Here at Sklar Wilton & Associates we’re thinking a little differently about employee engagement. We call our approach “Spirit of 32” and this blog series will chronicle our journey. We’ll share what we’re learning along with resources you can leverage. We’ll be your test bed so if you have ideas, please let us know.

By Amber Hudson 

**Click here for our first post on why we embarked on this Journey into Mindfulness**

When we launched the idea of Mindfulness at SW&A a common reaction was what the heck is it, what’s it going to do for me and what’s it going to take to reap the benefits.   Thank goodness for Hersh Forman of The Potential Project who, loaded up with patience, expertise and hilarious stories, held our hands as we took our first nervous steps.

In our first of 5 sessions we learned that mindfulness is simply the practice of bringing focus and awareness to the present moment.  It’s the opposite of mindlessness which is being on autopilot or getting lost in thoughts about the past or future instead of paying attention to what’s happening right now.

Did you know our attention wanders 47% of the time? (Just now my brain was wondering when I was writing about our brains wandering.  Squirrel!)  Meditation is the foundation of mindfulness and it’s what trains your brain to be more focused and as a result reduces that wandering.  One question that came up was do you have to mediate to be mindful?  Well, you don’t have to do anything, but it sure helps.  That said, we learned there are many ways one can be mindful without actually meditating:  when brushing your teeth think only about brushing your teeth and not your to do list; during yoga focus on your breath and how your body feels; when talking to someone focus on that person and don’t check your email; when out for a walk look, I mean really look, at what’s around you.

Back to formal meditation.  We learned the benefits are many.  Here’s a great visual that sums it up:

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http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/what-is-meditation-mindfulness-good-for/

So, with this foundational information in our brains, Hersh announced we were going to do a 10 minute meditation. I instantly burst into a full body sweat.  While I meditate myself, I was truly stressed about what my coworkers were going to think.

To say some were skeptical is a mega understatement.  I could feel people rolling their eyes as we settled into our first ever corporate meditation. We were invited to sit in a comfortable position (most stayed in their chair, some went to the floor), close our eyes and breathe naturally.  The key, we were told, is to focus on your breath.  You can count each breath up to ten then back down to one.  Or just think about each breath going in and out.  When thoughts / distractions pop up (and they will), acknowledge them and get back to the breath.

So there was our entire team of 32 sitting around the boardroom trying to focus on our breath.  There was a lot of rustling and squirming and no doubt there was at least one person who couldn’t resist a peek around the room.  We got to SEVEN.WHOLE.MINUTES…until someone’s phone rang and we called it a day.  But we considered those 7 minutes a success.

The general feedback was that it’s really hard to focus, that thoughts instantly wandered and distractions abounded (I’m looking at you Restless Rustlers). Yup, that just about sums up learning to meditate!  The common challenge is that we live in a success-driven society and as a result we’re consumed by thoughts of “am I doing this right?”   Good thing is there is no ‘right’.  Hersh’s parting promise to the team is with regular meditation practice, even with just one minute a day, it will get easier.

Does get easier?  You’ll have to wait for the next post to see…

In the meantime, have a look at this post that outlines 6 Myths of Meditation and a more detailed step by step plan on starting a meditation practice. And here’s a great link to a quick video on how to mediate in a moment.