The benefits of meditation at work

We started a new contract offering midday meditation twice a week for employees at the Board of Water & Light this year. The first session, at the old depot station, started with just a handful of people, seated on the floor with essential oils diffusing. But a steady stream of late-comers tip-toeing in reflected the hunger for some quietude in their lives, even if for only 30 minutes at lunchtime while at work.

Like many office environments, the day-to-day pace is ever quickening with project deadlines and expectations verging on impossible. The pressure to perform is high-stakes. I see it in their body language when they come to yoga class as they have for the last few years. Their faces are weary or worried. Their upper bodies are tense. The breathing is shallow and frustrated. The gentlest “how are you” is received with a grunt or growl.

Meditation is an excellent option to offer employees who are feeling the squeeze on a personal level. It’s a physical pause button from electronic alerts, notices, swipes and rings.

I let them know that there should be no goal other than comfort and relaxation. Surprisingly, lots of first-time meditators approach it, much like work or a video game even; they’re looking to level up or excel at meditation.
There’s a look of confusion and even disappointment. Do an activity with no goal in mind? We’re not trying to improve ourselves? We’re not trying to do better than the last time?

Then why are we here?

Meditation is an opportunity to develop awareness. And hopefully within the awareness we can experience an inner quiet that cultivates a calm abiding in the present moment, not a frantic reactivity to expectations, our own and others. And that all takes time. We are re-training the mind in how it sees itself. We are not “fixing” ourselves, we are not calculating an equation, we are not “figuring something out.” We are observing what is. That’s all.

Our group is starting off light. Building awareness of our bodies and relaxing the body. What does a relaxed body feel like? Do we know? Can we allow calm and relaxation to seep into our bones?
So there’s a lot of guided meditation to start. I talk us through body relaxation exercises. There’s often sleeping involved.
Learning to relax the body will lead to learning to relax the mind, but first, baby steps.

We’ll eventually do some walking meditations and maybe some candlelight focus meditations.

Some students asked after class, when will they “get there.” Others wanted to know how to make that relaxed feeling last longer or how to feel that way all the time.
I gently guide them back to accepting what they experienced in this moment with contentment. Then begin again.

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