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Mindful Of Your Duties

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

A recent Harvard Business Review commented “Too often, the most ambitious leaders assume that if you are running around, you are achieving much. If you want to be a forward-thinking professional, stop thinking about the future for a moment. If you want to do more today, sit down and practice being aware of your breath and the fact that you have access to meaning right now”.

In the past thirty years both interest and popularity in the subject of mindfulness has increased. What was once an obscure Buddhist concept, appears to have been adapted and accepted into mainstream western life. Its rise to prominence has been helped by a number of scientific studies undertaken which have resulted in greater recognition and credibility and now its penetration is everywhere: schools, business and even the military.

So what are these studies proving? Well they are really just confirming what practitioners of mindfulness have been promoting for years, that mindfulness has wide-reaching benefits. Research findings are strongly affirming mindfulness’ role in helping people overcome many physical and mental health-related issues: reduced stress, depression, anxiety, neuroticism and emotional reactivity, improved blood pressure and cortisol levels. Mindfulness leads to better behavioural regulation and assists with the treatment of addiction and eating disorders.

But of course the benefits of mindfulness are not limited to those suffering from physical and psychological problems, as those wishing to enhance their abstract thinking, memory and creativity skills, leadership capability and overall well-being also benefit. There is also a whole host of pro social benefits like increased empathy, compassion to others’ suffering and improved relationships.

The word mindfulness is a translation of the Pali word ‘sati’ which denotes “awareness”, “attention” and “remembering” and also invokes the opposite of the state of mindlessness. While there is a certain amount of ambiguity surrounding what mindfulness is and its qualities and some even terming it a ‘pre-scientific’ concept; there does appears to be a certain degree of consensus, acceptance and popularity.  The most cited is Kabit-Zinn’s definition which refers to “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”. In the workplace it can be encouraging “mindful practice” to “observe emotional reality” in an organisation and “avoid narrow focus and constant multitasking”.  Paying attention is cultivated by different mindfulness activities and although these can differ in interpretation, they are mostly about meditation.

So it seems to be on everyone’s lips even in business conferences and seminars.  In fact, at last year’s World Economic Forum it was one of the hottest topics, with multiple sessions not only devoted to the science behind mindfulness but also how to practice it, though there is still a certain hardcore scepticism to be overcome.  I had a good giggle the other day when I read that “most forward-looking companies are willing to take risks to achieve greatness. Most leaders give lip service to the idea of mindfulness at work idea, but few actually do it”. The consultant noted “we have worked with banks willing to take on toxic assets (again) and hedge funds willing to take a $100 million gamble on a failing company. But their leaders would still be terrified to ask their employees to stop working for two minutes a day to watch their breath go in and out.”

But in the last decade, mindfulness has been used inside many progressive companies to lower health costs, increase employee productivity, help employees stay “on task” and reduce employee stress through a combination of breathing techniques and mental relaxation.  In his book Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out’, David Gelles describes how mindfulness has gone mainstream with companies as diverse as  Google, Aetna, General Mills and Target, all having built extensive programmes to foster mindful practices among their workers.  

Aetna, one of the leaders of the movement to apply positive psychology practices to work, instituted a mindfulness training program designed to teach employees how to take short breaks to centre themselves through meditation and yoga. More than a quarter of Aetna’s 50,000 employees have taken part. Mindfulness scores increased as expected. However incredibly on average, stress levels dropped by 28%, reported sleep quality improved 20%, and pain dropped by 19%. Aetna also calculated the savings to the company, finding that, on average, mindfulness participants gained 62 minutes of productivity a week, which is an estimated $3,000-per-employee increase in productivity for the company each year. Individuals in the top 20% of stress rankings had nearly $2,000 more in medical costs for the preceding year, so this intervention could create significant medical savings. Based on Aetna’s experience, that’s potentially a $5,000 average swing per employee, depending on their starting point. And even that number probably underestimates the financial value of mindfulness, as it doesn’t include the positive impacts on turnover, rehiring costs, retraining costs, customer service, or client-facing sales.

But what does being mindful at work really mean anyhow? Well according to Ellen Langer of Harvard who is one of the leaders in mindfulness in the world with many studies under her belt it is “noticing moment-to-moment changes around you from the differences in the face of your spouse across the breakfast table to the variability of your asthma symptoms. In the work arena it can mean observing your team at work… are they aware or are their minds constantly ahead of the present and missing what is happening in the here and now?”

Spiritualists, Sages, and Buddhist teachers have extolled the benefits of meditation for thousands of years but now there’s a clear message in the science. Meditation isn’t just a mystic marvel but based on what we are seeing in terms of benefits I am surprised there is not a queue outside every meditation centre in the country (though I only know of one… and there is no one there). And if you really pay careful attention to the data, you might find yourself irresistibly compelled to meditate. Seriously, what do you have to lose? Because it’s getting very clear what you have to gain.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at  HYPERLINK "http://www.hrmc.co.bw" www.hrmc.co.bw  

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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