When people think of meditation, perhaps images of sitting still for long periods of time or traveling to a guru in India immediately come to mind. However, the reality is that meditation is becoming more mainstream, even showing up in corporate office settings as a highly effective business tool.
What is meditation?
Meditation means to engage in contemplation or reflection, to engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. This could be through contention on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra.
As humans, we constantly deal with the monkey mind, or the mind that never stops thinking. Fear of the future based on prior life experiences tends to take up a lot of space in the mind. Meditation is a tool that works on getting the monkey mind under control, so that we can function from a less fearful state and in a more neutral, present state.
How does meditation fit into an office setting?
Embracing a neutral, present state has many benefits to feeling more calm and in control at work.
Harvard Business Review cites that multiple research studies have shown that meditation has the ability to reduce anxiety, leading to increased performance and ability to withstand high pressure situations, and can also rewire how the brain responds to stress. Research also suggests that meditation sharpens key skills like attention, memory, and emotional intelligence, important skills for an employee in any role to embrace and master.
Many companies in Silicon Valley, for example, are implementing meditation techniques and even offering classes in the workplace to introduce employees to meditation and its benefits. Google offers a Search Inside Yourself training among other classes such as Neural Self-Hacking and Managing Your Energy, designed to teach people how to manage their emotions and approach work with a more present and less fearful state of mind, ultimately creating better employees in the process.
A former Goldman Sachs trader claims that meditation helped her to keep fear and panic on the sidelines. In one situation, the market tanked and people started to panic. She cites her meditation practice for her ability to keep calm and composed during this stressful time and to also offer suggestions to her team to reduce the impact of the market crash.
Meditation in the C-Suite
There are many CEOs and executive leadership who fully embrace meditation and swear by its tangible benefits to achieve key business goals. Some have even built it into the company culture.
Marc Benioff, Chairman, Founder and CEO of Salesforce, credits meditation to helping him manage stress. Former Monsato CEO Bob Shapiro turned office rooms into meditation rooms where employees could go for a break, citing that he was seeing a number of business people turning to meditation and realize that the experience was extremely useful. And Legal Seafoods CEO Roger Berkowitz meditates for 20 minutes each morning, to clear his mind and approach the day in a more neutral state.
How to introduce meditation in the workplace
- Review existing workplace wellness initiatives. Does your company already offer on-site yoga classes? Many times, these classes will have a meditation component built into the class. If not, discuss adding a 5 or 10-minute meditation exercise to deepen the experience.
- Consider creating a quiet, meditative space that employees can retreat to, like a quiet room for employees to take breaks in.
- Offer a more formal training such as the Search Inside Yourself training or offer a stipend to employees toward an approved offsite meditation course.
- There are many turnkey breathing exercises that employees can do at their desks or in a quiet space in the office to reach a more meditative state. Below are two breathing exercises to help calm nerves and quiet the mind:
Alternate Nostril Breathing: Release fatigue and tension with this calming breath. Take the thumb of the right finger and close off the right nostril. Inhale deeply and slowly through the left nostril. Use the right pinkie finger to close off the left nostril and exhale slowly through the right nostril. Continue this alternate breathing for a minimum of three minutes, maximum 31 minutes. Also a great option to do right before bed to calm a busy mind.
One Minute Breath: This exercise soothes fear and is said to help cognition. 20 seconds to inhale, 20 seconds to hold breath, 20 seconds to exhale. To start, inhale slowly, filling the lower abdomen, stomach area, lungs and then finally, the chest. Hold the breath in for 20 seconds and then slowly exhale for 20 seconds. Work your way up to 20-20-20; perhaps start with 10 seconds to inhale, 10 seconds to hold, 10 seconds to exhale. Continue for a minimum of three minutes.There are many turnkey breathing exercises that employees can do at their desks or in a quiet space in the office to reach a more meditative state. Below are two breathing exercises to help calm nerves and quiet the mind:
The long term benefits of embracing meditation in a workplace setting are vast. Introducing employees to its benefits are sure to lead to a happier, more present and more productive workforce.