The Art Of Being Still


Louise Chester, director at Mindfulness at Work, tells Salt why learning to be present is one of the most valuable things we can do in life.

What does being mindful mean?   
Being mindful means being aware – to enable greater clarity and insight in the present moment about the thoughts, emotions and sensations we experience.

How can being mindful improve productivity in the office? 
Mindful practices can positively impact both the structure and the wiring of our brains to enable us to be able to process the data of life more effectively. It thickens the grey matter in the areas of working memory and executive function but it also enables a reduction in perceived stress, enhancing peak performance, creativity and teamwork.

More importantly perhaps, when people become more mindful, they can become more empathic and considerate, thereby enhancing the working environment for those around them too.

How can mindfulness help with creativity?
Einstein is quoted as saying ‘We can’t solve a problem with the thinking that created it’.  When one is able to calm the choppy waters of the emotional mind and reduce rumination and over-thinking, then the clarity that ensues can be very positive for creativity.

Bringing Beginner’s Mind to the assumptions and stories that we bring to our work can also help us to see an challenge from a different perspective and unlock an new solution.

Can mindfulness help you to get on with your colleagues?
Noticing how tightly we sometimes hold on to ideas and acknowledging that ‘thoughts aren’t necessarily facts’ helps us to listen to others’ points of view and opens us to the possibility of collaboration rather than competition.

Mindfulness practices enhance the areas of the brain associated with empathy as well as helping us to be more present and less distracted with colleagues.

How does mindfulness help communication skills?
The Chinese character ‘to listen’ has the elements of ears, 10 eyes, king, with full attention, from the heart.  Too often we are only half listening and not really seeing the other person, as we prepare what we are going to say next or become distracted with thoughts of things we need to do next.

When we are able to listen mindfully, in a non-judging and present way, we start to communicate effectively with others. As they start to feel heard and respected, they too bring their whole self to the exchange and effective communication can occur.

Ok, let’s get down to it. What are some of the top techniques involved in being mindful?
Just as taking exercise is the only way to build physical fitness, so taking time out of our day to take a formal mindfulness practice is crucial to building the awareness muscle. We find through our training programmes for the workplace, that even 10 minutes a day is enough for our course participants to notice small but positive changes in how they experience life and then how they respond to it.

Using our senses as a portal in to our present moment experience is the key. So whether we use the sensations of the breath in the body – anchoring our attention on this experience – or whether we sit and listen to the sounds around us or feel the ground beneath our feet as we walk, coming out of the conceptual world of thought and into the real world sensed in the ‘here and now’ is a great technique to remember and practice whenever we can.

If everyone was more mindful, could we change the world?
At Mindfulness at Work we believe that if every person was more aware of the impact of their thoughts and actions, not just in the workplace, but in every sphere of their life, then  they naturally make more compassionate and wiser choices.

If these choices are aggregated in more conscious business behaviour then the ripples of these actions reach far and wide. And as the future of humanity beyond the next 100 years hangs in the balance, the world really could become a place that future generations could thank us for.

Follow Louise on Twitter @ukmindfulness