Meditation – n. 1. the action of meditating. 2. a speech or piece of writing expressing considered thoughts on a subject.
You may have an image in your mind of a busy Monday morning at work, and you are dressed in a long kaftan, wearing rope sandals and levitating while answering the phone?
That’s not exactly what I meant by ‘meditation in the workplace’.
Please feel free to wear a floaty kaftan and rope sandals if you so wish, it’s not my place to dish out fashion advice. I can, however, offer up several helpful tips on calming the mind and using visualisation techniques to benefit your daily routine.
Let’s push our halo of dried flowers to the side for a moment and look at this from a busy person’s perspective. A cluttered mind causes our words to grind, ideas to stagnate, and we become discouraged and lacklustre.
We rely on our brain to evaluate our workload, assess priority assignments, and function at one-hundred-per-cent. Our brain is more important than our laptop. It is the one piece of hardware that rarely breaks down, can be easily re-charged and generates our most incredible ideas and solutions.
I’m not going to go all neuroscientist on you, but by understanding the basics of your brain, you can learn to recognise the optimum opportunities and the huge benefits for meditation. Here is a brief overview:
- The Cortex is the outer layer of the brain. The cerebral cortex is the layer of interconnected nerve cells around the outside of the brain known as grey matter.
- The Thalamus affects our sensory levels, alertness and awareness. Meditation lessens the flow of incoming information.
- The Frontal Lobe handles our emotions, planning and self-conscious awareness. Meditation causes this to switch off.
- The Amygdala links to our moods and memories. Meditation causes this to become less active.
- The Hippocampus handles our moods, willpower, and learning and encodes our long-term memories. Meditation causes the hippocampus to become more active.
When we meditate, our brains stop processing this fast flowing stream of information, the activity slows down, and we become open to calming thoughts and decreased irritability. Meditation enables our brain to process the information it soaks up from reading or listening and assimilate it for our personal and/or business use.
So how do you do it? As I mentioned earlier, there is no need for any special clothing or equipment. You won’t need to rush out and purchase a pair of yoga pants and a desktop Zen garden. As a meditation tutor, I know of many ways in which to achieve inner peace. I work with my favourite method, but the choice of style is personal. What works for one, may not work for another. Let me explain the differences.
- Guided Meditation. Following a verbal instruction from a tutor or MP3. It’s a bit like an audio book with breathing techniques.
- Moving Meditation – For this method you concentrate fully on whatever task you are doing. Knitting, walking and colouring-in are perfect models for this form of meditation.
- Open Meditation – Paying attention to what is going on around you; sights, sounds, tastes, but not reacting to anything.
- Mindfulness Meditation – Focusing on one thing such as your breathing or an object.
The roots of meditation can be traced back thousands of years, Indian scriptures called ‘tantras’ mentioned these techniques 5000 years ago. It was in the 1960s and 1970s that meditation found its way to the West. There are many forms of the practice available, but for our purposes I will concentrate on open and mindfulness.
Before I share how to get started, it may be wise to familiarise ourselves with the benefits meditation holds for us.
Benefits of Meditation
Better focus and less anxiety are reason enough to give meditation a go. Increased compassion and better memory may also win you over. For me, a decrease in muscle tension, pain and stress are great rewards. Office workers have a tendency to stay seated for long periods of time, by taking time out to combine walking and meditating we reduce the risk of back related issues.
One very interesting benefit is how portions of the cortex physically thicken, improving our decision making, attention span and memory. A study carried out in the Netherlands showed how two groups showed signs of improvement in a creative task and generated new ideas, following meditation.
This simple practice assists us on a physical, emotional and mental level. Think of it as a ‘reset’ button for your body, mind and soul. Helping to increase self-esteem, concentration and feelings of rejuvenation, and on a physiological level, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, while boosting our immune system.
As if that wasn’t enough, meditation has been shown to slow the ageing process.
Let’s Get Meditating
Leo Babauta, who writes the Zen Habits Blog, tells his readers; starting out with a tiny habit is the first step to consistently achieving it. We know that breaking our daily duties into small, bite-sized tasks is a positive step forward. Meditation can be achieved by sparing just five minutes a day.
Open Meditation – Head to your local park or café during your lunch break. Breathe in through your nose deeply and release the breath slowly, repeat this a couple of times to slow your breathing down to a relaxed pace. Now notice the sounds, smells and sights around you. Don’t react to them, just notice them and move on to the next object/sound/smell. If you can manage to sit for five or ten minutes then well done, you’ve achieved an open meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation – If you can’t leave your desk but find your mind whirling with thoughts, preventing you from accomplishing your tasks, then try this. Breathe in through your nose deeply and release the breath slowly, repeat this a couple of times to slow your breathing down to a relaxed pace. Now focus on an object on your desk, this could be a stapler, plant or empty page. Keep focusing on the object and breathe deeply and slowly. When your mind wanders, which it will, bring your focus back to the object. Try doing this for a few minutes and build up to five or ten. Well done, you’ve achieved a mindfulness meditation.
As with anything that is beneficial to our health, meditation takes practice and commitment, but the benefits to your well-being and your daily routine will be worth the effort.
Guest Article by Shelley Wilson, author of the Wellbeing Workshop Series. Meditation for Beginners is available as eBook and paperback via Amazon.
Shelley also wrote the Amazon self-help best seller, How I Changed My Life in a Year, available as eBook and paperback via Amazon.
She is a single mum to three teenagers, a motivational blogger/author and runs personal development workshops and meditation classes in the Midlands.