, to bring new positive energy into your world. This might involve learning a new skill, taking a class, getting more organized, being more generous and so on.

Be mindful in everything you do. When you are with a patient, focus only on that patient for that time and be more aware of every aspect of him or her. To be mindful is to be truly alive and present with those around you and with what you are doing. Even routine tasks can become a meditation of sorts.

Tap into abundant energy. The universal life force, also known as chi, is present in every living thing. It flows freely in us when we eat healthy food, get proper exercise, breathe clean air, live and work in an uncluttered environment, and avoid negativity. Taking care of yourself, including using modalities such as Reiki and massage therapy in your self-care routine, will help to keep you energized and doing your work at the highest level.

Copyright Gannett Healthcare Group (www.nurse.com). All rights reserved. Used with permission.