Corporate Mindfulness & Efficiency — for whom?

3 min readMay 27, 2018

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This is a more detailed comment to this post: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6405803245264084992

First of all that’s a great and necessary move! And thanks to Peter Bostelmann for his patience, endurance and many years of introducing the practice of mindfulness into companies at such level.

Second: Yes, using mindfulness in companies to build more efficient manpower shouldn’t be the goal. SAP is a global player and as such is a profit-oriented company facing competition. So of course HR will look at their mindfulness program with those eyes. So we need to ask, what is meant here with „efficiency“? Efficient for whom?

We need to remember: Corporate mindfulness as it is practiced today is not a Buddhist practice in itself and it doesn’t want to be seen as such — even if the roots are actually Buddhist and Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR (one of the leading Mindfulness programs worldwide) was a Zen student of Zen Master Seung Sahn for about 10 years.

A modern approach towards the practice of mindfulness is more and more based in hard evidence of neuroscientific proof. And science now too says: it works! And helps the practioner in enhacing his well-being. Thats good news. But than how do we use this well-being? Thats the most important question here and the mindfulness practice itself can not answer that. Simply because in itself mindfulness is just a tool, that can be used for many different things. Buddhism and Zen instead is very clear about this direction of how to use this tool, in order to not cause harm and reduce suffering in this world.

So here lies the danger with corporate mindfulness: the company can set the values on how the benefits of mindfulness will, might and shall be used. You see the issue here? It is easy to disconnect modern mindfulness from a much more complex Buddhist teaching system and its implemented direction and value of being of help for others. It’s easy to say “For You” but it takes years and years of humble practice, of developing compassion and insight to actually really act for the benefit of others and not just oneself.

So that brings me to this question here: what are the values on which a corporate mindfulness program is based?

If its to benefit the companies profit and unload even more responsibility on the employees, than that would cause more harm and needs to be rejected. But if the company instead wakes up, sees and honestly acknowledges the suffering and than steps in and says „How can we help to make things better in terms of reducing this suffering of ours?“ than that is a helpful direction and good start. I wish for the later.

We honestly need to see things for what they are and stop blinding ourselves and others for selfish reasons. As my Zen teacher used to say: a soldier can train mindfulness to become a better and very efficient sniper. He can do that by himself with exactly that goal: to be more efficient and calm when shooting and killing people. It won’t help him to become a better person. And does that help to reduce suffering in this world?

Ask yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Mu Bul is a Zen teacher (Senior Dharma Teacher/ Kwan Um Zen tradition) and Yoga practitioner. Also working as a life and career coach focusing on unlocking your potential with meditation and mindfulness training for greater focus, empathy, resilience and stress reduction.

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Mu Bul 無佛

Zen priest, M.A. Philosophy, who loves and does arts, photography and poetry. Above all loves life and the inevitable truth that appears by living it to death.