Vienna‘s University of Economics and Business

„Giving Back“ to an Alma Mater – Skills for dealing with the unforeseeable VUCA world

Can understanding your mind, body and emotions and your patterns of behaviour lead to less reactivity and more conscious action? Resilience is cultivated with various methods. One effective way of dealing with challenging times is through self-knowledge. This was enabled with a second group of interested participants at a hybrid workshop at Vienna‘s University of Economics and Business.

Vienna‘s University of Economics and Business
Copyright BOANET.AT

The current pandemic with its vast ranging impact on the business, social, emotional, health, psychological and behavioral fabric of the planet has kept the world on alert for almost two years. With nearly five million deaths worldwide, waves of new infections sweeping us from one lockdown to the next, dealing with COVID-19 is a challenge for each one of us.

At this critical time, understanding the mind and our emotions are more important than ever before. Numerous studies during the corona pandemic suggest that meditation helps to better deal with difficult emotions, like anger, fear and anxiety during disruptive times and anticipate stress before it arises. A balanced mind leads to more conscious decision-making, higher social competence, and resilience. Training the mind fosters clarity, focus, emotional und social intelligence. Just a short period of stillness recharges our brains to deal with the immense sources of distraction, which have multiplied, as the demand for sensational news grows.

Increased self-knowledge through mind leadership

In order to build resilience and thus better deal with the crisis, the HR department of the WU Wien offered its employees a five-part seminar on mind leadership training. The seminar introduced key elements for self-understanding and management. An additional aspect was the application of the methods presented, for dealing with the overlapping hybrid world of work, privacy, and leisure.

Step by step through the seminar, participants were made aware of the role of focus and distraction in the work process, the connection between our body, mind and emotional world, the neurophysiology behind changing attitudes and mindset, and the nature of the mind and thought flow. Stress and its effects on the body and applying insights to recognizing stressors and stress reactions, addressing them whilst they are arising, was a core element of the seminar. How do we recognize the gap between trigger and response and what does the breath have to do with this vital ability? The role of effective communication, the world of emotions and experiencing them in the body, empathy and compassion were dealt with in the context of organizations and outcomes. Bringing awareness to our interdependence and connectedness enables an understanding of the individual and collective roles we play.

The fifteen-hour seminar conducted in English, constituted theoretical input, science-based results, specific guided meditations, and interactions between the participants in exercises tailor-made for each topic. The encouragement of active discussion and input greatly enriched the workshop. In the course of the ten-week course, the group evolved into a container for insight and personal development. The use of a lively mix of methods which work both in-person and online, kept interest active and alive.

Skills and working practices for a new hybrid world of work

What were some of the practical questions, the seminar sought to answer?

What skills do I need to survive in a hybrid working world shaped by digitization? How do I deal with difficult emotions? How does an emotion show itself in the body? What are the effects of acute and chronic stress in the body and how do I deal with stress triggers and stress reactions from a mindfulness perspective? How does the neurophysiology of the brain permit us to learn new attitudes and to change our mindset? Why are empathy and compassion in the professional context a guarantee for better cooperation and team cohesion? Why does mindful communication mean present, compassionate listening, and hearing? What is a negativity bias and how can it be addressed? How do I integrate the positive into life at work?

The lockdown szenario at the end of 2021, became a test lab for the practicability and effectiveness of many skills learned, as we continue to shift between off- and online working modes which are here to stay.

In effect, this seminar became a „life changing“ experience.

Voices of participants

M.M. wrote: “Thank you so much for this life-changing workshop! There have been so many valuable learnings for me and I can really say that the techniques have helped me to experience some situations more consciously (presence and agency) and to be able to deal with negative feelings much better – meaning that they do not overwhelm me and I do not automatically identify with them….. I do manage to solely focus on my breath from time to time and it makes a huge difference!”

“I learned once again to be more and more in the “here and now”. I try to focus my attention on a task that I am doing right now and not, as usual, to think about several things at the same time or even what is still to be done, what I still have to do. Through this approach, the activity progresses much faster and more effectively when I am focused”, commented Marianne Fiala on her experience of the seminar. “Especially the meditations were good for me..the arrival meditation – which helped me a lot when I came to the seminar, work stressed and had to concentrate on the topic. To have a few minutes, to focus, enabled me to concentrate much better on the lecture. Or the body scan, my favorite, or a breath mediation or a Metta or …”

Self-generated insights generate individual resilience

With the understanding of how the brain and nervous systems function when under stress, and the interplay between body, mind and emotions, observing oneself was the first step towards a new awareness. As William James (1842 – 1910), Harvard Professor for Psychology and Philosophy said: “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives“.

The choice is ours.

A big thank you to the Personnel Development and Planning Office

Thank you to an open-minded Alexander Mingst from the Personnel Development and Planning Office who promoted an innovative multi-facetted approach to building resilience by applying inherent skills in dealing with challenges and crisis.

For me personally this seminar was part of „giving back“ many decades later, as an alumni of the Vienna University of Economics and Business.

