Why Mindfulness Matters

By Vicki Flaherty and Megan Moyer

 San Agustinillo Mexico Rocky Shore (1)

Image: San Agustinillo Mexico Sunset (Photo by Vicki Flaherty)

Everywhere you turn, the word mindfulness seems to show up. At IBM, we have a community of professionals from across the business and around the world leading a mindfulness movement. Some of us are experts with years of training in meditation and other mindfulness practices, and some of us are just starting to practice mindfulness. We’d like to bring you along on our journey.

So, what is mindfulness? Well, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines it as “”paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

“Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

          ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

 Mindfulness is both a way of being, as defined by Kabat-Zinn, and any practice that brings about greater mindfulness. Meditation is one of a variety of ways to practice mindfulness, and sometimes mindfulness is perceived as having a religious affiliation – which it may, but which is not necessary. You can practice mindfulness regardless of any religious affiliation, and mindfulness can be an integrated part of a religious practice.

Mindfulness is taking hold with IBMers because many of us see it as key to IBM’s transformation. Because mindfulness can cultivate greater focus and clarity, it can lead to better outcomes and improved efficiency – and employees feel good about themselves and their work when they experience this focus and clarity and create the outcomes needed in the most effective way.

Mindfulness can create greater awareness – about ourselves, others, and what’s happening around us. When we have deeper self-understanding, we can be more intentional and make more active choices about our actions. Basically, we are in a stronger place for creating what we want in our lives. With greater self-awareness often comes greater awareness of others – and that is foundational to building lasting relationships with just about everyone, including our peers and clients.

Mindfulness can help us manage stress – and that’s a big bonus in this fast-moving, 24X7 world we live in. Imagine being calm amidst the chaos of your day. Centered, confident. Ah, now wouldn’t that be nice?

There are infinite ways to practice mindfulness, and we look forward to sharing some of them with you in future posts. We’ll also be back with some of our colleagues to share information about how mindfulness actually works and insights into how real people like you are incorporating mindfulness into their life and work.

Until then, we invite you to STOP! That is:


Find a small space in your day to pause and tune into what you are experiencing. Because consistency is key to finding the most value from being mindful, we recommend you pick a time that you’ll regularly STOP!. You might do it as you are lying in bed in the morning after your alarm goes off, when you are sitting down for a meal, when your phone rings or your computer beeps at you, when you start or end your daily fitness activity, or as you are going to sleep. If you already practice mindfulness in some way, perhaps there’s a new place you can incorporate a STOP!

We’re all busy, we know – the pause doesn’t have to be long, even a single cleansing breath that refocuses you can work wonders. As you pause, you might ask yourself a single question or run through a series of questions, such as “What’s on my mind right now?”, “What physical sensations am I having?” or “What emotions are present?” Then, just notice. There is nothing you need to do. Accept what is and continue. This whole process might take a few seconds (e.g., if it’s before you pick up the phone) or it might take 30 seconds (e.g., if you are lying in bed about to get up).

Try it out. Let us know what you discover.

Content authored by Vicki Flaherty and Megan Foyer

Vicki Flaherty is responsible for executive leadership development and leads the Mindfulness@IBM community. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and over at her Leading with Intention blog.

Megan Moyer is IBM Smarter Workforce marketing leader and corporate wellness, mindfulness and whole life yoga instructor.

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