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Mindfulness Meditation requires us to close our eyes and focus on our breath.

If I close my eyes while sitting in my office seat, I’ll appear to be sleeping. There isn’t any special retiring room in our office.

What is a practical way to meditate while sitting at your desk in an office without looking sleepy?

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@TheIndependentAquarius some of us need to focus our minds a couple of times a day to be able to do our job. To me you're sounding awfully unaware of the differences that exist between people in terms of their capabilities to deal with life, which comes across as very condescending to me. Mindfulness is a way to deal with problematic thoughts done by channelling the stresses and distractions. Saying that you should not meditate to someone that is applying mindfulness, is like saying that you should not go to the bathroom during a normal workday. –  Onno Apr 4 at 12:09
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Some comments removed. Please use comments to request clarification/further information or to otherwise improve the question. For other discussion, please use The Workplace Chat. –  Jim Apr 4 at 14:14

6 Answers 6

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Sitting at the desk apparently "doing nothing" will give a terrible impression. Most people will instantly conclude (rightly or wrongly) that you are sleeping at the desk.

The desk is for work. Meditating is not working. Do not meditate at your desk.

Go to the toilet, close and lock the cubicle door, sit down, meditate, then get back to work.

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Who wants to meditate in a smelly bathroom? Might as well go outside and sit with the smokers. –  JeffO Apr 4 at 14:18
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@JeffO better to meditate in the company bathroom than at the unemployment office. And btw, in my experience most company bathrooms aren't smelly. –  Bohemian Apr 4 at 14:41
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Didn't we discuss bathroom smelliness elsewhere? workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/20074/… –  Stephan Kolassa Apr 4 at 16:56

Adopt a posture that communicates you are not sleeping. If you slouch in your chair, people can be excused for trying to wake you up.

Instead, roll out a mat on the floor and sit on it, cross-legged. Don't lean against anything. If you can do the lotus position, do so. Nobody will think you are sleeping in lotus.

Consider putting up a sign:

Meditating, not asleep, for improved productivity later on. Please do not disturb. I will be available for you in a few minutes. (And don't worry, I am not putting this on my time sheet.)

Overkill? Maybe. But I'd rather make people laugh than star in the office rumor about The Guy That Sleeps On His Desk Every Day.


Needless to say, I don't consider meditating (for an appropriate amount of time) unprofessional. Other people spend the same time at the water cooler, discussing the latest ball game, or doing nerf gun battles. However, it would of course be good to include the overall company culture in the decision about whether to meditate in the office or do a quick stroll outside and find a bench.

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Great answer. Finding a bench, or a more private secluded area that can be your area of zen will actually assist in the meditation and overall, might be better. Not to mention the fact that your walk to get there would assist in alleviating the stress to be able to achieve your goals with the meditation. –  PaulDonny Apr 4 at 13:14
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Everyone does "something" at their desk that is not work: eating, personal phone calls, web surfing. Be open and honest. If the boss says do it somewhere else, do it. –  JeffO Apr 4 at 14:19
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Also, the nerf ricochets off your head might militate somewhat against the meditation. The important point is that some random dude on the internet can't tell you what your workplace accepts along these lines, there's too much variation. –  Steve Jessop Apr 4 at 17:56

This blog article might be of some interest. It lists the twelve most powerful ways to meditate whilst sitting at your desk in work. However, it's all simplistic stuff - nothing like the whole-body meditation that you are describing.

As others have suggested, if you are determined to do this, I would strongly advise doing it on your own time - either before work or after. If it absolutely has to be done in work, find somewhere quiet and alone during your lunch break.

I can't envisage too many companies where you will be able to slowly meditate at your desk, on your own time, without most people raising eyebrows and wondering why you're not working.

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Maybe you could quote some of the relavent information in the linked article. This will prevent loss of information due to link rot and make your answer complete. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Apr 4 at 18:52

Surely you have to tell the people around you that you're meditating, or else they'll disturb you.

I'm aware that sounds around you become part of your meditation. But what happens when someone wants to talk to you? Two minutes of someone saying your name, followed by poking you, checking your breathing (unnecessary: you're already doing that yourself), and finally calling a first aider over because you aren't responding, is more than you're expected to take :-)

Once you tell your colleagues that you're meditating they might still think you look asleep but at least they'll know why you look that way. Either this is acceptable on work time or it is not. If it is then get on with it. If it's not then do it in your lunchbreak, before clocking on, make up the time at the end of the day, whatever your employer allows.

I have meditated at my desk on occasion, but only in a small office (3-4 people). I've also eaten lunch at my desk on occasion. Nobody stormed in and told me it wasn't allowed. My employers have always been happy for people to "clock off" and do their own thing at their desks. So people might watch video at lunch time, even play computer games.

Of course normally these activities are interruptible -- there's a natural assumption that if you're at your desk then you're available to communicate. That's why you need to explain this special case and pay attention to any negative feedback you get about it. There are workplaces and roles where meditation won't be permitted, or where it's totally inappropriate for you to be sat at your desk not working. Reception, for instance. Air traffic control ;-) I guess if you're even asking, you don't expect yours to be one of those. If in doubt ask your boss.

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I'm not convinced there's a practical way to meditate with eyes closed without looking like you're resting.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with occasionally taking a short (emphasis on short) period to rest and refocus yourself, if it doesn't adversely affect your work. Many, perhaps most people do so, in one way or another.

On the other other hand, if it's adding up to a significant amount of time, that may indeed affect your productivity... and if it's an extended time, you probably should consider going off the clock. If I go for a quick walk around the block, which is one of my refocusing techniques, I do it over lunch or try to make up the time. This may mean staying at work slightly longer hours, or eating lunch at your desk -- but if the meditation is important enough to you, you can make these adjustments.

"Looking sleepy" isn't a problem, especially if you tell your co-workers what you're doing. Being sleepy would be. Letting it interfere with your job would be. It's up to you to manage those risks, or to find another approach to managing stress and so on.

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Meditating is not equatable to zoning out. You are describing one form of mindfulness meditation in which you close your eyes and focus on your breath. You can be present in any moment and be mindful of the task you are doing, or your breath without closing your eyes, mindfulness is about being present in the moment. I think it's very possible to sit at your desk and be mindful/present (form of meditation - why do you think Zen has a lot of work involved in their practice) while working. Or, else set your phone to remind you at random times, to take a moment to focus on your breath for 1 min and again you don't need to close your eyes. You could also be mindful of your mind wandering from your work, be curious about it, and gently bring yourself back your task, and repeat forever because your mind will wander!

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Hey Matt, welcome to The Workplace, while helpful, this doesn't address the problem of appearances. How does one meditate at his/her desk without looking sleepy? Can you edit your post? Thank you. –  jmort253 Apr 5 at 1:35

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