Meditation for Managers

Win your staff over the natural way!

What has meditation, managers and accelerated results got in common? Read on and find out.

Eastern Concepts of Meditation and mindfulness training is fast becoming an integral part of management and organisational development input.

This article outlines

  • Meditation in the organisational context,
  • The scientific base for meditation,
  • The benefits on the personal and organisational level
  • The range of techniques and how these can be easily integrated into a managers’ high-pressure schedule

Meditation practice can be the missing link that transcends a command and control management style to a communicative and collaborative one, through the development of empathic employee engagement.

More than 2500 scientific research studies worldwide have revealed the mental and physiological advantages of the mindfulness process. Key benefits include a significant improvement in focus, concentration and attention, greater personal and interpersonal effectiveness, enhanced ability to cope with pressure and stress and maintain a sense of inner peace, balance and presence even in the midst of a busy work life.

Some of the world’s leading companies including Google, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Apple Computers, Yahoo and KPMG are leading in mindfulness training for their employees and have reaped the benefits of reduced stress levels, and enhanced performance.

Mindful meditation is the only meditation that has been introduced effectively within the NHS and this is simply because there is now scientific evidence to prove that it does alter brain activity.

How does it work?

Between our thoughts, we have a silent space.  Through meditation, it is possible to access this space, which is the hub of creativity and healing.  When we come out of meditation we bring some of the creative thoughts and healing potential from this gap into our lives.  By going back and forth on a regular basis we gradually integrate this creativity and healing throughout our whole physiology. This enhanced state of moment-by-moment awareness then becomes the springboard for more effective, healthier ways of being, working and relaxing.

The scientific perspective

Brain electrical cycles can be measured and can vary according to what we are doing. There is a ‘normal’ range of cycles, known as ‘beta ‘rhythms, for everyday functions and the material world. When we sleep, we are mainly in ‘theta’ rhythm. Delta rhythms occur in the periods immediately preceding sleep and waking. When during waking consciousness we are being particularly creative, ‘alpha’ rhythms may be present. Through meditation, we may enter other states in which beta rhythms fade, while alpha, delta and theta rhythms become more constant. In such states, our physical bodies relax and we may have an expanded awareness that leads to greater insight and intuition.

Drugs may induce these states, but without the benefit of insight and intuition, and with the risk of undesirable side effects.

Science now agrees that meditation can also be a powerful form of stress relief and hundreds of studies have been performed, indicating the following:

  • Long-term meditators experience 80 per cent less heart disease and 50 per cent less cancer than non-meditators.
  • 75 per cent of insomniacs were able to sleep normally when they meditated.
  • Meditation is the only activity that reduces blood lactate, a marker of stress and anxiety.
  • The calming hormones melatonin and serotonin are increased by meditation, and the stress hormone cortisol is decreased.

Mindfulness Research linking Business Benefits

The Research carried out by the American Institute of Health, University of Massachusetts, and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University influenced the growth of meditation in the business world. These studies provided a sound empirical base in the following as specific benefits of mindfulness for businesses:

  • Decrease in stress-related costs of staff absenteeism
  • Improved cognitive function – including better concentration, memory, learning ability and creativity
  • Enhanced productivity and improved overall staff and organisational health
  • Reduced staff turnover and associated costs
  • Enhanced employer/employee and client relationships
  • A visible and tangible corporate responsibility stance
  • Enhanced employee job satisfaction

Benefits of Meditation

It is recommended that meditation should be done for 10 to 30 minutes a day and after regular practice, over 2 months the following results will be noted on a personal and business level.

  • Better able to manage stressful situations
  • Sense of well-being and inner peace
  • Improved concentration
  • Reduction in negative emotions and negative thoughts
  • Creative ideas
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Sense of fulfilment
  • Less dependence on alcohol, nicotine and caffeine

On an organisational level

  • Better performance and effectiveness
  • More engagement with employees and colleagues
  • More energy and passion for role
  • Leadership capabilities

How to Meditate

Meditation and medication have the same etymological origin, as medication heals the body, and meditation heals the mind (and body too!). However, meditation has no side effects, no costs attached and can be practised anywhere. If you’re one of those people who have always thought about starting to meditate but haven’t got round to it yet, now is the time to start. Begin with 5 minutes and build up to 30 minutes twice a day. Experiment with the following techniques and choose the ones that appeal to you.

Object meditation

Choose a beautiful object like a flower arrangement, tranquil picture or site, lighted candle or anything that is soothing. Focus your attention on it steadily. Study the detail of the object, the colours, shapes, shades etc. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, then close your eyes and visualise all the detail of the object. This practice is especially good for enhancing concentration clarity and focus. Try it when your thinking is cloudy and cluttered.

Mindfulness Meditation

Begin by sitting comfortably and lowering your eyes. You can sit upright on a chair and it is not necessary to sit cross legged on the floor!

Take your attention into your body and to your breadth. Observe the movement of your breadth in your body, the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen. Now choose a positive word such as calm, relax, peace or the word OM which is traditionally used in meditation. Gently repeat this word in your mind not necessarily to the rhythm of your breadth at your own pace. Your mind may wander to other thoughts, this is normal. As soon as you notice that, gently bring your attention to the word you have chosen to anchor your meditation and carry on.

Continue this way up to 30 minutes, then take your attention off your breathing and just be silent.  Wait about two or three minutes before starting your work.

These techniques are easy to integrate and adapt into a busy routine.

Put a little red sticker on your watch, every time you look at your watch, take your attention to your breath and be present with its movement in your body.  This will help decrease the adrenalin and dopamine naturally, thus helping your body relax during the day which will help your stress response.

Stop for a few moments when swopping over tasks. For example, you have come in from a meeting and are about to check your emails. Stop for 2 minutes, taking the attention to your breath and connect with the breathing rhythm or keep your attention on something soothing on your desk such as a calming picture, flowers or lighted candle (take care of health and safety regulations with a lighted candle).

Stop for a few minutes on your way from work or home, take in and fully engage with nature, the trees, flowers and its vibrant colours.

How many hours of television do you watch, or do things that are unnecessary? Take some time out of these activities and replace this with regular meditative practice.

Managers often feel they have to keep control of things all the time. It is important to give yourself permission to let go for a few minutes in a day in a meditative state, to rest and recuperate from the pressures of leading and managing. This time which is taken out is soon recovered in enhanced concentration, sharper swifter decision making, more energy, and improved relationships through empathic communication and all that without extra costs!

Worth a try for a few months?

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Hansa Pankhania is the Author of ‘from Stress to Success’, a Corporate Well -being Consultant and Trainer. She has worked with up to 100 companies to date in the areas of personal, manager and organisational development. Her input presents the best of both worlds through a stimulating mix of Western Psychological and Organisational Theories and Eastern Concepts. She is the Director of Aum Consultancy offering bespoke programmes on Stress, Resilience and Wellbeing.


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