Time to declare a pet hate. Have you noticed that, lately, more and more people answer the “how are you?” question with something like “so busy”? And it’s usually said with genuine enthusiasm – and often boastfulness – as though the degree to which we’d be impressed is in direct proportion to the intensity of their busyness.
I’ve started replying to the “so busy” refrain with pity. “Oh really? I hope it gets better for you soon.” In a world that inordinately values the relentless doing of stuff, I’ve found the people most worthy of admiration are those that make a concerted effort to not be busy. To, you know, prioritise life.
That’s why it’s interesting that many organisations are embracing meditation in the workplace. In the one environment where busyness metrics reign supreme, it’s quite telling that employers are recognising the need for workers to simply pause and breathe.
It’s a practice being implemented in a variety of ways. Some leaders start team meetings with a five-minute guided meditation, during which an experienced facilitator talks the participants through the process. Others begin the day with a voluntary mindfulness session. And for those especially keen, some companies provide extended meditation programs at lunch breaks.
If you watched Air Ways on Channel Seven a couple of weeks ago, you might recall a poet named Oonagh Moodling who used her meditative talents to get onto a packed flight. Away from reality television she is, among other things, a facilitator of meditation techniques. I asked her why she’s such an advocate.
“The improved state of calm achieved through even a few minutes of genuine meditative practice increases one's ability to be productive under pressure,” she said. “Workers who meditate tend to find everything that must get done does get done ... only more calmly, less fearfully and more lovingly.”
It’s a view supported by research. A study at the University of Washington found that employees who meditated were able to focus on a task for a longer period of time and were less easily distracted than their colleagues. Even their memory improved. Their stress levels, too, changed for the better.
Apparently it’s not that hard to do. Dr Craig Hassed is a senior lecturer at Monash University and the founding president of the Australian Teachers of Meditation Association. He shared with me, using a charming selection of words, the ways in which people can incorporate meditation at work:
“It is good to punctuate our day with mindfulness practice. For example, have a five-minute full stop before and after the working day, and then lots of commas of 15-60 seconds during the day as you transition from one job or meeting to another.”
To help people get started, physician and writer Deepak Chopra has produced dozens of video clips. One of these, published earlier this year, provides a simple guide:
- Sit quietly with your eyes closed and with no agenda
- Try that for a few days for 10 to 15 minutes at a time
- Then, start to concentrate more on your breath
- As you progress, reflect on questions that are important to you
- Alternatively, repeat a mantra, such as “om” or affirmative statements that begin with “I am … ”
I admit to Oonagh Moodling that there’s something about meditation that still makes me somewhat sceptical. Sitting at work with my eyes closed breathing consciously with colleagues? I just don’t think it’s my kind of thing – and I reckon many people feel the same.
In regards to the sceptics, she says: “Although some people remain sceptical about the positive effects of meditation in the workplace, they are unlikely to be the ones practicing it, which immediately calls into question their opinion.”
Hmmm, good point.
Do you meditate at work? What have been your experiences? Leave a comment.
Follow James Adonis on Twitter @jamesadonis