I admit that the term mindfulness did not mean anything to me at the beginning – especially not in a professional context. Wasn’t that some kind of funny esoteric stuff for incense sticks lighters?
On my journey I studied some ZEN – the ancient art of the samurai. There is a whole treasure box of wise stories and one of these stories is about mindfulness:
A young ZEN monk came to a wise man and asked him: „What does mindfulness mean?”
The old man replied: “When I sit, I sit. When I stand, I stand. When I eat, I eat.“
The young monk was confused: “But what is special about it, everyone does that.”
The old man explained: “When you sit, you think again about when you have to get up. When you stand, you think about where to go next. When you’re eating, you’re already thinking about shopping for the next meal.“
There was a rule for eating in a seminar I once visited. Before each course we had to watch the food in silence for a minute. For the first time I noticed the lovely little parts of the decoration that the cook had prepared for us. Normally, after a quick look, the beauty of this composition would have been lost in the table conversation.
Another meditation should deepen this – the raisin meditation. Under the guidance of the meditation leader you slowly enjoy a raisin with all your senses: the colour, the texture, the taste. I would never have thought what I could discover in a single raisin. Normally it disappears in a matter of seconds in my mouth together with some cashew nuts.
But mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean slowness. It’s about directing focus and actively perceiving the moment. Mindfulness means being present in the moment.
A normal business meeting is often not particularly attentive. We rush into the appointment – some come a little later and discuss the last one on the way or even still are emotionally stuck in it. In Austria hospitality is important and so you often spend the next 5 minutes ordering coffee. The larger the group, the longer the process.
Then the big question: What is the objective of the meeting today, what do we want to achieve? Has everyone received, read and understood the documents sent? While some are busy digesting the previous meeting, others are already thinking about the possible effects of the pending decisions and position themselves defensively. For a meeting facilitator, this is extremely exhausting.
Friedhelm Boschert starts some business meetings or university lectures with a minute of silence. We do the same in our sports training. You’ll be very irritated at first if you’re not used to this. The silence is irritating, and the restless spirit only slowly sits down.
But then you can get fully arrive and start off with the work much more concentrated.
Especially in our turbulent times mindfulness becomes more and more important. This awareness is also gaining ground in the business world. Ultimately, it is always a question of self-discipline.
How about you?
Are you sometimes stuck with your thoughts in the previous meeting? Have you ever stopped mentally listening while somebody was talking to you? Have you ever tried to start a meeting with a minute of silence?
Further good reads:
The Mindfulness Network – Introducing Mindfulness to the Workplace
Applied Mindfulness in Business and Life: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jeff Weiner, Fred Kofman: Lessons in Conscious Business