The business world is reaping the benefits of this simple idea

When was the last time you did nothing?

When I say nothing, I mean nothing!  No TV, no web surfing, no emailing, no texting, no phone calls, Nothing! Not even mesmerizing about your past love life or planning your next trip.

We wake up each morning stressed and worried thinking about the bills we need to pay, the issues we need to settle with your boss, and the things we need to do for the day. Every one of us runs an unceasing internal dialogue through our heads.  We allow our unconscious mind to ruminate in the past and sometimes even the future.  Incessant mind wanderingimpairs the quality of our life.  

The Purposeful Silence

Everyone needs to engage in a period of silence now and then. Silence is the first practice we need to hone to manage our boisterous, agitated and chaotic lifestyles.

We need to strengthen the life-transforming power of purposeful silence. “Purposeful”means that you submit yourself to a period of silence with a meaningful purpose in mind.  The greatest minds in history have employed silence as a practice to overcome their limiting beliefs and produce remarkable outcomes.  Matthew Kelly states a tall order in his bestselling book, “The Rhythm of Life,”

“You can learn more in an hour of silence than you can in a year from books.”

A bold statement from a sage man.  Silence is excellent in reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, and gaining clarity to help you focus on your important life goals.  Meditation is one activity you can master to realize these significant health benefits. The core of meditation is enhancing our ability to bring back our attention to the present moment. Just be.

Highly successful CEOs and celebrities like Sting, Russell Simmons, Kobe Bryant, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah, to name a few, have announced that regular meditation has become an integral part of their daily life. TupperwareTM  CEO Rick Goings told The Financial Times that he practiced meditation at least 20 minutes every day.  He quipped,

“For me, [meditation] is a practice that not only burns off stress but gives me fresh eyes to clarify what’s really going on and what really matters,”  

Moreover, Oprah told Dr. Oz that meditation has helped her “connect with God,” according to the Huffington Post.

There is a certain form of meditation that is catching on in the business world for good reasons.  It’s called Mindfulness meditation. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness is,

“The awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and not- judgmentally, as if your life depended on it.”

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises in the present moment. It is cultivated by paying attention to your breath and body on purpose, and without judgment.

Mindfulness in the workplace

Below is a list of organizations and industries actively practicing Mindfulness:

  1. Goldman Sachs – Bill George, a board member, is espousing the virtues of meditation. Traders and Investment Bankers are practicing Mindfulness trying to gain a competitive edge.
  2. Facebook – they have re-tooled some of their algorithms to make the social network more compassionate. They created a compassion research days.
  3. General Mills – there’s a meditation room in every building on their corporate campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA.
  4. In Health Care – Doctors, nurses and patients are all finding value in Mindfulness in Meditation. It makes them more resilient in the long 12 hrs of work shifts. Patients discovered that Mindfulness meditation might not make the pain go away, but it can help them manage their suffering. 
  5. In the Academe –  Teachers find that mindfulness can help them deal with naughty the little children. Students discovered Mindfulness can help them improve their test scores and were more focused on their studies.
  6. In Sports – Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson made Mindfulness a training fundamental.  It helped them win in 2 consecutive Superbowl.
  7. In the World Economic Forum – in Davos, everyday they start with an hour of Mindfulness meditation led by John Kabat- Zinn, the guys who got this movement going and has sustained the practice for decades.
  8. In the US Military – it helped the Marines and Army become more resilient on the battlefield.

A Mindful Magazine was produced to document the whole range of professionals (doctors, lawyers, police officers, nurses,) who are embracing Mindfulness practice.

Here are more organizations on the list:

Google, Apple, IBM, PWC, KPMG, AETNA, and recently Ebay  Safeway, Target, McKinsey & Company, Deutsche Bank, Procter & Gamble, Astra Zeneca, Most major Univ Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, Brown University. Oxford even developed a Masters degree on Mindfulness.

Straight from the horse’s mouth

Mark Bertolini, the CEO of AETNA, a USD 40 B Fortune 500 company and one of the biggest health care provider in the US, almost died from a skiing accident back while on vacation with his family.  He broke his collarbone, dislocated his shoulder,   and tore majority of the nerves in his right arm.  When he went home, he could barely work due to excruciating body pains.  With the pain so severe he almost quit his job.  He tried drugs and physical therapy, it both didn’t work.  He was suffering to the point that he wanted to end his career.  Then finally, a friend suggested that he tries yoga.  At first, he said, “No way! Yoga is for sissies.”  Mark was a serious type of an executive.

Eventually, he agreed to give it a try.  He went to his first yoga class.  He did his sun salutations.  He got through the process but the next day he was so sore that he wanted to get back to drugs again. He realized that yoga is not for the faint of heart.

Over time, he became a devoted you yogee.  And that led to an experience of Mindfulness.  He started practicing Mindfulness meditation.  Several months later, he noticed significant improvements in his condition.   He’s off the drugs; he still feels pain, but he’s not suffering as much.  He learned to manage the pain more effectively.  And Aetna did better than ever. He said, “If it works for me, why don’t we bring it to our employees.”  He called his Chief Medical Officer, “I want to teach Mindfulness to Aetna employees.” Surprised with his decisions,  the CMO disagreed with the idea.  “Are you crazy?”, Just because everyone else is meditating, it doesn’t mean that your employees will have to do as well.

Mark said, “We are an evidence-based company let’s give it a try.”  The CMO replied, “Fine! Start with a small pilot, 100 employees on both coasts.” They offered free (and optional) yoga and meditation classes to the first batch and ran it for a few months.  They got Duke University to measure the results.

They found out that the employees loved it.  The quality of life and productivity has gone up.  They also seem to be healthier and less stressed.  Because of the positive results they rolled it out to about 50,000-plus employees around the US. Out of the 13,000 employees who espoused the Mindfulness classes that year, they found a 28 percent reduction in the employees stress levels, there was 20 percent improvement in their sleep quality, and according to the data, they gained 62 minutes of increased productivity.

The health care cost of the company dropped dramatically.  It went down 9% that year, and that’s a whopping USD 7M savings for the firm.

Mindfulness Meditation offers the opportunity to step back and get a different perspective of the world.  You realize that things aren’t always what they may seem. We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it.  Be aware and familiarize yourself with the present moment so you get to experience the greatest sense of focus and clarity in your life.

Have you tried any form of meditation?  What works for you?  How was your experience?  I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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