A rainy day in Sydney always heralds bad traffic; coupled with a breakdown in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel during peak hour it became sheer gridlock. Perfect conditions however, to practise mindfulness for anyone heading into the city to attend Google's mindful leadership conference, Search Inside Yourself.
Sponsored by the Wakeup Project, 350 Sydney-siders filled the ballroom at the Sheraton on the Park to hear what the latest buzz coming out of California was all about. Tech giants like Google, Twitter, Intel and Facebook have embraced mindful meditation and are setting a standard for corporations around the world, building better support frameworks for the health and wellbeing of their staff.
Jono Fisher, founder of The Wake Up Project and curator of the Mindful Leadership Global Forum shares his view on this trend, "The truly innovative companies believe one thing - focusing on people drives performance and the bottom line. When employees feel cared for, when their inner lives are respected, they naturally become more innovative and productive. I have a vision and passion to celebrate Mindful Leadership and Living, and for Australian leaders to not only get involved in the mindful revolution, but to lead it!"
Only recently made available to the public outside of Google's campuses, Search Inside Yourself was developed within Google by an engineer, Chade-Meng Tan who started work on 'creating the conditions for world peace' as his 20 percent personal project.
John Kabat-Zinn, creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and one of the original consultants to Meng on the project defines mindfulness as "Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally."
Mindfulness meditation has been shown in studies to have significant effects on reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Simply sitting quietly for 5 minutes a day is bringing stressed out tech entrepreneurs and Wall Street investors much needed respite from information overload, career pressure and environmental distress.
So what did Google have to say to the Aussies?
During the two day intensive, Search Inside Yourself teachers, Mark Coleman and the gracious and lively Linda Curtis, unpacked these cornerstones of developing an effective mindful practice:
1. Self Awareness
How to increase awareness through practicing regular mindfulness techniques.
2. Self Regulation
A key outcome of the self awareness practices is the ability to effectively manage emotions and reactions when facing an emotional trigger.
Uncovering personal values and ensuring we live in alignment with those to help cultivate a harmonious life.
Learning to transform thinking from beyond concerns of self-oriented satisfaction into kindness and understanding of others and their experiences.
5. Social Skills
Communication methods to bring mindfulness into a supportive and effective context, rather than being reactive and fear based.
We practiced a range of mindfulness techniques from breathing meditation, journaling, mindful walking, cultivating empathy and mindful listening.
The highlight for me was the session on Mindful Leadership, as a seasoned meditator many of the insights were not new to me, but I was inspired by the positive applications of using mindfulness effectively in leadership, through self-assessment, finding purpose, developing others, having difficult conversations mindfully, as well as giving feedback.
Linda Curtis shares her attraction to this program, "What appeals to me about this work is that it is not work. It's inspiring, pragmatic, simple without being simplistic. Search Inside Yourself combines the wisdom of the ancient sages with proven science and provides an accessible program that explores profound truths without diminishing them. I've watched the integration of these tools become a powerful game-changer for the individual and their communities inside and outside the office. Well-being and happiness increases, relationships improve, better decisions are made, leader's discover sustainable ways of being out in front. The implications for peace are exciting to ponder."
The takeaway for me was, 'mindfulness is an idea whose time has come.' As humans we are peaceful and happy by nature, and mindfulness tools are proven techniques for us to learn to manage stress and bring more kindness and purpose into our lives, workplaces and the world around us.
On a related topic check out my recent article on aligning your life's purpose with your work.