Mindfulness is something that I have heard mentioned quite a bit but if I’m being honest it’s not something I knew a whole lot about. It has however been on my list to look in to for quite a while. Imagine my good fortune then when I learned of a mindfulness session being organised at my very office (thanks to the graduates for organising)!
Jhalak Chirania is a colleague of mine in a different area of the business. Jhalak is originally from Mumbai and has been practicing mindfulness and meditation since an early age. She learned to meditate at the ‘Art of Living’ volunteer organisation which was founded by spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar 35 years ago and is now present in over 150 countries. Jhalak kindly offered to introduce her work colleagues to the practice across a number of different office locations here in Dublin.
If I had been asked to define mindfulness before the session I would have said that it was a form of meditation that helped with relaxation. That’s probably not entirely wrong but there is more to it as Jhalak explained at the beginning of the session last week.
Mindfulness is about maintaining a moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Jhalak introduced a fun group clapping exercise that promoted the idea that if we are in control of our mind we are in control of everything. This control could allow us to be both relaxed AND focused at the same time. Something that every individual I’m sure would like and every employer too!
Jhalak provided examples of the power of the mind:
1) You are very happy, relaxing by the sea at a beautiful resort when you receive a phone call from a loved one to say your relationship with them is over, do you still care about the location? Are you still happy?
2) You have been stuck in terrible traffic for ages and there’s no sign of it moving anytime soon. You are growing increasingly frustrated and angry. You receive a phone call from a long lost great friend and you plan to meet up soon. Do you care about the traffic anymore?
Two different examples of how the mind determines our perception of the world around us. Or as Jhalak summarised in the words of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
The atmosphere of the session was fun and light hearted from the beginning and this continued when Jhalak led us with a few stretching exercises, similar to those practiced in yoga. I am quite sure the majority of those present never imagined they would see fellow colleagues pulling off these kind of moves in the office.
The stretches limbered everyone up nicely for the meditation section. Jhalak showed us a breathing technique known as ‘Alternate Nostril Breathing’. N.B the photo below is not Jhalak and Eoin trying to offend – rather it is the breathing exercise that Jhalak demonstrated (using the fingers and nostrils which helps to master the technique).
Once we had practiced the breathing we were then asked to close our eyes, sit up straight in our chairs and place our hands on our knees with palms outstretched to begin the meditation. The meditation itself involved some simple instructions from the voice of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to focus the mind on breathing and as little else as possible. The background music, intermittent instructions delivered in a calm voice and some heavy breathing were all that could be heard in the room for about 10 minutes. As Jhalak said when we eventually opened our eyes, the room seemed so much brighter and quieter than it had been before we started meditating. I felt like I was aware of so much more than I was before.
We finished with some further stretching and I think the majority of us found that we could stretch quite a bit more than we had done previously. All this from one mindfulness session? I really need to look into this in more detail!
The entire session took about 45 minutes for the discussion, stretching and meditation in what was a very enjoyable way to spend lunch time at the office. Jhalak told me she meditates every day, and always tries to do this in the morning. She says it gives her great strength and confidence in everything she does. She is happy to hear by email from anyone that may have questions for her.
As a practice that provides participants with the tools to relax and focus the mind, I can see enormous benefits for individuals and organisations that include mindfulness as part of an overall wellness initiative for employees. This is something that I will be championing at my workplace.
Can you do the same?
Yours in health,
P.S I love talking about wellness so feel free to drop me a line to discuss any of the above. Contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Low Down
Brian Crooke is a wellness consultant specialising in the design, improvement and auditing of wellness initiatives for Irish businesses. He is the founder of Office Worker Health, a platform dedicated to promoting health and wellbeing to the working population.
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