Mit-Resilienz-und-Mind-Leadership-die-Krise-bewaltigen

Overcoming the crisis with resilience through mind leadership – A successful online workshop at the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt

Ein-erfolgreicher-online-Workshop-in-der-FH-Wiener-Neustadt
©Pletterbauer

The current crisis, a virus that has kept the world on alert for almost two years, over 5 million deaths worldwide, rising infection rates and the renewed lockdown are a challenge for each one of us. An ongoing pandemic that is not limited to simply a viral infection, but one that has had profound economic, social, emotional, societal, and psychological effects on the planet.

At this critical time, being mindful is more important than ever before. Numerous studies during the corona pandemic suggest that meditation helps to better deal with difficult emotions, like anger, fear and anxiety during challenging times and anticipate stress before it arises. A balanced mind leads to more conscious decision-making, higher social competence, and resilience. Training the mind fosters leadership skills, which are characterized by presence, compassion, kindness, and empathy, to name a few.

Increased self-knowledge through Mind leadership

In order to better deal with the crisis, the HR department of the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt decided to offer employees a five-part seminar on mind leadership training. The seminar focused on elements such as distraction, emotions, thought awareness, stress, kindness, and compassion, in order to build individual resilience. These skills and methods can be applied whenever the need arises or as part of a daily practice. A positive effect is, that what has been learned is passed on, both at work and at home, leading to a dissemination within the organization.

Understanding of social and emotional intelligence

The ten-week seminar series constituted theoretical input, meditations, and related exercises. Each module covered different aspects of mind leadership and personal and work-related mindfulness. A focus was laid onto the overlapping world of work, privacy, and leisure. What skills do I need to survive in a hybrid working world shaped by digitization? How do I deal with difficult emotions? What is stress and how do I deal with stress triggers and stress reactions from a mindfulness perspective? Why does the neurophysiology of the brain permit us to learn new attitudes and to change our mindset? Why are empathy and compassion in the professional context a guarantee for better cooperation and team cohesion? Why does mindful communication mean present, compassionate listening, and hearing?

Joint practice sessions

Between the online seminars, which took place every two weeks, a joint practice session was offered in each intervening week. Thus, the theory, tips and exercises were put into practice.

Participants positive reactions:

As participant Lisa Zach put it: “This seminar is a great enrichment for me personally and I was able to take a lot with me. Thank you very much for the great course. Was time spent well”.

“It was absolutely ingenious that the FH made this seminar possible. I’m super, super grateful,” said another participant.

Agnes Hofer was of the opinion: “The course offered a good mix of scientifically sound findings and practice, so that there was something new in every unit, even if you were already familiar with the content. It’s about practice – the fact that we regularly got together over several weeks to practice with each other helped a lot to transfer the content into everyday life. Martina leads with great experience and expertise, so that the time was always used sensibly. All in all, a great gift given to us by our employer.”

Dr. Alexandra Zimmermann, HR Manager and initiator of the seminar said: “Thank you very much! I was able to take a lot with me personally.”

Ten weeks of mutual inspiration!

 Ein-Wochenende-in-Stille

A weekend in silence – impressions, inspirations and insights

Last weekend I had the first opportunity to lead two “silent full-day retreats” in a row. The “day in silence retreat” supports participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR for short) to strengthen and deepen the experience of mindfulness and is an essential part of the eight-weeks.

Silence is officially rung in at the start and broken at the end of the day, when participants initially are only permitted to whisper. The experience in a group-setting is deeply connecting and is experienced as being extremely enriching, especially for participants who are used to silence, as they live alone.

During the retreat, sitting meditations focusing attention on the breath, body awareness, hearing (to sharpen sensory perception), recognition of the process of thought-flow or immersion in open awareness, alternate with walking meditations, mindful movement in standing, lying or sitting and with a body scan. Other types of meditation are also practiced, such as a lake or mountain meditation and a practice for compassion or loving kindness, also called Metta.

The lake and mountain meditations, which are my favorites, are metaphors used to connect us with the inherent properties of nature, such as stability, grounding, imperturbability, flexibility, and inner strength. Characteristics that allow us to imbibe inner stability and stay equanimous in challenging times. “Awaken the mountain within you!”

An important part of the day retreat is the practice of mindful eating. We are so used to taking our meals in standing, at haste, and usually in the company of family, colleagues, or friends, accompanied by talk, chatter and a lack of concentration. The perception of what we are eating and ingesting fades into the background. The only aspect that prevails is the intensity of taste. Eating in silence, sharpens all our senses, allowing us to experience the entire process of food preparation, of cooking, of arranging the meal on a plate, of setting the table, and of eating in its totality. Suddenly we become aware of hitherto unexperienced visual, tactical, odor and taste stimuli. According to scientific studies, food is digested better and more completely during a mindful meal. How about a try?

Inspiring stories and poems as well as short lectures on elements of the program complete the agenda.

The gentle introduction of speaking, after six hours in silence allows a further contemplation of the day, of insights revealed, effects of meditations and exercises, inspirations from texts read. The silent retreat motivates participants to consciously continue this path of mindfulness even after the end of the MBSR course.

