Proceed with mindfulness
Overwork robbing you of sleep. Quiet accumulations of rage. Not knowing where to turn. Many people experience such things from time to time. Ten employees from several different departments have attended a multi-week mindfulness seminar with exercises designed to help them cope with stress. The programme, which was led by Meike Ludwigs, a trainer from the Kalapa Academy, covered both theory and practice. This is a report from one of the participants. Continue reading
What is mindfulness? Well, everyone knows what Yoga is, and most of us can imagine what it entails. But even though “mindfulness” is something of a current trend, many people just shrug their shoulders whenever life-fulfilment is mentioned. And things were no different for me and my fellow seminar participants. We nevertheless came to see how mindfulness is a “soft” approach to tackling the rigours of everyday life. The techniques help you to relax and reduce stress – no yoga mat needed – with an approach that aims to let you live more in the here and now. One important part of the method is meditation. The many meditation sessions involved focussing on the moment and, whenever possible, thinking of absolutely nothing. This “thinking of nothing” was something that I found particularly difficult, although, according to the seminar leader, we have already made a big step if we are aware of our current state of mind. This is because “being aware” is an integral part of a mindful approach to life and work. This entails reflecting on decisions, instead of proceeding with haste, while taking notice of our body signals and gaining an understanding of work colleagues. Things that appear to be self-evident are – as we all know – sometimes very difficult in everyday life, and this requires training.
A conversation with no “buts”
One exercise, for example, consisted of several minutes of walking in the fresh air, while concentrating on a single sense; be it smell, sight or feeling. I can recommend that you try this out whenever you have a free moment.
A mindful approach to life does not just apply to yourself; it also concerns our fellow humans. This means communicating without prejudice, and listening to others – likewise something that we practised during the seminar. One task entailed splitting into pairs and holding a discussion on a controversial issue, with each team partner attempting to take a different position. The task consisted of hearing out our opposite number and then handling objections without any use of the word “but”. Which sounds doable, right? Our actual reflex response is often to slip in a “but” again and again, which rather amused me. This is also an exercise that I recommend trying out for yourself.
Am I still mindful?
Can these experiences and exercises be applied to real working life? What remains after a few weeks? Are we back to business as usual? Hectic. Stressful. These are questions that I had before. My answer to them is “no”. I feel greatly relieved, and intend to apply what I have learnt to my day-to-day work. Here are a few examples:
E-mails: When faced with a strongly-worded e-mail message, I now wonder whether the tone is really all that angry. Perhaps the writer was under time pressure, or maybe I am just misinterpreting him or her.
Staff meetings: When calling staff meetings, I schedule enough time to allow colleagues to speak. There is sufficient time (which I was not previously aware of).
Teamwork: I appreciate my colleagues’ contribution. This is an important building block for successful teamwork. This appreciation of value pays off, as projects run smoothly and with less stress.
Tasks to be performed: When faced with big accumulations of pending tasks, I tackle them step by step. Constantly thinking about the summit is no help when climbing a mountain. The focus must always be on what can be achieved in one day.
The seminar was well worth it, and I think I can speak both for my colleagues and myself in this respect. Of course, we didn’t learn everything there is to know about mindfulness, but that wasn’t the goal. We learn day to day and gain new experiences, likewise day to day. Taking all this in is a lifelong task, and this is what makes mindfulness so exciting.