Mindfulness at work? Yes. Change is happening all around us. And the workplace is no exception. Innovations and competitors enter the marketplace at an increasing rate. Companies brand and re-brand at a pace like Miley Cyrus changes her identity. And soon we might even be adding some other planets to our civilization.
Absolutely. However, this fast paced society comes at a cost. An increasing influx of information comes our way, every day. Emails, meetings, to-do lists, blogs, calendar notifications, phone calls, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Slack , GIF wars .. Woah!
Paying attention is becoming more challenging. We’re expected to deal with various streams of information adequately – and with flair. But instead we seem to stress ourselves out, run, and wanting to hide.
When we lose the sensation of feeling grounded, a sense of fear, anxiety and the experience of losing control can become overwhelming. Not without consequences; by 2020 we are expected to face the biggest epidemic of people suffering from depression and anxiety related health problems. Ho, stop, ho! Time to face reality, act and discover how to become the clear, steady eye in the center of this information tornado. Introducing Mindfulness at work is a first step.
The term Mindfulness has spiked in popularity over the past few years. Practiced in small class rooms, yoga studio’s or high society yacht tours – Mindfulness is spreading throughout society. Often I find my students looking slightly deceived when I explain them what this ‘mystical’ concept is really about: being truly present in the here and now. Meaning cultivating a mind that is fully attentive to what is happening within you, or around you. Without going into any further narrative. Simply, noticing.
Well.. it might sound easy, but give it a try. You will soon experience that our mind isn’t all too fond of this Mindfulness approach. It loves to be distracted, challenged, wander off..
So.. How did we get here?
We are living in a society that educates, tests and promotes people according to their mental capabilities. We look at the most upper part of the entire human body, the brain, as being the place where all the magic happens. This focus and stimulation gets us trapped inside of our minds. Resulting in over-thinking, over-analyzing…
Without a mindful approach, all these thoughts easily lead to worries and fears. Creating mental noise within ourselves. Adding additional input and stimuli from outside – emails, calls, etc – can lead to information overload, error, anxiety, game over..
Take a step back, let the noise settle. Like my master explained with a great metaphor: if you take a snow globe and constantly shake it, the snow will keep moving in all different directions. Only when you place the snow globe on the table – let it sit for a little – is when the snow can gently settle. And only then, is when you can see through and see clearly.
Mindfulness at Work
Now take this metaphor with you to the work floor. In times when back-to-back meetings are filling your schedule, when personal and work phones are buzzing, and your email inbox is suffering from digital diarrhea – be the snow globe. Practice this simple Mindfulness at work technique below in a silent corner, room, or (heck, why not?!) the bathroom.
– Find a quiet space where you can sit down for 5 minutes.
– Let both feet arrive on the floor – steady – and let your knees be hip distance apart
– Sit upright, and allow your hands to rest on your upper legs, or in your lap
– Take a deep breath in through the nose, and exhale gently
– Close your eyes
– Take two more inhales and exhales, and enjoy a sensation of arriving
– Welcoming a feeling that this is where you need to be, right here, right now
– Start bringing your attention to the body
– Feeling your feet, lower legs, knees, upper legs, sit bones, spine, shoulders, arms, hands
– And for a moment, let all muscles of your face simply drop
– Then gently turn your attention to your breath
– Simply notice
In mindfulness we don’t want to control, judge or change the situation. Simply let the mind watch the body breathing.
– Notice your body breathing in
– And breathing out
– Notice a slight rising sensation on every inhale
– And a slight softening sensation on every exhale
– Feel the temperature of the air entering the nostrils on the inhale
– And feel the temperature of the air exiting the nostrils on every exhale
When you notice that your mind is wandering off, then first know that this is perfectly normal. Acknowledge the fact that your mind wandered off, and tune back into your breath.
– Continue this mindful breathing for another minute or two
– Take three final breaths where the inhale enters through the nose and the exhale gently escapes via the mouth
– Again, simply noticing
Then bring your attention back by inviting some gentle movements in the body.
And when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.
It takes Time and Practice
Mindfulness, like any other skill, takes time and practice to master. But even this small exercise will help you to practice and experience mindfulness at work. Over time you will experience a stronger sense of grounding, clarity and inner empowerment. This will help you to stay Zen amidst the stream of information, deadlines and notifications fighting for your attention.