“Leave people better than you found them.” – Marvin J. Ashton
Since I started to meditate, I am striving to add meditation everywhere I go. Family, friends’ gatherings, NGO world, language classes, events for young adults and now in a company. Company, based in a small Lithuanian town (Panevezys), gathers a team of 83 people, mostly coming from older generations, who grew up in a small city, striving for a better life. Meditation for many of them is a foreign thing, something they’ve heard about but consider out of their league. However, my current experience proves that when not pushed strongly but offered bit by bit, mindfulness and meditation can be introduced to any team. Team meetings are the best time for it, especially now when many meetings happen online.
See the diversity of tools and techniques that I suggest for the meetings and the daily life in a company:
Start with the smallest group. Usually, the smallest group is the administration or management team. It is easier to get attention and demonstrate the benefits for a few people, who will later act as role models spreading the passion for a mindful team.
Use the waiting time in the meetings. Often team meetings start with “how are you?” or “oh, new sweater” talks be it an online or offline meeting. Instead, as a meeting moderator you can immediately open it with mindfulness from the first minute.
Ask mindful questions. In the beginning of the meetings, we often tend to warm up by asking “how are you?” or “what did you do during the weekend?”. Well, these questions can be easily changed with something that brings presence. For example: what emotions are you feeling now and in which part of your body? What is the main thought in your head right now? Name a few things you feel grateful for now! Name a person you’d like to apologize or thank! Etc.
Start off with a minute of silence. On busy days, when there is a lot to do, it is a very useful moment to turn off any sounds, ask everyone to close their eyes and allow them to sit in silence without any distractions. Before starting the minute, explain a little what is the purpose of this silence, how it is beneficial and encourage everyone just to observe the thoughts like watching a TV.
Cut off heated moments with mantra music. Have a speaker ready and favourite selection of calming mantras (Samma Arahang mantra as taught by Peace Revolution might be too foreign for many, thus a simple Youtube collection can help). Surprise your team by breaking the emotional tension with mantra music and asking everyone to disconnect from the heated discussion by just listening to mantras, before returning to a conversation.
Compliment each other. When the energy of the team is low, boost it by mindfully starting the meeting with compliments. A useful activity is to choose one person to be complimented, ask the person just to sit comfortably and listen while others are giving meaningful compliments. Remind that compliments shall be sincere and address something specific rather than “you are beautiful”.
Ask everyone to praise themselves loudly. It is a way to boost confidence and give a chance to appreciate oneself with all the achievements. Compliment can be physically followed by a hug to oneself. It is a mindful way to remind your team members to be gentle and loving with themselves.
Choose a Team mantra to end the meetings. It is an idea for a team activity – to write down inspiring phrases each month and choose one that matches the team best (like, clear and bright, calm and concentrated, confident and humble etc.). This phrase can be a closing phrase for all of your meetings.
Breathe together. Breathing is a perfect tool to introduce before meditation. It is more familiar to newcomers and brings attention to the center of the body (the focus point in Dhammakaya meditation). You can ask the group to close their eyes and choose one of the breathing techniques from yoga, like square breathing, ujjayi breath or any other breathing which you feel comfortable to guide.
Use Team birthdays for spreading love and kindness meditation. Instead of singing “happy birthday”, a tool of sharing love meditation can be used which helps calm the mind and create a bond. It does not have to be presented as meditation. It’s enough to ask everyone to close their eyes, scan the body a little bit and then concentrate on the light within. From the light, they can be asked to share this feeling with the person celebrating their birthday.
Use journaling. It is often much easier to start implementing mindfulness by penning down your thoughts, emotions and observations. This way, one can become more aware of his/her behaviour and make necessary changes in order to become a better team member and friend.
Stretch. It is another technique preparing the group for meditation. Again, it can be done with eyes closed, in silence, guiding the group with calm, low voice. Don’t worry if you do not know specific stretches, the goal here is to set the mind into meditative mode thus using your calm, centered voice. Youtube has great tutorials to prepare for a seated 3 minute stretch. Find poses, which you can hold for longer, like neck and shoulder stretches.
Release the inner voice. It’s an exercise very relevant for Teams using their voice for working with clients a lot. Share a story with your team about how to transmit the inner intentions through the voice and invite everyone to massage their chest with a fist to release the voice and then ask to repeat the mantra together while massaging the chest and feeling the vibration of the voice coming from the centre of the body.
Set a “no distractions” rule for the meetings. Phones must be out of the meeting room to keep the attention and presence. One can allow an hour of phone freedom. Dot.
Meditate. Yes, now the team is ready to try meditation. Start with 5 minutes. Of course, in order to be able to introduce it to the team, you shall try it for yourself at least a month. Walking the talk is the most powerful tool. Then, just follow the same guide that you use for yourself, trust me it is not that difficult as long as you get into a meditative mood yourself. And in case you are not comfortable, you can always drop a line to WPI Peace Architects for help.
Use a messaging platform for encouragement. Love for mindfulness does not come in the second or third meeting. It takes months, for some people even years to open up, thus constant encouragement and reminders help to keep up the passion and interest. Whatsapp, Viber or any other communication tool that you use can be a channel where you share daily inspirations and quotes about mindfulness, as well as tips for daily habits. Yes, it is an additional work, but also an inspiration for oneself personally!
Wishing all to experience the benefits of a mindful team.
What are your tips for adding mindfulness to the meetings?