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 from the Economist: The Mindfulness Business

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: from the Economist: The Mindfulness Business   Tue Nov 19, 2013 6:32 am


from THE ECONOMIST - Schumpeter

The mindfulness business

Western capitalism is looking for inspiration in eastern mysticism

Nov 16th 2013





IN HIS 1905 book, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, Max Weber credited the Protestant ethic with giving rise to capitalism. Now it sometimes seems as if it is the Buddhist ethic that is keeping capitalism going. The Protestants stressed rational calculation and self-restraint. The Buddhists stress the importance of “mindfulness”—taking time out from the hurly-burly of daily activities to relax and meditate. In today’s corporate world you are more likely to hear about mindfulness than self-restraint.

Google offers an internal course called “search inside yourself” that has proved so popular that the company has created entry-level versions such as “neural self-hacking” and “managing your energy”. The search giant has also built a labyrinth for walking meditation. EBay has meditation rooms equipped with pillows and flowers. Twitter and Facebook are doing all they can to stay ahead in the mindfulness race. Evan Williams, one of Twitter’s founders, has introduced regular meditation sessions in his new venture, the Obvious Corporation, a start-up incubator and investment vehicle.

The fashion is not confined to Silicon Valley: the mindfulness movement can be found in every corner of the corporate world. Rupert Murdoch has a well-developed [banned term] detector. But earlier this year he tweeted about his interest in transcendental meditation (which he said “everyone recommends”). Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates and Bill Gross of PIMCO are two of the biggest names in the money-management business, and both are regular meditators. Mr Dalio says it has had more impact on his success than anything else.

What got the mindfulness wagon rolling was the 1960s counter-culture, which injected a shot of bohemianism into the bloodstream of capitalism: witness the rise of companies such as Virgin, Ben & Jerry’s and Apple, whose co-founder, Steve Jobs, had visited India on a meditation break as a young man, and who often talked about how Zen had influenced the design of his products. But three things are making the wheels roll ever faster.

The most obvious is omni-connectivity. The constant pinging of electronic devices is driving many people to the end of their tether. Electronic devices not only overload the senses and invade leisure time. They feed on themselves: the more people tweet the more they are rewarded with followers and retweets. Mindfulness provides a good excuse to unplug and chill out—or “disconnect to connect”, as mindfulness advocates put it. A second reason is the rat race. The single-minded pursuit of material success has produced an epidemic of corporate scandals and a widespread feeling of angst. Mindfulness emphasises that there is more to success than material prosperity. The third is that selling mindfulness has become a business in its own right.

The movement has a growing, and strikingly eclectic, cohort of gurus. Chade-Meng Tan of Google, who glories in the job title of “jolly good fellow”, is the inspiration behind “search inside yourself”. Soren Gordhamer, a yoga and meditation instructor, and an enthusiastic tweeter, founded Wisdom 2.0, a popular series of mindfulness conferences. Bill George, a former boss of Medtronic, a medical-equipment company, and a board member at Goldman Sachs, is introducing mindfulness at Harvard Business School in an attempt to develop leaders who are “self-aware and self-compassionate”.

Many other business schools are embracing mindfulness. Jeremy Hunter of the Drucker management school at Claremont university teaches it to his students, as does Ben Bryant at Switzerland’s IMD. Donde Plowman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s business school has even tried to quantify the mindfulness of management schools themselves. The flow of wisdom is not one-way: Keisuke Matsumoto, a Japanese Buddhist monk, took an MBA at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and is now applying its lessons to revitalise temples back home.

As for its exploitation as a business, Arianna Huffington runs a mindfulness conference, a “GPS for the soul” app and a mindfulness corner of her Huffington Post. Chip Wilson, the boss of lululemon, a seller of yoga gear, has set up a website, whil.com, that urges people to turn off their brains for 60 seconds by visualising a dot. (“Power down, power up, and power forward.”)

A walk in the countryside

Does all this mindfulness do any good? There is a body of evidence that suggests that some of its techniques can provide significant psychological and physiological benefits. The Duke University School of Medicine has produced research that shows that, in America, an hour of yoga a week reduces stress levels in employees by a third and cuts health-care costs by an average of $2,000 a year. Cynics might point to the evidence that a walk in the countryside has similar benefits. They might also worry that Aetna, an insurer which wants to sell yoga and other mindfulness techniques as part of its health plans, is sponsoring some of the research that supports them. But it seems not unreasonable to suppose that, in a world of constant stress and distraction, simply sitting still and relaxing for a while might do you some good.

The biggest problem with mindfulness is that it is becoming part of the self-help movement—and hence part of the disease that it is supposed to cure. Gurus talk about “the competitive advantage of meditation”. Pupils come to see it as a way to get ahead in life. And the point of the whole exercise is lost. What has parading around in pricey lululemon outfits got to do with the Buddhist ethic of non-attachment to material goods? And what has staring at a computer-generated dot got to do with the ancient art of meditation? Western capitalism seems to be doing rather more to change eastern religion than eastern religion is doing to change Western capitalism.

Economist.com/blogs/schumpeter
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: from the Economist: The Mindfulness Business   Sun Nov 24, 2013 7:51 pm

Mindfulness arrives in the workplace


  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • November 24, 2013 - 6:29 AM

It’s 8:30 a.m. in one of General Mills’ myriad conference rooms, and yet another meeting is about to begin. But there will be no talk about Cheerios or Betty Crocker cake mixes.

