Thursday, April 21, 2011

Calm Club - self organised, accessible mindfulness meditation groups at work

A colleague, noticing a line of people outside an office recently told me 'it [was] great that smokers got to stand outside and stare into the distance for a while'. This brought home to me that almost the only way you can get some calm time in the office is to take up a habit likely to kill you. For a while I've been toying with the idea of a self organised 'Calm Club' that anyone could run in their workplace, supported by a central website with basic materials.

Calm Club is simply a way of getting people together to take a short focused break in the middle of the day in their place of work or study. It is a self organised guided meditation/mindfulness session. A Calm Club website would provide basic branded materials to help people organise a short group meditation in a meeting room at work. The online resources would explain the concept simply, provides some customisable pdf flyers, an eventbrite style meeting organiser, basic tips and simple script for organising a group session and some short guiding podcasts to download and play to the group. The podcasts would be tailored versions of mindfulness guided meditation CDs such these by Reinhard Kowalski a consultant clinical psychologist in the NHS.

So if you want to organise a Calm Club at your workplace, you would:
  • Book a quiet meeting room and use either the calm club website or your office meeting system to invite people. Maybe stick some Calm Club flyers from the website on the notice board in the coffee area. Send text from the website to interested people.
  • Download the podcast to your player, print off the one-sider script and a Calm Club Do Not Disturb sign from the website. Find some speakers for your ipod/mp3player.
  • Set up the room by partially drawing any blinds or turning down the lights
  • Invite people to sit comfortably
  • Stick the sign on the door
  • Ask for silence for 30 seconds. Run through the script. Play the podcast for say 15 minutes
  • Go back to your desk refreshed.
In the tradition of the yoga movement Calm Club would be run on a not for profit basis with a strong self organised bottom up ethos. Calm Club should be free of religious, mystic or commercial influences in and around the Calm Club session. There are quite a few people out there offering workplace meditations but, the language around them can often be off putting to people who aren't familiar with meditation or eastern traditions. Calm Club or a similar brand could be more attractive to a sceptical Anglo Saxon office worker in the spirit of 'Keep Calm and Carry On'.

I came up with the idea of a Calm Club during a course with Reinhard Kowalski in 2009 and have been kicking it around in a sporadic email exchange with Reinhard and Andy Gibson for ages. But we’ve all been too busy to get Calm Club off the ground. I've finally got around to writing about it, prompted in part by the happiness agenda in the UK. But also aware that several things come together to make this happen.
  • Employers are starting to understand that they may be liable for long term mental health issues if they don’t help their staff manage stress - eg law firms, management consultancies, call centres
  • The understanding that stress can be or managed tackled through non pharmceutical interventions
  • Mindfulness is accepted in the NHS on the last course of Reinhards I attended only two of us were non-NHS professionals
  • The web is good now at organising meetings and spreading the word
  • Work-based groups such as book groups are increasingly popular
  • It’s easy now to download a podcast and play it
  • Meditation is considered slightly less weird than it was
  • There’s a lot of interest in happiness now which embraces mindfulness
  • Some sporting role models such as Ryan Giggs and Jonny Wilkinson and sports coaches are open about the benefits of meditation, yoga and a mindful approach
  • The whole thing could be done very cheaply if people give materials to a movement.
So all this is a bit rough - it may be that someone has already come up with this (i usually find that Geoff Mulgan has) or that there is a similar movement in California or that I am missing some huge things here or that I am just a stupid hippy. Can you help me make this idea better and bring Calm Club into existence?

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  1. fab idea Will ... and important for so many reasons not just within work place but was talking to a friend going through chemo and he found 'calm club' type techniques helped him 'zone out' during radiation treatment in a large head mask and not feel so claustraphobic ...

    also I must introduce you to the lovely Simon Cohen the king of Global Tolerance @globaltolerance ... at gt we have a minutes silence at the beginning of each team meeting and each day all focus on something specific during that minute ie a significant event, early memory or something and then share with each other face to face, via phone and skype depending where in the world the team are... it is a lovely technique

    loving Calm Club ... I officially and hereby join x

  2. Meditation is diet of our mind and soul it boosts our spiritual wisdom and refreshes our body


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