Some things can not be summarised succinctly even for those blessed with the knack of being brief. Mindfulness seems to boil down to being able to appreciate the here and now. Enjoying the dawn’s early light, sunshine shimmering on water, the smile of an infant, the embrace of a loved one…
The modern workplace and hectic working days frequently seem to be mindful free zones. The commuter crawl, shunting through heavy traffic in a car, or huddled together with strangers united by an invisible umbilical cord of silence on an overcrowded bus can be emotionally draining. Sitting bleary eyed at a computer screen is tough. I know that, if when I look out the window or pop out for a few minutes into the autumnal air, I do not have a ‘barely tangible sensory jump’ start I am often overtired and stressed.
The below picture was taken on a disused railway line, the Fallowfield Loop Line in Manchester. I was captivated by the colours when I first saw them. I still am.
Crunching dry leaves underfoot is one of life’s simple pleasures. Wet fallen leaves are a potential hazard; nature’s way of telling us to make the the most of our opportunities while the going is good. We have to be mindful, or appreciative, of either. Similarly, we need to be conscious of the prevailing milieu and the various personalities we encounter in and outside of the workplace.
One company where I once worked advised employees by way of its staff handbook to take a minute, just a minute, when stressed to focus on their breathing. Breathing! If your breathing is shallow and your heart is racing you’re probably in the wrong job, unless you work in an adrenaline filled role. No job should be bad for the incumbent’s health, especially a 9 to 5 desk bound role. Natural light and a sense of direction, a strategy, a sense of knowing what we were supposed to be doing, would have done more for me and some my co-workers’ well-being than a few deep breaths.
Work should ideally be engaging, enriching and empowering. It should never make us unwell. An elongated working day can be wearisome. Nobody can be their most productive at work for hours on end. Henry Mintzberg wrote of people working productively in bursts, or spurts, of activity. I am inclined to agree. Awareness of the world beyond our work; be it enjoying a rainbow or autumn leaves can reinvigorate.
Long hour cultures are engrained in the UK, the USA and many other countries, whether they are good for the individuals asked to participate in them or their loved ones is another matter. Having it all may never be obtainable. The real problems begin when we are unable to appreciate the little things that make a big difference. Less really is more.