Meditation Can Help Written by Mike Cox
Problems on the job or at the office range from dealing with difficult co-workers, handling snarky customers or answering to micro-managing bosses. And then there are those annual, or maybe even twice-a-year performance evaluations—the working person’s “report card.”
Most of us deal with stressful, career-related issues in ways we shouldn’t—whining about them to our friends and family, stuffing feelings along with food, drinking too much, sleeping too little or, in the violent extreme, losing control and “going postal.”
An ever-growing body of evidence, however, is showing an easier, and much healthier solution to work place woes. It’s not something you have to subscribe to, buy or get a prescription for. It’s right there on top of your shoulders—your head. Well, the brain inside it.
Though we all have the solution resting right between our ears, the challenge is in coaxing our mind to get with the program.
Two Austin women with somewhat different backgrounds but a similar passion for the growing field of mindfulness training—Erika Marcoux and Jenn Fairbank—are the first in Austin, and one of the few mindfulness teachers in the state, to begin offering online mindfulness training in using your head to cope with the everyday vagaries of work. They also offer face-to-face customized training for business clients worldwide.
So, what is mindfulness?
“Our definition of mindfulness, like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, is paying attention on purpose in the present moment with acceptance, and not judging thoughts in the moment they occur,” they write in their book, Companion for Life: The Foundations for Living. “Conscious compassion leads to a quiet mind and open heart.”
Mindfulness also helps with the production end of the work spectrum by enhancing creativity, attention, memory and decision-making. One of the ways that happens is purely physical—MRI studies show that brain function improves greatly after consistent meditation with a thickening of the pre-frontal cortex.
Google, the California-based corporation that has helped change the world and in fact is still changing it, pioneered mindfulness training for their employees in 2007.
In Austin, Cornerstone has provided training to GSD&M and other corporate and individual clients. Cornerstone has developed an online Mindfulness Training for Stress designed for businesses and individuals. The self-led course is immediately available at CornerstoneMindfulness.com and can be completed at your own pace and convenience.
Most recently Cornerstone was a part of the global conservation during a women’s TEDx Talk held in more than 200 locations across the world.
“Needless to say, we were absolutely thrilled to have a chance to share our signature meditation with the world,” Marcoux said.
Marcoux, who grew up in Austin, graduated from the University of Texas in 1998 with two bachelor degrees, one in cultural anthropology and the other archeology. She minored in photojournalism and nearly had enough hours for another degree in art history.
At John F. Kennedy University in the San Francisco Bay area, she earned a graduate degree in somatic counseling psychology. After a stint in the marketing world in Austin and Washington, DC, she moved back to Austin and went into private practice.
In 2012, Erika Marcoux and Jenn Fairbank met and founded Cornerstone Mindfulness in Austin.
Fairbank grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Westminster College in Pennsylvania with a degree in public relations and a minor in sociology. She received a master’s degree in social work at the University of Pittsburgh in 2006. In 2009 she moved to Austin and founded Mind Body Yoga: A Center for Mindfulness, which she has operated since.
Cornerstone’s poster child of success is a 37-year-old woman who works for an Austin firm as a sales person, one of the more high-stress careers someone can pursue.
“When she came to Cornerstone, newly divorced, she was really struggling, unsatisfied with her career and feeling lost,” Marcoux said. “Jenn worked with her and wow, something . . . we like to think it was the Cornerstone program . . . really turned her life around. The last time we heard from her, she was at the top of her company’s sales team, doing something like 120 percent. Her bosses asked her what had happened, and she said, ‘Cornerstone and meditation changed my life.’”
Since then, Fairbank said, she has married and has a baby daughter.
Another client, a project manager for an Austin company, came to Cornerstone with high anxiety, a troubled family life and feeling intensely overwhelmed. Through working with Cornerstone and meditating his life greatly improved.
“He’s enjoying better communication with his wife and daughter,” Fairbank said. “At the workplace he’s better focused, much less anxious and more productive. It’s really very heartening to see.”
It’s not that the two women don’t practice what they teach.
“Cornerstone wouldn’t exist without daily, consistent meditation on our part,” says Marcoux.
“That’s right, we wouldn’t function well without it,” adds Fairbank.
While meditation training is a key component of the Cornerstone program, there’s more to it than that.
“We have determined four predominant areas in which people have concerns in their life and need empowerment,” the two women say in their book.
Using an architectural analogy of a cornerstone grounding four other “stones,” Marcoux and Fairbank emphasize the need for balance in body, emotion, behavior and mind. The wellness of each affects the other, they believe.
“Meditation has been around for thousands of years because it works,” Marcoux said. “It’s scientifically based, not religious and cross-cultural. What we’re trying to do is make it accessible to everyone in a simple way.”
Mike Cox is the author of 20 non-fiction books and his most recognized work is “The Texas Rangers” and “The Time of the Rangers,” which are best-sellers. His written for the “Austin American-Statesman” and additional newspapers and magazines.
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