A Personal Perspective on Mindfulness in Our Workplace
In Silicon Valley, mindfulness is not a sacred word used solely in Zen communities and yoga classes. Mindfulness is becoming an integral part of the culture and lifestyle of the technology community. Large corporations provide mindfulness classes and spiritual leadership trainings to their employees. San Francisco hosts an annual technology and mindfulness conference called Wisdom 2.0. Retreat centers in the San Francisco bay area and across the country see increasing attendance of corporate managers at mindfulness and spirituality workshops.
Mindfulness is an adaptation of Buddhist meditation. Supported by over 40 years of medical and psychological research across a number of sectors and applications, it is the practice of purposely focusing our attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. From that place, we are able to experience life moment-by-moment, unconditioned, with a clear understanding of what is real. Mindfulness is simply the practice of observing one’s own current thoughts and body sensations. By being present with our emotions and thoughts, we have the ability to make conscious choices about how to respond calmly, rather than react emotionally in different life situations, and especially at the workplace.
It is nearly impossible to innovate while in a ‘mindless’ state of mind. Innovation calls for openness – an ability to listen and accept ideas from others, and our own internal voice. A true innovative creation process happens when we release the auto-pilot in our selves, when we let go of our rigid belief system that constrains us just enough to get through the day. When we free ourselves from worrying about what can go wrong, or what failure may mean to our own self-worth – then we are able to pursue new and more adaptive ways of seeing the world.
Living in A Trance
Most of us spend our days either planning for the future or reminiscing about the past. At home or at work, we are constantly gearing up, getting ready for the next task or the next meeting or our upcoming trip. We worry about deadlines and timelines.
And most times, more often than not, the concern or the apprehension is focused on the future. On what might or could happen…People do this all the time. You start with uncertainty, you make a decision, and if you make a mistake, it’s a calamity. Yet, the path you were following was just a decision. You can change it at any time, and maybe an alternative will turn out better. When you’re mindful, mistakes become friends.
Living in this perpetual state of angst is what many spiritual teachers refer to as living in a trance. Why? Because when our mind is constantly focused on what may happen in the future – it is not attentive to what is happening right here and right now. And, as we get caught up in a trance, our body responds to events that don’t really exist. We get stressed in preparation of something that may or may not happen.
Disrupting the Trance
Research shows that the more positive emotions people experience, the more successful they are. Employees who operate from a mindful state make better decisions, are more creative, more productive, more resilient and have better interpersonal skills. Companies can, therefore, gain a competitive advantage by creating positive work environments. When we are mindful, we are also seen as more authentic and trustworthy, which has a positive influence on our relationships at work and home. That positive influence mentally translates to safety and permission to be true to one’s own expression.
At NTT Innovation Institute (NTT i3), besides leading the marketing and communication efforts, I offer a recurring mindfulness practice to our employees and consultants. Twice a week, we meet at noon for a 20-minute session dedicated to bring our attention to the present. We meditate and introduce positive intentions, while focusing on what we currently experience in our body and mind. It is my goal through these sessions to bring awareness, kindness, and compassion to the corporate environment. The workplace is where we spend most of our day. Whatever attitude we bring in the door determines how well everyone around us feel about work and about themselves.
ROI – Return on Investment or Return on Impact
If you’re asking where is the ROI, here’s my answer. A work environment that is grounded on compassion, in my personal opinion, will lend itself to having motivated and accomplished employees. Business aside, what I have come to care most about is how we behave – in a mindful state - with one another and how that behavior is beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work and at home.
The business environment has changed a lot since the concept of mindfulness first started being mentioned in corporate environments. Jobs have become more complex and demanding. We have new data and analysis coming at us all the time. So mindfulness becomes more important than ever in navigating the daily doses of chaos. Moreover, with the emergence of a connected lifestyle, information in all forms of drama, is consumed 24/7, affecting our mental and emotional ability to regulate our self in front of what is real, right here, and right now. Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that.
My belief is that we have a choice. We can walk about life being mindful, notice new things, notice beauty, and notice others. We can spend one minute, ten minutes, or just as much as we can, to turn our attention to what is real. These are the moments when we transform, when we open up, when we take off our blindfolds, and are available to change and innovate.