Implementing mindfulness practices into our daily work: a continuous awareness exercise - Janja Trkulja

After attending Erwins Glatter workshop on Mindfulness and resilience in Bratislava in June 2022, the one thing that I could not stop to think about was: how can I implement those practices more in my private and professional life? The content of the workshop was not completely new to me, I already had some knowledge about the things Erwin was talking about, but what I lacked was remembering to use that knowledge and practice it in my daily life. I realised that it is very easy to forget the things you know, if you do not practice them and make them an integral part of your life.

As I returned from the workshop, all I wanted was to share my impressions and what I’ve learned with my whole team – I envisaged a small workshop for my LORI team where I would share the knowledge and some of the exercises that we did with Erwin. But that did not happen. The workload was heavy, we did not manage to find the time for knowledge dissemination and after several months we did not even talk about it anymore. However, the idea stuck in my mind and the crazy workload that continued was like a mirror to my face saying “OK, we really NEED this. We need to slow down, we need to invest in our well-being and take better care of ourselves.” And then, in Autumn, an opportunity for some “organizational capacity building” appeared and we discussed our priorities, and the decision was made – we need to invest in our resilience and wellbeing! We are the ones who are doing all the work and we need to be OK. So we found an external expert, Ines Grubišić, a wonderful mindfulness teacher who offers a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme for business users and embarked with us on a 14 week journey of slowing down and being in contact with ourselves. At least for one and a half hours per week. 😉

Our work started with a raisin. Each of us got one raisin, but we were not allowed to gobble it up, like we usually do. We had to feel and examine the raisin with all our available senses before putting it into our mouths. It was really challenging work, for most of us…while concentrating on my raisin, I could not escape an occasional glimpse towards my colleagues and wondering what was happening in their worlds right now. Because after 15 minutes of “examining the raisin” I wanted to jump out of my skin! And then, after finally having the raisin in our mouth, we had to slowly examine it once again…with our lips, our tongues, our mouth… It was a torture!! And it was also an introduction for focusing our attention to our inner world, towards ourselves.

Ines would come to our office on Thursdays and every Thursday magic would happen. We started to be more present. We started to connect to our deeper levels. Not the mental ones that know it all and always have an answer ready…but deeper. And more vulnerable. Which was also a challenge, because this was our work environment! You are not allowed to be vulnerable here, you are here to achieve goals, solve problems and to get the job done! But Ines kept bringing this very accepting energy, and reminded us to always be gentle with ourselves. From week to week we’ve had to do homework (regular mindfulness practice + different tasks relating to our work environment). The results of that practice became visible very soon in our daily work. The work-related stress was still the same, but we began to handle it differently. Our meetings would start with a 5 minute breathing exercise and we noticed that “the flow” and results of such meetings would be different. As our internal capacities for being with ourselves and in the present moment grew, we were able to handle everyday situations better (for example, dealing with fear of public speaking, new perspectives in approaching stressful situations etc.). We started to eat lunch more consciously, instead of in front of our computers (most of the days).

After 14-weeks, Ines left and we promised ourselves to “keep going”! But it did not take long for us to get back to our usual hectic worlds. However, some things have changed, both in each of us individually and for us as a team. But without outside incentives to “do the homework”, only a few of us continued to do the regular practise. After a while, we rarely remembered to do a breathing exercise before the meeting together or to stretch our bodies and release the stress of spending long hours in front of the computer. Yet, some of us started some therapy work and embarked on further journey of self-discovery and all of us recognized the benefits of our regular meetings and practice. So, for 2024 we decided to put the topic of stress management and burnout prevention as one of our priorities that we will invest in. We plan to have another cycle of guided Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme and we hope to integrate it more and more into our daily lives. Because practice makes perfect, and mindfulness really is a continuous awareness exercise.