Rifa Thorpe-Tracey is founder of Refigure. She is a Sivananda Yogi, meditation teacher and trained with Tibetan Buddhist monks in Nepal and gurus in ashrams across India. Rifa has also worked for 15 years as a project manager in the tech industry, building large-scale websites for global clients.” CNN
Many firms now realise the value of meditation and mindfulness training. In Silicon Valley companies including Google have even employed their own full-time gurus.
It may seem counterintuitive to connect the blissed-out world of yoga and meditation with today’s frantic, technology-driven workplace. But that’s exactly where we’d all most benefit from help with our well-being.
In today’s office, intense multi-tasking, creative thinking and relationship-building are the norm — constantly in demand, over and above usual skills. And not only from managers and colleagues. We demand it of ourselves; we are becoming ever more perfectionist and goal-oriented.
The result is stress — everywhere.
Link between yoga and brain cells
Science is gaining a clearer picture of physical effects that stress can trigger. Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital studying meditation and mindfulness exercises, explains in a recent Huffington Post article how stress has a physical impact on the brain:
“Cells and neurons are constantly making new connections and disrupting old ones, based on response to stimuli, a quality that researchers call ‘experience-based neuro-plasticity’.”
In that environment, how do we create space for our brain to operate at its best?
Yoga, meditation and other complementary therapies are more commonly used away from work and they form a big part of the conversation about work/life balance. But evidence is mounting that they could be more useful, brought right into the heart of our office lives.
Workplace culture shifting
The David Lynch Foundation has also done striking research on the benefits of meditation on younger people, for example, to demonstrate its power as a tool for students to regain control and focus.
Of course not every company has the cash flow to hire a guru full-time but many could offer a regular lunchtime or after-work class for their staff, or run a one-off workshop for team leaders, who’d then pass on the techniques to their colleagues.
This has benefits beyond helping individuals. Our entire workplace culture can be shifted into a more healthy, productive state. Surrounded by people who’ve learnt techniques to stay calm and focused, we’re more comfortable at work and, as a knock-on, more patient and empathetic.
Simply being able to recover from stressful situations more quickly is a major bonus.
Best of all, positive changes gained by bringing meditation into work are long-term. Once people learn techniques and get comfortable practicing regularly, the benefits increase exponentially, with the potential to shift the culture across an entire workplace into a more positive, patient, generous atmosphere.
First published on CNN 29 April 2015