How to (Slowly) Bring Mindfulness to Work

You don't have to be "out there" to bring some mindful practices into your workplace and change up the culture. 

Practicing mindfulness at work has become a mainstream conversation recently and rapidly, yet how many of us are actually able to take up some of the practices suggested? For instance, not every workplace allows their staff to meditate for twenty minutes a day. While the fact that a quarter of major U.S. companies have stress-reduction initiatives in place is encouraging, it’s not the day-to-day reality of most workplaces.

A recent post on the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute blog—a program developed at Google—suggests small ways to bring mindfulness to work without raising eyebrows.

In particular, the blog tackles the topic of bringing mindfulness to meetings. While Mirabai Bush and others who have worked with major companies suggest practicing two or three minutes of mindful meditation before a meeting, Search Inside Yourself tries a modification of that: taking a moment to pause before meetings. From the blog:

Instead of jumping straight into meetings with technical conversations, start with a pause. Ask people to take a moment to just notice where they’re at. If everyone in the room is feeling wired and stressed, jumping straight into the meeting will naturally make the meeting feel wired and stressed.

Instead, take a moment to pause and point out where the group is at. If everyone’s stressed, just point it out. Do so compassionately, without blame. Naming the elephant in the room places the attention of everyone in the group on what’s really going on, instead of just barreling forward. This instantly makes everyone more aware of what’s in the present moment. Just this awareness can make a big difference.

Over time, you can influence others to be more aware of where they’re at emotionally and where their co-workers are at. You can train others to be more mindful, without even mentioning mindfulness.

Taking a pause before meetings sounds feasable, but acknolwedging stress levels in the group might not be a comfortable exercise for most organizations, especially if leaders are not initiating this kind of discussion. To find out how your company ranks in terms of fostering openness, and for pointers on how to broach the subject, you might want to take the compassionate organization quiz. The quiz is based on more than a decade of compassion research conducted by CompassionLab and the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.