For most people the word meditation conjures up images of shaven-headed monks and nuns sitting in mountain retreats high in the Himalayas. Very few people would associate it with their office or place of work.
Yet this is exactly what is happening as organisations seek to balance aggressive corporate culture with the calming, performance-enhancing techniques of meditation.
As we move towards a more enlightened style of management in the UK, there is growing acceptance that we need to let go of the old, ineffective patterns of working and replace them with a strong and fertile foundation on which to build.
There is no need for employees to feel imprisoned by work, experiencing it as a burden, a threat or an inconvenience; instead there is the potential for a profound sense of freedom, fulfilment and wellbeing in the workplace.
It appears that savvy business leaders, keen to incorporate these wholesome values into the world of business and commerce, are increasingly looking towards meditation, or mind training as it is sometimes known, as the solution.
Contrary to popular opinion, mind training is about far more than simply sitting crossed-legged on a cushion. There are numerous techniques that can be used in a very direct and practical way for raising awareness and the quality of communication at work. A well-structured programme of mind training will always include the three key elements of vision, insight and action.
Vision relates to the way in which we view the world around us. Essentially this is our attitude to life, to work and our perception of others. Clearly, when addressed successfully, this has dramatic implications for the workplace.
Insight relates to the practice of meditation itself and the wisdom generated through such practice. This allows us to work with increased clarity in any given situation and to respond in a skilful and compassionate way.
Action relates very specifically to the way in which we implement and integrate our refined vision and new-found wisdom into our everyday work. It is four years since Business Week first heralded the arrival of meditation in the workplace. Early pioneers included Apple, Yahoo! and Google, along with more traditional organisations such as Deutsche Bank and McKinsey. Needless to say, many organisations have since followed suit.
This growing trend is perhaps not surprising given the extensive scientific research published by the likes of the National Institute of Health and Harvard Medical School. The findings consistently demonstrate a decrease in the production of chemicals associated with stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. At the same time they show an increased ability to relax, heightened levels of concentration and the alleviation of the many aches and pains that plague employees everywhere.
With employee healthcare high on the agenda these numerous benefits alone would be reason enough for many to sign up. But increasingly it is the performance-enhancing qualities of meditation that are attracting all the attention - at the individual, departmental and organisational level.
Individuals who meditate tend to experience higher levels of sustained happiness and wellbeing in their lives. The result of this is an increased level of job satisfaction, improved morale and a greater willingness to contribute and communicate with fellow employees.
Those practising on a regular basis also report that by allowing the mind to settle, to experience calm, they are able to tap into a previously unknown reservoir of creativity.
As employees begin to work together with greater clarity, focus and enthusiasm, they invariably become a more efficient team. With increased understanding of one another's strengths and limitations they also begin to communicate far more effectively.
These benefits make for a handsome return on investment, with a sharp decline in absenteeism and health costs accompanied by a significant increase in productivity and staff retention. The bottom line - it pays to meditate.