Clear Your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow
A few years back I attended a TEDx session in Lethbridge. I went because a mentor of mine was scheduled to speak. When she announced her topic, mindfulness, I was very intrigued. Mindfulness had been coming up as a meditation tool amongst my group of friends, but this was the first I had heard of mindfulness in a business context. My mentor gave a great visual. She walked across the stage, leaning forward, head down focused on the future – reaching for the future with her body language. It was not mindful. Then explaining that mindfulness is about engaging in the moment, about “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” She stood up straight and walked across the stage looking at things purposefully and thoughtfully. The second demonstration looked much more enjoyable. She noted that in being mindful the stress of future tasks went away. The stress of past decisions were no longer a distraction and that business and life became more enjoyable.
That talk comes back to me often. My job has me running to a lot of meetings while also getting done the day-to-day operational tasks. At times jumping from heads-up meetings to head-down desk work can be draining. And it is easy to sit in a meeting and run through a to-do list in my head, which takes me out of the moment. When that happens, I get anxious and bored wondering, “when will this meeting end?” It is in that moment that I must remember to be mindful.
I typically count two or three breaths, noticing how the air fills my lungs and how my chest rises and falls. This little trick helps me engage in the moment. If you are thinking only about breathing, the past and the future stay in their place. I can then engage in the meeting. Paying attention in a purposeful way and noticing the details has made meetings more enjoyable and more productive for me.
More and more businesses are adopting mindfulness strategies into their operations, companies like Google, General Mills, Intel, and Goldman Sachs. The research is showing this investment leads to an improvement in innovative thinking, to better communication skills, and to more appropriate reactions to stress.
Want to incorporate pieces of mindfulness into your day? Try Mindful.org’s five tips:
1. Choose to start your day. Begin each day by noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed, as thoughts of the day pop into your mind, let them go and return to your breath. Researchers have found the morning is the most stressful time of the day as thoughts of the day ahead bombard our mind.
2. Use transitions wisely. Choose some days to drive to and from work without the radio on. When you arrive at your destination, allow yourself a few moments to sit in the car, noticing your breath.
3. Nourish yourself. Mindfully eat your lunch paying attention to the flavours, textures, and smells of the food.
4. Just walk between meetings. Don’t interrupt your walk with checking emails or texts. Feel your feet on the floor, the air on your skin, and greeting colleagues you pass rather than bumping into them as you text.
5. Sit at your desk. Take a moment while your computer is turning on, place your feet flat on the floor, and notice the sensations in your body as you sit. Grab an item on your desk and examine it for thirty seconds focusing only on that object and its details.
Mindfulness matches Fernie lifestyle. I met some business owners in the parking lot of the Chamber just prior to writing this article. They had gone for a mid-morning bike ride. I teased them about being hard at work. They responded that if you don’t make time for it, it doesn’t happen, and we are all in Fernie to enjoy the lifestyle. So, just as we take time to enjoy Fernie for its lifestyle, schedule time for mindfulness, to focus on the present, and to engage in the moment, whether at your desk or on the top of a mountain.