The following article has little to do with yoga, but touches on self-awareness, conscious consumption, and a deep connection to nature. In line with the organizations in which proceeds will be going to throughout the following season, this article is relevant and further highlights my personal passions regarding agriculture, food security, and our contentedness to the land we reside upon.
Where was that apple grown? What species did the harvesting of that quinoa impact? What human rights violations were impeded in the growth of that avocado? What is Azodicarbonamide? These are all valid and pressing, but sometimes difficult questions for consumers to answer. With the desire for convenience food skyrocketing, and globalized food-trends increasing, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the food you eat comes from, let alone how it was produced. When most of us haven’t had to think about the geographical origin of our meals, it proves difficult for consumers to actually conceptualize the efforts (and controversies) that exist along the supply-chain of each ingredient.
Before I go on, I want to be very clear that this article is not meant to make anyone feel bad about consuming the food that they do. The intent of this article is to raise awareness regarding where the food that we consume comes from and the impact that it makes. This way, we can all begin to work collectively towards having healthier and more sustainable roles in the ecosystems that we all exist in. Besides, we need food to survive —how could I rightfully shame anyone who simply doesn’t know the importance of monitoring where their food comes from?
Aside from the consumption of meat and dairy (which is an entirely separate and controversial subject), the purchase and consumption of fresh, packaged or processed fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds typically require little-to-no thought concerning food origin in the Western world. Speaking for most of us who were raised in a society of thoughtless over-consumption (think Christmas dinner), the majority of Canadians have the privilege of almost always having our favorite foods available for purchase at any given time of the year in local grocery stores or restaurants. Want strawberries in December? No problem. Bananas year-round? Not an issue! Coconut milk, dates, cashews and even guava fruit? As long as you have the money, it’s all yours! We haven’t had to care in the past, so why should we start caring now?
The benefits of understanding the production processes of our foods are endless. Speaking directly to my fellow members of Gen Y, as well as to the generation to follow, it is us who are left with the earth in our hands. We are the ones who are soon to be the household decision-makers (give-or-take 10 years), and the choice is ours regarding how and where we want to spend our money. In understanding where our food comes from, what was used to grow it, and who was involved in the process, we are not only able to acknowledge the human health impacts of the food we consume, but the environmental, economic, and human rights impacts of the food we purchase. Beyond the ecological impact of food production, present-day globalization has made food from across the earth available at our utmost convenience in the Western world, leading to huge environmental and health impacts from transportation, packaging and preservation. Understandably, you may be thinking at this point ‘how can I possibly keep track of where everything I consume comes from?’ Well, this becomes much easier the more you choose to purchase locally and adapt your food consumption behaviours around these choices.
Because our culture has been built around everyday convenience, this shift may seem difficult to fathom at first, but if you’re anything like me, you might believe that the power of the people is strong. By starting small, we present ourselves with great opportunities to transition into this shift, even if just in our own households. Start by making a mental note of what is available in your area, and making decisions based on that. For us on the West Coast of British Columbia, we are privileged to have the Fraser and Okanagan Valleys so close by providing us with beautiful, nutritious, and sometimes even organic (yay for the preservation of bio-diversity!) fruits and vegetables every year. Once you’ve surveyed what can be purchased in your area, perhaps consider home-based preservation methods to keep your locally-purchased food safe and consumable throughout the year (such as the ones our ancestors used for centuries).
If you choose to consume dairy and meat, avoid heavy Costco runs to ‘save you money’ as your parents might have done, and instead consider purchasing from a local farm or butcher. For those items that you simply can’t see yourself going without that are not available in your local geographical area, attempt to consume mindfully. For all food items, attempt to waste as little as possible, and for what can’t be consumed, compost! Overall, as much as it may seem like the small steps we take on an individual level only minimally contributes to the global impact that humans have on global food systems, the more we come together as conscious consumers, the smaller the footprint we leave in the ecosystems we are involved in becomes, the healthier we are, and the healthier the local economy is. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy trips to the farmers market and time spent eating delicious home-preserved, package-free food throughout the winter season? Haven’t tried it? I highly recommend!
In order for us to evolve, we must forgive ourselves in complete humility time and time again. Each and every one of our spiritual journeys is long and consistently incomplete [evolving]. Brimming with ebbs and flows between light and dark, each one of us must find gratitude in the cracks of our mistakes and allow this to be where our healing begins.
