What if I ask you to think of yourself for 60 seconds? Nothing else, just yourself, can you do it? I bet you can’t. Some thought is going to come up and you are going to get distracted. Even more, you only truly focused on something for a few seconds because I forced you to. Up until now you probably ran through your day without being aware of what you were actually doing.
Nowadays this is becoming more and more of an issue. Not only in their personal life, but also at work, people are on auto-pilot and not ‘in the moment’. This is where the Buddhist principle of mindfulness comes into play. Before we get into it, it is important to understand what mindfulness is.
Imagine an anthropologist watching a chimp at the zoo. He is not being objective, but just watching the chimp and recording notes. He is aware of what the chimp is doing, without a million things running through his head. Apply this to yourself and over time you will start to feel more happy, calm and peaceful. In practice: Just sit down, relax and focus on the moment.
Even large corporations see the benefit of this relaxation technique. Google, for example, offers a mindfulness course, called ‘search inside yourself’, that was so popular that the company created two additional classes. The tech giant also built a labyrinth for walking meditation. Another huge corporation, e-commerce leader eBay, even has meditation rooms equipped with pillows and flowers.
But why is mindfulness so important for these companies? Quite simply: because it will save them money.
According to the World Health Organization, stress related issues cost American businesses a staggering $300 billion a year. Research produced by The Duke University School of Medicine shows that just one hour of yoga a week reduces stress levels in employees by a third and cuts health-care costs of each staff member by an average of $2,000 a year.
The effects of stress reduction techniques are equally dramatic on employees’ productivity, creativity, energy and performance. Dr. Richard Davidson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, used MRI machines to study the brain activity of Tibetan monks. “The brain functioning of serious meditators is ‘profoundly different’ from that of non-meditators — in ways that suggest an elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions”, concludes Davidson.
“This is a tough economy, and it’s going to be that way for a long time. Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one”, writes the Huffington Post. Even cynics can’t deny that in a world of constant stress and distraction, simply sitting still and relaxing for a while might do people some good.