Meditation has finally made it to the main stream. No longer is it viewed as something only hippies and counter culture types enjoy in order to contemplate the universe. In fact meditation in the workplace has been vigorously studied to determine its impact on the “always-on” work culture most of us live in, and many people who would never identify themselves with alternative approaches have embraced meditation because of its powerful benefits.
Meditation can be particularly helpful to leaders who, by the very nature of their job description, run the daily risk of chronically high stress levels and information overload. At the heart of the organization, the leader in today’s world must be a multitasker as he or she juggles client relations, employee activities and overall production. In order to model a way of being in the workplace that others can emulate, great bosses and CEOs must have the flexibility to respond to constantly changing circumstances, be seen by the organization as having integrity and credibility and of course have the ability to communicate effectively throughout the organization and beyond.
John Quincy Adams encapsulated the spirit of a great leader when he said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
There is no denying that the role offers up many challenges. This includes staying focused in the face of constant demand in our increasingly complex technological driven world, as well as simply not losing one’s cool when tasks (or people) do not align with your grand plan. A few minutes of simple meditation can better equip you to handle the crazy ups and downs that come with management, as well as simply make you a more efficient worker.
What is Meditation?
The word meditation represents a very broad range of techniques and practices, all with the purpose of training and relaxing the undisciplined mind. In its simplest form, meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breath wherever you are, whether in your car, at your desk, attending a yoga class or walking to a meeting.
How Does It Work? Becoming Aware of Your Thoughts:
Our feelings and fears can be the biggest barrier to productivity. How often have you, without even meaning to, become consumed by anxiety that something will happen, only to have the scenario never materialize? Most of us are unaware of the thoughts that occupy our minds on a day to day basis. Meditation gives you a clearer bird’s eye view of your motivation and surrounding circumstances. The fact is that our ideas and perceptions are impulses in your brain that you can choose to pursue or not. They come and go like trains pulling into a station where you can choose whether or not to get on the train. For Example, you may think to yourself, “I’m not doing enough to be the kind of leader I could be”. Many will argue that everything we think is subjective and that it is only our behavior that is concrete. When you are aware of your thoughts as they pass by, you can decide not to go for that ride on the train.
What most people don’t realize is that each of us has repetitive thoughts. They play over and over in our minds day after day. As you begin to pay more attention to what you are actually thinking, you will begin to notice patterns within your own consciousness. Meditation allows you to clear away the emotion to genuinely ask yourself whether those patterns are useful in moving towards your vision.
Sometimes it is painfully obvious when our mind is tossing up negative thoughts, but most of the time we aren’t present in our own lives enough to notice. Our focus is all external and we do not take the time to notice what thoughts are controlling our behaviors and actions. In this unaware state we deal with our stress and overwhelm by reacting at work and reaching for the nearest comfort food or glass of wine at home.
How Meditation Helps. Some examples:
- Reduces stress and negative thoughts
- Focuses thoughts, improves memory
- Calm emotions, improves self-control
- Clears and quiets the busy mind
- Improves concentration
And it doesn’t have to be a major time commitment. Even 5 minutes a day has been found to be helpful.
Here are a couple of things you can do to practice “being present”.
1) One way to accelerate your awareness is to take some time each day to meditate, either before or after work. Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Focus on your breath. Notice your in breath and your out breath. Of course thoughts will intrude. Notice them, let them go and go back to your breathing. If you stay with this you will become more and more aware of the thoughts that drive you when you’re on automatic.
2) Set your watch or phone alarm to go off once an hour through the day. Notice what you are thinking at that moment. Are you fully present in your life or have you wandered off to some place in your mind without awareness.
3) In between meetings, sit quietly, take a deep breath in and, when exhaling, imagine yourself exhaling the last meeting out to leave a clear mind for the next.
4) You can practice focusing on your breath virtually any time when you start to have a “knee jerk” reaction to any situation. It creates that moment of awareness when you can ask yourself – is that really what I want to do or think or how I want to behave?
5) Commit to a group or class that engages in guided meditation or yoga in order to give yourself the extra incentive.
How You Can Help Others in the Workplace:
1) Recommend taking a five minute meditation break during the workday to relieve stress.
2) Create a quiet space that is separate from the chaos where workers can go to clear their head and calm their thoughts.
3) Many Companies are providing incentives for their employees to get in shape, so why not encourage your staff to enrich themselves emotionally with either discounts to a local yoga studio or yoga mats; stores like Pinnacle Promotions or Buy Mats can customize them to include your company’s logo.
There seems to be no doubt that this ancient practice, whether put into action at work or in everyday life, will improve your sense of calm, happiness and productivity. So bring a positivity energy to your work environment, and you’ll be amazed by the benefits.
Gail Keary has over twenty years of senior administrator experience and, throughout her career, has loyally applied Vipassana and Shamata meditation practices in her work with others.
Image Credit: coachingcommons.org