Meeting ourselves where we are

We have just finished our first eight week introduction to mindful meditation. Abbie, our tutor, guided us through an hour every Tuesday lunchtime for the past two months. It’s an odd thing to undertake with work colleagues, it’s fairly exposing and there is a degree of vulnerability required in being open to the practice, but we were all happy to commit to the initial sessions.

Our venture into mindful meditation came about after our yearly review discussions. I meet with the team individually at the start of each year and take time to reflect and to help them set goals for the year ahead. We talk openly about where we are, what we find difficult, our areas for development. We also talk honestly about anxiety, fragility, ego, sense of self, value and worth. As a group of creatives I don’t imagine we are any more or less affected by these very human concerns then any other. But we hope that by encouraging each other to ask for help in more difficult times and by providing an environment where we can talk openly without judgment, we can look after each other better. So many of the discussions I had at the start of the year touched on acceptance, being comfortable with who we are, seeing the value in ourselves that I wondered whether a group introduction to mindfulness might help us.

A few years ago we adopted as a business the One Planet Living framework. It’s Health and Happiness strand is one of 10 core principals and explains that ‘rising wealth and greater health and happiness increasingly diverge, raising questions about the true basis of well-being and contentment.’ At Neo we’re all interested in exploring that truth. That’s why we choose to pursue the work we do. But moving towards well-being and contentment takes conscious effort. Part of that is being more mindful of how we approach our lives and our work. Perhaps, as a team, in being more mindful we can better articulate ‘why we do what we do’.

We started out feeling varying degrees of uncomfortable. We’re sitting in a circle examining a raisin as if it’s the first time we’ve ever really seen one, we’re wrapped in blankets on the floor scanning our bodies for sensations, we’re even standing with our eyes shut rotating our hips. It’s bizarre to get up from an internal meeting or finish a conversation with a client and then walk across the road in the middle of the day, with everything buzzing round in your head, and then lie down on the floor with those same people around you and focus on how your toes feel against your socks in that moment.

A different theme every week ranging from ‘thoughts are not facts’ to ‘recognising our stress responses’ helped frame the course and the balance of theory and practical was useful. Some people did home practice, some experienced just the lunchtime sessions and it felt different for different people. Some things Abbie talked about or certain exercises we did resonated more for some then others. But as the weeks went on we became less self conscious and slightly more at ease. The shift from one environment to the other in the middle of the day didn’t seem so weird and lying in blankets next to each other on the floor felt somehow okay.

Everyone had a different experience over the eight weeks and took away different insights. For me, I am beginning to understand that while acknowledgement and acceptance of ourselves is hugely important, it is only when you can bring kindness to that acceptance that real transformation can take place. And I now know that when Charlie gets really stressed he finds it uncomfortable to swallow.

Has it helped us feel differently about ego and self worth and to be more comfortable in ourselves? I can’t speak for everyone. But I think it’s another resource we can draw on that helps us build on the openness and honesty we place so much value in as colleagues. To try and remove judgment, to meet each other as we are in that moment, on that day. To accept each others frailties. To find joy in the everyday. To be kind.

We’re keen to keep it up so we’re having early morning sessions once a fortnight with Abbie as an ongoing practice. Colleagues that mindfully meditate together can move mountains together. Or be happy that the mountain hasn’t moved quite so far but appreciate that the birds flying out of the shadows in that moment were beautiful.

image credits: Creative commons Flickr angela schmeidel randall