Arianna Huffington

Buddhist practises with monks have become key feature of employee training in most cos – Economic Times

(The vision behind wisdom…)

The un informed visitor at Googleplex may find himself perplexed when he sees the presentation room filled with techies perched in half-lotus position, meditating. His confusion is justified since it is hard to imagine that the corporation that prides itself in thinking ahead of tomorrow is now looking back at centuries-old traditions to bring out the best in its employees.

Google is embracing Buddhist meditative practices in a big way. Zen masters and monks routinely tour the campus, the company has instituted self-awareness courses like Search Inside Yourself, Neural Self-Hacking and Managing Your Energy, designed to teach people to manage their emotions through meditation, and Googlers are signing up for these classes in droves.

No, Google isn’t renouncing its worldly searches. Quiet contemplation is the new buzzword in Silicon Valley, with the region’s heavyweights like Twitter and Facebook jumping aboard the neo-spiritual bandwagon.

Contemplative practices and meditation sessions has become key features of employee training in most firms. As in all things in the Valley, the centuries-old practices has been innovated to suit the Valley’s goal-oriented culture. Forget Nirvana, the not-so-lofty aim of these endeavours is all about training the brain to unleash productivity.

Research suggests that meditation can rewire the brain’s response to stress and helps improve memory and executive functions. Exercises in ‘ mindfulness’ – paying close, nonjudgmental attention – help understand a coworkers’ motivations and cultivate emotional intelligence. In the hyper-kinetic Silicon Valley, these self-regulation practices strengthen emotional resilience, and is a better coping mechanism than fast-food therapy.

Chade-Meng Tan, a Google employee and creator of the Search Inside Yourself programme, defines it as the Zen of Google. The course is a series of meditation exercises wrapped in the package of emotional intelligence. “The other-centricity that meditation breeds can boost your trajectory,” says Meng ,who believes that in a place like Google, where there is no dearth of high intelligence quotient, the differentiating factor that sets you apart from the rest is having high emotional intelligence.

Frustrated by his divorce, work stress and twitter addiction, Soren Gordhamer wrote a book – Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected. The book was no bestseller, but its message of living mindfully, wisely and compassionately in the digital age set off ripples of introspection in the tech community that culminated in the launch of the annual conference Wisdom 2.0.

The event serves as a connector of the technology and contemplative communities. The vision behind wisdom being, tapping our inner wisdom even as we integrate more and more technology into our lives, and keep them from taking over.

Wisdom 2013 drew huge crowds and the attendees included headliners like Jeff Weiner, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, and, Arianna Huffington, who describes the event as her version of Disneyland.

Meditation therapy is growing deep roots in the Valley which is no stranger to New Age fad cycles. The tech biz is taking periodic pauses in the rat race, trying to connect the dots between spirituality and technology, to find the bigger picture.

Global India Newswire

via Buddhist practises with monks have become key feature of employee training in most cos – Economic Times.

The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People

The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 07/05/2013 8:55 am EDT  |  Updated: 07/06/2013 6:32 pm EDT

“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” That’s what Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates — the world’s largest hedge fund firmexplained in 2012.

Dalio is in good company. More and more leaders in the corporate world have been taking note of the benefits of meditation, which include lower stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, creative thinking and productivity, and even improved physical health. A number of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, AOL, Apple and Aetna, offer meditation and mindfulness classes for employees — and the top executives of many major corporations say that meditation has made them better leaders.

Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and former Google.org director Larry Brilliant are also among the executives advocating the mindfulness practice. Here are 10 influential business leaders who say meditation has helped them achieve (and sustain) a high level of success.

1. Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp

rupert murdoch

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch recently tweeted that he was trying out Transcendental Meditation, a popular technique developed in the 1960s and followed today by famous practitioners like Oprah, David Lynch and Candy Crowley.

2. Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems

padmasree

Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems, meditates every night and spends her Saturdays doing a “digital detox.” In her previous role as Cisco’s head of engineering, Warrior oversaw 22,000 employees, and she told the New York Times in 2012 that taking time to meditate and unplug helped her to manage it all.

