Mindfulness at Work: Your Silicon Valley Job Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy
Your boss is demanding, your colleagues competitive, the workload is overwhelming and the deadlines are unrealistic.
Working in Silicon Valley can sometimes feel crazy.
And what’s even worse, we seem to have developed a culture of stress, where being overburdened and living on the edge of burn-out is a badge of honor. Being calm and serene can look a little suspicious. Is he or she not serious about his job?
Still, there is a way of converting stress into resilience, and an unpleasant working life into the life you want to live. More and more people are discovering its benefits, and many companies, including Silicon Valley giants, are incorporating it into their philosophy: Mindfulness at work.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment.
It starts with noticing the living world of the senses all around you. The sounds, the smells, the movements and colors in your field of vision.
Mindfulness is the practice of everywhere and any time. Mindfulness means that you just observe and absorb. You stop analyzing and judging.
The one thing that connects you the most to the present moment is your breath. Just observing how it flows in and out of your body is an exercise in mindfulness. If you want to take it a little further, try to lengthen your breath by counting slowly to 6 as you inhale, 6 as you hold the breath, and then count to 8 as you breathe out.
The practice of mindfulness at work
Maybe you can see the benefits of mindfulness in your personal life, but how can you practice this at work? How do you fit it into your busy schedule? Is it socially acceptable to just sit and breathe? What will your co-workers think if you close your eyes to listen and connect with your body?
The answer is: in many work places, yes, this is very much accepted. If not, you could try to explain it and give out links to the information.
If you are not sure, or if your work stress includes unsympathetic colleagues, and an intimidating environment, you could take mini-meditation breaks for a minute or two every hour, either incorporated into a comfort break (where you can practice mindfulness behind a closed door!) or on a short walk to another location. If all else fails, practice mindfulness breathing with open eyes and fingers on keyboard. Even the sound of a printer or the soft breeze of the air conditioning on your skin can be part of your practice.
Mindfulness is everywhere
Mindfulness is the practice of everywhere and any time.
The sounds you hear don’t have to be ocean waves and the scent you focus on can be the smell of the office cappuccino. What counts is the connection to the present moment, whatever it may be.
Benefits of mindfulness in the workplace:
- Stop Being Caught Up in a Fearful Tomorrow
Deadlines and workloads can make you anxious. They create a constant fear of tomorrow, and of failing what you need to deliver tomorrow.
Thinking of what that future may entail – job insecurity, loss of status, financial problems – can drive you crazy. Mindfulness mediation reminds you that the only time you live is now. Breathe and listen. Then, let tomorrow take care of itself.
- Stop Being Trapped in the Past
The mistakes of yesterday often overshadow the simple experiences of today. The past is gone. What you do have is your living body and your place in the world right now.
- Stop Being Here But Not Really Here
Your job in Silicon Valley is probably complex and multi-layered. That can make it hard to focus on the task at hand. Mindfulness at work can help you overcome distraction and keep thoughts from constantly going off on tangents.
- Creativity, Productivity, Resilience
The more connected you are to yourself, the more you are able to live in the present moment– and the more creative and productive you will be. Mindfulness also increases resilience, confidence, and even overall physical health. However, mindfulness works best when it becomes a company culture and is practiced by everyone.
The mindful company
If your company doesn’t yet follow the example of Google, Harvard, and Facebook, all who have now integrated mindfulness programs into the working lives of their employees, you can start creating a more mindful atmosphere. Talk to your co-workers about it and perhaps found a mindfulness group. Learn the basic techniques online, from a book, or a local group. Mindfulness at work has a proven track record, it costs nothing, and is available whenever you need it.