Picture this: it's Monday morning, you're at your desk and your boss strolls by "How are things going?"
"Great" you respond, coffee in hand, both computer screens going.
On the outside it looks like you're working and being productive. But really an hour has passed by and nothing got done. You're stewing over the fight you had with your spouse the night before, as your eyes glaze over the screens in front of you. Your heart's just not in it.
Sound familiar? You're not alone. Companies know that in order to maximize productivity they need to maximize the wellbeing of their employees. This is why meditation in the workplace is becoming increasingly popular.
It's no surprise why: research study after study shows that meditation helps to improve productivity by increasing focus, creativity, clarity, and decreasing stress and negativity.
Every workforce wants to maximize productivity and employee efficiency. In the end, this means higher profits, which is why more and more companies are investing in the wellbeing of their employees.
Until fairly recently the popular route was mindfulness-based meditation, which is about monitoring your mind: observing any thoughts that arise and then returning to the breath as the vehicle to return to the present moment.
Mindfulness-based meditation is wonderful. But there's a more radical emotion-based meditation that's beginning to seep it's way into large companies.
As a meditator myself, I too was more familiar with mindfulness-based meditation. Then Tina Foster, a meditation mentor and course creator introduced me to Loving Kindness Meditation, which she's taught for the last 3 years at a leading Fortune 500 company in San Francisco.
What began as a pilot-study for a select few employees became a viral program with a waitlist of hundreds wanting to join. The power of the practice spoke for itself.
I have to tell you-I was shocked that a corporation would allow this meditation into its doors...Frankly it's deep emotional work.
Normally you're trained to leave your emotions at the door and don't bring personal life into work.
It wasn't until I spoke with Melissa Valentine-a self-taught aficionado in positive psychology, and workplace wellbeing trainer with over a decade of HR experience at Fortune 500 Companies that I understood why this kind of deep emotional compassion-based meditation was not just allowed into a corporate atmosphere, but why it would help employees become more productive and innovative-which is paramount to lead in today's ever-changing market.
"It's as simple as this" Valentine explained, "I need employees to be mentally and emotionally clear so they can tackle their work with energy and focus every day. Everyone knows that happy, healthy, engaged employees do wonders for customer satisfaction and a company's bottom line."
If somebody comes into work after having a fight with their spouse, or they are dealing with challenging life circumstances, these issues are going to affect your work. As Valentine says "We do not live in an impenetrable bubble."
You can pretend to walk in with a happy face but that doesn't mean the emotional stuff isn't clouding up your mind and your ability to be productive. The loving kindness meditation taught by Tina Foster addresses the emotional stuff so that you can face it head on, deal with it, and then be able to get back to work with optimal productivity.
The biggest difference between a mindfulness-based meditation versus a compassion-based meditation is the difference between head-centered and heart-centered meditation.
Mindfulness helps quiet the mind. Often while attending a mindfulness-based meditation there's a lot of silence, and reminders to "return to your breath to let the thought go."
On the other hand, in heart-centered meditation you're guided to repeat phrases such as "May you be happy. May you be healthy."
As Foster explains "The phrases aren't affirmations or suggestions about 'how to feel.' Telling ourselves to feel happy would be false positivity. The phrases are tools to help us feel what arises like a pebble dropped in water to see what bubbles up from beneath. Ultimately, the meditation is the practice of pure awareness of feelings".
There are several layers through the loving kindness meditation experience. As you go through the layers-you're bound for a multitude of emotions to arise.
And emotions are something that as a society we tend not to be too comfortable with-especially in a corporate environment. However, addressing emotions is key to uncovering innovative, creative, top-talent work.
As Valentine explains "To our brains, social pain registers the same as physical pain. So in social settings, such as work, your brain works hard to keep you "safe", not creative or productive. It's simple really - to do your best work you have to feel safe and trust the people you are working with. These are pre-conditions for creativity and innovation to occur in the workplace."
This is why a compassion-based meditation works: When we feel safe, we're more likely to take risks and it's when we take creative risks that the most innovative work is born.
And there's another bonus too: in the workforce there are bound to be days where people take their bad mood out on you. Imagine if instead of reacting you could take a meditation-moment at your desk, practice the compassion-based meditation phrases and in just a few minutes you can go from anger boiling at your co-worker to feeling compassion and freedom to get back to your work.
We've all had the experience where frustration builds up in our minds leaving us paralyzed from taking any creative action forward. The compassion-based meditation is a simple tool that you can integrate at a moment's notice to help you let go of any negativity at work.
Compassion-based meditation is healthy all around: within the workforce it facilitates more harmonious relationships and it supports inner calm from any life challenges that could hold you back from being fully present at work.
Although compassion-based meditation is just starting to show up on the scene, it's results for employee happiness, satisfaction, retention and innovation are having wonderful results.
The question is, this is still pretty radical for many companies to grasp. It will certainly be interesting to see how this radical movement of heart-centered meditation in Corporate America will change the game when it comes to a happier and more innovative workforce.
Tova Payne is a writer and consultant based out of Vancouver. She believes integrating mindfulness into business is essential for innovation. Get a free meditation audio for business clarity and an e-guide on the 5 keys to start + finish your Projects at www.tovapayne.com
Follow Tova Payne on Twitter: @tovapayne