Embracing Mindfulness in the Office

Until recently, the word “mindfulness” would not have been mentioned in the corporate environment, much less considered relevant if it had been. But the walls of big business are no longer the rigid gray sliding structures they once were. Now, they are something in constant flux, elastic and diaphanous, with ample room for experimentation and dissent.

Creativity, innovation, and disruption are the name of the game. And with these concepts come the implementation of ideas that previously were not thought compatible with personal productivity and monetary growth. Strongly linked with meditation, mindfulness is, put simply, paying attention.

The aim of mindfulness is simple: to quiet the noisy mind and bring a simplified vision (clarity) to the situation at hand, whether that situation is a complex equation or something simple. And it works. It worked for many professionals even before it was written up in The Economist and Forbes as the next big business trend.

Let’s take Phil Jackson, for example. Jackson is the current president of the New York Knicks and famously guided the Chicago Bulls to six championships in nine years, earning him the nickname “Zen Master” in the process. For at the time (1989-1998), Jackson was noteworthy for being a committed practitioner of Zen Buddhism and for extending that philosophy into his basketball coaching. However, rather than be seen by the mainstream as a winning formula, the “Zen Master’s” tactics were seen as more of a quirky anomaly.

Now, perspectives have changed. Google offers a course for its employees called “Search Inside Yourself” and in 2008, Hearst Publications hired a meditation teacher to combat their employees’ stress at work. The practice of mindfulness is nondenominational, so anyone can practice it and still be in accordance with any other religion they choose to practice.

And while the medical industry today sees the teachings of “new age” thought-based teachers, such as Deepak Chopra, as bad for business, the business community has nothing to lose by embracing alternative tactics to promote the mental, physical, and spiritual health of their employees. In fact, you don’t have to look far beyond Google’s brightly colored, pillow-laden meditation rooms to know that the benefits of mindfulness are not just in our heads.

But let’s be honest. There is their bottom line and then there’s yours. Companies wouldn’t be so interested in participating in this phenomenon if it wasn’t helping to increase their profits. Being mindful for you shouldn’t be about simply increasing productivity at work. It should be born out of a true desire to simplify your own headspace, and find more focus, clarity, and eventually happiness in all areas of your life.