Mindfulness (bringing non-judgemental awareness to the present moment) is both an ancient practice and a fast growing field, and meditation is of great use to businessand in the modern workplace. “Business meditation” has been part of Integration Training’s stress management and leadership workshops for some years. While once it was greeted with some fear and scepticism it seems business is following the lead of healthcare and embracing what has been scientifically proven to be a tremendously useful set of skills. I have found mindfulness will be easily accepted by large and mainstream businesses across Europe so long as:
- The benefits of business meditation are clear – e.g. improved efficiency, health and productivity, and reduced stress, conflict and staff turnover
- The evidence-base showing the benefits of mindfulness is presented logically and rigorously
- Mindfulness / meditation is presented in appropriate language (e.g. using the analogies of “defragmenting a hard-drive”, “blue sky mind”, doing an internal “audit” or “optimising personal operating systems”. Or even better using their language and metaphors.)
Along with my colleague Chris Hoyle I recently lead a session on Mindfulness for Unilever in Switzerland and this blog is a collection of some of the resources I gathered for them. I imagine it will be helpful for anyone presenting mindfulness and mediation to business or in other organisation settings.
Simple Corporate Meditation / Mindfulness Practices
Some of the mindfulness practices taught within a Buddhist monastery are totally appropriate for the modern workplace, many need some adaptation and there are a few totally new ones I use
Mindfulness of breathing for the workplace
This classic is a good “base” for any mindfulness course. I usually ask people to “sit upright yet relaxed” (in chairs) and bring awareness to their breath (perhaps after a short body-scan. I add “If you have thoughts that’s OK, just notice them and let them come and go.” The last part is important as people often have the misunderstanding that meditation requires a “blank” mind. I get people in the habit of doing this in normal office environments.
Asking people to bring attention to things they do anyway at work is helpful. Activities include – drinking tea, eating, looking out of the window, opening doors, when the phone rings, etc.
Walking/ stretching meditation
Most business people leave their desks to walk to meetings and generally go about their business. This can be turned into a meditation by bringing awareness to the body. Office stretches that can be done in a chair can also be taught as a mindfulness exercise.
Centring is an emergency mindfulness and state management practice that many of the business people I have trained love. Some do it at the start of meetings, feedback sessions or sales pitches as standard practice now.
Mindfulness for creativity and innovation
Many businesses find mindfulness before brain-storming or other creativity and innovation exercises useful.
I am pioneering mindful use of technology, such as while e-mailing on a lap-top or texting on a smart-phone.
Business Mindfulness and Meditation Research and Resources
- “Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.” (Marlatt & Kris- teller, 1999)
- “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994)
Overview of Mindfulness and Business Research
- Mindfulness makes people smarter, healthier, happier, kinder and more productive.
- Ashridge Business College, Fast Company and Harvard Business Review find mindfulness useful for leadership, job satisfaction, resilience and stress management.
- Shown to raise emotional intelligence – Stress and Health Journal
- Meditators shown to make more rational economic decisions – Virginia Tech
- Shown to reduce stress and increase performance in US military, Olympic athletes and other stressful occupations – University of Pennsylvania
- UK National Institute for Clinical Excellence approves mindfulness for use with anxiety, depression and stress on the National Health Service after empirical overviews
- Mindfulness develops greater corporate social responsibility – INSEAD Business School
- Mindfulness makes knowledge workers more productive and improves self-management – Drucker School of Management
- General Mills, United Online, Google and others large companies credit mindfulness training with leadership success
Four Mindfulness Studies Relevant to Business as Examples
- A study looked at how four days of training for just 20 minutes per day could help on a battery of cognitive tests. They found that the mindfulness practitioners performed particularly well on tasks with time constraints, suggesting that mindfulness could be useful for any of us who have to work to deadlines –Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and Cognition, 19(2), 597-605
- Mindfulness training increases brain grey matter concentration – This study suggests that participation in an eight week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.