“It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” she said. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”

3. Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project

tony schwartz renewal

The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has been meditating for over 20 years. He originally started the practice to quiet his busy mind, according to his book What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America. Schwartz says that meditating has freed him from migraines and helped him develop patience, and he also advocates mindfulness as a way to improve work performance.

“Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refueling it intermittently,” Schwartz wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog.

4. Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

bill ford

The Ford Motor Company chairman is a big proponent of meditation in the business world, according to Inc. Magazine. At this year’s Wisdom 2.0 conference, Ford was interviewed by leading American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Ford told Kornfield that during difficult times at the company, he set an intention every morning to go through his day with compassion. And to lead with compassion, Ford said he first learned to develop compassion for himself through a loving-kindness (metta) meditation practice.

5. Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc.

oprah weight body image ego

An outspoken advocate of Transcendental Meditation, Oprah — recently named the most powerful celebrity of 2013 by Forbes — has said she sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She’s also brought in TM teachers for employees at Harpo Productions, Inc. who want to learn how to meditate.

After a meditation in Iowa last year, Oprah said, “I walked away feeling fuller than when I’d come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is — still — the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life.”

6. Larry Brilliant, CEO, Skoll Global Threats Fund

larry brilliant

Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of Google.org, spent two years during his 20s living in a Himalayan ashram and meditating, until his guru instructed him to join a World Health Organization team working to fight smallpox in New Delhi.

In his 2013 commencement address at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brilliant emphasized the importance of peace of mind, wishing the graduates lives full of equanimity — a state of mental calm and composure.

7. Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA

ray dalio

In a 2012 conversation at the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue at Georgetown University, Dalio said that meditation has opened his mind and boosted his mental clarity.

“Meditation has given me centeredness and creativity,” said Dalio. “It’s also given me peace and health.”

8. Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records; Founder of GlobalGrind.com

russell simmons

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has long practiced Transcendental Meditation, speaking out about the benefits of the practice and sitting on the board of the advisors for the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.

“You don’t have to believe in meditation for it to work,” Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post blog. “You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ My advice? Meditate.”

9. Robert Stiller, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.

russell simmons

There is a dedicated meditation room at the Vermont headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., and CEO Robert Stiller himself is a devoted practitioner.

“If you have a meditation practice, you can be much more effective in a meeting,” he told Bloomberg in 2008. “Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks.”

10. Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group

arianna huffington

And last but not least, Arianna Huffington described early-morning yoga and meditation as two of her “joy triggers” in a 2011 Vogue feature. Now, Huffington has brought meditation into her company, offering weekly classes for AOL and Huffington Post employees.

Huffington has spoken out on the benefits of mindfulness not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. “Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one,” she wrote in a recent blog.

The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People.

Arianna Huffington: Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line

On Tuesday I’ll be guest-hosting CNBC’s Squawk Box, a program that bills itself as the show that “brings Wall Street to Main Street.” As well as discussing Cyprus and a possible euro-crisis,

we are going to discuss the growing trend in corporate America of taking steps — meditation, yoga, mindfulness trainings — to reduce stress and improve health and creativity.

One of my guests will be Mark Bertolini, CEO of the third-largest health insurer in the country with 30,000 employees insuring 17 million people. In 2010, Aetna partnered with Duke University’s School of Medicine and found that regular yoga substantially decreased stress levels and health care costs. Following this, Bertolini made yoga available to all Aetna employees nationwide and has a much bigger mission: to make sure there is research available to facilitate private as well as state and federal coverage of yoga and mind-body therapies.

Even a quick look at what’s happening in the American workplace shows that it’s a seriously split-screen world. On the one hand, there’s the stressful world of quarterly earnings reports, beating growth expectations, hard-charging CEOs, and focusing on the bottom line — the world that is the usual focus of CNBC and Squawk Box. On the other hand, there’s the world populated by the growing awareness of the costs of stress, not just in the health and well-being of business leaders and employees, but on the bottom line as well.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that these two worlds are, in fact, very much aligned — or at least that they can, and should, be. And that when we treat them as separate, there is a heavy price to pay — both for individuals and companies. The former in terms of health and happiness, and the latter in terms of dollars and cents. So yes, I do want to talk about maximizing profits and beating expectations — by emphasizing the notion that what’s good for us as individuals is also good for corporate America’s bottom line. To do that, I’ll be featuring guests who have had great success at bringing these two worlds together and putting what at first might seem like abstract or esoteric concepts to very productive use in the workplace.

