Teaching awareness at Google: Breathe easy and come into focus
This is the fourth post in a series profiling Googlers who facilitate classes as part of our g2g program, in which Googlers teach, share and learn from each other. Regardless of role, level or location, g2g's community-based approach makes it possible for all Googlers to take advantage of a variety of learning opportunities. - Ed.
Eight years ago, I loaded five boxes into my pickup truck, said goodbye to a career of crunching numbers in hotel management, and started my own massage practice in Washington state.
Soon thereafter, I started at Google as an onsite massage therapist at the Kirkland and Seattle offices, and I was ready for the challenge. But after a few years of massage work, I started to ponder alternatives to massage to further help my fellow Googlers relax and de-stress. Being able to take a moment out of one’s day to relax and decompress is not only beneficial for one’s health, but also may help people be happier and more productive in their day to day lives. So in 2011, I helped launch “MindBody Awareness,” a guided meditation class, as part of the Googler-to-Googler (g2g) program.
It’s no secret that meditation can be an excellent way to relax your body and focus the mind. A plethora of studies have supported that point. That said, one of the hardest parts of meditation is simply giving it a try. For an activity based in calmness and openness, it’s ironic how meditation can, for some, engender feelings of intimidation and even embarrassment at the outset. So we specifically designed “MindBody Awareness” for all levels so anyone can walk through the door and dive right in. Having a friendly, informal meditation class taught onsite by a fellow Googler allows for community building, and immediately relaxes participants whether they’re new to the practice or veterans.
We begin each 30-minute class by going through a Qigong series that consists of 12 different positions held for 30 seconds each. This is how we begin bringing awareness of one’s body and mind into play, shedding the distractions from the outside and becoming more in tune with one’s self. The second portion of the class is a seated meditation, which incorporates changing hand positions, where chimes go off every minute to signal a change in pose. This integrates the mind and the body instead of just one or the other. The chimes help the mind stay focused, and acts as an anchor helping people return to a quiet mind if they happen to get lost in distraction. An engineer who takes my class told me “being aware of what my physical body needs while my brain is busy coding has helped me significantly reduce stress, not get so worn out, and enjoy my job.” Another Googler noted to me that he feels “having a regular chance to slow down, collect [himself] and connect mind and body contributes to a more mindful, lower stress outlook throughout the week.”
Through g2g, we’ve made MindBody Awareness and other meditation classes available in 16 different cities, providing an alternative method of stress relief for Googlers around the world. To make it even easier for Googlers to access meditation classes, we offer global meditative Google Hangouts. Googlers can video conference into a meditation hangout for 30 or 60 minutes to practice meditation as a group.
Meditation class offered through the g2g program has also fostered a unique way to build a sense of community. The class has brought Googlers from varying departments together to meet new people by taking a break for 30 minutes to re-charge. The ultimate goal of the class is that Googlers get positive energy flowing that they can bring back to their desks—or anywhere for that matter!
Tips and tricks to help you de-stress
- Focus on your breath. Take a few moments to allow your mind and body to relax even if it's just for one or two long deep breaths—make sure you can physically see your belly and chest rise. Taking just one minute a day can make a significant difference.
- Think of your favorite things. Positive thoughts can give a way to a more positive attitude and outlook.
- Try to focus on one thing. See if you can sit back and tackle your tasks one piece at a time, as if you were working on a puzzle piece by piece. Eventually, it will come together in a systematic way!