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Mindfulness at Work

In a helpful piece entitled "Achieving Mindfulness at Work, No Meditation Cushion Required," in the New York Times, Job Market section of 24 April 2016, Matthew E. May suggests that we can do just that and furthermore it will make us a better contributor at work and a person richer in ideas and awareness.

One very nice demonstration of mindfulness, of taking a more holistic view, is to simply write the following Roman numeral equation on a small piece of paper.

                       XI + I = X 

Now since there are 10 straight lines, including the two in "+" and "=" what is the minimum number of lines one has to MOVE so that the obviously false equation becomes true. Incidentally one could also REMOVE one line and make a true statement.  We share a different solution, a more mindful solution from a broader perspective below. Stay tuned.

May says, "By most definitions, mindfulness is a higher-order attention that involves noticing changes around us and fully experiencing them in real time. This puts us in the present, aware and responsive, making everything fresh and new again.

"Meditation is simply one of several tools for achieving mindfulness, and in the context of work it may not be the most suitable for many people. For those who, like me, can’t seem to get the hang of meditation, there is good news: You don’t have to meditate to become more mindful.

"There are two approaches to mindfulness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern view indeed positions meditation as an essential tool to achieving a mindful state. But the Eastern view is more about quieting the mind and suspending thought. This philosophy is almost the complete opposite of the Western view of mindfulness, which centers on active thinking.

"I would argue that given the speed of change today, it may not be realistic to suspend or stop thinking. Rather, we need to actively think through problems in new ways to achieve innovative, elegant solutions. These will not rain from on high in a meditation session.

"Both views share the same goal: avoiding mindlessness. When we’re mindless, the past is riding herd over the present. We get trapped in categories created in the past, stuck in rigid perspectives, oblivious to alternative views. This gives us the illusion of certainty."

What really got me thinking was this, "The key to mindfulness is learning to look at the world in a more conditional way. Understanding that our perspective is merely one among alternative views requires us to embrace uncertainty. When we’re uncertain and unsure, our surroundings become interesting again, like the peculiar little details we notice when we arrive in an unfamiliar place." Hmmmm uncertainty brings on the interesting to the mindful person, while to others uncertainty may bring fear.

When dealing with stress (and the work place can provide stress) we need to realize that in seeing stress we are making two assumptions -something will happen and it will be bad.

May offers us one way to address stress which is both mindful and pausing, "give yourself three reasons the issue you’re worried about might not happen. Notice that it immediately becomes less stressful, because you just went from `it’s going to happen' to `maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.'

Now give yourself three reasons that, if the situation does turn out bad, good things will happen. Those reasons are easy to find once you ask the question. Now you’ve gone from thinking `there’s this terrible thing that’s going to happen' to thinking `there’s this thing that may or may not happen, but if it does, it could have both good and bad outcomes.'

"It’s an easy method that leads us to become less reactive to the world — still responsive, just not reactive. In the end, the entire key to eliminating mindlessness without meditation may simply be realizing that the issue looks different from a different perspective, and then taking that perspective."
 
Step back, breathe deep, and think about being mindful in all you do.
 
And oh yes on the Roman numeral problem. Just turn the paper 180 degrees!
  1. mindfulness
  2. stress
  3. work place

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