In a recent Mindfulness training I gave at an organization, someone spoke up to say that though mindful practices are good, they are really nothing new. My first instinct was to ask, “If this is nothing new then why am I here?” But instead, I inquired as to how they are currently employing this “seasoned” practice to their benefit and to the benefit of others?
What I learned in the conversation that followed was that they were already employing some mindfulness practices but didn’t realize it. They were instead focusing on what wasn’t working at work and came to the workshop in search of a magic bullet to reduce their stress and change people’s negative behavior. In fact, the woman who spoke up earlier went on to ask how she could use mindfulness to “fix her boss.” This received plenty of laughs, mine included.
What we shared and rediscovered that day is that mindfulness in essence really is a magic bullet, though I’m certain the “father of mindfulness” Thich Nhat Han would not appreciate the violent imagery. Still, the analogy works, mindfulness in practice is taking what we already know and employing it whenever we can. If we are lucky enough, we will eventually turn mindfulness into an ongoing habit. Sure, it’s not magic, but it does produce some pretty amazing results including decreased stress, increased concentration and improved working relationships.
So how does one begin to conjure up this magic and employ it in ways that will reduce stress and improve work relationships? Here are four elements of your mindfulness journey that will help you find the magic in mindfulness and renew your faith in its power:
Preparation: This is the formula for success in any endeavor, and mindfulness is no exception. Start by exploring the concept of mindfulness and the benefits of employing the energy of attention. Prepare your mind to be open to discovering new principles and long forgotten truths. What you will soon discover is how much you already know about mindfulness and how it can improve your work life. But be warned, you may also realize how much you need and want to learn.
Practice: Then begin practicing. When I went through my eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, one of my biggest takeaways was that mindfulness practice only takes a few minutes each day. I was thrilled. As busy as I am coupled with how desperate I was to adopt a mindfulness practice, I had found a solution. Ten minutes a day of practicing focus on my breath, my work, my eating, my walking—whatever I chose to practice on, I would start retraining my brain to be more mindful, healthier and happier. That is indeed magical.
Breathing: So, I told the audience that they’d receive a pop quiz on what they have learned to date in class. I then asked them to take a deep breath and asked them to tell me what they were feeling. I then walked them through meditative breathing exercise and afterward asked them to think about what they had learned in class to date. What was interesting to me is the difference in engagement once they completed the breathing exercise. According to the participants, they suddenly felt calmer and had more clarity on what they were absorbing and sharing from there the takeaways grew.
Stress Less: Another key context of conversation revolved around stress reduction. I do not need to reiterate the lengthy research on how mindfulness improves focus and reduces stress. But I will remind you of the direct correlation it has to reducing work-related stress. Mindfulness is all about focus. And when you focus, you are productive and clear-headed. You get results and you achieve goals. Mindfulness is the exercise required to retrain your brain on this process.
These elements of mindfulness are where the magic really comes to life. When you start down the path of practicing mindfulness, you’ll be drawn in by the results and promise. Imagine, cultivating a work environment where you are listened when spoken to, considered, not judged and where everyone is respected for their differences, supported and trusted. Still, it takes practice. The first couple attempts could be misfires, but if you’re willing to put forth the effort, the results will be magical.
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.