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Heartening Work - Eve's Commonplace
Heartening Work

I have just come from the annual conference of the Association of Business Psychologists. As a Director of The Foundation for Workplace Spirituality I was invited to talk to them, and we had an inspiring and thought-provoking conversation about what spirituality means for work, workplaces and occupational psychology (click here for my publications). In my understanding, traditional Western psychology grew away from medicine’s primary focus on the health of the body to focus on the health of the mind. I see spirituality as a further evolution of this, together with transpersonal psychology, looking at the health of the spirit as a way of reconnecting the heart with the brain and the body. Looking at Layard’s 7 Happiness Factors, admitting spirituality in workplaces reconnects work with meaning and purpose, making it truly vocational. But it does not stop there. I was lucky enough to have followed a session on mindfulness by Michael Chaskalson, which many of my audience had also attended. If the first sense of spirituality as vocation looks at spirituality in an instrumental way, mindfulness speaks to intrinsic workplace spirituality, such that the day to day performance of work becomes a spiritual practice in its own right. Both together hallow work. My sandcastle was then comprehensively kicked down by the next speaker, who encouraged us to adopt a scientific ‘metaphysic’ and an evidentially-based ethic of pleasure. Perhaps these things do not necessarily conflict, but the hollow selfishness of it left me reeling. If James’ work on Affluenza established anything, it is that hedonism in the context of global capitalism is not increasing human happiness because it is not providing meaning. What it is doing is generating trade for psychologists as emotional distress reaches epidemic proportions. I may share Epicurus’ birthday, but this Aquarian does not subscribe to the rather Nietzschean counsel of despair with which we were presented. Treating spirituality as just another item on the McPleasure menu destroys it. One delegate in noting that spiritus means breath said that if you try to stop breathing you eventually ‘get breathed.’ So please keep these butterfly wings safe from the scary man - we might just need them.

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