"Many people are using mindfulness in the workplace and benefiting from it" - Martine Batchelor

                                                                                          pic courtesy - budismosecular.org

Martine Batchelor spent ten years in a Korean monastery studying Zen Buddhism. She works as a lecturer and spiritual advisor, and her books include Principles of Zen, Walking on Lotus Flowers, and Buddhism and Ecology. She lives in the South of France. She speaks to Abhijit Ganguly.

Why has mindfulness become such a popular theme in our modern culture?

It has become a popular theme in our modern culture because it is pragmatic, portable, and secular. Although it is a practice which comes from the Buddhist tradition, one does not have to be a Buddhist or believe in the Buddha to cultivate it and benefit from it. Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of this modern and applicable mindfulness had very good results with his patients -- whether they were people with heart problems or were suffering from painful conditions. A friend of mine who suffered severe burns was given the choice between a course of mindfulness or more medication. She decided to try out mindfulness and it radically changed her ways of dealing with painful sensations. She found it a great relief and a revelation.

What are your views about bringing mindfulness into the workplace?

Many people are using mindfulness in the workplace and benefiting from it. First, it can help people to be more efficient and focused on the task at hand. Being fully present in a caring and careful manner, but also in a stable and open way helps one to take to the task with creativity and fullness, and leave it behind totally without regret, and then move on to the next thing.

Mindfulness also enables us to deal with difficult people and situations better.

Can it enhance leadership qualities?

It could if a leader is someone who cares as much for himself/herself as for others, who acknowledges that he/she can make mistakes as well as other people; but who can also have great ideas. It could enhance one’s potential for patience, endurance, wisdom and creativity.

Perhaps the most interesting intersection in the business world is between mindfulness and technology, as they appear to pull in opposite directions. What are your views?

Mindfulness and technology can go hand in hand, again, it depends how you use mindfulness and technology. I have various meditation friends who have developed meditative apps, which people find to be very useful to cultivate mindfulness on the go. Another friend developed a programme for a teenager called .b which works very well in school. You have Buddhist Geeks conferences. Mindfulness can also help to use technology more skillfully and wisely. Again, it depends what kind of technology one is talking about. There are different sorts of application of technology.

It seems like there is a general trend towards increased social responsibility for companies and their employees. What role do you think mindfulness plays in this?

In a Buddhist sutra, the Buddha mentions the six duties or responsibilities of the employer towards his employees and vice versa. In a later Chinese sutra (5th century CE), dedicated to the ethical precepts of the person aspiring to awakening one is enjoined to treat well one’s employees and to use resources wisely and compassionately. In more recent times, the Quaker industrialists in England wanted to provide jobs and do commerce with an ethical attitude.


Nowadays, there is also talk about social responsibilities for companies and their employees. The practice of mindfulness could be having some influence. If one cultivates mindfulness, one is cultivating a more caring and careful attitude which will encompass all activities and relationships including appropriate livelihood. In the USA there is a series of conferences called Wisdom 2.0 which is involved in these kind of discussions with Google and Microsoft and other companies for example.

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