If you've never thought of meditation as a competitive advantage, consider the case of the Zen athlete. 

"Mindfulness, when practiced diligently, makes us incredibly focused on the present moment. In sports, in the heat of the competition, there's only one place you need to be and it's right here, right now," says author David Gelles.

That's why, in 2012, back when the Seattle Seahawks had only made it to the Super Bowl once in the team's 36-year history, head coach Pete Carroll hired a meditation coach. (That story ended well.) It's also one of the reasons large companies like Target, BlackRock, and Google have embraced the practice over the past few years.

In his new book, Mindful Work, Gelles looks at the increasing popularity of mindfulness in corporate America. Gelles, a New York Times business reporter, has been meditating for 15 years. 

He admits that today, even with the growing acceptance of mindfulness in the workplace, the practice doesn't always mesh well with the often cutthroat spirit of capitalism.

"The challenge, I think, is when a company or executive tries to make some of these changes at scale and they happen to be a public company. These public companies, of course, are answerable to their shareholders," Gelles says. For instance, decisions aimed at building an environmentally conscious company often don't go over well if they require the organization to incur short-term costs.

But small businesses and other private companies have more freedom to experiment with compassion and mindfulness in the workplace. And they should, Gelles argues.

"By and large, if managers and employees make the effort to be more mindful and take better care of themselves and one another and their constituents, good things are probably going to happen," he says.

Gelles's own workplace doesn't have any formal mindfulness programs, but that hasn't deterred him from meditating every day--a practice he says reduces his stress and makes him a more compassionate person. If you, too, are interested in taking up the habit on your own, check out Gelles's tips below.

1. Start small

"This isn't about training yourself to sit cross-legged on a cushion for hours at a time," Gelles says. "The game is being able to come back to the present moment in a gentle, accepting way, over and over again--even when things start to get busy or crazy."

So to begin, practice being still for just a few minutes, but try to do it several times throughout the day.

2. Find a coach

"It almost goes against our programming to just stop and take a moment," Gelles points out. That's why he advises you to seek some instruction, even if it comes in the form of an app. He recommends Headspace.

3. Wish others well

This is called metta practice. Think of someone close to you--or maybe even someone you have trouble getting along with. Silently and sincerely wish them happiness. 

"Not with the expectation that this is prayer that's somehow going to change the course of history, but just as a way to cultivate a sense of good will," Gelles says. "And it actually works. I always feel happier after I practice metta."

Published on: Mar 17, 2015