“Let go of your mind and then be mindful. Close your ears and listen!” – Rumi

In my last post I wrote to you of mindfulness and defined it as…

… a vehicle toward enlightenment and understanding. … a tool to open your eyes, mind and heart in ways that will provide insight into what is happening and how you are reacting on a situational basis. Mindfulness incorporates thoughts, sensations and emotions into your experiences. It gives the opportunity to examine events and results in the moment. With mindfulness, you gain immediate awareness and the ability to change during the experience itself.

To review, the first step of mindfulness is putting yourself in the moment, giving yourself a chance to observe those around you and examine your own feelings and emotions, and taking hold of those emotions in a way that allows you to move forward painlessly, productively and successfully. It happens in the moment and takes only that long. (BTW, this is a large part of what emotional intelligence is all about).

In this post, I’d like to focus on mindfulness in the workplace. For the purposes of the workplace, the first step of mindfulness would look something like this:

1. You are asked to write a report, handle a meeting or perform a function that is new to you, unfamiliar, difficult, daunting and impossible to finish within the requested timeline.
2. You start to panic, dislike and become angry at the person who assigned the task, you being to feel inadequate and overwhelmed and don’t know how to begin.
3. In that moment you remember and say to yourself, “I’m going to try to be mindful.”
4. You take a breath and examine the task in your mind, with awareness that your fears aside, you don’t have a choice but to get it done.
5. In that moment you realize that what you have to do is set up a plan of attack and get the job done and, even more, you acknowledge to and remind yourself that you’ve done and successfully completed harder tasks in the past.
6. All of that happened in a moment of mindfulness. You return to the present moment determined to handle the difficult problem presented.
Now mindfulness in the workplace can go much further and actually include meditation. I myself have been meditating since my early twenties. While the purpose of my meditation practice has been spiritual in nature, here we are looking at meditation as another way to become present and ultimately to exercise one’s emotional intelligence.

Having defined mindfulness, let’s now define meditation. I like to use this definition from the Buddhist Center because it is broad and does not require anyone to fit into a niche; it is a completely non-religious concept that allows each person to meditate in her/his own way, but it acknowledges that the purpose of engaging in the practice of meditation is to gain a conscious understanding and many related health benefits. The Buddhist Center explains:

Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Meditation practices are techniques that encourage and develop concentration, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things. By engaging with a particular meditation practice you learn the patterns and habits of your mind, and the practice offers a means to cultivate new, more positive ways of being. With regular work and patience these nourishing, focused states of mind can deepen into profoundly peaceful and energized states of mind. Such experiences can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of life.

Human Kinetics teaches that:

To meditate is to become acutely aware of what’s going on within you; it’s about learning to tame your mind so that you can focus all your energy and awareness on the task at hand. The practice of meditation helps you stay centered regardless of your circumstances. It doesn’t teach you to avoid pain or discomfort but to experience and accept it so you can move through any situation with profound clarity and a sense of inner peace and calm. Meditation is a wonderful way to tap into your internal knowingness and stay in touch with your eternal essence.

Meditation works in all aspects of life. But, it cannot be done in the precise moment that stress, doubt, anger or confusion is occurring. For, that you’ll need to employ step one – being mindful of what is going on around you and taking the time to be reflective rather than reactive. Rather meditation will help you clarify where the stress is coming from and give you the inner strength to overcome the stressors and proceed positively and with determination and intent. The benefits of meditation to your daily life are many: calmness, sureness, awareness, clarity, confidence are just a few.

There are many physical benefits that come with meditation as well. Brain studies of those who meditate show that it actually calms your peripheral nervous system in a way that naturally rejuvenates, repairs and rebuilds. It reverses the natural tendency toward “flight or fight” taking away fear and avoidance and replacing it with positivity and clarity. Meditation also slows the production of cortisol which causes stress. The natural outcome of reducing cortisol is boosting of the immune system, allowing for better more restful sleep and giving a sense of well-being.

There are just as many, if not more, emotional benefits such as giving you a chance to think and break unhealthy spur of the moment reactions. This reduces anxiety and depression, balances your neuro pathways, and allows you to improve your critical thinking.

Each person will get his or her own benefits once they begin to practice meditation (which, by the way, need not take more than 5-10 minutes each day). You’ll have a moment to examine your thought processes and communicate with yourself about how and why you react negatively to certain people and in certain situations but positively in others. You can use meditation to help ease depression, examine willful or destructive behaviors, or help you understand someone else. There is no end to where your mind will lead you once you begin. What is practically guaranteed is that having unlocked the key to your reactions and stressors, your life will be more peaceful and mindful. And who doesn’t want a mindful life?

Meditation can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be the way the famous yogis meditate by going to another plane of thought and taking themselves out of the worldly life. If you think of it as controlling your breath and calming your mind so that you can start consciously thinking, you’ll know the basics of meditation. As my teacher used to say, “The only wrong way to meditate is not to do it at all.”