In recent months, mindfulness has been the latest buzzword in corporate America, promising to improve performance, productivity, engagement and happiness for the teams that practice it. Some notable organizations, including Google, Apple and Intel have added mindfulness training programs to their corporate benefits packages.
When people talk about mindfulness training, they are talking about one thing: meditation. In fact, meditation is so often cited as the pathway to mindfulness that most people tend to assume that it is the only way to get there.
But meditation is not always appealing to the busy executive. It can feel a bit too new-agey (if that can be a word,) it is sometimes perceived as having religious undertones, and who has time to just sit and do nothing for 30 minutes a day?
In The Mindfulness Edge, authors Matt Tenney and Tim Gard suggest that busy professionals can incorporate more mindfulness into their day by identifying mundane activities that they carry out throughout the day and using those as an opportunity to be more present. Getting dressed, taking a shower, brushing one’s teeth, cooking, washing dishes, or driving to work are all opportunities to practice “beginner’s mind,” and connect to the present moment by focusing on “what’s happening now.”
This is somewhat aligned with my own mindfulness practice. I don’t spend as much time meditating as I would like to, but I do try to practice mindfulness throughout the day, when brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, or just spending time with my kids.
The corporate adoption of mindfulness is somewhat controversial, with critics claiming that large organizations are dragging out watered down versions of ancient techniques in their latest attempt to lull their workers into some kind of loyalty. I don’t think capitalism always works the way it should. But I think it’s an example of capitalism working well when organizations try to do things that improve their workers’ lives and relationships and they benefit as a result with greater engagement and productivity.
For Tenney and Gard, developing mindfulness not only helps people to become more successful professionally, it also makes them “more kind, more compassionate, and more generous.” As mindfulness spreads, “we can move in the direction of a world inhabited only by people who have replaced the poisons of greed, hate, and other selfishness with the treasures of kindness, compassion and generosity.”
This is what he calls, “saving the world on the way to bathroom.” Simply by practicing mindfulness at routine moments throughout our day, we contribute to our evolution into a kinder, gentle, and more self-aware species. This is an audacious and optimistic vision. But I’m on board, how about you?
References and recommended reading:
Tenney, M. & Gard, T. (2016). The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule. Wiley.
by Jeremy McCarthy