Two years ago we were offered a contract to facilitate workshops at one of South Africa’s leading Petrochemical companies. Our brief was to improve safety and build relationships between the employees on the plant and to build stress resilience. They may seem completely unrelated topics and requiring of two sets of workshops. To us, teaching mindfulness seemed to be perfect answer. Since mindfulness is the capacity we all have to pay attention and be in the here and now, we felt it was at the base of many accidents. It is also the foundation to solid relationships.
More recently we have been called into the workplace to teach mindfulness to help employees build stress resilience, manage conflict, improve leadership and develop emotional intelligence. No matter the context or the situation, mindfulness offers us the opportunity to deal with our lives with more clarity, precision, and heartfulness.
Making mistakes is normal and human and often does not prove to be life-threatening. In some organizations a mistake can threaten the bottom line, but may not necessarily endanger lives. In the petrochemical industry, one moment of inattention can threaten lives. Can you think of incidents in your life when not paying attention has lead to the breakdown of a relationship or to a life-threatening circumstance? Do you think you are truly there for the moments of your life? Closer investigation might yield surprising results. As the poem goes “I turned my head away for a moment, only to discover ten years had gone by.” What moments in your life are you missing?
Participants on our programmes have written to us about the improvements they have experienced “my life is more meaningful” – “I finally know the meaning of true emotional intelligence and understanding, and my colleagues and family are reaping the benefits.”
We wish you could have seen our participants walking in the garden mindfully appreciating each step, each flower, the warmth of the sun on their skin. Or moving their bodies with awareness, noticing their thoughts of how they had perhaps neglected their physical health. Or have heard their stories: Butch who woke up in the morning next to his wife’s warm body and shed a tear upon looking at her with love. Phil who noticed that he had missed moments with his children whilst his mind was distracted by worries at work. Peter who determined that he would make daily time to stop and notice his employees “I will put my pen down and turn my body to face them. Still my mind and focus on what they are telling me” he said.
In our many years of corporate experience we have found that mindfulness is the missing component. In this day and age we have become used to filling our inboxes and our minds with information. We have forgotten the practice of stillness that brings us in touch with our deepest wisdom. We have forgotten that human-beings are not human-doings. That we need time to connect, notice, reflect. That the greatest instrument we have is our mind, and that our mind needs to be taught the art of focus. Spending time on more information and courses at work will not guarantee anything if your mind is not in the room. We never count in absenteeism figures, those moments where employees are there in the workplace, but simply not present.
Learning to be present is something that needs to be cultivated and practiced!