Mindfulness – or is it?

Watching the ABC last night, I got to thinking – the world around us is being saturated by mindfulness, colouring books, meditation, and relaxation. Ancient techniques turned into fads and buzzwords.

Do I believe in the positive effects of mindfulness? Absolutely – but not the concept of mindfulness that has been corporately abused within an inch of its life. The yogis and sages of old would turn in the grave if they could see the way people are ‘meditating’ at their desks or by colouring in books. It appears this new fix is all about instant gratification – how fast it can be done, even for one moment of relief and calm. Being artistic and creative can be therapeutic, it allows one to take a mental break from work and so may aid in the ability to refocus and resume work feeling somewhat renewed, but the adult colouring book craze is being touted as a mindfulness technique – which it is not. (You can read some therapist opinions on that here.) My concern about this craze is its potential for harm. In a world where adults still bully other adults, and anxiety and mental distress appear to be at an all-time high, colouring books in the workplace can lead to a number of uncomfortable, damaging situations. Much in the same way as happens with children, under the guise of ‘mindfulness’ such colouring can lead to bullying and feelings of inadequacy. For instance,

In the break room, Sally says to Flossie: “Flossie, your colouring is so good. Your use of colour and ability to stay in the lines and be so calm is so wonderful.” Sally hasn’t even mentioned poor Fred who has been colouring in at the same table as Flossie. Consequently Fred leaves the break room, feeling inadequate because he feels his colouring wasn’t as good as Flossie’s, and Flossie is the best at everything, and she never does anything wrong, and why can’t Fred be like Flossie? Now Fred hates Flossie.

 In a workplace situation this causes uneasiness between colleagues as Flossie now has an inflated ego, Fred’s confidence has deflated and he now feels that he is not worthy of his position at work. It may sound far-fetched, but that is the pervading nature of mental health. Additionally, colouring in the workplace can also be used a mechanism for time-wasting and as a diversion from reality, that is a way to avoid dealing with underlying causes of whatever made you turn to colouring books in the first place.

You’re probably thinking, all that is fine, but what about meditation? Meditation is definitely a mindfulness technique. And you’re right. Is meditation wonderful? Yes, done correctly.

Done incorrectly, and meditation is dangerous.

Meditation, we sit for a moment at our desk and close our eyes and go within. We feel amazing – calm, relaxed, with a new clarity of mind. Surely, this is something we should do at work every day. Or should we?

Many dedicated meditation experts will tell you that to properly practice meditation, one needs to have great discipline. You don’t lie down or sit at desk and just shut your eyes. You seek out a quiet, purposeful environment where you can sit comfortably in Sukhasana – spine elevated, abdominals engaged, focused on the third eye and breath employed using the diaphragm, not misguided from the gut. The intent behind meditation is powerful, so powerful in fact that the masters will advise that if we are stressed, fatigued or mentally fragile to work to reduce these complaints prior to launching into meditation practice. Given that proper meditation practice takes years of dedication, it begs the question – Is meditation really having an effect in the workplace, or are these participants swooped up in the excitement of a new fad?

At an unconscious level they must be involved in it one way or another, and it is highly possible that you close your eyes and have your mind fill with beautiful visions, but is a few moments long enough for a miracle to take place in your mind? What happens when this fad passes? And the new fad is something like standing in a corner staring at a blank wall so the mind can be free of distractions. Will this too work if everybody says it can? My final question to you then, is this something you believe in, or something the hype has allowed the physical body and unconscious mind to grab onto because you don’t want to be different?

For true mindfulness training – no colouring books! – WorkPlace-EZ runs corporate mindfulness retreats throughout the year. Conducted in complete silence over one weekend, the retreats provide clarity, focus and renewal for those willing to learn an ancient art and carry it on your life’s journey. Find out more here.


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Christmas Greetings

For some of you this may sound like a very naive and perhaps politically incorrect question, but it is not meant to be either. Why it is important not to announce a Christmas greeting, when isn’t that what this break is all about – Christmas? I know this subject is not very often delicately spoken about or put into a public arena, but muttered amongst our community. I am totally confused as to why, because this secretive, hushed business breeds discontentment, fear, anxiety, and confusion. It seems to me, that the only ones who have a problem with wishing people a Merry Christmas are the fearful people. So might I encourage you all to say what things are: Wish people a very Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year. And that is my wish to all who may read this. 

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