At B2B Media, as with all Communication agencies, we lead a fast paced existence. In between meetings, daily client counsel, liaising with our various worldwide offices, hosting international events and maintaining our client’s media visibility we do like to ensure that the team are well nourished of both body and mind.
We recently came across Emma Mills BSc Psych, who is a UK based, leading meditation teacher, wellness expert and the creator of the popular wellbeing blog, Emma Mills London.
Her latest book, ‘Inhale, Exhale, Repeat’, published by Penguin Random House, is a revolutionary meditation guidebook designed to walk the reader, step-by-step, through the course of a single day. Travelling from morning time, to work and then into the evening, it shows exactly how meditation can be used to positively transform the entire day – while still engaging fully with the demands of a busy working life.
Emma kindly spoke to us about wellbeing in the workplace.
Can you give us a brief insight into what it is you do and how you got started?
Emma Mills London is an educational wellness company and blog, inspired by the arts, psychology and meditation. I run a training called Presence in Practice, consult on commercial wellness projects and also write. My latest book is called Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. and is a 24-hour meditation guide book.
I got started by studying psychology and working at the charity Mind where my specialism was the use of literature and poetry as a therapy.
What are some of the common challenges to a busy working life and what can we do about them?
Gosh, there can be so many! Here are a few examples…
For many, commuting can be an uncomfortable or boring experience. If it’s something we can’t change, then perhaps we can experiment with changing our attitude to it. As you travel along remind yourself that this appearance will change, just like everything else, and soon enough you’ll be walking through the door at work. What’s more if we watch the activity of our minds we may find it more useful to focus our attention on our breath, rather than getting caught up in the negative chatter of resisting what is. If your commute is pleasant but repetitive, try setting out into your day with an attitude of discovery, so you can see with fresh eyes. Inspiration can appear anywhere.
For others it can feel hard to focus on and create considered work because there is just so much going on at once. If you can relate to this, I would recommend regular morning meditation. A few minutes are a good place to start. It really is like a muscle and with a little practice you can often find it easier to stay on task and get the right things done, feeling productive and enjoying a flow state.
Sometimes the actual workload we have is that of two people – or several. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s important to know when a days work is done. Many people spend extra hours working at their desk without actually achieving anything.
I would love to give you a simple 3 step exercise that would make all the difference but in all honestly there isn’t one meditation or exercise which will help, (although there is a good one further on in the interview called The Gap). What makes the difference is doing a little meditation each day or at least regularly. Over time the structure of your brain changes and the way your mind works changes and the way you relate to your mental landscape changes too – which can make work easier, more efficient and more joyful.
Have you noticed an increase in specific groups practising wellbeing?
I am quite interested in men’s health and travel.
What can we do each day to improve the quality of our creative work?
- Pay attention and give all of yourself to each task. It’s my feeling that things carry the vibe of their maker, whether that’s dresses, hot dinners or emails. So, to take the time to centre yourself, while creating, can be a really great thing.
- Give yourself plenty of room in your working week to be inspired, perhaps by art, nature or something else.
- Take time to be silent or empty, so that new inspiration and guidance can appear. It can be tempting to feel that we personally have to generate all of our own amazing ideas with our usual thinking mind, but actually if we just sit quietly and wait… existence will inspire us. It’s what Kafka was referring to when he said ‘You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet’
How can we start a wellness conversation at work?
Why not start by organising a themed team lunch or afternoon tea break. Or maybe arrange for some professional training or lunchtime classes. Put a poster up in the kitchen for people to add their requests. You never know you may discover you have a yoga teacher or musician or masseur already employed and part of the team. Or…failing that, be the person who brings it up in conversation and tell your colleagues about your yoga, share your healthy snacks and bring good books to work.
What do you think has amplified the need for practising wellbeing?
People are living longer and wanting to enjoy a better quality of life. Many of us see creating a healthy lifestyle as something we can do to be personally proactive. Especially when it comes to managing common chronic lifestyle related illnesses, such as stress for example.
Do you think that the explosion of Social Media has had an impact on people’s awareness of wellbeing?
