Could there be a link between meditation practices and shifting corporate concerns to align with the greater good? Can coaching based on introspection and meditation programs in the business world impact the probability to act in a socially responsible way?
Many popular books and scholarly articles have discussed the link between mindfulness meditation and increased attention to task, enhanced performance, reduced stress levels, and satisfaction at work – all positively affected. Recently, some posts, such as one that recently appeared in the Economist, express concern about the co-opting of meditation to a western “mindfulness business” technique, where meditation is being touted as another tool for “getting ahead”.
One criticism of how meditation is being viewed in this and similar reports is that the emphasis on the value of the meditation is rather materialistic and moves away from the original intention of meditation practice, which is to allow the meditator to connect with the natural mind of compassion or basic goodness. When the chaotic thoughts of competition and anxiety pulling us off course are seen to be insubstantial, their pull on us is reduced and we connect directly with a bigger view in each moment. This is the true power of meditation.
Another way of thinking about the larger potential of meditation in the business arena may be to think about the socially responsible behavior of a corporation. Many corporations have focused their socially responsible initiatives outward – in engagement with advertising to stakeholders and the public. One recent in depth study by INSEAD suggests that HR managers might better direct their energy internally toward redesigning training programs toward using meditation for the development of social consciousness in managers and employees.
The idea that the social consciousness could arise from within the organization based on the practice of meditation and other internal awareness practices is quite realistic. Traditionally in Buddhist meditation teachings, the person practicing meditation moves from developing an awareness of their own thoughts and habitual tendencies, toward the ability to not be controlled by them, to becoming more relaxed, open and curious about others. This is a progression toward natural compassion.
In a recent article on mindfulness in the workplace, the StarTribune wrote about Joe Ens, a VP and marketing director for General Mills who was introduced to meditation in his workplace 17 years ago. He feels that the program’s biggest impact has been on his relations with fellow workers, He states that he is a better coach of people than he was prior to starting a meditation practice, and that now he’s also a better listener, saying to himself, “what is this person really asking me?”
This opening of the heart is natural and reveals the both the interconnectedness of all humanity, and of the impact of our actions on others. This mindful awareness can be the seed of a socially responsible culture within any organization.