Meditation as an alternative booster at work

x How a few minutes of daily meditation can enhance your productivity and well-being at the office

“Why am I so busy?
When everything around me is moving so fast, I stop to ask myself, ‘Is it the world that’s busy, or is it my mind?’”
Zen monk Haemin Sunim

We all want to feel happy and peaceful in our head. We want to feel appreciated by others and comfortable with ourselves. However, trying to achieve all that makes us feel more restless. Many people live with a feeling of constant lack of time, which creates a lot of stress and unsatisfaction. We often look for quick tension relief through unhealthy habits such as eating greasy and sugary food, drinking alcohol, smoking, watching too many series or porn, spending too much time on social media, excessively playing video games, buying stuff they don’t need, nagging, …

What if there would exist something that doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, you can do all by yourself, is free and makes you a better, healthier person? It does exist and people have been practicing it for thousands of years: meditation.

"True happiness lies within." Sanskrit saying

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Meditation: high in the sky or down to earth?

Down to earth, definitely!

Most of the problems in our lives are caused by how we think and feel about something. It’s our thoughts that make our life complicated, not life itself. We are too busy in our heads. We can try as much as we like, but we cannot stop thinking. It’s human nature after all. We are born with a monkey mind. This Monk explains it clearly (see video).

What we can do is learn how to give less importance to our thoughts, to observe them like clouds in the sky drifting by. Our thoughts can be dark and dramatic, like thunderclouds. They can create a lot of stress and sleepless nights. But even behind the storm, there is always the blue sky. We are the calm, blue sky. That is what we practice during meditation. We learn to observe our thoughts and body sensations without judgement. 

We spend a lot of time resisting against what is, while we lose a lot of time and energy. Change is inevitable, it is part of the universe. So, don’t fight it, don’t try to control it. If we just completely accept what is, our mind will relax and the world around us will change. This applies also to you: if you feel comfortable with yourself, if you accept yourself, other people will love you for who you are. 

How many of us feel lonely, even surrounded by people? Being grateful helps. Gratitude makes us realize that we are all connected, and we don’t feel alone anymore.

Meditation creates inner rest, contentment, patience, acceptance and compassion towards yourself and others.

To meditate you only need 3 things: yourself, a meditation object and your focus on that object. It’s a brain work-out. You train your concentration.

Why is focus that important?

We all know by now that multitasking is inefficient, our brain doesn’t function that way. Still we do it. Distractions are everywhere. They create a lot of stress. Therefore, we must train ourselves to concentrate on one thing at a time. We recenter instead of being scattered all over the place. That way we won’t lose time nor energy, but there is more!

Our reality, how we perceive the world around us, is formed by what we focus on. If your mind is full of negative thoughts, the world is too. If your mind is calm, so is the world. It’s that simple.

Here’s an example to demonstrate this: you’re thinking about buying a new car and you already have a specific brand in mind. Suddenly, you see this brand everywhere. Recognizable?

Tell me more, tell me more!

All you must do is sit down, close your eyes and just be. Choose 1 of the many meditation techniques to help you. Here are 2 examples:

  • Mindfulness :
Also called ‘attention training’ and is a Western form of Zen meditation. It brings you back to the here and now, without judgment. The object of meditation can be anything: your breath, body sensations, sounds, focusing on a candle… A famous exercise is the body scan, where you lie down and focus your attention to each body part. This brings you closer to yourself. 

  • Mantra meditation : 
A mantra is a word without meaning which we repeat in our head. Each time we realize that we’re thinking, we return to our mantra. Then we let go of the mantra and experience inner silence… until the thoughts come back and we start all over again. This cycle is our meditation and the mantra is the vehicle that brings us deep to our inner core.

You have formal meditation, where you decide to sit down (or stand or even walk) and meditate during a certain time.

There is also informal meditation which you can practice when you wait in line at the store, when you are eating alone or during a traffic jam for instance. Instead of checking your mobile phone, you can choose to focus of your breath.

A quick note on guided meditations: those are not really meditations, because you don’t train your brain. They are more like relaxation exercises. Which are useful of course, but they don’t have the long-lasting benefits of meditation.

Next to all the positive effects described above, meditation also:

  • sharpens intuition and stimulates creativity
  • promotes brain development and brain connectivity, even at advanced age
  • lowers stress and therefore can prevent or ameliorate all the conditions that are triggered by stress: anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, burn-out, sleeping problems, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, immunity problems.
  • helps to build self-confidence
  • improves memory

BOTALYS’ tips if you want to start meditating

  • Each person is different and therefore has another technique that fits like a glove. So, my first tip is: give different techniques a try to find out which one suits you best. At the end of this article you’ll find books and links.

  • You want to install a habit. This is the most difficult part, so begin small: start with 5 minutes 2 times a day, because this is more effective than 30 minutes once a week. Then take your time to gradually build up towards ideally 20 minutes per session. I’m still building up by the way, so don’t be discouraged. Put a timer so you don’t have to worry about keeping time.

