Mindfulness has emerged as a panacea for the corporate world, with a growing body of research suggesting its benefits in reducing stress and building compassion towards others. At a time when stress-related absences cost the corporate sector over $300 billion, leading organisations are promoting the practice to prevent employee burnout and improve productivity. Google’s mindfulness training program is known as “Search Inside Yourself”, while General Mills, Intel, Aetna, and Goldman Sachs are encouraging employees to sign up for mindfulness programs. However, in spite of the benefits, mindfulness meditation has been witnessing a backlash in the last couple of years or so. Well, the backlash is not against mindfulness or meditation per se, it’s against the alleged ‘sinister’ motive of ‘cunning’ corporations and its commercialisation that has had the purists fuming.
Focus on mental health has increased drastically in recent years as awareness regarding the benefits of a mentally sound individual in improving productivity and creativity has risen. Mindful meditation programs are being launched in various organizations to improve productivity and employee welfare.
Workplace disruption that was initiated with the idea of artificial intelligence taking human jobs has become a more imminent threat to employee well-being ever since the breakout popularity of ChatGPT skyrocketed in the past few months. Integration of virtual reality and augmented reality with mindful meditation to improve its efficacy is a trend that is gaining traction among mindful meditation providers.
Advocates of mindfulness are focusing on ways to get more people on the bandwagon of meditation, and medication application providers are coming up with innovative ways to do so as well.
Here are some of the key benefits that are associated with mindfulness and can be achieved through meditation:
Opponents of adopting mindfulness at workplace are of the opinion that organisations have zero interest in boosting employee welfare, and mindfulness is being used as a tool to get the most of the employees – a motive driven to increase the bottom line. While mindfulness is being introduced as a secular meditation practice with proven results, its roots lie in Buddhism, and its greater purpose is spiritual awakening. For many critics, using mindfulness for reducing stress and improving focus is acceptable, but using the benefits to add to the annual revenues of a company, which may be indulging in unethical practices, is counterintuitive to the whole idea of mindfulness meditation. It is this concern that prompted American Zen teacher David Loy to write a letter (which was made public later) to Harvard Professor William George, a well-known proponent of mindfulness at workplace, but also a board member of Goldman Sachs.
Proponents of mindfulness are aware of the criticism, but they are confident that it will withstand the backlash. The practice itself is over 2,500 years old, and it has witnessed the test of time. Proponents believe that most critics are aware of the incredible benefits of mindfulness meditation, but they are concerned that corporations will misuse it to serve their own interest of wealth creation and profit generation. But, fearing that something will be misused doesn’t warrant shunning it altogether. Most proponents are optimistic that when practiced for a long time, the higher goals of honesty, ethical behaviour, and compassion towards others will be a natural end-result of mindfulness.
Stress relief and anxiety reduction are two of the major reasons why people turn to mindfulness, or other types of meditation. At that moment in time, when people are struggling with their own selves, demanding they be compassionate towards others or reflect an altruistic behaviour might be asking for too much. But once people continue to practice mindfulness, even after their emotional challenges no longer plague them, will they delve deeper into the beautiful journey of mindfulness. They will have the space and the luxury of understanding their true self, and bringing out that true self to others around them. “When the student is ready, the teacher arrives” – as people make the journey from amatuers to long-term meditators, they will gain the wisdom to make choices that are not only beneficial for their own self-interest and the companies that employ them, but also for their community and country. But for that to happen, we need to have more people practising mindfulness.