How To Relieve Work Stress

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

We received a phone call and the voice on the other end simply
asked, “Do you teach meditation?” Ed said yes. The voice replied, “We would
like to have you come to Thailand to teach our CEOs.” Ed thought it was a joke
as there are more people who teach meditation in Thailand then most any place
in the world, but it was true. The year before it had been golf -- this year, the
VP wanted to try meditation.

So we went to teach these highly stressed top-management bosses the
simple art of being silent. These people were bright and sharp but who knew if
they were interested? By the end
of the week, we had no idea if they had understood what we were teaching but on
the last day, when they were free to do whatever they wanted, one of them
requested a meditation session. To our amazement, they all showed up. After
that, the VP signed us to work with management for a year and we became his
personal coach.

As stress levels increase, stress-reduction programs are becoming
more common throughout the business world. Although they tend to focus on time
management and simple relaxation practices, more and more we see yoga and
meditation classes being offered in the workplace. Google has offered both, as
have Yahoo!, Rodale Publishers, Morgan Stanley, and Price Waterhouse Coopers,
to name but a few.

As Oliver Ryan wrote in Fortune
magazine: “The crowd of
Harvard Business School alums who gathered at their reunion to hear networking-expert
Keith Ferrazzi speak...might have expected to pick up strategies on how to work
a room, remember people’s names, or identify mentors… Instead, Ferrazzi let his
fellow alums in on a little secret: meditation. Exercise and prayer work too,”
he said, “but meditation has been so effective that he now spends ten days
every year at a silent meditation retreat. In other words, the man whose latest
book is Never Eat Alone credits much
of his success to alone time.”

It is easy to see why meditation is having such an impact. Stress
creates workplace fatigue, absenteeism, mistakes, a lack of productivity,
burnout and breakdown, while meditation has the opposite effect. It helps
decrease the amount of stress experienced while clearing the mind, increasing
concentration and confidence, and helping to achieve greater perspective to
solve problems. It promotes thoughtfulness, which leads to better, more careful
decisions. It improves listening skills, which develops enhanced interpersonal
communication, and it clarifies purpose and vision.

With results like these, corporations now see classes in stress
release as both beneficial to the employee’s health and as a way to inspire and
stimulate creativity. As Joel Levey said to us, "We need to pay attention to the whispers rather than waiting for the screams."

When working with corporations we begin each meeting with a few
minutes of silence and held longer sessions during the day. Many of the
participants comment on how sitting in silence this way is the first time they
have ever been in the present moment, in the here and now, without thoughts
crowding in to fill the space.

Starting a meeting with a few minutes of silence is a very powerful
yet simple way to bring people together that any business can implement, even without
having to call it meditation. In this way, no one thinks they are being asked
to do something weird!

In our book (see below) Tami Simon, the founder and director of
Sounds True publishing, shares two meditation practices she uses at work:

A Minute of Silence

We have a minute of silence at the beginning of all of our meetings;
even at a meeting between just three people, we take a minute first. Most
people are moving from meeting to meeting or from this conversation to this
email, and when we get rushed we run over people, we do not listen very well,
we make bad decisions, and we are only half present. To just sit down for a
minute clears the mind and brings us all into the present moment so that
everyone is on the same page before the meeting begins.

Attending to Sensations

If your mind is agitated, your body will be tense; if your body is
tense, your mind will be agitated. By letting go of physical tension in the
body, you create space in your mind to listen to others and act creatively.

In the midst of a meeting, a phone conversation, or any interaction
in which you feel yourself becoming impatient or agitated, bring your attention
to the part of your body holding the tension. You can do this by internally
scanning your body from your toes to the top of your head, zeroing in on any
part that seems tight, clenched, or contracted. Perhaps you will discover that
your lower belly is in a knot or your shoulders are up by your ears. Maybe your
hands feel like they are gripping something or the bottoms of your feet are
recoiling from the ground. When you discover an area of physical tension, use
your in-breath to connect with that sensation. Then, on the out-breath, simply
release, relax, and let go. You can actually “ride the out-breath” and let it
carry your tension out into space.

Have you
experienced meditation at work? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our
blogs every Thursday by checking Become a
at the top.


Join us for a booksigning: November 16th
at Barnes & Nobel, 150 East 86th St., NYC, with guest speakers:
Ellen Burstyn, Robert Thurman, Cyndi Lee, Andrew Cohen and Mark Matousek.

And Nov 17th at Gasoline Alley, 250
Albany St., Springfield MA with Bernie Glassman, William Spear and Chloe
Goodchild. More details at: 




Ed and Deb
Shapiro’s new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World,
forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors such as
Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Beckwith,
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Byron Katie, Dean Ornish, and
others is published by Sterling Ethos. Deb is the author of the award-winning
book YOUR
. Ed and
Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and
workshops. Enjoy their 3 meditation CD’s: Metta - Loving kindness and
Forgiveness; Samadhi – Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga
– Inner Conscious Relaxation, available on their website: