Mindfulness: Why it Moved from the Yoga Studio to the Business Board Room

Only a few years ago, if I mentioned the term Mindfulness of Meditation to my executive coaching clients or the leadership groups they would politely smile back at me. Business and government leaders relayed that mindfulness “is not my thing.” One senior executive said slowing down to “be all Zen means I would lose my competitive edge – I am driven, ambitious and a serious runner. How could Mindfulness ever help me?”  How times have changed.

Mindfulness is no longer esoteric, it is now in vogue more than ever and I  think this is a wonderful trend.  High charged organizations such as Google, Goldman Sachs, American Express and the US Army and helping leaders learn about the benefits of mindfulness.  Some of the biggest cheerleaders for mindfulness at work include Superbowl football coach @PeteCaroll of the Seattle Sea Hawks, ABC News Anchorman Dan Harris, Oprah and many others. There are Apps for your Iphone on how to meditate and over 7,000 books listed on Amazon on the topic of Mindfulness. This fall, I will be  attending a Mindful Leader Summit in my hometown of Washington, DC on how to incorporate mindfulness in leadership and organizations (http://www.mindfulleader.org/#home) and will share insights in future blogs from the conference.

Yet, mindfulness and meditative practices are still foreign or unavailable concepts to most people. Managers, leaders and employees would benefit  from only a few minutes a day of reflection.

In my book Anytime Coaching, we decode the essential qualities of mindfulness to make them accessible to everyone. We prefer the term PAF instead of mindfulness. What is PAF? It is simply being present, being aware, being focused. Here is the good news: The route to PAF comes in many forms and can be easily be incorporated in your daily routine without adding another “to do” item to the list. . Here are some examples of PAF:

  • Close your eyes and focus on taking 5-7 deep breathes at least twice during the day;
  • During your lunch break, take time to actually enjoy what you are eating.
  • Get a few minutes of fresh air during the day, breathe deeply. Notice the fresh air and how it feels when you breathe. Notice your thoughts and try to clear your head of work thoughts during these deep breathes;
  • Walk from your car or metro station to the office and practicing mindful walking – pay attention to your steps and breathing, how they work together instead of looking at your Iphone. Notice the sound of your footsteps.
  • Enjoy a good cup of coffee at the beginning of the day or glass of wine (or tea) at the end of the day. Sip your drink mindfully, savor the flavors slowly, take in the aroma. Be aware of how much you enjoy the flavor of the wine or coffee.
  • Focus on your breathe in the morning before work during a more formal seated meditation practice.

So, mindfulness is no longer in yoga studios. Why has it gone mainstream into business? The following are four reasons to consider for starting a mindfulness practice or bringing mindfulness to work:

  1. Helps you Stay Focused and Overcome Cognitive Capacity Overload: Having difficulty focusing? Feeling overwhelmed with everything to do and not enough time. You are not alone. More and more people are feeling the effects of today’s overwhelmed, multi-tasking, fast paced world. In my book #AnytimeCoaching, we have named this feeling Cognitive Capacity Overload or CCO, the feeling when you have too many items running through your mind. Cultivating mindfulness and having a meditation practice can help overcome the feeling of CCO.  . Some studies indicate that with only 12-20 minutes practice per day of meditation for a few weeks have a better ability to shut out distractions and maintain longer focus. In today’s workplace, this type of focus is a true competitive advantage.
  1. Meditation has Terrific Health Benefits: Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of mindfulness, such as: reducing the stress hormone cortisol in your body, lowering fatigue and anxiety (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science).
  1. It is Free and Can Be Practiced Almost Anywhere: Buddhist monks have practiced mindfulness meditation for thousands of years. Although we have apps, videos and podcasts to help us meditate, once you have learned the basics it can practiced anywhere (at home, work, during travel). Meditation is essentially free.
  1. You have to Breathe Anyways – Why Not Incorporate Mindfulness: One of the easiest ways to get started with mindfulness is learning how to focus on your breathe. Notice where you mind goes where you are breathing and go back to focusing on Pay attention to the inhale and exhale. You have to breathe any ways, so why not learn how to do so mindfully. It will not only calm your sympathetic nervous system, it is also very relaxing and can sharpen your focus as indicated above

If you are confused about the different types of meditation, see a great @HuffPostBlog article entitled “What’s the Difference between Mindfulness, Mindfulness Meditation and Basic Meditation”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ira-israel/types-of-mindfulness_b_3347428.html

So, come on and join me on the mindfulness bandwagon. Namaste.