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Building a meditation community at my workplace

Why I started leading mindfulness sessions at the office and what I’ve learned in the process

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Written by Alex R., a buddhify user since 2018

Alex works at a large bank in the IT department as a Quality Engineer. In this challenging role, he wanted to help his fantastic (but stressed) colleagues find some balance in their chaotic workday. Having personally practised meditation for over 20 years, he recently decided to start leading mindfulness sessions at his workplace.

Working in an IT organisation, our team experiences a constant barrage of interruptions — I am talking about individuals who get hundreds of emails or messages in an hour, whilst constantly on phone calls all day – from very early to very late.

Couple that with people putting themselves under immense pressure to meet deadlines, I realised that my colleagues were under an enormous amount of stress. All this constant context switching going on in their brains as they juggle all the various pieces of the puzzle was leaving people tired, irritable, and hard to work with.

On a personal level, meditation is what always keeps me centred whilst also dealing with all the wonderful stimuli that life has to offer. I’ve been practising for over 20 years, and I thought if meditation helps me, maybe it could help others.

Creating a community

Determined to get the message out there, I developed a science-based presentation with the help of my wife, a clinical psychologist, which introduced the what and why of meditation and how it helps. I then offered to do this at a number of team meetings and it exploded from there.

I usually do one-hour sessions introducing the concept of mindfulness and then lead a simple mindfulness of breath exercise.

I have now done my talk to around 500 colleagues and have created a community where we share our learning and journey with one another, connecting people and helping to get the message out there about just how powerful and life-changing meditation and mindfulness can be. It’s still in the early days, but it’s good fun.

20-plus years of practising meditation (and there’s still more to learn)

This endeavour has ended up being mutually beneficial because I’ve learned new techniques that have expanded my own personal practice.

My first experience of meditation actually was through a CD by Jack Kornfield almost 25 years ago. It was a gentle introduction into meditation, a simple approach that made me want to find out more. I became interested in Buddhism and then started studying more formal techniques after attending a residential retreat.

I had always been aware of ‘in the moment’ meditation and had practised Tai Chi for about two years, and experienced mindful eating and loved it. However, those practices fell by the wayside as I focussed on more formal meditations, my favourite being the Metta Bhavana or loving-kindness, which I simply love. I have reached a point in my life where I feel pretty confident in my practice and I know a good bit about it.

So when I started leading the mindfulness sessions at work, I typically wrote my own scripts for different practices to share with the group. However, many people started asking for app recommendations so they could practice on their own. That’s when I began looking into what was out there so I could have an answer.

Having been a meditator for so long, I was actually surprised at how much I have learned in the process. I have always practised a more formal form or traditional meditation. The ‘in the moment’ and contextual meditations are a real revelation and something I now recommend to everyone.

Technology + meditation

At first, being introduced to the concept of meditating whilst using my phone, I honestly thought “WHAT!!!”. This just does not make sense how can I meditate with the one bit of tech designed specifically with human interactions and stimulus in mind. Sceptical, I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was.

The various techniques from shifting focus on the screen or noticing the weight or even mindful scrolling using Facebook or Twitter with the phone opened my mind not only to a new approach to meditation but to the relationship I have with my phone. This brilliant type of meditation is a fantastic way to illustrate the struggles we can have with internal thoughts whilst using external stimuli that often have a strong emotional context. It seems very simple, but it is really clever in helping to bolster concentration and also in dealing with one’s own thoughts.

After practising phone meditation for a week, I looked at my phone differently. It was just an object, it had weight, and it had a screen and apps that begged me to get involved but now I could disengage with it much in the same way that formal meditation helped me deal with thoughts and feelings. I could be aware of my phone and the content on the screen, but not need to interact with it. Literally, mind-altering.

Alex R. is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a huge fan of Paul Gilbert and the compassionate mind approach, he loves the compassionate based meditations within the Growing the Lovely category. If you’re interested in trying a Using Your Phone meditation, he recommends ‘Scroll’ as a starting point.

If you feel you have learnt something important through your meditation practice and you’d like your share your insight or experience, we’d love to hear from you. Let Dana know via [email protected] and she’ll get in touch.

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