How some of the world’s biggest companies are embracing mindfulness

The Financial Times is probably not the first paper that comes to mind if you were considering reading  about mindfulness. However, recently they ran a very good report on how meditation and mindfulness are  part of a huge change in some parts of corporate culture. Some of it is in response to the challenging economic climate we work in, as 25% of all large U.S. companies have launched stress reduction initiatives in recent years. However, some is due to a change in understanding, a recognition of the health needs of employees, and a belief that inner and outer life has to be balanced in a happy and productive employee.  What is encouraging is seeing how some companies are structuring this holistic balance into their environments. For example, General Mills, the company behind Cheerios cereal and Häagen-Dazs ice cream, have a meditation room in every building in their Campus, where employees can drop in to recharge batteries, renew focus or simply take a break from meetings or conference calls. A lot of the U.S and world’s leading companies are involved in this new dialogue, such as Google. Twitter, LinkedIn and Target, and the article goes on to show that, besides health benefits, it also seems to have an impact on cost savings, productivity and leadership quality.

It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected, says Janice Marturano, General Mills’ deputy general counsel, who founded the programme there. That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us – our colleagues, customers – that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this article and the whole of it is worth a read. You can check it out here:

The mind business – FT.com (3)

A sense of space

The key thing here is, try not to watch the breath, but try feeling it go in and out, so you feel one with the breath. Just see if from the beginning you can minimize that sense of heavy-duty watching it, and just feel the breath going in and out. …. Then start to emphasize the outwardness and the space that the breath goes into, and emphasize that more and more. And then just see if you can let that sense of outwardness and space begin to pervade the whole practice more and more.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Basing ourselves on firmer ground

In the West many of us can live in physical comfort, yet because we are continually being presented with more refined commodities or changing standards by which to measure ourselves, there’s not much contentment. And there are social and group pressures. A person might very well feel that if they’re not wearing the ‘right’ clothes their job is at risk, so they have to bear this in mind. People can become depressed, even neurotic, if their bodies don’t match up to the current standards of beauty, or if their personality is not smart enough, cynical enough, seedy enough – whatever the fashion is. We want to avoid losing out on good opportunities, and we fear the loneliness of not having any friends. So there can be a nervous feeling of inadequacy and insecurity which deprives us of a sense of trust in our innate worth as a human being.

So because of just this, it’s important that we sense and define ourselves as ‘being’ apart from those currents, if only to get onto some firmer ground. And what really helps is to be able to calm and collect the mind, and to develop oneself in what gives greater benefit. How you attend creates the dwelling place of the mind. So if we can begin to experience clarity and empathy for ourselves and others, we find ourselves living in a more appreciative and balanced way that encourages goodness to develop.

Ajahn Sucitto, Kamma and the End of Kamma

Anchoring the mind in stormy weather

Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather – our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind. We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, we can return to this peaceful source of life.

We may like to recite: Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”

We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into everyday life.

Thich Nhat Hahn

The desert of the heart

The summer was like a resort — you knew your way around. But then you needed to return to the desert of your heart. The lengthy solitude begins, the days turn dull again; the wind removes, like wilted leaves, the world you once could name. Through branches bare the sky looks down, the only sky you have; be ground now, evening song and land, with which this sky can blend. Be subject like a tool for use, mature and fit for much— so he, of whom we often heard, will know you at his touch.

Rilke, The Book of Hours

Learning from the out-breath

When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our mind wanders off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, ‘It’s thinking.’ We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out-breath, that’s fundamentally renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back.

Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape