The Benefits of Meditating at Work
By Cindy Schwartz
Meditation has gained in popularity over the last decade, it is no longer a ritual only practiced by monks and hippies. As scientific evidence mounts showcasing the benefits to your mental and physical health, the notion of meditation has piqued enough curiosity in people to shift the narrative from obscure to accessible.
Much of the research shows, that the primary obstacle to building a sustainable practice is finding the time to do it. It can seem indulgent to entertain the concept of an esoteric stress-relieving technique on company time, but really, how does this differ from those who take breaks to smoke? Both are habit- forming and both can help you disconnect from your current reality.
We live in a society of “busy”, where being productive is a valued attribute; but to what cost? Multitasking robs us of the opportunity to truly be present. Life becomes a series of actions and transactions. Meditation has been hailed as the antidote to this disease of “busy” that is prevalent in Western society. It is through the simple act of breath awareness that we can be brought out of our heads and into the present moment. I strongly believe that a daily meditation practice, if made accessible in the workplace could be an effective tool for reducing stress. Over time the practice will cultivate a sharper focus, and increase productivity, ultimately leading us to making better business decisions.
Has meditation gained enough popularity to be introduced into the workplace? I was determined to find out!
I approached a few people and asked if they wanted to join me for a 15-minute practice. Those interested met up in the lunchroom, where I lead a brief discussion to demystify the practice, and provide some useful tips. I brought a guided app, pulled up some chairs and asked that people keep an open mind!
The groupies followed from there.
The circle of Zen was formed
People kept showing up every day! They said the social commitment really motivated them to stay connected to the practice. There was a shared objective of bettering ourselves in a setting where we felt safe. Attendance is not mandatory but encouraged, so there is no judgment if members are busy.
The unexpected surprise was that it brought together individuals that had almost no contact before, and thus created a whole new community within the larger organization.
What made these meditating misfits keep coming back?
Here is what they had to say:
- The group gave them the permission to disconnect and relax.
- Their productivity increased for the remainder of the day.
- It was an antidote from office politics, and pressure from clients and job stress.
- Many reported sharpened mental acuity for problem solving.
- It fostered mindfulness, gratitude, and switching into a positive narrative.
- Physical Lightness. Breathing made them feel less tense and more relaxed.
Meditation is still enigmatic
In the first few weeks there was chatter within the company as to what went on in the lunchroom when we would gather. I overheard one say that we were doing yoga, and another person said we were forming a cult. For the record, we are not a clan of mastermind spies hatching an elaborate scheme to steal your bologna sandwich. We simply choose to spend 225 of our daily 25000 breaths, together.
Realities of meditating & next steps to creating a practice
The how to meditate is not easy. Slowing down the monkey mind can be a daunting task. There is a perception that to meditate is to turn off your mind. A more simplistic view is that you are connecting with yourself in the present moment rather than worrying about the future or ruminating on the past. If your mind wanders, you use the breath to guide you back.
Should you be inclined, remember that it doesn’t take much effort to create and sustain a sitting group in your workplace or to develop your own personal practice.
Here are some helpful tips to get you going.
- Don’t see meditation as some mysterious ritual, think of it as a bicep curl for your brain.
- There are fantastic meditations available for free online and the app store. You can use them to lead your group sessions or for your personal use. It can be difficult for beginners to sit without being guided.
- Visualizations can assist in keeping you grounded. Picturing your thoughts as clouds rolling by, will create less attachment to them.
- When you realize you have been distracted, breathe deeply. Don’t get caught up in a story.
- Every day is a new opportunity to join back into your shared or personal practice! Don’t judge yourself for missing a day.
- Bring a pillow; maybe you’ll opt for a power nap!