Wholehearted self-forgiveness has a large potential to equate to wholehearted self love, but it is important to be careful not to get stuck in the paradox of this. In other words, it is important to forgive yourself for not loving yourself in every moment, and equally so, it is important to love yourself, even if you haven't quite forgiven yourself yet. In a recent conversation with a friend, we covered the topic of change. To quote our conversation, "You have to accept people wherever they are at with patience, love, kindness, and understanding - otherwise, you might try to bend something so much that it breaks." Upon reflection of this statement, it came clear to me that we also need to approach ourselves in this manner when attempting to make any sort of internal change or shift - especially one that is geared towards self forgiveness. In being too hard on ourselves (ie. allowing our ego to take charge), we may begin to deviate so far away from our truth on our path to forgiveness that we crack and crumble.
Allow yourself moments of big big love on your journey to forgiveness. Find pockets of gratitude and bathe in them for as long as you can take.
Be gentle, be honest, be kind, and in the words of Cheryl Strayed;
“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.”
As a student and teacher of yoga as well as a current business student, I have decided to utilize my knowledge in the two different fields collaboratively. Continue reading for my researched take on the impact of mindfulness in the workplace.
The Negative Impacts of Stress
In paying attention to what is happening in the present moment, the practice of mindfulness in the workplace holds promise for alleviating suffering caused by workplace stress. As damaged health, hindered engagement, and increased turnover rates are encouraged by many of today’s modern management commonalities, many organizations are turning to alternative methods to alleviate the negative impacts on their overall performance due to poor employee health. Overall, adopting mindfulness initiatives into the workplace has the potential to shift an entire organization’s way of thinking, feeling, being, and doing for the better.
Managers who oversee employee benefits plans and employee performance outcomes have known for decades that stress in the workplace is largely problematic. As reported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in 2015, the annual cost of workplace mental health programs was estimated at $51 billion per year. Furthermore, it was reported that 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs were attributed to mental illness. In addition to the astounding impact that employee stress has on organization-wide benefits plans and disability programs, approximately $20 billion in workplace losses stemmed from poor employee retention and reduced employee productivity through both absenteeism as well as presenteeism (coming to work despite illness, injury, anxiety, etc.) in 2015. According to the MHCC, in 2018 alone, an average of 3,500,000 Canadians missed work at least once due to mental health issues.
In addition to corporate losses due to mental health declines, another impediment to the optimal functioning of a workplace is technology-influenced distraction. The emergence of new technologies in the past decade has led to an undeniable ’phase shift’ in the way humans interface with technology. Given the fast-paced and hyper-competitive digital age we live in today, practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool in combating the lure of digital and social distraction.
Corporations Working Towards Solutions
Most usually, organizations will be more willing to invest in employee wellness initiatives if there is a predicted positive impact on the organization’s overall bottom line. As employer health care costs continue to increase, however, many companies are invested in helping employees maintain their well‐being through workplace health promotions. In alignment with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, many organizations are now adopting mental‐health related programs in the workplace to reduce organizational costs, improve output, enhance employee retention, and increase overall organization profitability. In a survey conducted by the MHCC in 2015, 90% of participating organizations noted that “protecting the psychological health of employees” was their top reason for implementing their new mental‐ health related programs.
Mindfulness as a Win‐Win strategy
In terms of adopting mindfulness into the workplace, initiatives including corporate yoga, mindful meditation workshops, and self‐sustaining mindfulness workplace programs have proven to provide immense results regarding employee stress with low organizational cost. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness in the workplace including meditation, body scanning, breath awareness, and yoga. With guidance, employees can begin to practice calming their minds and learning the signals that their bodies send when under duress. Reflected by a subtle shift in consciousness towards the integration of work and humanity, the simple practice of mindful meditation rewires the brain in a way that allows individuals to become more resilient to the stressors and distractions of every day life. Through patient and diligent practice, people can train their minds to mitigate the effects of stressful situations, opening themselves up to less emotional reactivity, increased stress tolerance, and fewer interruptions from intrusive, distressing, and distracting thoughts.