“A beautiful day”……

“I feel in tune with myself”…….

“Time has passed in no time, are we already at the end of the retreat?”

“I could remain silent forever”…….

“I want to be deliberately silent once a week!”

“All my senses and taste-buds were completely open during the meal. What an explosion!”

“I was initially a little bit wary of today, but from moment to moment the feeling disappeared……”

The fluid transition of formal meditation practice into informal practice made us open, curious, and fully present for any experience, without categorizing it as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. The cultivation of mindful awareness, as way of being, is more necessary than ever, especially in these times of unpredictable, disruptive crisis.

In the words of the Master Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Silence is essential.
We need silence,
just as much as we need air,
just as much as plants need light.
If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts,
there is no space for us.”

 midnfulness-on-science

Mindfulness in Banking and Finance – a Master thesis on the framework required

 

Yesterday, on September 9th, I had the honour of participating in a “in person” defence of a Master thesis at the University of applied sciences, kph Wien/Krems. Sonja Rischer, who has just concluded the postgraduate course in “Mindfulness in education, consulting and healthcare”, wrote her thesis on Mindfulness in the finance sector. Her topic was “The conditions required for the introduction of mindfulness as a fundamental value in the corporate culture of financial companies”. As a supervisor and lecturer in the master’s course since 2018, it is inspiring to observe how scientific research studies of this kind, can enable Mindfulness to establish its mainstream standing in various areas. Perhaps the introduction of a culture of mindfulness could help the banking world to regain trustworthiness, something that occasionally gets undermined? Congratulations Sonja Rischer for her well-deserved Master of Science!

Master Thesis Presentation

ORF_Interview062020

Mindfulnesstraining – the universe within a raisin

Is it possible that the careful observation and investigation of a raisin succeeds in relaxing the mind and reducing our inner pressure? Healthcare experts worldwide would agree and recommend this form of Mindfulness meditation as an anti-stress agent. According to Mindfulness-Coach Martina Esberger-Chowdhury, “Many top managers meditate daily, in order to deal more effectively with their daily life and with periods of crisis”. Cedomira Schlapper has put together Mindfulness-exercises for the stress-relief series on “Heimat Fremde Heimat”:

Nipun and Martina Vienna Jan 2020

Nipun Mehta at Institutions of Education in Vienna

As part of his recent visit to Austria, Nipun Mehta, founder of Service Space was hosted by a number of prestigious institutions, like the University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Business and Economics.

Nipun’s keynote on “Cultivating Compassion Quotient” introduced the concept of bringing kindness and compassion to schools at the Symposium “Pädagogik der Achtsamkeit”. Organised by Karlheinz Valtl and his department at the “Zentrum für Lehrer*innenbildung” at Vienna University, this 9th symposium seeks to make Mindfulness part of teacher training.

At the WU Executive Academy of the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Nipun spoke on „Business & Kindness” and showed the existence of multiple forms of capital. The packed hall listened to how nature, attention, time, compassion, knowledge, culture and community to name a few, are forms that can be used to express gratitude. New forms of inspiring purpose? How about a culture of giving which leads to a culture of gratitude? Thanks to Christina Knopf of the WU Executive Academy and Univ.Prof. Michael Müller-Camen for sponsoring this event.

A truly inspiring visit. Honoured to have added to the ripples.

The Sound of Silence

Sound of Silence

On Monday, December 2nd, 2019, the pianist Marialena Fernandes, the mindfulness and meditation teacher Martina Esberger-Chowdhury, together with the moderator Eszter Dorner-Brader have put together a program titled “The Sound of Silence”. 

Music and meditation touch layers of Being, that we are unable to access by the intellect. In the energy-draining pre-holiday season, this is a special gift for us – to be one with ourselves and deeply at peace.

Registration required: clubalpha@alphafrauen.org

Quote: Alpha –  Newsletter Nov-Dec 2019/N. 174, S. 7)

More info

Club Alpha

Stubenbastei 12/14

1010 Vienna

Monday, 2.12.2019

19:00 Uhr

Moderator: Eszter Dorner-Brader.

Kick-Off event for a new initiative of a global pharmaceutical player

As part of the Kick-Off event for a new initiative of a global pharmaceutical player, I was invited to hold workshops in English and German on the core competence Mindfulness. The company is offering regular Mindfulness trainings to employees by an internal ambassador, to spread the concept and establish a practice. An extremely effective impulse to build the foundations for Mindfulness in the organization. It was inspiring to be part of the launch of this truly people-centered initiative.

Launch events and future workshops on “The Mind of The Leader”

Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter on a visit to Vienna.

Rasmus and Jacqueline visited the Danube metropolis for the launch of their new book “The Mind of the Leader – How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results”. The book, published by Harvard Business Review Press, was presented to the Leadership Community at the 10th Peter Drucker Forum. As part of their visit, both authors were present at several events, including a Panel discussion at the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien and the Impact Hub Vienna.