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Changing an Organization

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At a pilot program created by the Garrison Institute, we offered mindfulness training through meditation and yoga to domestic violence shelter personnel, hoping to reinforce resilience skills in face of the incredibly stressful environment in which they work. We started with frontline workers.

After some time, seeing positive affects in the people who had attended the program, managers, directors and supervisors contacted us, asking for a program designed for them. I was intrigued by this picture of change happening from the bottom up.

As the program went on, whether they were front line workers or directors, participants looked at the possibility of a changed collective experience, and began talking about "creating a culture of wellness" at work. In the midst of the stress and intensity they functioned in every day, they were searching for a way to reinforce the possibility of more happiness at work. One woman spoke of replacing the junk food they brought in regularly with healthier snacks. A group determined to start a roof top garden. Several spoke of starting meetings with a few minutes of silent reflection. Everyone spoke of creating some spot of tranquility -- a quiet corner, a meditation space. And one woman had a breakthrough experience by realizing, and then instituting, a real lunch break.

No matter the size of the space you see as shaping your reach -- a domestic violence shelter, an office, a classroom, a desk, or your own mind and body -- if you set out to create a culture of wellness you will come to know far greater balance.

This is a different sense of leadership, where our lives are seen as seamless, where our values come right into the workplace with us, where we feel authentic, and whole. Even if our job description isn't the one of our dreams, and doesn't have nominal authority, we will know a different kind of power. Sometimes we love our work and it really is a calling. Sometimes it is a chore, just what we need to do right now to earn a living. Often it veers between each of these poles. In any case, the contours of greater well being at work are valuable to examine and enhance.

What would a culture of wellness look like at your workplace? Starting with your own greater concentration, mindfulness, and compassion, what changes do you see as possible for you to initiate? Even if you work in a seemingly intractable system, there is still the fruitful and creative realm of your body, mind and spirit.

Exploring these questions is why I'm excited to be presenting a workshop March 7-9 at the Garrison Institute with Janice Marturano, founder and executive director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.

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