Keeping calm amid volatile markets—sounds like the hedge-fund managers’ version of: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them,” a popular saying by mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn. Indeed, if Wall Street brokers are learning the benefits of meditation—not to make millions but to tend to things outside of the traditional definition of success (like fostering creativity and lowering stress levels)—what might it do for police, Marines, or indeed, all of us?
What is meditation?
“Most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind,” says meditation expert Andy Puddicombe at the 2012 TedSalon.
“It’s more about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly—witnessing it coming and going—without judgment, but with a relaxed, focused mind.”
There are many forms of meditation, but it’s best to begin with the basics. Here’s a seated meditation practice:
1. Take your seat. Whatever you’re sitting on—a chair, a meditation cushion, a park bench—find a spot that gives you a stable, solid seat, not perching or hanging back.
2. Straighten—but don’t stiffen—your upper body. The spine has natural curvature. Let it be there. Your head and shoulders can comfortably rest on top of your vertebrae.
3. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently down-ward. You may let your eyelids lower. If you feel the need, you may lower them completely, but it’s not necessary to close your eyes when meditating. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
4. Be there for a few moments. RELAX. Follow your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils, or notice the rise and fall of the belly. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Continue for 5 or 10 minutes. Now get up and go about your day. And if the next thing on the agenda is doing some mindfulness practice by paying attention to your breath or the sensations in your body, you’ve started off on the right foot—and hands and arms and everything else.
Mindfulness Techniques for Work
And if you’re looking for short mindfulness practices you can bring to your job, you might want to take a look at “Putting Mindfulness to Work, ” by Tara Healey, program director for Mindfulness-Based Learning at Harvard Pilgrim.
“Mindfulness interrupts the conditioned responses that prevent us from exploring new avenues of thought, choking our creative potential,” says Healey. “We become less likely in the future to default to patterns that can trap us into being satisfied with ineffective and outmoded strategies.
“We take steps to improve not only how we are at work but the work environment itself.”