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Mindfulness for boosting well-being and effectiveness at work

Why I meditate on the train, between meetings, and before public speaking engagements

Photo: Deva Darshan

Written by Hayley Lever, a buddhify user since 2016

In my current leadership role, I spend my time in back-to-back meetings, seminars, and conference-style events. On an average day, I am talking, listening, and interacting with 20 to 30 people. I am always thinking, planning, reflecting and working out ways to keep things moving in a positive direction. Making time for mindfulness breaks throughout the day helps me find calm amidst the frenzy.

I am a serial doer, rarely stopping to be. Whilst taking the train to work, I am often reading papers or getting on top of emails before the day begins in earnest. In between meetings, as I walk across town, the temptation is to check emails on my phone and make calls. I have to fight the urge to keep ‘doing’ all the time.

Meditation and mindfulness practice doesn’t come naturally or easily to me. But when I have a million thoughts and plans rushing through my head, making time for it during the workday is amazing for my well-being and my effectiveness. A simple pause can have a knock-on effect that positively impacts the way that I interact with others and the work I do for the remainder of the day.

There are many occasions when this practice has been absolute gold. If I am being more mindful, I’ll close my eyes and meditate during my commute. What I notice when I do this, rather than work up to the second the train pulls into the station, is that I arrive calm and ready for the day. My mood is lighter.

A simple pause can have a knock-on effect that positively impacts the remainder of the day.

When there is conflict, tension, or struggle in my day, these mindfulness breaks are also powerful. Regular meditation develops the habit of a breathing space. So even in the middle of a meeting, if things are difficult, or I am having a negative emotional reaction to something that someone has said or done, I can remember to breathe. With some deep breaths, I am able to take my ego and emotion out of the situation and gain perspective.

I find a similar approach to be really useful ahead of public speaking, which is another significant part of my role. Arriving at a conference or event, there is so much going on. I have my speech or presentation whizzing around my head with the usual anxiety about talking in front of a room full of strangers. I am often still sitting with the content — working out whether the approach and style of it is right for the situation. On top of that, there’s making sure the tech is all working, meeting people as the coffee is served, and building up the courage to speak.

With some deep breaths, I am able to take my ego and emotion out of the situation and gain perspective.

I have realised that I need to take myself away from all this for a few minutes before the event starts.  Preferably, I go outside to look to the sky and breathe the fresh air, but in a worst case scenario, it’s going to hide away from the chatter in a toilet cubicle! Either way, I do three things. I meditate, I breathe, and as a wise woman told me once, I ‘put on my big girl pants’ before I go back to deliver my speech. When I do this, the results are fantastic.

Meditation gives me clarity of thought and a level of calm in an often frenetic life.

It’s all about taking a momentary mental step away to prepare for whatever is next. As a whole, using meditation on the job and in the rest of my life makes me a nicer person. It gives me clarity of thought and a level of calm in an often frenetic life.

Hayley Lever is based in Manchester, England.

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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