Mindfulness. It’s everywhere these days … even in the world of corporate training. Some seem to think this is a good idea, and others are skeptical. Whether they consider mindfulness as spiritual “mumbo-jumbo,” or whether they worry that a spiritual practice is being co-opted by corporate America to make an extra buck, there is a lot being said about mindfulness, and clearly not everyone agrees. Does mindfulness really have merit? Is it just a passing fad? Can it have an impact on our work lives?
I took a class on mindfulness about six years ago after realizing that when I was working, I was thinking about what I needed to do next at home, and when I was at home, I was worrying about what I needed to do next for work. It was as though there was a mouse on a wheel in my head, spinning out thought after thought. I had to stop the mouse, and a friend of mine told me mindfulness could do just that.
The mindfulness class I attended was taught at a hospital by a medical doctor. It was packed with all different types of people: Young, old, a yoga instructor, a medical student, a lawyer, a writer, and people living with chronic pain, trying to relieve anxiety, searching for peace, hoping to find focus. It was a great experience. And kudos to the doctor, because he made sure his instruction resonated with everyone. Yes, we did meditate, letting our thoughts come, acknowledging them, and then letting them go without reaction or judgment. But we also walked, ate food, listened to music, and talked to each other, always intentionally focusing only on what we were doing. In between the weekly classes, we completed homework assignments, such as directing our full attention to what it was like to drive, to wait in line, and to listen to someone’s voice on the phone.
I know this seems so simple, but honestly, it can be hard to stop the mouse on the wheel! And with all the distractions we have today, being mindful of the one thing we’re doing does require intention and determination.
So to answer my own questions: yes, mindfulness does have merit. I’ve continued to return to what I learned during that class over and over again when I can’t focus or when I need to clear extraneous thoughts from my mind. And, no, I don’t think mindfulness is a fad. More than ever, we need a practice that will help us address the crazy pace and interruptions of modern life, so we can truly connect with what we’re doing and with whom we’re doing it. And yes, I believe mindfulness can have an impact on our work life. If we can teach people to be mindful at work, whether by taking a few minutes to clear their thoughts through meditation or by focusing their attention only on the task they’re doing or the person with whom they’re working, they will experience less stress, more positive emotions, and better relationships with colleagues. And who wouldn’t want that?