The world is on a mindfulness kick, and that’s a good thing. We’re talking about it in the media, even on publications like the Harvard Business Review. Employers and health experts alike are making the case for more mindfulness in our day-to-day life – and people are finally starting to pay attention.
What does an organizational commitment to mindfulness look like? Some might think it means instituting meditation sessions before each staff meeting or mandatory yoga classes at lunch. So what’s wrong with something like this?
Personally, I hate meditating. Well, let me clarify a little bit more. Really, I hate sitting down with a singular focus on my breath. When people suggest meditating, it makes me groan and jump out of my skin.
Some people – even those who know me fairly well – might think my hatred of sitting meditation comes from my Type A personality. Others think it’s a rejection of spiritual or touchy-feeling things. But the truth is that I have a pretty good reason for not enjoying sitting meditation. It’s because I recovered memories of being sexually abused during a sitting meditation session.
And here’s the thing about me today: I am absolutely a big practitioner of mindfulness. I even enjoy a singular focus on my breath, which I achieve through running or intense exercise. I appreciate singular focus – on anything – which has the same kind of mindfulness results, whether an organizing project, a puzzle, weeding the garden or cooking a healthy meal.
For me, working at an organization that required quiet meditation before a meeting would be awful and traumatizing. I’d either have to speak up about why it didn’t work for me, break culture by not participating, or go along with something that made me anxious. Different people have all sorts of associations – good and bad – with various kinds of mindfulness and meditation practice, and that’s totally normal.
If you are thinking about introducing mindfulness to your organization, here are a few things to keep in mind to prevent you from falling into the militant mindfulness trap:
- Don’t assume your go-to mindfulness practice works for others. It’s not one-size-fits-all. Educate yourself about lots of different approaches to grounding, centering, and clearing your mind.
- Rotate the team members who lead a mindfulness session, or even just a warm-up before meetings. You’ll learn so much about other people’s perspectives, and get some creative tools for your mindfulness toolbox!
- If someone resists a particular form of mindfulness or connection, let them opt out. You don’t know their personal background or what might be creating that resistance.
- Recognize that not everyone feels comfortable bringing their full selves to the office. If your organization already has issues with trust and transparency, can you really expect people to sit at a table and close their eyes?
Mindfulness is awesome, and it’s a wonderful contribution to individual lives and to effective organizations. But like anything else, it’s important to remember that your way is not THE way.