  • The best moment to meditate is when you wake up. Go to bed half an hour earlier than usual and put your alarm clock 30 minutes sooner. This creates time to start the day with a calm mind and body. For the second session you can put your alarm just after lunch or when you come home from work.

  • Install yourself comfortably, no need to strain yourself in difficult positions. Just keep a straight back so you can breathe freely. Creating a pleasant atmosphere can help – see below.

  • If you don’t feel like starting your session: remind yourself why you are doing this.

  • There are always more things to do than you can do or have time for. So, choose your priorities wisely. Keep what makes you happy and ditch the rest, as far as possible. And meditate. Because meditation creates a feeling of inner calm in this world of chaos, you have the impression that time passes by more slowly. As a result: you ‘created’ more time. Isn’t that great? When you make your weekly schedule, start by filling in your meditation sessions first. This works better than to squeeze them into an already overloaded schedule.
Be kind to yourself: try your best, but don’t force anything. Just like there are good and bad days, you have good and bad sessions. That’s a part of life. Remember that meditation is also a training in acceptance. And if you miss a session, don’t beat yourself up with it: you’re not a robot.
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“You become more and more you”

David Lynch

Meditation @Botalys
Sylvie Defrère, R&D Manager:

“This is my first experience with meditation. I was open to it before, but due to a busy time schedule, I never tried it. Nor would I have found the time to take a meditation course after working hours. Therefore, I am happy that I have the chance to practice meditation at work.

For me I feel better after meditation and I am convinced it has a positive impact on my work. Even if I don’t reach the state of inner bliss yet, I feel refreshed, like I had a power nap.”
Grim Romont, Production Operator:

“I discovered meditation through Martial Arts which requires respect, calm and energy. My daily life is very hectic, both at work and in my private time. Therefore, it is important to create a space of well-being so that I can quickly find deep breath and a balanced heart rhythm. Meditation shared with colleagues allows me to regain self-confidence. Practicing yoga individually also relieves my stress.”
Brigitte Martens, Scientific Editor & QC Coordinator:

“My meditation adventure started in 2011 when I followed a training Mindful @ work by Bjorn Prins. Very interesting and useful, but I couldn’t sustain. In the summer of 2016, I started Transcendental Meditation and have been doing it ever since. I found my glove.

When my boss asked me if I knew somebody who could give meditation sessions at work I said: 'Yes, me!' It is a great opportunity to combine my passion for sharing knowledge with self care.

Although I am a pharmacist, I prefer natural ways to handle my physical and mental issues. Meditation is one of them.”

How does a meditation session work at BOTALYS?

In general, you can meditate anywhere. But I prefer to create a cozy space in one of the office rooms: dimmed lights, a tealight in the middle, some essential oils of incense and spikenard sprinkled on a piece of wood, ambient music of natural sounds in the background and meditation pillows in a circle.

Before we start the meditation, it is necessary to reconnect with our body. For that we do some Qi Gong exercises: Knocking of the Door of Life and Spinal Cord Breathing.

This is followed by 5 minutes of coherent breathing (see article here): we breathe deep in the belly according to a strict rhythm: inhale for 4 seconds (belly expands), exhale for 6 seconds (belly flattens). This brings us at a breathing rhythm of 6 respirations per minute. Most adults in rest breathe at a rhythm of 12-15 resp/min. But research has shown that health problems start to occur when you breathe faster than 10 resp/min. Doing this kind of breathing exercise every morning and evening can already help to prevent disease caused by stress.

You can set a timer to 5 minutes and count in your head while you are breathing. If you don’t feel like counting, there exist also several free applications you can install on your mobile phone: for example, Cardiac Coherence Free (for Android), RespiRelax (for Apple).

After that we are ready to do 15 minutes of meditation. After the meditation we rest for a few minutes to give ourselves the chance to integrate the effects.

Are you ready to give it a try?

Great! It can only make your life and your environment better. See it as an investment in yourself: each time you meditate your ability to focus becomes stronger and you will feel calm, balanced and satisfied. And these effects stay with you throughout the day. There is always a moment to meditate, even if it’s only 5 minutes. Just do it

My favorite books on the subject:
David Lynch. Catching the big fish. Meditation, consciousness and creativity. 2006, Penguin Books.
Edel Maex. Mindfulness. In de maalstroom van je leven. 2006, Lannoo.
Haemin Sunim. The things you can only see when you slow down. 2012, Penguin Books
Jelle Hermus. Leven met wind mee. Minder drama in je leven, meer rust in je hoofd. 2019, Kosmos Uitgevers.
Steven Laureys. Het no-nonsense meditatie boek. Over hoe bewustzijn je mentale en fysieke gezondheid kan versterken. 2019, Borgerhoff & Lamberigts.

Interesting links and articles:
Zaccaro A, et al. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 12: 353.
Tang Y-Y, Hölzel B K & Posner M I. The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews Neuroscience volume 16, pages 213–225(2015).
Killingsworth M A & Gilbert D T. A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 330(6006), 932–932.