Bob’s Ramble: The Gift of Mindfulness

I don’t know about you but I’m hearing a lot of people talking about being mindful and suggesting that meditation in the workplace (and out) is good for employees and good for our organizations. It would have sounded a bit like voodoo to those of us that have been working for decades but after further investigation, evaluation, and yes – meditation, I’m all in! Full disclosure: I learned to meditate at a conference last year and was one of the thousand people taught by Jeff Bender, the CEO of Harris, in a 15-minute session. Super easy to learn and make a practice of – and helpful. Since that first experience, I’ve studied it further and taken a deeper dive on the subject with a great colleague of mine who used to teach mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the act of being present in the moment. For contrast, think about the routine tasks that you perform on a daily basis and consider how “present” you are in those moments. How about the drive home from work or eating breakfast? Do you remember any of it or did it just kind of happen? For most of us, our routines become mindless tasks where we don’t consider what we are doing – we simply do them. It’s habitual, routine and generally uneventful.

But so what? What is the advantage of being “mindful” during some of these routine tasks? Being mindful, or aware in the moment, helps improve our focus and prevent our minds from wandering off topic. According to Harvard Business Review published studies, typical minds wander about 50% of the work time. That doesn’t mean we are unproductive, but it certainly implies that there is an opportunity to harness more value from work time if we are able to be more focused. And the best part is that becoming more mindful is very easy to do and provides immediate benefits.

To train yourself to become more mindful, start with very simple meditation (do a search for free meditation instruction for beginners and you’ll find plenty of easy instruction). I have found that sitting down, closing my eyes, relaxing comfortably, setting a timer (I’ve been using 15 minutes as my standard but it’s up to the person) and focusing on my breathing is an easy way to meditate. The mind will continually wander, and it is important to accept that (because its normal), acknowledge whatever popped into your head and resume focus on the act of breathing. Our breathing shouldn’t be changed to meditate as we are simply being present during the act. Acknowledge the feeling of sitting, the feel of the chair, the feel of your feet on the floor (how often have you actually noticed the feeling of the floor?). Each time your mind drifts to something other than breathing, acknowledge it and bring your attention back to the breathing. You are training your mind to become more focused and, incredibly, your brain will actually adjust and grow (physically) in the area that controls your focus. Try it when you eat by simply slowing down and noticing the taste of the food you are eating.

If you are intrigued, I suggest you give it a real try (not just once, try it for several weeks on a regular basis) and decide for yourself. There is ample scientific evidence supporting the benefits but if you’re like me, you’ll be skeptical until you practice it. Have a great and mindful day!