One of the many lessons I learned in my legal career was the importance of taking time out of my day to meditate and pray. And those times that I didn’t take time for myself, I saw a distinct difference in my mood, my stress level, my ability to work, and my attitude. And those factors directly related to the success and health of my business and my body.
So the question is should you as business owner, manager or employee take the time for yourself to pray or meditate during the work day? I mean it sounds like a simple question, but ultimately if we as business owners are interested in running a successful business, shouldn’t we at least consider the viability, given the benefits?
A year after opening up my own law firm I found myself struggling with cash flow. The end of the month 941 IRS filing was due, and I was wondering whether I could meet both my payroll and tax obligations. In fact I had put this off until the last moment because I didn’t know what direction to take.
So before I sat down to complete the tax forms, I decided to pray until I felt a sense of calmness. Then I sat down and instead of working on taxes or payroll first, I drafted a motion, even though the deadline for the motion wasn’t for another week. After I finished the motion, I was able to complete the tax forms. And at 5:29, after I had filed the motion I had drafted, I dropped the 941 and payment in the mail.
That didn’t solve the payroll problem at that moment. But I felt at peace and had a certain sense of calmness, which translated into a good night’s sleep and a good week of solid work.
That sense of peace and calmness in the face of difficult obstacles is something we as business owners and employees search for day in and day out. It’s the foundation of productivity in work, and from a health standpoint it is the foundation of, well, good health, as most studies are now indicating.
So what can we do to counteract the unproductive thoughts like fear, stress, anxiety which come from things like deadlines, workloads, personnel problems, office politics, employee conflicts, and fear.
Throwing meditation or prayer into the mix
Despite the current buzz (see for example Dr. Richard J. Davidson. Wisdom 2.0) around meditation and mindfulness in the workplace right now, there remains significant confusion as well as debate about what mindfulness is and what it produces. Is it similar to meditation? Is it religious? Will it make employees uncomfortable? Will it really improve health and productivity? All good questions for anyone from a CEO to an employee to ask as part of considering a mindfulness program personally or for the company itself.
Here’s a primer:
Meditation can include mindfulness, but meditation isn’t itself just being mindful. Meditation is a larger practice that can cover many disciplines including prayer, deep breathing, yoga, etc.
Mindfulness as meditation itself has many different approaches. A strong influencer in the Americanized version of mindful meditation is Kabat-Zin who developed a meditation therapy he called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR), influence by Buddhist meditation.
But meditation itself goes back as far as ancient Hindu practices, and the idea behind Mindful Meditation can be found in Zen Buddhist tradition as a means to experience enlightenment – thus stress and pain management was probably not the main focus.
The same thing can be said of Western meditation as prayer, which is firmly rooted in Jewish and Christian traditions and is a way to understand God, including your relationship to the Divine; stress and pain management are only added benefits. Though there are Biblical examples that show prophets and apostles and of course Jesus praying/meditating, and the result being immediate, complete physical healing.
Some backlash to Mindfulness/Meditation
Opponents of this new Mindfulness Meditation kick say that by taking the spiritual component out of the Buddhist tradition of meditation to make it more mainstream, you run the risk of losing any benefit Mindful Meditation provides. “…the rush to secularize and commodify mindfulness into a marketable technique may be leading to an unfortunate denaturing of this ancient practice, which was intended for far more than relieving a headache, reducing blood pressure, or helping executives become better focused and more productive.” say Ron Purser and David Loy in an article “Beyond McMindfulness”.
There is no doubt that the spiritual component of this Mindful Meditation approach to work and life has been partly removed. And there is no doubt that a distrust in calling something that creates better health “spiritual” also creates resistance from a scientific point of view as well as from those who just resist anything that seems to be spiritual. Still, even if the moniker “spiritual” is removed, there are many positive indicators that a non-spiritual practice of meditation has its benefits.
Why companies continue incorporating mindfulness practices.
Ellen L. Idler, Ph.D., author of “The Psychological and Physical Benefits of Spiritual/Religious Practices,” encourages taking time for the sacred. She writes “Transcendent spiritual and religious experiences have a positive, healing, restorative effect, especially if they are “built in,” to one’s daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual cycles of living.
Dr. John Denninger, who works with the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, agrees. He says:”What we’re recognizing more and more is that all of the stuff our brain takes in, every minute of every day — all the stuff that makes us feel stressed out — that we can combat that…”
A recent survey looked at 47 meditation and mindful studies (with a total participant pool of 3515 people) and came to some interesting conclusions. First, the survey found that there is “moderate evidence” Mindful Meditation improved anxiety, depression. The survey also found there is “lower evidence”, but evidence nevertheless, that Mindful Meditation has a positive effect on mood, attention, substance abuse, eating habits, sleep and weight. Interestingly, the survey also found that there is “no evidence” that Mindful Mediation was better than other therapies including exercise, drugs, and even prayer.
My experience with meditation and prayer
For me, taking time to meditate and to pray at the office is more than a means to control stress and anxiety, it helps to frees me from stress and anxiety completely by providing me with the inspiration and trust to complete the task at hand.
Back to the payroll and tax story. Because I took quiet time for myself, I was inspired to draft a motion before doing anything else. This might have seemed counterintuitive at the time considering the time crunch and the lack of funds. But the result of filing that motion with the court, provided an unintended benefit. That motion ended up being the final component that led to a trial settling a week later. A happy client paid in full the entire fee owing. This fee was more than enough to cover any financial struggles including payroll; and, all on time.
There is a quote that sums up this trust by an expert in spiritual thinking, religious leader and author Mary Baker Eddy who wrote, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings.” In my experience, to lean means to trust, and meditating and praying on this idea of trusting the Divine, or my sense of God, provides me with a sense of peace and perspective on any challenge with which I’m faced.
The good news is that meditation in whatever approach you take, as long as you practice it, seems to have healing results, even if it is for temporary results and not spiritual enlightenment.
So consider in your work as employee, manager, or business owner being understanding if someone takes some individual quiet time for themselves. In fact, maybe by taking that first step yourself and meditating, in whatever form and for whatever reason, you may find more productivity and a bit more clarity, followed by less stress. But, beware, you might also find something far more profound.
David Price writes on the connection between health, thinking and spirituality. A former attorney David is also the media and legislative representative for Christian Science in Colorado.