The CEO strode into the executive
suite, asked his secretary to hold his calls and closed his
office door behind him. Preparing for a major meeting? Working
on strategy? Fuming over staff issues?
Inside his office he placed a
cushion on the floor, sat down, crossed his legs, closed his
eyes - and remained there for 20 minutes.
Meditation has gone mainstream. It
has shifted from the ashram to the boardroom, from the guru to
the General Manager.
But why this interest in
meditation in the hard-nosed world of business?
According to the Meditation
Foundation, an organisation offering evidence-based,
non-religious meditation and mindfulness courses, there are
specific benefits for businesses including reduced staff
absenteeism, improved concentration, memory, learning ability
and creativity, increased productivity, better relationships and
reduced staff turnover.
Writing for the Harvard Business
Review, author and business strategist, Peter Bregman, claims
that meditation makes you more productive by increasing your
capacity to resist distracting urges.
"Research shows that an ability to
resist urges will improve your relationships, increase your
dependability, and raise your performance," he says. "If you can
resist your urges, you can make better, more thoughtful
decisions. You can be more intentional about what you say and
how you say it. You can think about the outcome of your actions
before following through on them".
Although used by religions,
meditation is not necessarily a religious process. It is a
refreshing mind exercise which helps you focus on what is
happening now. It is an excellent stress reducer and helps you
cope with the information and communication overload we
constantly live with. It is not as much about communing with the
gods as about communing with yourself to understand where your
thoughts are taking you.
Meditation is an awareness raising
exercise. Through spending time in quietness we become aware of
the thoughts that cross our minds, and the thoughts our minds so
easily follow down the rabbit hole. We become aware of the
effects of our thoughts on our actions and emotions, and we
learn to select which thoughts to stay with and work with and
which thoughts to ignore.
In meditation we discover that we
are not our thoughts. Thoughts are a product of who we are, but
we are not them and we can choose to identify with them or not.
So in the silence of meditation I
find I am thinking about the fact that I was overlooked for
promotion. I allow that thought to linger. Fairly soon I begin
to feel the emotions attached to that thought - anger, fear,
rejection. And in no time my mind is off down the rabbit hole
and following that thought to its illogical and not so helpful
conclusion - I feel upset, distracted and unmotivated and I am
sure I am useless, incompetent and about to be fired.
However, experience in meditation
allows me to stand back from the thought and observe without
identifying with it. As soon as I become aware that I am
thinking, I can choose not to think, not to follow the thought.
I may recognise that I would feel angry and rejected. But I will
also recognise that this train of thought will have no benefit
for me. So I choose not to follow it.
That is the benefit of meditation
- the ability to become aware of our thinking and take control
of it. We know how easy it is to be off and away on a thought
before we are even aware that we are doing it. And we are aware
of how distracting and unhelpful some of those thoughts can be.
They are unhelpful either because they raise negative emotions
about issues that cannot be resolved, or they are useful
thoughts occurring at the wrong time.
Through meditation we develop the
"mind muscle" that puts us back in control of our thoughts,
choosing which thoughts to follow and when to follow them. It
helps us cut through the morass of distractions which we
encounter all the time, and remain focussed on what needs to be
dealt with in the present moment
The irony is that to produce more,
you need to spend some time doing nothing.
Jonathan Payne is the owner
of Powermind Plus, an entrepreneur support system, based in
Durban, South Africa. He coaches, facilitates group action
learning sessions, conducts seminars, presents motivational
talks, writes articles and generally helps small business owners
and entrepreneurs stay on top of their game. Find out more about
his work at http://www.powermindplus.biz