Mindfulness in the workplace

Earlier this week I visited the SODEXO office in Gaithersburg, Maryland. As a guest speaker, I was invited to talk about intuition in the workplace. I met with a wonderful group of employees with a strong desire to better understand intuition and experience more mindfulness at work.

Mindfulness, as I defined it in my presentation, is the process of allowing intuitions from our higher wisdom to flow into our awareness. Our higher wisdom is the part of us that is endlessly intelligent and infinitely compassionate towards ourselves and others. Our higher wisdom resides “at the mountain top”: It has a panoramic view of our life and always knows where we need to head. It’s the part of us that we want to lean into and trust because it is our true master.

Our challenge, as humans, is that we have a lower mind to contend with. The lower mind resides in the physical brain and, unlike our higher wisdom, its perspective is “down in the valley”. Although its view is very limited, we defer heavily to the lower mind, ultimately allowing the less intelligent part of us to run the show.

The left brain in particular – which is the center for logic, analysis, reasoning and linear thinking – helps us manage the practical aspects of our lives. The left brain is useful for shaping ideas, structuring thought, organizing information, converting insight into practice, creating timelines, etc. However, at work, we fall into the trap of overthinking. This happens when our left brain becomes hyperactive, leaving no space for our brilliant higher wisdom to flow in.

Here’s the deal: We want to reverse the relationship so that our physical mind – and the left brain in particular – bows in service to our higher wisdom. Otherwise, we will continue to lock ourselves within the confines of what the lower mind can envision for us: A box.

Here are three practical tips to boost mindfulness at work:

  1. Hold regularly scheduled meetings – with YOURSELF. Regular meditation, over time, trains our left brain to settle down and make room for guidance from our higher wisdom. Schedule one hour each day to meet with yourself in meditation. Of course, this is not an opportunity to catch up on work or emails, eat, plan dinner or even listen to music. Remove yourself from all electronics and dedicate the hour to disconnect from it all. Start with five minutes and work your way up. The remainder of the hour should be used to journal all feelings, sensations and intuitions that came up.
  2. Say ‘no’ to overworking. We pride ourselves in working long days and mentally wrestling with projects for hours on end. Excessive perseverance comes at the price of suppressing our inner genius. We should alert ourselves and our employees to interrupt the mind-frenzy even if doing so doesn’t feel natural. When our lower mind hijacks a project, it convinces us that we are making progress – though in reality we are on a hamster wheel. Override the urge to keep going and learn to let go.
  3. Meditate during group meetings. During the first and last five minutes of each group meeting, encourage all attendees to close their eyes and meditate. Dim the lights, if possible, to encourage calm and relaxation. Invite attendees to document and share any feelings, intuitions and sensations if they feel comfortable doing so.
  4. Create a meditation room. This is especially critical for employees in cubicles; meditation should not be reserved only for those who occupy an office and/or leadership position! Make it available to everyone by dedicating a small room/quiet space for meditation. You don’t need much – a chair and dim lighting will suffice. The room should be free of clutter, electronics and distractions, which means that the mail and photocopy rooms are not an option (eek!).
  5. Hold a weekly wellness day. Pick one day of the week to invite a holistic practitioner to offer employees brief therapeutic sessions. You can alternate between Reiki, massage, yoga and sound healing – all excellent options to restore inner calm.

The busy-ness of business restricts us from experiencing greater levels of peace, joy and success. Between group meetings, emails, phone calls, tasks and projects, we are left with little time to tune into our feelings and intuitions about work. The constant go-go-go means that we are emptying our tank without ever refilling it. How much can we truly give if our tank is empty? Mindfulness practices can restore feelings of inner abundance and generosity of spirit so that we can contribute more meaningfully to our jobs.