This post consistently ranks #1 on this blog.
The topic of mindfulness seems to pop up with more and more of our clients. True, there is the buzzword effect, but I believe that on some level there’s a growing sense of how scattered and overwhelmed people feel.
The new gold standard of work is becoming better able to focus more intently and resist constant distractions. How do I do that, they ask. There’s also a longing for more calm, serenity and peace. Even for those people I meet who claim they don’t have five minutes to themselves, the lure of rest and renewal is enticing.
Tools – give me tools.
That’s what most of the people I meet in the workplace want – tools. Tools to be more efficient, productive and less stressed. Often what they want are solutions to complex problems – more often what they want is out of their control.
So the question becomes – is there a master tool? If so much of what people want at work is control – is there a “tool” to help them?
Well – there is no tool or formula or magic to control other people – or events that can often feel random and overwhelming. However, there is one tool we have that is within our domain to control – and its power is being explored and revealed by an ever-growing body of research – and that is mindfulness.
Mindfulness, a concept and practice inherited from Buddhist traditions, has found its way into mainstream psychology and medicine – and slowly into the workplace.
The benefits of mindfulness are many – and the list keeps getting longer: help with depression, alleviation of pain, quicker recovery from surgery, relationship issues, help with sleep problems, eating disorders, anxiety and phobia issues, attention and overall stress management.
The “magic” of mindfulness is that it rearranges neural networks. Cutting edge science continues to prove this in powerful ways. And the truly exciting news is that power comes from us. We are the tool.
What is Mindfulness?
As earlier stated – mindfulness is a concept and a practice. While there is no set definition it can best be described as:
Paying focused attention
To the experience of the present moment
This definition comes from mindfulness pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Western Buddhist practitioner who founded the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
According to Kabat-Zinn, at its’ essence, mindfulness is the “confluence of intention, attention and present time experience.” It is the awareness of awareness.
Daniel Stern, author of The Present Moment in Psychology and Everyday Life, defines the present moment as “being approximately three seconds – between three and ten. In describing Stern’s work, author Ruth Cohn explains, “many functions in nature and culture occupy such intervals of time: an exchange of communication between infant and caregiver, a cycle of breath inhaled and exhaled, a musical phrase, a conversational “turn.” Perhaps the moment of now is an essential ingredient in the operating system of our design.
Bringing the Benefits of Mindfulness to Our Work
Developing mindfulness in everyday life takes effort. Many related practices (meditation, yoga, some martial arts, media and technology breaks, time spent in the natural world) will help to cultivate mindfulness. But the mind needs the focus and consistency of a regular practice if it is to undo old neural patterns and learn new ones.
For many people the workplace is one of the most stressful places in their lives. Pressures are constant. Differences, even non-conflictual ones, among people require lots of neural energy to manage. Most people in this culture work too many hours, often without any breaks. Many workers operate in a low – level flight or fight mode. Out of touch with feelings and the thinking patterns that reinforce stress and anxiety, many people constantly “re-trigger” those negative habits throughout the day.
Mindfulness practice offers the possibilities of mental and emotional rest, despite the events that surface in the average workday.
10 Ways to Practice
I didn’t say this was easy. That’s why it’s called a practice. We get the chance to do it over and over until we can perceive the little shifts and changes that evolve into habits with cumulative rewards.
There is a power in mindfulness that you can tap into. It’s all up to you.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.
Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants
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