Mindfulness in the workplace is a topic I feel a little ambivalent about — sure, I feel strongly that such techniques can help our professional (corporate) lives as much they can support our personal lives, but I am concerned about why and how mindfulness is taught within a business. There’s a lot of pressure for ROI (return on investment) and some measurable output to justify the budget. Or, more insidiously, a tacit assumption that if you’ve done the requisite training to boost your resilience, you can handle more demands or tolerate more stress. And since this appears as a potentially lucrative area I see some offerings that look as though they cater to this endgame mentality a bit too strongly.
Personally I reckon Mindfulness meditation only ‘works’ if you just allow yourself to go with it. Plus for me at least there’s a certain joy in letting go of the destination and expectations for once! Practicing with too much emphasis on a means to an end is not going to get you ‘there’ quicker. It’s a slow, slow burn. But I guess that’s not so marketable…
I’m disappointed that my workplace has just prematurely terminated its pilot for a lunchtime meditation space. It’s all a bit political and I can’t be too involved in that. But what I feel I can do is quietly encourage colleagues who express an interest in this stuff to find their own way and explore what might work for them.
Clearly even this low profile is recognised by some. And I have had a surprisingly busy week on this in-work-but-not-work kind of activity:
Most formally I’m working with our Health and Safety team to organise a wellbeing event and I’m putting some feelers out with meditation teachers I know who might come in and offer some scheduled guided practices at lunchtime. And I’m trying to hook up the company’s environmental team also so that ‘wellbeing’ gets construed in a ecological, not just a personal, sense.
I had lunch with a colleague who wanted to talk to me about the difficulties she’s having in transitioning from a Mindfulness course to creating her own practice. We talked about formal and informal mindfulness. But mostly we talked about letting go of goals and targets and ‘measurables’, and how her practice might begin with a much softer discipline than a regimented 30 minutes on the cushion each day. I sense she’s set up an idea of what meditation should be like that can only (especially in the early stages) be impossible to attain. Been there, done that! I only hope I gave her some helpful thoughts.
Another colleague emailed me to say he’d just read an interview I did a while ago with one of the national papers in UK about mindfulness and the benefits I found in my practice. He was clearly surprised by my story, and although I agonised at the time about whether to use my real name or not, I’m glad that I did. Cathartic for me, but probably in this case at least a helpful way for him to measure what he was reading about against what he saw in the flesh (as it were). My small contribution to de-mystifying meditation and allowing wellbeing to be something we’re not afraid to prioritise. My workplace isn’t especially macho, but I feel there’s a collective sense above a certain management level that you should simply be able to cope magically without any particular support.
A third colleague who was recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism has been exploring meditation as a technique for handling herself in certain settings and came by my office to copy an article I have pasted up on the door about small techniques to increase mindfulness in the workplace. She said she wanted to have the five bullet points stuck up next to her desk so she could refer to them more consciously.
All these moments were good and allowed me to feel I was offering something of my experiences in the support of others. But more than this I realise that I have a long way to go in walking the walk, beyond talking the talk. I am increasingly conscious of the impact I have on my team and my colleagues in the way I conduct myself and transact the business of the day. So I’ve uncovered a couple of solid practitioners who offer some teaching around ‘mindful leadership’ in a way that might work for me. My manager is reviewing my proposal so I’m keeping fingers crossed. I do try to practice my yoga (in the broadest sense of the word) off the mat in various ways, and part of this carries over into my professional life. But I’d love more support with this and some inspiration from someone who genuinely gets the challenges of balancing the business’s modus operandi of “do more, with less” with my personal take on conscious living and empathetic relationships.
And to end of a different note — not really mindfulness as such, but so lovely I wanted to share: another colleague gave me some eggs from her chickens. This photo really doesn’t do justice to the beautiful colour of the eggshells. Plus she tells me they’re lower in cholesterol than normal eggs. What’s not to like! [If you’re reading, V, thank you again!]
lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu: “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”