Most effective mindfulness‐based workplace programs involve up to 20 hours of instruction with daily home practice over an extended period of time. According to one study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), which analyzed employee well-being in the workplace through mindfulness-based yoga, it was concluded that organizations can utilize mindfulness as a cost-effective, curative, and preventive measure in controlling and combatting workplace stress with the result of improved workplace productivity. To further detail this study, the NCBI researchers divided a company of 160 employees (88 males, 72 females) into two focus groups of 80 people each; the Control Group and the Yoga Group. Each group was led through daily (5 days per week) activity for a total of 10 weeks. The Control Group was provided with 35 minutes of project management theory while simultaneously being led through physical activity such as spot jogging, loosening exercises, and strengthening exercises every day. The Yoga Group was provided with 35 minutes of mindfulness theory and yoga postures every day. Each group was also lead through 15 minutes of breathing exercises and was provided 10 minutes of daily rest.
By the end of the 10 week study, the Yoga Group, which focused largely on the practice of mindfulness, showed results of increased productivity, lower aggression, and higher overall positivity compared to the Control Group. As stated by this study’s researchers, “Yoga in the workplace enhances employee well‐being by reducing hostile work‐related behaviours and creating a more positive work environment. The strength of mindfulness is that it can be used as a self‐management technique where an individual can practice it anywhere at any time.”
As a whole, mindfulness focuses on transforming how individuals relate to stress, rather than altering the external conditions or circumstances that induce stress primitively. In other words, when done correctly, implementing mindfulness initiatives into an organization’s corporate strategy has the potential to greatly increase employee energy and productivity, without the need for drastic and costly changes related to business policy and/or strategy. As a result, organization‐wide advances such as increased workplace efficiency, higher retention rates, and lowered benefit plan costs due to mentally healthier employee are all major results with overall positive bottom-line impacts.
The much-needed adoption of mindfulness into the corporate workplace provides a considerable amount of organization-wide benefits including an increase in productivity and a decrease in the impacts that employee stress has on an organization’s bottom line. Though the individual costs of different individual costs of different mindfulness initiatives vary, it can be concluded that mindful employees are far more productive than those who feel their employers disregard their mental health. As a result, it has been shown that through mindfulness-based stress management initiatives, employers have the potential to reduce the costs of stress and overall create healthier workplace cultures for their employees. There are many different methods of workplace mindfulness for managers to adopt. Overall, a strategic mindfulness-based approach provides both flexible and low cost options for managers, with positive prospects for a high return on investment. Companies that strategically train their workforce to be more mindful are likely to have a strong competitive advantage through lower health care expenditures and higher employee productivity.
Yoga with Adriene
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any further questions, and once again, THANK YOU!
The light in me honours and loves the light in you.
“The process of healing begins when we mindfully breathe in.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Simply put, mindfulness meditation is simple: Take a seat, pay attention to your breath, and when you attention wanders, return. Keep in mind, however, simple is not a synonym for easy.
If a clear mind, a relaxed nervous system, and an overall enhanced wellbeing are in your best interest, however, continue reading for my detailed instruction on how to properly meditate mindfully:
Most often, meditation takes place in a comfortable seated position with the spine erect. Largely, this is the chosen posture for meditation because this position allows the energy of the body to most easily draw upwards along the spine. As the energy continues to draw upwards, the body is able to more organically remain in a conscious meditative state, rather than slip into a subconscious state similar to that which is often discovered through Savasana – the end of class yoga posture that we all know and love.
Choose the most comfortable seated position for your body:
Your Breath | Your Focus
The breath is the force of life – When we mindfully allow ourselves to breathe, we mindfully allow ourselves to be. Oftentimes, our breath is compared to the anchor of our lives. In focusing on the breath, we connect our conscious to our subconscious, our body to our mind, and so on. As the human mind is always working, it is important to take time in each day for silence. The trick of the practice is to let go of intrusive thoughts without forcing them away or judging them.
Note: Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places, however there is no need to block or eliminate thinking. As soon as you begin to notice your mind wandering, gently and without judgement of the self, return your attention to your breath. You may find your mind wandering constantly – which is normal. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts, practice the art of observing your mind without the need to react.
When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day, and as you gently make your way into the world, choose to take a little piece of your calm, meditative mind with you.
It's simply that simple!