It's hard to ignore a title like "Want a competitive edge? Do nothing every day." Call it a bit of clickbait, but the article went on to discuss a way to reduce work stress, boost energy, improve focus, and help you be more productive at work. Is it a drug? No. Nothing with side effects. Do I have to buy some new tech gadget? No special equipment. Do I have to go to a gym or run 100 miles a week? Nope.
It is ancient. It’s meditation.
According to the article, 40% of us say we already meditate at least once a week. That seems high to me.
The benefits of meditation are many and have been found in multiple studies: reduced anxiety and stress, improvements in focus and cognitive function. Those are results after just a few weeks of mindfulness training. If you do it long-term, there is some evidence that your brain may age more slowly.
Probably some people meditate at home but the article suggests that meditating during the work day is also important.
Since I have seen it suggested that you should take short naps during the work day - which sounds like a bad thing for the boss to catch you doing - I guess some meditation is possible at work.
Actually, some of the big "best places to work," like Google, Ford, Aetna and Adobe, offer corporate mindfulness programs. Viewed as a kind of preventative care, they say it improves employees sleep quality, lowers stress and increases productivity.
There are lots of classes and books and even apps to get started with meditation. I have done both of those approaches multiple times. I know what to. The tough part is doing it.
The basics are having a space that is quiet and private, and being consistent in your practice.
Every class I took or book I read starts with following your breath. That may involve counting the inhalation, holding and exhaling. Most of us are pretty shallow breathers.
The second thing that is emphasized is emptying your mind. That is much harder than the breathing. You're told that when a thought comes, realize it is that and let it go. Much easier said than done.
How much mediation do you need to do? Start out small. Even after years of on and off practice, I had trouble with sessions that ran for an hour or more (zazen). It is okay to start with 5, 10 or 15 minutes a day.
An old old Zen adage is that you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day—unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour. Fifteen minutes a day every day is better than an hour twice a week.
It was a revelation to me to realize that meditation - or mindfulness, which is a term I prefer - can be incorporated into activities. I am very fond of recommending kinhin which is walking meditation. It is usually done between long sessions as a break, but I like doing it as its own activity. It is a lot more than just taking a walk in the woods. But it can be done as a start just walking from your desk to lunch.
Another place I often bring my meditation is in the garden. I particularly find the usually unenjoyable and "mindless" chore of weeding to be a good activity for mindfulness. It has actually become enjoyable.
Sitting on a nice empty beaching to meditate is great, but not practical for most of us on a regular basis. Find you places and times.