When we separate these two worlds, the costs come in two forms. First, there are the direct costs due to stress and its associated medical conditions, and, second, there’s the cost of lost creativity and diminished performance and productivity.

According to the World Health Organization, the cost of stress to American businesses is as high as $300 billion. And unless we change course, this will only get worse. Over the last 30 years, self-reported levels of stress have increased 18 percent for women and 25 percent for men.

This has huge consequences, of course, because of the role stress plays in a wide array of illnesses. Like high blood pressure, which afflicts nearly 70 million, and which costs $130 billion a year to treat. Or diabetes, which 25 million Americans have.

The CDC estimates that 75 percent of all health care spending is on chronic illnesses like these that can be prevented. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of visits to the doctor’s office are for stress-related conditions. As a panelist on health care at the World Economic Forum put it this year, what we have right now isn’t health care but “sickcare.” And sickcare is a lot more expensive than real health care. Especially for businesses.

As business professors Michael Porter, Elizabeth Teisberg, and Scott Wallace wrote in the HBS Working Knowledge, studies show that U.S. employers spend 200 to 300 percent more for the indirect costs of health care — in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and lower productivity — than they do on actual health care payments. Their recommendation: that companies “mount an aggressive approach to wellness, prevention, screening and active management of chronic conditions.”

Though awareness is growing, there are still too many companies that don’t yet realize the benefits of a focus on wellness. “The lack of attention to employee needs helps explain why the United States spends more on health care than other countries but gets worse outcomes,” wrote Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “We have no mandatory vacation or sick day requirements, and we do have chronic layoffs, overwork, and stress. Working in many organizations is simply hazardous to your health.” And thus to the health of your company as well. “I hope businesses will wake up to the fact that if they don’t do well by their employees, chances are they’re not doing well, period,” Pfeffer said.

One company that did wake up was Safeway, whose experience is described in the recent documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. CEO Steve Burd recounts that in 2005 Safeway’s health care bill hit $1 billion and was going up by $100 million a year. “What we discovered was that 70 percent of health care costs are driven by people’s behaviors,” he says. “Now as a business guy, I thought if we could influence behavior of our 200,000-person workforce, we could have a material effect on health care costs.”

And so they did — in the form of incentives for employees to lose weight, control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It was a huge success. “You allow and encourage your employees to become healthier, they become more productive, your company becomes more competitive,” Burd says. “I can’t think of a single negative in doing this.” He concludes: “Making money and doing good in the world are not mutually exclusive.”

One of the best — and cheapest — ways to become healthier and happier is through mindfulness exercises like meditation. Mark Williams is a professor of clinical psychology at Oxford, an expert in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and the co-author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World. According to Williams, after nine weeks of training, participants in a mindfulness program had “an increased sense of purpose and had fewer feelings of isolation and alienation, along with decreased symptoms of illness as diverse as headaches, chest pain, congestion and weakness.”

In fact, the health effects of meditation can be even more dramatic — a matter of life and death. Williams points to a National Institutes of Health study that showed a 23 percent decrease in mortality, a 30 percent decrease in death due to cardiovascular problems and a big decrease in cancer mortality as well. “This effect is equivalent to discovering an entirely new class of drugs (but without the inevitable side effects),” they write.

The effects of stress reduction techniques are equally dramatic on our productivity, creativity, energy and performance. And that’s because these tools change the way we think so dramatically that they can be measured biologically. Dr. Richard Davidson is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and has used MRI machines to study the brain activity of Tibetan monks. As Fortune‘s Oliver Ryan reports, “The brain functioning of serious meditators is ‘profoundly different’ from that of non-meditators — in ways that suggest an elevated capacity to concentrate and to manage emotions. [Davidson] calls meditation a ‘kind of mental training.'”

This can make an equally profound difference in our work lives. As Tony Schwartz, author and CEO of the Energy Project writes, it’s not about the quantity of time we put into a task, but the quality:

It’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk in that determines the value we generate. It’s the energy we bring to the hours we work. Human beings are designed to pulse rhythmically between spending and renewing energy. That’s how we operate at our best. Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refueling it intermittently.

