Body Building for the Brain

Excerpt from “Management as Meditation,” by Dominique Haijtema, Ode Magazine, Spring 2011:

More and more businesses and managers are becoming interested in meditation, according to Rob Brandsma, founder of the Dutch Institute for Mindfulness and Management. The word no longer conjures images of vagueness or flakiness, but is increasingly seen as a practical method for stress reduction. And that’s hardly a luxury in these times of recession, job insecurity and economic turmoil. Many employees and managers fear for their jobs, or for their company’s survival, and those who are still employed are confronted with increasing workloads and increasing stress levels.

Many view meditation as a way to keep calm, cool and collected in uncertain times. According to Time magazine, 10 million people meditate daily in the U.S. No hard figures exist on the number of businesses that offer meditation. However, organizations such as Google, Deutsche Bank, AOL Time Warner and Apple let workers meditate. Meditation’s role in maintaining physical and mental health is also increasingly backed up by scientific research. According to researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, meditating regularly results in lower blood pressure and less insomnia. Using MRI scans, neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School found that meditation boosts the immune system, lowers heart rates and improves circulation. Golf star Tiger Woods and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson claim meditation is partly responsible for their sporting accomplishments.

Interest in the practice in countries like Norway, Australia and the U.K. is picking up, too. According to research from the Identity Foundation, even in conservative Germany, 10 percent of managers consider it “body building for the brain”; whereas sports train the body, meditation trains the spirit.

[I would say mindfulness practice develops the skills of attention and intimate familiarity with sensory experience which together foster well-being that is less dependent on the constantly fluctuating conditions of life. ~ Daron]

The cliché image of Indian hippies and incense persists, according to Susanne Hauptmann, a German meditation teacher and yoga instructor who works with businesses, but once people give mindfulness a try, they’re usually convinced. “The positive effects, like relaxation, are quickly noticeable,” she says. Managers in particular report that meditation helps them achieve greater insights and make better decisions.

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[Thanks, Kit!]