You can probably chart the gradual shift of Eastern philosophies and practices from hippy communes to the hip mainstream in direct correlation to the increasing freneticism of our daily lives.
As we become increasingly connected in our work and home lives we are evolving into keyed-up multi-taskers, our attentions flitting from one demand to another at a dizzying pace.
In our quest to become better and brighter, we have been burning out.
And so we have looked to the spirit healing properties of yoga, meditation and, more recently, mindfulness to bring us back to a healthier productivity.
Originating in Buddism, mindfulness is the practice of focusing an awareness of thoughts, feelings, body and environment on a moment-by-moment basis. It is simply being present and not letting our attentions stray from more than one thing.
Proven to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, OCD and drug addiction, mindfulness is also being used in the workplace as a performance enhancing exercise.
Follow this simple mantra to make the most of mindfulness techniques in your own working life.
Find the time…Others are doing it…Cut it out…Understand the benefits…Sell it!
Find the time
If you find yourself too busy to stop and think, to exercise or to relax - you are probably not making good decisions.
The first step to a more mindful working life is to simply make time to meditate.
It only takes ten minutes a day and you will soon find the practice of controlled breathing and focusing on the present will enable you to tackle the tasks and issues that might be overwhelming you in a more calm and methodical manner.
Others are doing it
Mindfulness is now embraced by a large cross-section of society – from celebrities to CEOs and stressed out school kids.
Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and Gwyneth Paltrow are just a handful of highly powerful and productive folk who have harnessed the benefits of mindfulness meditation.
Google has offered its employees an internal mindfulness programme called ‘Search Inside Yourself’ since 2007 and the offices of Ebay and The Huffington Post have dedicated meditation rooms.
And with the ingenious app Headspace (founded by Andy Puddicombe in 2010), accessing your ‘inner calm’ has never been easier.
The award winning app provides guided mindfulness sessions, boasts hundreds of hours of content and is available via the company’s website, or a mobile app on Iphone and Andoid platforms. For its million-strong user-ship worldwide (including Emma Watson, Arianna Huffington and Twitter Founder, Evan Williams) it is a powerful ‘performance enhancing’ tool, which can be used on the go.
Cut it out
Practicing mindfulness can really help you target key goals in your working life, and although it’s mostly US businesses that are incorporating programs into the workplace, the trend is catching on in the UK.
The government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills offers free weekly meditation classes and the trend is trickling down to CEOs across the country.
In an interview with Buisness Reporter, Guy Blaskey, CEO of luxury dog food brand Pooch and Mutt enthused about how the practice stopped him getting stressed about things out of his control and actually facilitated the growth of the business,
'It’s focusing, and realising what’s important in your business, and not getting distracted by the things that aren’t important.'
And Managing Director of creative solutions company Sense Worldwide added his endorsement,
'Meditation enables me to strip away the layers of prejudice, fear, hope, greed and ego that disconnect me from the most original solutions.'
Understand the benefits/ultimate profit
Recent research conducted by Research INSEAD business school claims that including only fifteen minutes of mindfulness meditation (such as concentrating on breathing) can result in more rational thinking in making business decisions.
It also enables the business-person to resist ‘sunk cost bias’ (attempts to recoup irrecoverable costs in past business endeavours), as mindfulness draws thoughts away from past and future events and focuses on the present.
In terms of a business’s workforce, whole teams that adopt meditation and other practices that promote wellbeing are likely to be happier, healthier and therefore a lot more productive.
This, of course, translates into increased profit for your company
Arianna Huffington reiterates this in a recent blog-post: ‘This is a tough economy. Stress reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business.’
It makes a lot of sense to advocate mindfulness to your employees, whatever the size of your business.
Headspace’s Andy Puddicome is now in high demand from major firms such as Credit Suisse, KPMG and Deloite who want to tap into his expertise in order to increase focus and productivity in the workplace.
Realistically, most small business owners don’t have the funds to employ mindfulness gurus, but running lunchtime yoga/meditation sessions, or simply actively encouraging your employees to practice mindfulness techniques could have a hugely beneficial impact on the trajectory of success and inner harmony for all.
‘To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.’ William Blake