– Psychiatry Research Journal, Hozel et al, 2010
Mindful leadership research
- “The practice of meditation in the business world is increasingly moving from the fringe to the mainstream, and already features as a key part of a number of international management and organisation development programmes. Report on a meditation research study conducted at Ashridge: Findings suggest a significantly upwards shift in general levels of satisfaction for individuals who commit to a period of mindfulness. This is a promising finding in relation to an exploration of the beneficial impact of meditation for the workplace. 90% of Group 1 (participants practicing mindfulness) noted benefits from having participated in the mindfulness activities. 61% noted ‘feeling of calm’, 30% listed ‘enjoyed leaving everything and having time to themselves’. 22% of the items listed related to improved sleep, and 22% also cited ‘having a different perspective’. Their study provides early indications to support existing work in this field, which incorporates mindfulness and meditation in leadership development and sustainability. – The Ashridge Journal: Mindful leadership: Exploring the value of a meditation practice; Spring 2011
- “There’s increasing evidence that Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) could help to reduce our anxiety levels and teach us new ways to manage stress. The results of various clinical studies and research speak for themselves, highlighting benefits such as:
- a 70 per cent reduction in anxiety
- fewer visits to your GP
- an ongoing reduction in anxiety three years after taking an MBSR course
- an increase in disease-fighting antibodies, suggesting improvements to the immune system
- longer and better quality sleep, with fewer sleep disturbances
- a reduction in negative feelings like anger, tension and depression
- improvements in physical conditions as varied as psoriasis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
The evidence in support of MBSR is so strong that almost three-quarters of GPs think it would be beneficial for all patients to learn mindfulness meditation skills.”
Business and Meditation Research
- Numerous studies including Ashridge’s research
- Many, good mental performance studies
- Mindfulness Works
- Mindfulness at work article
- Two more performance studies
Clinical Research Overview
Traditional Buddhist Talks
- If you’re looking for something modern but a little more traditional these talks by the UK-based teacher Rob Burbea (check spelling) are a good place to start.Christopher Titmuss is also good.
Articles in Business Publications
High-tech Meditation Resources
- Various I-phone apps such as Buddify (my favourite), Mindfulness for Beginners, Insight Timer, Office Harmony and The Mindfulness App.“Mindfulness Bell” gives randomised reminders and can be used on PC’s
- Free meditation timer downloads
- For help turning off the internet/social media you may like Freedom and AntiSocial (thanks Aboodi)
Companies that promote meditation
Here’s an article about 10 big companies that promote meditation
Business people who meditate
Here’s a list of business people and celebrities who meditate.
Quotes from business people about meditation
Business Meditation Books
- Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe and Mindfulness, A Practical Guide by Mark Williams are both accessible introductions. The first is by an ex monk who is now often in the media and the later by an Oxford University professor and comes with a useful CD.
- The Leader’s Way – The Dali Lama & Laurens Van Deb Muyzenberg – Mindfulness, business and leadership.
- Full Catastrophe Living – John Kabat-Zinn – On stress, anxiety and depression with a good chapter on work.
- Wisdom 2.0 – Mindfulness applied to modern technology
Practice Groups and Retreat Centres
For those wanting to go deeper there are meditation groups in most towns and group support really helps establish a practice. The Triratna order in the UK is pretty accessible E,g, http://www.lbc.org.uk/ and I love Mondo Zen myself if you’re feeling hardcore and want some quality modern integral Zen training. For an in-depth experience retreats are great – I like Gia House and Chithurst Monastery in the UK as well as Mondo Zen (US and Netherlands) and The Stonewater Zen Sangha’s retreat (UK).
I hope this helps! Spread it around and if you are in an organisation that would benefit from mindfulness training (and I think that’s any organisation!) then drop us a line.
Many thanks to Tejamitra (Chris Hoyle) who contributed a lot to this, Nick Diggins, Hannah Gower, Taravajra and my Facebook and Twitter “sangha” for their help collecting these resources together. Deep bow and some business advice anytime you’d like 🙂