I work in a large IT company, and we have many office buildings here in Seattle. Life at the BOITC (Big Ol’ IT Company) can get really hectic sometimes, and demanding. Sometimes, this can be exciting and fun, other times it is very frustrating and stressful and makes my heartburn worse.1 But I’ve been there for more than 6 years now, and I’ve learned to manage stress in various ways.
Thankfully, our company has instituted new “quiet rooms” at work, where people can just relax, sleep, or do something quietly. This is one such room:
I brought a meditation cushion from home and leave it there for other people to use when I am not around. Lately, I try to visit the quiet room in our building for about 10-15 minutes a day, lock the door, and sit on that cushion. Once I set down, I take off my shoes, put my hands together and recite the Heart Sutra 3 times or more. This will often take about 5 minutes or longer, because as you keep reciting it over and over, your brain gets a little tired and you mix up the words. Then you have to go back and repeat that part.
However, this simple exercise really helps me forget about my problems because I’m now focused on something more wholesome. The message of the Heart Sutra, without going into too much detail, is that nothing is static in nature. Everything is fluid. And all things change because they exist solely in relation to each other, and thus are always changing. So the message of the Heart Sutra, not just the chanting itself, also sinks in and helps me have a better perspective on things.
Also, sometimes I also repeat the name of Kannon Bodhisattva for as long as I want to. I’ve always had a certain fascination with Kannon Bodhisattva through my experiences at Sensoji Temple, Todaiji Temple’s February Hall and other random places.
Kannon Bodhisattva, as explained in the Lotus Sutra, delivers freedom from problems, but more importantly, freedom from fear itself.2 Also, reciting the name of the holy bodhisattva also helps to cultivate a closer connection to him. The phrase in Japanese is (among other possibilities) Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu, while in Korean it is Namu Gwan Se Eum Bosal (나무 관세음보살) for those are more familiar with Korean Buddhism.
Your mileage may vary. This is just my stress-relief routine, but I will say it works. Once I walk out of that room, I feel really cool and calm for a while. The problems of life just roll off me, while, I feel lighter and more patient with people. Kind of like Peter from the movie Office Space:
P.S. I updated the Heart Sutra link above to have both Japanese and Korean versions of the same sutra. They’re not exactly the same (apparently due to stylistic differences in how they’re recited), but I figured that the Heart Sutra is so universal, it’s worth having it available in multiple languages. Need to do Chinese and Vietnamese versions as well some day. I personally recite in Japanese because it’s what I learned first, and I find it just really easy to pronounce.
1 I used to work a quiet, boring IT job at a local University before this. It was neither stressful, nor demanding, but after 1.5 years of it, I was so bored I finally left. That, and the environment was too small, so disputes with staff would fester for months (maybe years). It was petty politics in a small environment.
2 It’s also why I tend to repeat Kannon’s name when I am driving (because I am terrible), and when I am on a plane that is taking off or landing. :P Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentaries on the Lotus Sutra are quite instructive on this point, by the way.