Presence at Work

Presence at Work

Why bring meditation and mindfulness into the workplace?

Meditation, mindfulness, and awareness practices help people navigate volatility and radical change with more presence and ease.

A friend who works in investor relations mentioned volatile stock markets are very challenging for people who don’t have a practice that helps them stay present.  He said it’s especially difficult for younger people who have not witnessed the cycles of the market.

“They don’t know the stock market will go up again; they think they’re going to be fired.”

Meditation and mindfulness practices also support the overall well-being of employees.

Meditators, especially, report increased clarity, the ability to access deep insights, and enhanced creativity.

What is mindfulness?

From Jon Kabat Zinn, who created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

When defining mindfulness, people typically mention being in the present moment, not lost in thinking—ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.

A Buddhist monk, Jinmyo Renge Osho, describes mindfulness this way:

Mindfulness is… attending to our experience as it actually is—directly, without strategy, without interpretation.

Practicing attentiveness is releasing yourself into the sensations and colors and forms and sounds. It is letting go of the endless internalized babble of self-image to experience the body-mind and the world in which it arises as they actually are.

Why do you use other terms like presence and awareness?

Mindfulness is a foundational concept from Buddhism—one that we badly need in the age of distraction. It’s certainly a positive development that meditation and mindfulness have become mainstream. However, there are other ways of talking about “awake” states in the present moment that some people find more potent. For example, we can ask:

Am I:
Present or absent?
Conscious or unconscious?
In a state of contraction or a state of expansion?
In the grip of ego or do I have access to some space, mentally?

I like the term presence as it anchors me in the present moment.

What works for you?

What do you recommend for Type A personalities and people who work in competitive environments?

In the age of “agile,” when everyone is expected to produce with ever-increasing speed, the concept of being rather than doing can be hard to grasp.

I worked on Wall Street, in global banking, for many years, so I have some ideas on what might help. Here are a few tips:

Slow down. Do one thing at a time.

Recognize that every moment is an opportunity to cultivate presence—to tune into your breath, and to become aware of your thoughts and emotions, the sensations in your body, and what’s happening around you.

Eckhart Tolle, Teacher of presence, recommends we: “take pauses throughout the day to create spaciousness.”

For many people, it’s also helpful to commit to a daily meditation practice. For others, a physical practice like yoga, tai chi, or dance, can be done in a meditative way.

A great meditation koan for my many friends who work in competitive environments or who have Type A personalities is: Practice without gaining mind.

For those conditioned to maximize every minute to gain something, this koan cuts through to the heart of the matter. What a relief it is when we drop gaining mind and relax into the present moment.

What’s helpful for those who live in their heads?

Jack Kornfield talks about James Joyce’s character Mr. Duffy, “who lived a short distance from his body.”

In the age of distraction, a lot of us can be like Mr. Duffy—disembodied, so lost in thought, we’re not in touch with what’s below the neck, the sensations in our bodies or the ground beneath our feet.

It can be helpful to ask, “Am I in my body?” Or simply bring your awareness to your breath and the soles of your feet connecting to the earth.

Father Thomas Keating, who was a meditation master, remarked that mindfulness is a kind of heartfulness.

Many traditions believe that the seat of our awareness is in the heart center. Breathing in and out of the heart center is a potent practice for getting us out of our heads and into a more present state.

In the physical practice of yoga, we reconnect to the center of pure being in the belly center. We can also open that center in meditation. When we’re connected to the heart center and the belly center, we have access to our deeper, more embodied wisdom.

Aside from presence, it makes sense to talk about the nature of awareness. Regardless of whether we embrace a wisdom tradition or a secular approach, what we’re exploring is our awareness.

How do we overcome challenges to adoption?

Integrating a new habit into our daily life can be challenging, especially if we’re already pressed for time.

In the beginning, it’s usually best if our daily practice is short. When practices are short, we’re more likely to practice every day. Over time, the practices deepen organically.

It’s important to cultivate the habit of being gentle with ourselves. This is especially important for people who have harsh inner critics.

We need to make a real commitment to practice in order to overcome the inner and outer obstacles that may surface. A Teacher can provide the coaching, insights, and support to help you overcome these obstacles.

To make these programs work in organizations, a skillful internal communication program is key. These programs are most effective if they’re customized for your culture and unique needs.

Please feel free to contact me if you if you’re interested in learning how to meditate and cultivate presence yourself, or if you want to bring these practices into your organization.