by Laura Hansen, PCC

We hear a lot about mindfulness these days and for the past few years, mindfulness has begun to transform the American workplace.  Many of our largest companies, such as Target, Google, General Mills, and Ford, have built extensive programs to foster mindfulness practices among their workers.  As an executive coach  who has practiced meditation for two decades and taught mindfulness in the workplace, I’ve seen its benefits first hand.
Just as we understand that there are innate capacities of our bodies that can be trained to make us stronger, more resilient and flexible, we now know from neuroscience research that there is training that can cultivate and strengthen our mind’s capacities as well.  And, the good news is that it doesn’t require any special equipment or a gym membership.

What is Mindfulness?

  • Mindfulness is paying attention to our moment-to-moment experience with an open and non-judging awareness.
  • The purpose of mindfulness practice is to pay attention even in the most ordinary moments, to be present, and to bring this mindfulness of now into each event of everyday life.
  • Mindfulness harnesses our capacity to be aware of what is going on in our bodies, minds, and hearts. It is knowing where we are, what we are doing, and what we are experiencing, rather than simply being on automatic pilot.
Being present is quite a complex assignment in a world that measures time in internet seconds, conceives of the past as the most reliable tool for analyzing and assessing how to proceed into the future, is increasingly interdependent and relational, and where the continual and constantly changing flow of events tend to draw us away from awareness of the present moment.  Mindfulness is the practice of returning again and again to the present moment with awareness.

What are the benefits of Mindfulness?

  • Increased mental clarity and focus
  • Improved ability to prioritize
  • Greater personal productivity
  • Enhanced leadership presence
  • Improved performance under pressure
  • Greater innovation and creativity
  • Reduced stress
  • Increased well-being
  • More equanimity, compassion and interpersonal effectiveness with co-workers, customers and clients.

Mindfulness in Everyday Life

It is my intention to offer you some simple, practical, informal techniques to cultivate mindful awareness throughout the course of your workday.  It is not my intention here to give you instruction in formal mindfulness meditation practice, although resources for classes and books are included at the end if you would like to be introduced to these meditation practices.
These techniques came out of my asking myself how I handle the ongoing stress of my work life.  In what ways do I attempt to infuse mindfulness into the fabric of my everyday life?  What helps me to wake up to the moment when I become caught up by the sheer momentum and urgency of living?  These suggestions are a way to integrate the formal practice of mindfulness into everyday life.
At the heart of workday practice is the intention to be aware of and connected with whatever is happening inside and around us (mindfulness) as well as the determination to initiate change when appropriate (mastery).

 

Twelve Mindfulness Practices for the Workplace

  • Take a few minutes first thing in the morning to sit quietly and be with yourself without distractions (you can spare three or four minutes!). Before you check email, turn on the TV, or read the news, just sit with yourself.  Gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of nature or the coffee maker.  If no one else is awake yet, listen to the silence in your home.

  • Travel to work some days without using your ipad, radio, book, or phone. Experience the transition to work as a journey.  Pay attention to your breathing, your surroundings, the sights and sounds.  Okay, if you can’t do this for the whole trip, do it for 10 minutes.  But notice what compels you into doing something else.

  • If you drive to work, try staying in the right lane once a week and drive more slowly. How does slowing down impact your state of mind?

  • As you sit down to work, scan the sensations in your body, from your head to your feet. Notice areas of tension and breathe into them.

  • Once or twice a day pause, stop your activity, your perpetual motion, close your office door (if you have one) and take two-to-five minutes of quiet time to do nothing but consciously relax. Or go outside for a two-to-five minute walk and come into the present moment, drop your shoulders away from your ears and take a few mindful breaths, notice the sky and the trees and the sensations in your feet and legs as you walk.

  • Use everyday cues in your environment as reminders to return to your breath and become aware of your body. For example, every time the telephone rings, each time you turn on the computer, waiting for the elevator, or walking to the restroom, remind yourself to take a deep breath, notice your body, and come into the present moment.

  • Try to perform a simple, conscious act of kindness every day. It can be as simple as holding an elevator door or saying thank you in a sincere manner.

  • Mentally acknowledge those who have helped you learn the skills you have, who have taught you to be better at your job. We are all part of a larger web.

  • The next time you feel bored, pay more attention to the moment. Are you listening carefully or are you multitasking?

  • For an upcoming one-on-one conversation, resolve not to check email or texts and to listen more and speak less.

  • At the end of the workday, take a moment to reflect on the activities of your day, acknowledge yourself for what you’ve accomplished, and make a list of your priorities for tomorrow.

  • Pay attention as you walk to your car or the train, feel your feet on the ground and the air on your skin, listen to the sounds around you. Notice any areas of tension in your body and breathe into them. Notice that you are making a transition. Can you simply walk without feeling rushed?

I wish you peace, clarity and well-being as you explore this territory and discover your own skillful means to living and working more mindfully.

Resources

  • Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  • Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg
  • Mindful Work by David Gelles
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses are offered widely around the country and can be found in your area by searching on-line. This is an outstanding 8-week course teaching the foundations of mindfulness meditation.

 

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For individual coaching around developing mindfulness at work or to explore a mindfulness training for your organization,

you can contact Laura Hansen here.