What is mindfulness?
A mindfulness trainer once asked his students to express in a painting how they experience inner peace when they meditate. Most students painted something like a peaceful landscape with blue sky, lots of flowers – a painting of complete harmony.
But one student painted a barren, mountainous landscape, all in dark, grayish colors, with a thunderstorm going down. In a small corner of the painting, he painted a tiny little cave and inside of this cave, in the middle of flashlights and thunder, a person was sitting and meditating.
When we talk about mindfulness, this is pretty much what it is all about. It’s not about sunshine and harmony. It has nothing to do with controlling your feelings. It means that in the middle of a noisy, inhospitable, threatening environment, in the middle of emotional chaos, there is a place for you to feel safe, where you can take a breath and observe what is going on around you without being washed away.
Mindfulness training in the workplace
No wonder that mindfulness has become popular where stress and distraction is at its peak: in the management offices of leading companies. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Intermix CEO Khajak Keledjian, Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of the Huffington Post – they all practice mindfulness.
One of the pioneers to spread the spirit of mindfulness on a grand scale between their employees was Google with its “Search Inside Yourself” course which was introduced in 2007 and attended by more than 1000 Googlers so far. “The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)” is the subtitle of Google coach Chade-Meng Tan’s book. Is it really so easy?
What can be achieved with mindfulness?
Watch your thoughts: They become your words.
Watch your words: They become your actions.
Watch your actions: They become your habits.
Watch your habits: They become your character.
Watch your character: It becomes your destiny.
This quote of the Jewish Talmud shows that the practice of mindfulness is not merely Buddhist, as is widely believed. In all cultures at all times, wise men (and wise women, of course) knew about the secret of mindfulness and its benefits.
Today, heaps of scientific studies verify what has been known for thousands of years: emotional well-being, happiness, reduced pain perception, stress reduction, improving memory and attention – everything seems to change with a little bit of meditation and mindfulness.
The chances are good that mindfulness training will conquer more and more offices all around the world in the next few years. Mindfulness helps the employees to focus on the important things and is highly praised for boosting one’s emotional intelligence.
But that’s not all. Let’s carry the idea a little further. What will happen, if the major business leaders seriously start to exercise mindfulness in their everyday business life? Imagine CEOs preaching compassion and loving-kindness instead of profit and competition. Imagine your colleagues treating you with honesty and true understanding instead of impersonal friendliness, wariness or dislike. Sounds good?
Maybe there is no need to revolutionize the economy after all. Maybe the economy is already revolutionizing itself right now, on this rather “unexpected path” of mindfulness.
Photos: Dan (candle) and Arztsamui (yoga girl), Freedigitalphotos.net