In short, happiness and productivity are not only related, they’re practically indistinguishable. According to the iOpener Institute, in a company with 1,000 employees, increasing happiness in the workplace:

  • Reduces the cost of employee turnover by 46 percent.
  • Reduces the cost of sick leave by 19 percent.
  • Increases performance and productivity by 12 percent.

And the happiest employees, compared with their less happy colleagues, spend 40 percent more time focused on tasks and feel energized 65 percent more of the time.

Happier employees also take six fewer sick days a year, and remain in their jobs twice as long.

That last one is another way of saying that mindfulness is an antidote to burnout, which often leads to companies losing their most talented employees. Marie Asberg, professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm describes burnout as an “exhaustion funnel,” which we slip down as we give up things not conventionally deemed “important.” As Mark Williams and Danny Penman note in Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World:

Notice that very often, the very first things we give up are those that nourish us the most but seem ‘optional.’ The result is that we are increasingly left with only work or other stressors that often deplete our resources, and nothing to replenish or nourish us — and exhaustion is the result.

One occupation known for burnout is physicians. Studies show that anywhere from a third to half of them suffer from it. But a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that doctors taking part in mindfulness exercises were less burned out. Even more dramatic was the fact that many of the improvements continued even after the year-long study concluded.

This is why more and more companies are realizing that their employees’ health is one of the most important predictors of the company’s health. Along with sales reports, market share and revenue levels, in those all-important Wall Street conference calls business analysts should be quizzing CEOs about their employees’ stress levels: “Yeah, I see your net profit numbers, but how burnt out are your employees?”

One company that “gets it,” and has since its inception, is Google. One of the most popular classes it offers employees is known as S.I.Y., short for “Search Inside Yourself.” It was started by Chade-Meng Tan, engineer, Google employee number 107, and the author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). The course has three parts: attention training, self-knowledge, and building useful mental habits. “I’m definitely much more resilient as a leader,” Richard Fernandez, a director of executive development who took Tan’s course, told the New York Times. “It’s almost an emotional and mental bank account. I’ve now got much more of a buffer there.”

But the trend goes way beyond Silicon Valley and companies like Google. Janice Marturano founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership after she left General Mills, where she set up a popular mindfulness program — and a meditation room in every building of their campus. “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected,” she told the Financial Times‘ David Gelles. According to the company’s research, it worked: 80 percent of participants said they felt it had improved their ability to make better decisions.

Joining General Mills are one-quarter of all U.S. companies — including Target, Apple, Nike, Procter & Gamble. And, I’m happy to say, The Huffington Post and AOL.

And while the benefits of mindfulness are important no matter where you are in the company org chart, it’s especially vital for the hard-charging managers and leaders who tune into CNBC every morning. “The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader,” says William George, Harvard Business School professor, former CEO of Medtronic, and a guest on Tuesday’s show. “You will make better decisions.”

So although, at first glance, mindfulness and wellness might seem like “soft” topics for CNBC, in fact it’s as much about the bottom line as Squawk Box‘s usual morning fare. There’s nothing touchy-feely about increased profits. This is a tough economy, and it’s going to be that way for a long time. Stress-reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.

“There is no work-life balance,” says Janice Marturano. “We have one life. What’s most important is that you be awake for it.”

Watch Arianna discuss this on HuffPost Live:

Arianna Huffington: Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and Their Connection to Corporate America’s Bottom Line.

 

Flynn Coleman: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness: “Trends” That Could Change Everything

I have a not-so-modest proposal: Mindfulness can change the world.

Okay, I’ll pause here, because I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I’m from California. Yes, actually, I have spent a little time in the “People’s Republic of Berkeley.” Okay, a lot of time. And yes, you guessed it, I do teach mindfulness, yoga and meditation seminars to all types of organizations, from corporations to schools. All of which is to say that, on this topic, I’m biased. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Let me rephrase: I believe that we can find ways to improve our own lives that directly benefit the lives of others, from the people in the next cubicle to the people in places that we can’t find on a (non-digital, non-search assisted) map. We can bring more clarity and joy to our own lives and, by doing so, bring joy to others. We can start small, by paying more attention to the present moment. Next, we can get a bit more ambitious, and make mindfulness a part of our educational programs and our daily lives. In short, we can change the world by fostering greater “mindfulness” — attentive awareness that promotes focus, creativity, and compassion — and we can do it at every level: personal, institutional, societal, and global.

