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GPS Guide: Mirabai Bush's Tips For Improving Work Performance With Mindfulness

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The stress and strain of constantly being connected can sometimes take your life -- and your well-being -- off course. GPS For The Soul can help you find your way back to balance.

GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others' stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing "secret weapons" that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.

Many people today are asked to improve performance at work with fewer resources and tighter deadlines, all while dealing with equally stressed co-workers and clients. This combination leads to employee burnout and harms organizations. While we may not have control over stressors at work, mindfulness-based exercises are a scientifically proven, natural way to manage our responses to them.

Mirabai Bush, co-founder of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, is a long-time mindfulness meditation practitioner, teacher and organizational management expert. She’s led mindfulness trainings at many fast-paced organizations including Google, Monsanto, and Hearst Publications. Her GPS Guide offers practical mindfulness-based tips to help you reduce stress, increase productivity and go with the flow.

1. Set your intention.

Before meditation, ask yourself the question: Why am I doing this?

Do I want to become more still? More clear? More focused? Do I want to get along better with my team? Be happier? Decide why you really want to be more mindful, and set your intention to work toward this benefit.

2. Notice your breath and your thoughts.

With your eyes closed, or a soft gaze on your desk or the floor near you, bring your attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Notice everything you can about the breath: the temperature, the texture, how long it takes to breathe in and breathe out -- just resting your awareness on your breath. Not breathing in any special way -- just noticing the breath. When your mind wanders off into a thought, or an emotion, gently bring it back to the breath …letting go of that thought or emotion, and attending to the breath. Don’t judge yourself, just simply begin again.

Try this exercise for a few minutes at a time, a few times during the day. Even a few minutes can make a difference.

3. Bring mindfulness to everyday activities.

Mindful walking is a good practice because most of us walk every day. We walk across the parking lot or down the street or down the halls in our buildings. We can use this time of walking to cultivate mindfulness. This practice is similar to mindfulness of your breath, but in mindful walking, you bring your awareness to the sensations within your body.

Begin by shifting your weight to your left leg and foot, feeling the energy in that leg and foot, and noticing the lightness on your right side. And now slowly take your first step, slowly lifting your right heel, and your foot, moving it forward, and placing it on the ground.

As you do this, notice any sensations in your right leg and foot, and then notice the sensations in your left leg and foot. If it helps you to keep your attention on these sensations, you can use a soft mental label. You can say "lifting" "moving" "placing" on the three parts of your step. Try this for a whole hallway or parking lot. When you get to where you are going, you’ll be more present, more mindful.

4. Accept change.

One of the hardest things to deal with in the workplace is change. We just get our desktop organized, our systems in place, our timeline complete, and something changes. And it all has to be done over again. It’s hard to be mindful if you're constantly reacting to change. But mindful practice can actually help you flow with change, be present in the moment as the river of change flows around you. This comes from noticing how sensations, thoughts, emotions, and insights are continually rising and falling away. You begin to see that everything is changing all the time.

As you sit on your chair, take some deep mindful breaths, and then simply breathe naturally and notice your breath. When you notice sensations in your body taking you away from the breath, notice that sensation, stay with the sensation. Notice everything you can about the sensation; temperature, texture. Notice the changes in the sensation. Stay with it until it passes away and return to the breath. Notice the breath arising and falling away. Notice everything changing. Open your eyes and return to the room.

Try this exercise for a few minutes at a time, a few times during the day.

See Bush's mantra's to help maintain mindfulness (even on the most hectic of days) in the slideshow below:

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Mindfulness Mantras To Improve At Work
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Mirabai Bush is a co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society and served as Executive Director until 2008. Under her direction, The Center developed its programs in education, law, business, and activism and its network of thousands of people integrating contemplative practice and perspective into their lives and work. Before entering the foundation world, Mirabai was the first woman to work on the Saturn-Apollo moonflight at Cape Canaveral.

She later co-founded and directed Illuminations, Inc. in Cambridge, MA. Her innovative business approaches, based on mindfulness practice, were reported in Newsweek, Inc., Fortune, and the Boston Business Journal. She is co-author, with Ram Dass, of Compassion in Action: Setting Out on the Path of Service (Random House). Her latest audio work, Working with Mindfulness (More Than Sound), offers guided mindfulness exercises for the workplace to help reduce stress, increase productivity, and encourage creative problem solving.

For more GPS Guides, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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