“We’ll start by recognizing the sound of the bells, ” Sandy Behnken says as six co-workers settle in around a table, eyes closed.
Three dulcet tones follow, and a half-hour meditation session begins. “We come into this moment with the intention of practicing mindfulness,” Behnken says.

Golden Valley-based General Mills is a pioneer in bringing “mindfulness,” or meditation, to the workplace, and the practice is becoming increasingly popular across corporate America, from Silicon Valley to Wall Street. In Minnesota, Target, the Mayo Clinic and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans have some sort of meditation offering for employees.

Programs differ, ranging from multiday retreats to half-hour workplace sessions. But the aim is basically the same: to hone employees’ focus, freeing them — as much as possible, at least — from the mind’s endless static. The idea is that this will make them more productive and maybe even happier.

“The human mind wanders for half to two-thirds of the day,” said Amit Sood, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and head of its extensive mindfulness programs. “Mindfulness is a state of mind where people are calm and relaxed, and they are in the present moment and in a state of nonjudgmental acceptance.”

Whether you think that’s a path to contentment or new-age pablum, mindfulness is not necessarily easy.

Look into your own mind. Are you focusing on the present at work? Sales are up, but profits are down and the car’s brakes are shot — and hey, do I look fat in these pants? The thought parade goes on.

“Part of the training of mindfulness is to stop, but stopping is like hitting a brick wall, ” said Janice Marturano, head of the Institute for Mindful Leadership and a former General Mills executive who launched the company’s program.

Marturano was a senior leader in General Mills’ law department when she discovered mindfulness. In the early 2000s, she was working on General Mills’ mega-buyout of crosstown rival Pillsbury. “The deal from hell,” she said. “It ended up being far more complex and took much longer to do than expected.”

While Marturano was working on it, her mother and father died.

“I’m not a new-agey person,” she said. “I’m Italian and from New Jersey and I went to law school in New York and wanted to be involved in corporate deals.” But something seemed lost, something seemed missing.

So, she went on an executive retreat, six days at an Arizona resort to learn the meditation techniques of Jon Kabat-Zinn, now a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts’ medical school. He dubbed his approach “mindfulness.”
For Marturano, it was an awakening.

While she would eventually became a certified mindfulness teacher through U-Mass, at first she was a “closet meditator,” telling no one at General Mills. Then she began to spread the word. Mindfulness could be a tool for the company’s leaders — and eventually all employees — to clarify their thinking, increasing personal fulfillment and workplace productivity.

General Mills gave her the green light to set up a program in 2006. Marturano retired in 2011 to take the corporate meditation message further with the Institute for Mindful Leadership, a New Jersey-based nonprofit she created in 2010 that provides training to companies and their employees. She still does some training at General Mills.

The company’s mindfulness program is voluntary, and it has trained 500 employees and 90 senior leaders. Its offerings vary. There’s a four-day retreat for officers, directors and senior managers; two-day training for new managers; and a two-hour class for seven consecutive weeks, which is open to all employees. Then there are weekly meditation sessions such as the one Behnken led last Tuesday.

She’s a 22-year General Mills veteran who works in “continuous improvement,” which looks for ways to eliminate waste and improve corporate efficiency. She undertook mindfulness training about four years ago and is now a regular meditation practitioner. “We talk about the brain as a muscle,” she said, “and this is how you exercise your brain.”

Joe Ens, a vice president and marketing director for General Mills’ snacks business, became a meditator, too, after going through mindfulness training. He does it at home most days for about 10 minutes a pop. Ens, a 17-year General Mills employee, said a prime mindfulness time is during his 20-minute drive to work.

There’s no listening to the radio, no fretting about traffic, no rehearsing what he’ll say in meetings — no planning the day at all. “I really work hard to quiet my mind on my morning commute.”

Ens, who’s a director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, said the program’s biggest impact is on his relations with fellow workers. “I’m a better coach of people than I was before.” And he said he’s a better listener, saying to himself, “What is this person really asking me?”

For Stef Bell, a business process consultant at Target who leads weekly meditation sessions at the retailer’s downtown Minneapolis campus, mindfulness has delivered on the goal of improving focus.

“For me personally, it definitely helps me focus and it helps me be more productive,” said Bell, whose interest in mindfulness helped launch a “meditation network” at the big retailer. It’s one of about 110 employee networks at Target that aim to improve employee well-being through interest groups covering topics from cycling to diabetes maintenance.

Bell did a personal, 10-day mindfulness retreat near Chicago a few years ago. Afterward, Target’s human resources department reached out to her about leading a meditation network. It launched in 2010, and today includes nearly 1,000 Target employees at several company locations.

“I was surprised by the people who were really interested in learning more about meditation, ” Bell said.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: from the Economist: The Mindfulness Business   Mon Nov 25, 2013 2:21 am

For me the more normal meditation is the better, part of life and living with our religion.
What screws it up for normal people is hearing about the meditation practice and centres from the experts who do a good job of perverting it, bring it down to a basic fame and gain level
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breljo

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PostSubject: Re: from the Economist: The Mindfulness Business   Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:05 am

Thanks  Michael for expressing  what I was thinking but was still wondering about just how to put it.
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