Your business’s productivity grows when employees increase focus, improve decision-making, unlock creativity and improve teamwork skills — all qualities enhanced by mindfulness meditation practices. In 1995, Mirabai Bush helped found the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, to explore how mindfulness practices, long used in alternative healing, might affect other sectors of American life. The center developed programs working with lawyers and judges, social justice activists, higher-education organizations and journalists. But it is Bush’s work with businesses — like Google, National Grid, Monsanto and General Mills — that’s really taking off. We asked her why.
Isn’t it surprising that the corporate world is so open to meditation?
Well, successful businesses are extremely pragmatic. They’ll do anything if it works. And the bottom line is measurable, unlike in other organizations. Also, in the last 10 years, there has been quite a lot of research on meditation’s effects on the brain. All of this is interesting to people in business.
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Which practices do companies find most effective?
It depends. We tailor workshops to an organization’s needs. For instance, at Google, we realized that these very smart and competitive people had been in front of screens for most of their lives. They’re good at algorithms, but not necessarily at working together. So we set up practices that develop awareness of yourself and others and appreciation for others. It’s since been taught at Google headquarters in New York, Zurich, Beijing and Dublin. More than 1,000 engineers have gone through the program.
What’s next? If companies are taking 101 now, what’s the graduate-level course?
I’ve started teaching compassion meditations, which I’d at first thought would require too much vulnerability.
You mentioned that companies cite bottom lines, but what, to you, is the real payoff?
There are deeper benefits. If you pay attention to your breath for 20 minutes, you watch everything in your mind arise and fall away over and over again: You begin to appreciate constant change.
Mirabai Bush’s guided-meditation CD is available at www.morethansound.net/store.