Practice in the Workplace

Contemplative Meeting

 

During the past decade, a growing number of companies and organizations have discovered the advantages of offering their staff a chance to learn about meditation, yoga, and other contemplative practices. In a 2004 study, we found 135 companies and organizations that offer such benefits. Undoubtedly, there are now many more.

Research (Davidson RJ, Kabat-Zinn J, et al 2003) and anecdotal evidence (Der Hovanesian 2003) indicate that employees who take up these practices tend to experience less stress and more job satisfaction and productivity. This is no small matter in a time when stress-related ailments cost companies about $200 billion a year in increased absenteeism, tardiness, and the loss of talented workers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (Der Hovanesian 2003).

Some companies and organizations are taking the idea of meditation in the workplace one step further and are experimenting with the creation of a different kind of workplace, one that is based upon values such as reflection, awareness, and compassion. At these workplaces, the use of contemplative practices goes beyond stress reduction, and is integrated into many levels of the daily work, including meetings, decision making, strategic planning, team communication, and the work itself. We have called this the “Contemplative Organization.”

Examples of this kind of workplace are often found in religious or faith-based settings. At organizations like the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Contemplative Outreach, Ltd, and Parallax Press (publishers of Buddhist books), employees share in meditation and contemplative prayer time during the work day, and often use the insights from these practices to frame their interactions.

But even companies whose focus is not exclusively spiritual are finding ways to create contemplative organizations.

Case Studies

Through research visits to three workplaces, Sounds True, a publishing company, Jobs with Justice, a labor organizing organization, and Windhorse Associates, a health care and treatment organization, we explored these questions:

  • What are the ways in which organizations attempt to bring contemplative practices into their everyday work environments?
  • Does this impact the culture of the organization? If so, how? If not, what stays the same? What are the obstacles to a cultural shift? What factors support a cultural shift?
  • How do people at various levels in the organization (management, staff, service recipients or consumers) experience this process?
  • What are the “best practices” of these organizations? What are the contexts in which these practices are optimized?
  • Why does an organization choose to do this? What are the advantages and organizational benefits? What are the limitations?

If you are interested in learning more, we invite you to download our report,

Creating the Contemplative Organization: Lessons from the Field

84 pages, 1.9 MB .pdf file

Working With Mindfulness Working With Mindfulness, a new CD/digital download by Contemplative Mind’s Founding Director Mirabai Bush, offers mindfulness trainings for the workplace to help reduce stress, increase productivity, and encourage creative problem solving. Learn more.

 

Suggested Books for the Contemplative Workplace

Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching by James A. Autry & Stephen Mitchell
Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Reinvention of Work by Matthew Fox
Zen at Work by Les Kaye
Work as a Spiritual Practice by Lewis Richmond
The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte
Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by David Whyte

 

The Activist’s Ally: Contemplative Tools for Social Change

In response to the need for information on using contemplative practices in organizational settings, we have created The Activist’s Ally, a resource manual for social justice activists seeking to bring contemplative practices into their lives, communities, and workplaces.

Includes a 13-track companion CD of music and practice instructions.
Full color; 120 pages; view sample .pdf
$20.00 plus $5.00 shipping
Contact us for availability and purchasing options.

 

The Contemplative Toolbox: A Resource for Integrating Practice into your Work and Daily Life

The Contemplative Toolbox was created as a part of our Social Justice Program.

Over the past 12 years we have come into contact with organizations across the country who are trekking through the pathless land of integrative workplace dynamics. All kinds of organizations, from nonprofits to corporations to informal collectives, have derived great benefit from the integration of contemplative practices into their workplaces. The Contemplative Toolbox includes some basic information that may be helpful to you and members of your group as you begin this process.