I was shocked that 3 hours of the conference was devoted to mindfulness. It was an excellent part of the conference even though it made me feel sleepy.

The reality is that we all feel stressed, at some point, by our jobs. Having tools to use to calm down is valuable. Many times, we seek out these tools outside of work and our co-workers think we are weird for what we have chosen. That a company as large as Salesforce.com thinks mindfulness is important really made me pay attention.

All of the speakers were outside people, so I don’t know if the C-Suite uses these techniques, but devoting time to them is a commitment. I can see how they would think it is important, because more calm means fewer adverse interactions between colleagues. Happy workers = higher productivity.

Marc Benioff says that the business of business is to improve the world.

The definition of mindfulness in this conference included:

  • Exercising compassion
  • Paying deliberate, careful attention moment by moment (be here now or paying attention on purpose)
  • Developing awareness, mental clarity and insight
  • Exercising compassion

All of the speakers agreed that the above were the basic tenets. Tara Brach (an American psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation. She set up an Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C., a “spiritual community” that teaches and practices Vipassana meditation. Wikipedia) furthered this defintion by adding that mindfulness is an evolutionary strategy that maximizes human potential.

Ms. Brach added:

  • friendliness, not judgmental-ness
  • learning to pause, stop, settle
  • take criticism without resentment

We were reminded that it is easy to say “I don’t have enough time” and enable those few words to become an inner mantra and affect our entire lives. The question to ask is how we each can live true to ourselves not based on the expectations of others?

The biggest inner stressor is a sense of deficiency. It shows up as perfectionism, self judgment and a chronic sense of not enough. These lead to:

  • inability to relax
  • fear of taking risks
  • inability to be intimate with people
Chade-Meng Tan also spoke. He is known informally as Meng, and is a software engineer and motivator at Google known especially for greeting celebrities who visit the Google campus. He is Google employee number 107 and his job title is Jolly Good Fellow. (Wikipedia)

One thing that resonated with me with Meng’s talk was his insistence that if you have health and fitness, everything changes. I know this to be true. I know it is hard to fit workouts and eating good food in, but it makes a huge difference. He also discussed the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace, of which there are 3 elements:

  1. Learning to create a calm and clear mind
  • By being able to calm the mind in a crisis, you look like a leader. People want calm in crisis and most cannot be calm.
  • A calm, clear mind gives you choice, power and freedom
  1. Self knowledge and self mastery
    Changes “I am angry” to “I am experiencing anger” which is the acknowledgement that your emotions are not you. Your thoughts are not you and and you are not your thoughts.
  1. Create useful mental habits
  • kindness, which means, for example, that when you see a person your first thought is “I want that person to be happy” You do this because of habit, but a habit move up through you to make you a happier person.

I don’t suppose you can get away from a discussion on mindfulness without talking about meditation. I am not a person that feels I can meditate, but Meng made me think of meditation in a way that makes me think I could do it. Not the weeklong silent retreats…yet, perhaps. His definition of meditation makes sense and is flexible: “meditation is whatever you do that helps you shut out the noise.”

He also said that:

  • we should gather people around us who are on the same path and that magic will happen.
  • Sharing and caring for another human being is a gift you give to yourself. This made me think of moms
  • Perfect your capacity to be present with an open heart as opposed to trying to perfecting yourself

One basic meditation strategy that I could do is taking 8 deep breaths and let them out slowly. It is a start.