One day while working at Orangetheory Fitness corporate HQ, I received an Outlook calendar invitation for a meeting that was unlike all the rest I had on my schedule. There was no agenda, the entire office was invited, and it required all attendees to take their shoes off.
Our human resources team had arranged a mandatory meditation session for 100+ employees.
Admittedly, my first thought was that I was too busy to be bothered, and that my inbox with 307 unread emails was far more important. Plus, I failed miserably at meditation once before after trying the Headspace app, which called for me to pause and “observe my surroundings.” I remember scanning my apartment, which only magnified the need for me to clean my living room. The meditation quickly stopped and the Swiffering began.
I decided (with a big nudge from HR) that I should give meditation another try. We hired a meditation instructor, Christine of Spoken Word Yoga, to guide us through the process, and she asked us all to find a mat in our multi-purpose room. I found a spot (more like a hiding place) in the back and took my shoes off with the rest of the group per Christine’s request. After giggling over my co-worker’s hot-dog-print socks, the chatter in the room subsided, the relaxing music started, and everything became quiet and calm.
Christine coached us through about 45 minutes of meditation. We were asked to close our eyes, get in various stretching positions, and to ponder what we want out of life (yeah, things got real). Our blood was flowing and our minds were clearing. She challenged us to think of our goals and how we define happiness. We talked about family and friends, and how our time with them is both precious yet limited.
It was a little ironic to be at work and to be encouraged to disconnect from it, but it was something we all needed to do and hear. We only have one life to live, and after all, our mission at Orangetheory is to help people live a longer, more vibrant life. This meditation session is one of the many steps our company has taken to promote healthy work-life balance and for us to truly embody our mission. We have to remember that if we don’t take care of ourselves or find time for the things and the people we love, nobody wins. Life will just pass us by.
I honestly walked out of that room with a different outlook than when I walked in. Christine said two simple words of advice that have stuck with me: choose happy. We have the power to control our emotions and find the bright side of every situation. Sure, this may be more challenging at times — not every day is perfect. This is when Christine says “it’s better to be delusionally happy than deliberately miserable.” It’s up to us to choose happy, and to create our best life. We are in the driver’s seat.
In the short period since meditating, I’ve been proactive about making time for myself and my ambitions every day. I’ve attended Orangetheory classes more regularly than ever before (again, a little ironic, but I was putting my fitness on the back burner). I’ve found time to pursue forgotten goals — one of which is writing more, and this post is a great start. I’ve reconnected with members of my family, and my husband and I are finally scheduling our honeymoon that we said we were too busy to take.
I am grateful for a company that invests in the well-being of their employees. Everyday, we help countless others get healthier and happier both physically and mentally, and it was about time I made a bigger effort to do the same for me. My family, my work, and my life depend on it. And I know I would not have come to this realization without the much-needed involvement from HR.
I walked into this mandatory “meeting” with reluctance. I thought I would be the last one to have an epiphany through it all. But I realize now more than ever how important it is for companies to champion their employees and promote their health. Because the truth is, I think a lot of us put so much pressure on ourselves that sometimes we need someone to remind us to put our own needs first. This is the only way we can be our best.
I could see any organization greatly benefitting from having their teams stop, drop, and meditate. It is one of the most productive and rewarding mandates you can ever add to the calendar. And if you prefer to start with baby steps, maybe hold a few meetings without shoes — it is surprisingly liberating!
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” — Richard Branson