Mindfulness is the new trend to release pressure and prevent job burnout. A basic idea and purpose of mindfulness is to focus on what matters in life, but it is often the esoteric chic of burnt out managers.
Self-awareness is a powerful soft skill that helps us break free from traditional thinking and behavioral patterns that do not serve us.
If someone can perceive themselves unbiased, understands how and why he reacts to certain triggers, he will turn off the emotional autopilot that otherwise keeps us trapped in a stress spiral.
It's not a coincidence that mindfulness is trending. Stress-related diseases are at an all-time high. The WHO (World Health Organization) considers stress the “public enemy no. 1”.
Who checks his e-mail and cell phone even on the weekends every two hours can never rest, which will haunt him at some point.
It is not surprising that mindfulness is so popular, as it promises stressed business people they will get a distance between their private and professional life. Between the “me” and the company. Mindfulness allows you to recharge your battery and increase your efficiency.
But not just in business—the whole society is crazy for this trend. The media are never shy to pick up a topic that gets them clicks and viewers, so that “emotional intelligence for cars”, “mindfulness for horses” and such are common headlines these days.
Classes for mindful gardening are available, and coloring books for grown-ups are a booming business. Several corporations from SAP to Google offer yoga, mindfulness, or meditation classes to their staff.
In our Western adaption, mindfulness is secular and transcendence doesn't play a role.
Ancient wisdom of how to let go changed into a cult of self-optimization. The omnipresent pressure of being the best in business has shifted to the pressure of being the best at yoga. And in business.
Is it a trend to deceleration and reduce pressure, or the opposite? Is it perhaps the perfection of the perfect? A technique that enables us to endure even more acceleration and pressure?
Does mindfulness training give people back their humanity, or does it remove the last bits left? Isn't the tragic, the torn, the imperfect what makes us human?
My former employer, SAP, has put a “Director Global Mindfulness Practice” in place. 3500 SAP members attended a mindfulness class. 5500 are on a waiting list.
The SAP trainer, Bostelmann, teaches that mindfulness is the key to success, and that it is important to measure its effect on productivity and profit.
“We earn money with it,”, says Bostelmann.
The other wave of mindfulness that is taking the country by storm has less to do with increasing productivity and efficiency. It is less elitist, but it shows best what people are missing in their everyday life, at their workplace, and in their personal life.
People believe they lost control. They feel pushed to perform even better. If you want to have the same job in one year from now, you have to run faster. And faster.
They hope that mindfulness will give them back control over their lives and sets their mind at peace.
Whether it's from my clients, in conversations with friends or throughout social media: Many people have the wish to escape. Escape their routine and the pressure. At least for a short while.
Not everyone has to quit their job and move to a farm. For a small escape, coloring mandalas or growing tomatoes can be enough.
Mindfulness is undergoing unsettling economizations
How does that make sense? Mindfulness as a hyper-optimization tool to run faster and increase productivity on one hand, and on the other a way to escape for people who have trouble handling stress and pressure.
Different teachers interpret the ancient practice of mindfulness in very different ways. Do you remember Bhagavān?
Bhagavān offered “meeting seminars” where people beat each other up to “shatter their egos”. He interpreted mindfulness as a protest against all norms. Bhagavān preached poverty, but owned several Rolls-Royce. He spoke against capitalism, but was skilled in convincing people to give him their money. Bhagavān spoke about liberation, but created a system of spiritual imprisonment and surveillance.
The purpose of sharing these examples is to show that many very different things come with the label “mindfulness”.
Mindfulness was a mindset inseparable from ethical values such as compassion, gratitude, braveness and such.
But more often than not these days people use mindfulness to make more money, limit the damage from a stressful life and increase efficiency.
A tool allowing overburdened people to carry the weight yet longer. A solution for people who are suffering from the speed they get forced to run at, allowing them to run a little faster and a little longer.
This can only be a short-term solution. Yes, it is possible to eliminate the negative effects of stress through mindfulness.
That said, if the body thinks it does not get what it deserves, it will find another way to get your attention. If a person keeps ignoring the signals of the body, he might end up sick. The body has the longer arm and will get the break he needs.
Suppressing symptoms for longer than a short-term emergency will backfire.