10 Reasons to Integrate Mindfulness Practice with Your Work
By Marc Lesser
Company Time is a series of one-day and weekend retreats that I have been co-leading at Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm for the past 20 years. These retreats are for people interested in integrating mindfulness practice into their work, for those looking for ways to make their work more meaningful and more connected to their deepest values, and/or for those considering some kind of career or life change.
In these retreats, our role as teachers is to ask questions and provide a safe environment for slowing down, listening, and speaking openly. The real teachings--the real lessons--come from the attendees’ experiences. We deliberately relax any tendency to aim too high for particular results or benefits. Instead, our focus is on integrating mindfulness practice with our work lives so that we can open our hearts and our minds to what’s possible. When we’re successful in this endeavor, many possible benefits can be realized, including:
- Increased creativity
- Improved listening and communication skills
- Enhanced problem-solving skills
- Steadfast integrity and deeper, more beneficial relationships
- Keener leadership and team-building skills
- Greater work satisfaction
- Improved focus and concentration
- A stronger appreciation for life and work
- Inspired entrepreneurial positioning and action
- A sense of connectedness to all things and the motivation to change the world for the better
Let’s explore each of these benefits in more detail:
- Increased creativity. The aim of mindfulness practice is to develop a flexible, open mind. Slowing down and paying attention to your thoughts and your body opens the mind to new possibilities. Understanding that the world is not always what it seems helps us to view problems and opportunities from a fresh perspective, which can be very beneficial for problem-solving, product development, and improving business systems.
- Increased listening and communication skills. Mindful communication and deep listening are integral to mindfulness practice. It is possible to learn the practice of deep listening to oneself and others. This skill can then be applied to sales protocols, team building, and general problem-solving. Successful business ideas and models start by first paying attention to unfulfilled needs. When the mind is less busy and our ability to focus and concentrate is more developed, we can communicate more clearly to coworkers, customers, and vendors. By shifting focus and attention, we build relationships as a way to improve outcomes and meet goals.
- Enhanced problem-solving skills. Meditation and mindfulness practice transform our focus so that we come to understand that our problems, difficulties, and challenges can provide valuable learning opportunities. When we embrace a conventional and unconventional viewpoint of ourselves and the world, we see time and space differently. It is through this lens that problems have the potential to become opportunities.
- Steadfast integrity and deeper, more beneficial relationships. Slowing down and paying attention connects you to your deepest feelings and intentions, as well as the feelings and intentions of people in your workplace. Practicing the right thinking, right speech, and right action helps to develop straightforward, open, and honest communication. By building integrity, you deepen trust and your connections with people around you.
- Keener leadership and team-building skills. Through practicing right speech and learning to bring the best out of others, our leadership skills are accentuated. The combination of self-knowledge, deep listening, and a heightened appreciation of the mystery of life makes for a more developed, well-rounded leader. You can build more creative and cohesive teams through a clearer evaluation of your own and others’ strengths and weaknesses, by seeing other people as primarily focused on awakening their true natures, and by aligning actions with deep beliefs and goals.
- Greater work satisfaction. When we engage the practice of awakening at work, it can transform the work environment for ourselves and those around us. Each moment becomes an opportunity to practice, to listen, and to be grateful for what we have.
- Improved focus and concentration. When we learn to “stay close to ourselves” by focusing on what is truly important and by not getting stuck in old patterns and habits, we cut through distractions and create space to bring larger issues and strategies into focus.
- Increased appreciation for life and work. As we clarify and soften our thinking, the context of our work shifts so it becomes an integral part of our practice and life. Appreciation arises as we reduce habitual thinking and actions. There is nothing but appreciation when you are living “in the moment” instead of being distracted by looking at the past and/or toward a future that may not ever materialize.
- Inspired entrepreneurial positioning and action. Noticing and altering habitual patterns of thinking opens the way for a different quality of thought where one can see and act with less hindrance. As you learn to trust yourself deeply, fear lessens, actions become more focused and affective, and your ability to evaluate a situation from several viewpoints helps to minimize risks.
- A sense of connectedness to all things and the motivation to change the world for the better. Business has the potential to influence and change our world. By integrating mindfulness practice with our work, we can transform ourselves and the workplace, effecting positive change in how we engage with customers, vendors, other businesses, and other countries. The impact of one person or one business acting for the true benefit of others can have a transformative, inconceivable impact.
The Tao Te Ching sums up these concepts well:
To obtain trust, put your trust in others.
Take care! Speak only when it is essential.
Then, when the work is done and the job is finished,
Everyone will say that it happened naturally.
- In what ways do you, or might you, integrate mindfulness practice with your work? Examples include listening with greater curiosity and openness, and noticing and letting go of extra effort. What methods do you think would work best for your organization?
- What (or perhaps, who) supports this integration?
- What are the potential barriers to integration and how might you work around them?
- If you have integrated mindfulness practice into your work, what benefits have you experienced, both personally and organizationally? Consider journaling about these benefits, then come back to them when you need a reminder, or a boost when work is particularly challenging.
Marc Lesser is a speaker, facilitator, workshop leader, and executive coach. He is the author of four books, including Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader: Lessons from Google and a Zen Monastery Kitchen. To learn more about Marc, visit his website.