I took the photograph above in Myanmar (Burma) in early 2013. There appear to be no factories, no roads – just a simple life – and it’s very, very still.
I was standing on U Bein bridge – the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world at 1.2km. The bridge was built in 1850 from wood which was once part of the Royal Palace in Inwa and is in a place called Amarapura, just outside Mandalay.
Right now, I am sitting in my office, just recently arrived from twenty-five minutes on the cushion in a sunny conservatory on an Indian Summer morning. I am sipping tea and music is playing.
The scene is set for a little writing on the benefits, the business benefits that is, of mindfulness and meditation.
First, some context – I have travelled extensively through Asia, usually with a backpack and often well off the tourist track.
On all those occasions, despite visiting many Buddhist temples, I never thought to add a meditation practice to my life.
I came to mindfulness and meditation via a basement in Leeds in 2011.
I was taking part in a workshop for my Postgraduate Coaching course and we were invited to pay mindful attention to the noises we could hear. We sat in a circle and listened.
After a few minutes we shared what we had heard and it turned out that we all heard the obvious things – such as the noise of a fan.
The subtler things – the breath of the person next to us, the distant song of bird, a little tapping noise as someone in the building fixed something – our experience of those varied a little.
The intention was that we could learn to pay mindful attention to what is going on now, in the present moment, so that we can use it in service of our coaching clients in the change work we do together. And I do, it is very powerful and useful – for me and for my clients.
That experience led to more learning. I took an eight week course in Mindfulness based on the work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts.
That led to a new meditation practice and the ability to pay more mindful attention in my work.
I have continued my learning. I have been to many workshops, and attended week long retreats twice.
“Hippy talk” of meditation and mindfulness didn’t used to get much traction in business. It isn’t nearly Positivist enough.
But things are changing. Google now have the “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness-based emotional intelligence programme – aimed at increasing productivity, creativity and happiness.
Michael Chaskalson has written a book, “The Mindful Workplace”, aimed at developing resilient individuals and resonant organisations with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, bringing the idea to a wider audience.
There are many, many mindfulness programmes in business now. It seems to be much more acceptable these days.
Chaskalson’s introductory chapter is titled “The Business Case for Mindfulness Training” – perhaps because in order to sell the idea to a Positivist organisational budget holder, a case still has to be proven. In it he refers to the views of Richard Boyatzis, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
“(Boyatzis) speaks of mindfulness as ‘the capacity to be fully aware of all that one experiences inside the self – body, mind, heart, spirit – and to pay full attention to what is happening around us – people, the natural world, our surroundings and events’
For Boyatzis, mindfulness is a key management competency.”
I am a fairly typical meditator I think. I find it difficult and talk about it a great deal more than I do it. But when I do it regularly I feel better. It regulates my blood pressure and helps me to concentrate – amongst other benefits.
Mindfulness however is never very far away. It appears in my coaching work, my workshops as I teach people how to relax when nervous about making business presentations and in the everyday interactions with others.
There is a stillness required, a focus on noticing – which takes practice.
An invitation then is to experiment and find a moment of stillness – a mindful moment – in your work this week and to see what it brings.
Alternatively you might like to try a little stillness meditation courtesy of Burgs, my meditation teacher at https://soundcloud.com/theartofmeditation/the-stillness-meditation
Until the next time.