Global media and social media offer people a view as to how others around the world are living well. Or at least how they seem to live. Prior to SM you’d just have your local sport centre or community to look to as to what’s possible or even desirable when it comes your wellbeing. Now you can find niche wellness information and follow specialist teachers despite the fact that they live halfway around the world. This wouldn’t have been possible before and I think in many cases it’s a blessing. It is my feeling that social global media also brings difficulties, some of which are the huge challenges to civil liberties, FOMO, social, relational and cognitive skills such as concentration.
Is there a one size fits all technique that you would recommend for those interested in exploring mindfulness at work?
If you provide meditation related training for those members of the team that are receptive and keen, they will often develop the skill set to be able to spread the presence of mind and calm into their work and among the rest of the team.
What would you recommend the best steps are into leading a balanced, healthy working lifestyle?
We all work best in our own ways and its important to get to know yourself and work with your own rhythm. This considered, here are a few of my ideas to start with:
- A little exercise or activity each day;
- Staying hydrated with plenty of fresh water;
- Eating lots of whole foods – especially vegetables;
- Having some quiet time each day, whatever that might be for you. IE: meditation,prayer, walking in nature;
- Being in touch in a meaningful way with others, maybe phoning a friend or helping your neighbour carry the shopping in;
- Get a good night’s sleep.
What are our tips for switching off at the end of the day?
Create a little transition routine for yourself. Perhaps it’s having a shower or a bath, reading a passage from a novel, meditating, cooking dinner or changing clothes. Something that for you, signals a transition into another mode. Leisure mode, family mode, artist mode – whatever it may be for you.
It might even be noting down your reflections on the day’s work as well as what you intend to do tomorrow.
Post work time is also a good time to connect to your well spring of plenty especially if your usual wage earning work doesn’t currently give you access to it.
What are your tips for creating an inspired workplace?
Set up your work space in such a way that it supports your deepest wishes. Whatever they are. If one of your wishes is to be well, you could look at incorporating small trees and green leafy plants, art prints, aromatherapy fragrances or room sprays, natural lighting, a seating arrangement that supports your posture, healthy food, a journal for your ideas and plenty of fresh water and herbal teas.
Creating a space for people to be together in informal moments is great, as well as providing a place for people to go to be quiet and uninterrupted.
How can we have more time to do excellent, considered work, when everything is so fast paced and the pressure is on?
If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed try my Gap meditation: it’s perfect for those moments where we might find ourselves feeling overwhelmed.
- There is usually a brief gap between one task coming to completion and a new task starting up. See if you can spot this tiny pause and stay with it for a moment.
- Close your eyes and spend a moment exploring what it is like to be in this state of needlessness.
- Where do you feel this phenomenon in your body?
- When a new motivation or need arises, you’ll become aware of the next task you wish to complete. Notice where this begins in the body. Does this new impetus have an accompanying sensation?
- Take a moment to consider the moment and marshal your troops. Then take informed action, embarking on the next task – whatever that may be for you. This meditation is taken from my book Inhale. Exhale. Repeat and works well because it helps you to take considered action.
Best tip for closing the day when the days are so busy they blend together?
Here’s a bedtime meditation I use all the time that you might like to try. Once in bed, lie down and close your eyes. From here use your imagination to go right back to the beginning of the day until you see yourself waking up and getting out of bed etc. Run through the day from start to finish, remembering what you have done and who you have spoken to, the type of thoughts you’ve had, all the way until you see yourself climbing into bed. It’s a fun way to bookend the day — it can also help you to fall asleep.
What are your favourite quotes or poems about relating with others?
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
– Hafiz ( Via Goodreads)
In wise love each defines the secret self of the other, and refusing to believe in the mere
daily self, creates a mirror where the lover, or the beloved sees an image to copy in daily
– Yeats ( Via Goodreads)
I don’t take your words
Merely as words.
Far from it.
To what makes you talk
Whatever that is
And me listen.
– Takahashi ( Via Goodreads)
Emma’s 4 day professional training Presence In Practice is designed to improve the depth and quality of your work, enabling you to take the meditative insights usually developed for the benefit of wellbeing, and evolve them into a practical working skill set.
For more information visit: www.emmamillslondon.com
Order the book: Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Follow Emma Mills: @EmmaMillsLondon