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Dear Rinpoche: I Work in a Toxic Environment

A Buddhist meditation master provides guidance on readers’ real-life problems. Here is his advice on dealing with difficult personalities at work.

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Buddhist Master

Dear Rinpoche,

When I am at work I have to deal with all the insanity of other people. I am just getting into meditation and the Buddhist perspective on the world. But it is difficult for me to maintain the Buddhist values in this setting. How do I maintain good motivation in the face of passive aggressive people, unreasonable demands, and big egos?

Struggling for Patience

Dear Struggling,

Yes, navigating our habits and the habits of others is very difficult. Maintaining a consistent meditation practice will help you. When I say meditation, I also mean the intention and motivation you cultivate during stability practice. In the beginning, in the middle, and in the end of a meditation session, you should hold these wishes in your heart: I want all beings to have happiness; I want all beings to be free from suffering.

When you meditate with this intention then the practice does not become a selfish act. I feel that meditation can be spiritual or non-spiritual. If you don’t have the intention to benefit others then I don’t feel that the practice is really spiritual. You are going to feel that something is missing.

When people don’t give us respect, when there are nasty people around, we must reduce our judgments and our expectations of how they should act. Observe your weaknesses—your moments of judgment. Continuous judgment is our difficulty. Keep up the practice every day. When you encounter negative emotions arising in your work environment, take a moment to reflect on your intentions and think about benefitting all beings—step away for a moment, perhaps into the bathroom, and check-in. Cultivate the wish for everyone to be happy. These two practices of loving-kindness and reducing judgment go together, and this is how our mind becomes very, very steady.

From my own experience I can say that in the beginning you are not going to immediately tame your mind or master your emotions. So, I tell you—intention, reflection, and meditation. These three go hand-in-hand.

In the beginning all of your difficulties will be in seeing how you handle yourself. When your meditation gets better, and your motivation and intention become more refined, when judgments are reduced and loving-kindness grows, then the person who is creating difficulties is actually going to help you. When you keep up this practice and you start to slowly change, at some point you will say, “Oh this person is my teacher too, because he is giving me the opportunity to practice.” This takes time.

With Compassion,


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