Could letting your mind drift away improve performance and concentration?
Picture the scene. Clients of a City powerhouse law firm are furiously trying to contact their solicitors. Phones are ringing and emails marked ‘URGENT’ languish unread. Meanwhile, tucked away in a quiet room are hundreds of meditating lawyers.
Cross-legged and with eyes shut, perhaps with some calming music in the background, they sit in total peace, aware only of themselves and on the cusp of approaching their ‘Zen’ moment.
OK, so that may be a slightly extreme image, but the Gazette got a taster for meditation when it took part in a wellbeing at law event this week.
The event, hosted by a legal recruitment business, recommended that we should all take a bit of time each day to enjoy a spot of ‘mindfulness’ meditation.
Shilpa Unalkat, a former solicitor turned meditation trainer, gave us a taster session in which we were told to let our mind ‘drift away’, concentrate only on our breathing and try to reach a point where we are wholly ‘in the present moment’.
I confess that, as a sceptic to spiritual practices, I did not approach it from the best point of view.
Add to that the fact that I’m a perpetual worrier and occasional daydreamer and it’s hardly a surprise that I struggled. It’s also probably why I am not a lawyer.
However, to Unalkat’s credit, plenty of attendees - mainly human resources staff hoping to pick up tips to pass onto their workforce - spoke positively about the experience and of feeling ‘refreshed’ and ‘energised’.
Just a few minutes' time out each day, whether sitting at your desk or on the train into work, can help improve performance and concentration, Unalkat said – citing what she said were scientific studies on the ‘benefits of mindfulness’.
Matthew Mitten of employee benefits adviser Secondsight, himself a keen meditator, offered a more sobering assessment of legal workplaces. Research shows that 70% of workers had been affected by financial worries in the past year, he said, and their employers should focus on four core elements – financial, social, physical and mental wellbeing.
Their tips, it would seem, were well received. ‘Sometimes these events are rubbish but this one was worth getting up for,’ one human resources executive said while in the lift back down from our peaceful haven to the city below.
Rooms of meditating lawyers may yet become reality.
Max Walters is a Gazette reporter