Maybe, before we go further, I should tell you a bit more about myself. I’m an attorney and an entrepreneur. I first became serious about yoga as a college soccer player. Then, I thought of it as just another form of exercise. It was only during my sometimes-very-stressful years as a law student and a big-firm lawyer that I came to understand the incredible power of yoga and meditation to transform and improve virtually every aspect of my life. With time, I saw that this power also offered remarkable benefits for my professional life.

It’s no wonder, then, that everyone seems to be catching on. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, foundational elements of ancient Eastern beliefs and practice, have become certifiable modern “trends.” Wisdom 2.0, the non-conference-like conference (think tribe talks, yoga lounges, and nap time in the Google Chill Lounge) drew thousands of us together to discuss integrating mindfulness into business, technology, and society. From Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco, to HuffPost’s own Arianna Huffington, modern thought leaders are integrating mindfulness into their lives and their institutions, and it’s working.

For individuals, mindfulness is exciting because it helps us to discover new and powerful dimensions of ourselves. For groups and organizations, mindfulness is exciting because it can lead to better communication, greater empathy, and a culture of creativity and innovation.

Dynamic corporate cultures have witnessed how mindfulness and social awareness are important components of an effective modern business strategy. Consider one of the most prominent business trends to emerge in recent years: “conscious capitalism.” From Patagonia’s “Common Threads” program to Warby Parker’s “Buy a Pair, Give A Pair” strategy, to my own company’s “OM for OM” initiative, this movement underscores the growing connection between businesses, consumers, mindful practices, and social good.

It’s because Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, spends his years outdoors that he works to protect the environment that inspires his designs. He is also pioneering the industry by challenging his customers to recycle more and buy less of his merchandise. As Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, would say, Chouinard found his bliss (being outside and protecting nature), and remains true to it. In turn, millions of others remain true to his brand. This is the authenticity and compassion that mindfulness can help us find.

So how can organizations adapt to a rapidly evolving digital landscape while also promoting social good? Well, amid dramatic technological advancements and the ever-increasing proliferation of access to information, business practices are being revolutionized. In the new “connection economy,” amidst an increasingly crowded marketplace, companies must tell their stories, attune their messages, and operate with genuine authenticity to connect with consumers. This is what moves people to buy, work with you, and believe in you. Building these connections with others starts with knowing yourself. This principle is as salient for institutions as it is for individuals.

As Dan Pink says in his book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, on the new art of selling: “Make it personal and make it purposeful.” Sales today, as Dan describes them, are about being attuned, buoyancy, and clarity. Do these words sound yogic to anyone else? Yep, they do. Turning inward is how we begin to find clarity and harmony, which allow us to be more productive, communicative, and innovative. Finding this sense of balance is vital for becoming personally effective. And instilling widespread balance and focus among employees should be a foundational goal for all companies serious about competing in this new landscape.

It’s what Bill George, former legendary CEO of Medtronic, said was the key to effective leadership: going from “I” to “we,” and why Google’s Chade-Meng Tan thinks the greatest companies have compassionate leaders. After all, to inspire means “to breathe into.” And the fact that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness all come back to the breath is no coincidence.

And mindfulness at work doesn’t mean trading suits and spreadsheets for peacock-patterned leggings and kombucha tea (though I’m a fan of both). It simply means finding ways to become more aware, tapping into our reserves of creative leadership and compassion, and then practicing these skills. Because it’s always a practice.

Mindfulness is not only “on-trend.” It’s an ancient principle, as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. It can help us grow more attentive, creative, resilient, and successful. In doing so, it can create ripples of awareness and positivity that will reverberate through our communities, our society, and our world. This is why mindfulness is not only cool, but crucial for the future of our society. As Richard Branson says, “Let’s do business like there is a tomorrow.” But to create a better tomorrow, we must start by being more mindful today.

Flynn Coleman: Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness: “Trends” That Could Change Everything.