It’s 8 o’clock in the morning: somewhere between your chest and belly button, you can feel the reverberation of the gong beat fading away. Three more gong strokes send their sound waves through a room in which six people are sitting in a circle on pillows and small benches. Their heads are lowered, their eyes half open. Meditation begins upon the last gong fading. In Zen meditation, this signifies silence lasting several minutes. What has just happened here? Quite simply, OHB has been offering Zen meditation in Bremen on each working day for the past six months under the guidance of Jörg Brüggmann and Gilberto Arantes. The engineers are enthusiastic followers of Buddhist practices and convinced of the positive effect that meditation has on physical and mental health, such as the cardiovascular system, resilience and mindfulness. By offering meditation, OHB is making an effective contribution to the health of its employees and encouraging a positive spirit of mutual harmony. But beware: meditation is only something for the courageous. So, read on only if you think you are already courageous enough or wish to become so.
By meditating, I can heighten my conscious response to everything around me. For me, that means mindfulness in my everyday life.
Better stress management and fewer cardiovascular diseases
“By meditating, I can heighten my conscious response to everything around me. For me, that means mindfulness in my everyday life. This way I work more productively and creatively,” says Jörg Brüggmann, who has been practising Zen meditation privately for about ten years. “Another advantage is that if I am self-empathetic in this way, I am also more empathetic towards my fellow human beings.” In addition to the social aspect, there is also a lot of neuroscientific evidence pointing to the positive effects of meditation on the brain. In this way brain activity is affected. Just a few weeks of training lead to improved connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, the two parts of our brain that are responsible for processing our reactions to stress and anxiety. But there is also an immediate effect according to Gilberto Arantes: “I am able to free up my head. When I focus on my breathing, I lose all sense of space and time. I get in touch with myself.” For all fans of history, Zen meditation is an offshoot of Mahayna Buddhism that goes back to the teachings of Buddha about 2,500 years ago.
A journey inside yourself
Meditation is much more than a method of relaxation, says AIT team leader Gilberto Arantes: “It’s a journey inside yourself. It’s about becoming a bit more me with each passing day. It takes a lot of courage to face up to your own inner self. Many people shun this confrontation and are therefore skeptical.” There is an introductory session every Tuesday to help new participants overcome their trepidation and reservations. Says Jörg Brüggmann: “I used to be skeptical myself but now I’m utterly convinced of the benefits. I hope that many more OHB employees will act on this enthusiasm and experience for themselves the importance of mindfulness, authenticity and awareness. I explain the morning ritual very precisely to make it easier for them to get started. This includes removing your shoes at the door and bowing.” In total, a session takes around 25 minutes. We meet Mondays to Fridays at 8 a.m. outside work hours. There are different formats over the week. On Wednesdays, for example, there is guided meditation known as “mindfulness-based stress-reduction meditation” (MBSR).
It takes courage to confront yourself. But the encounter with your own self also instills courage and thus promotes the OHB canon of values. After all, courage is one of the six OHB company values.
It's all a question of the mindset
Meditation is not only about improving stress management and social skills, but also about the mindset, says Gilberto Arantes: “It is a journey without a goal, it is not about becoming, but about being. Meditation makes it possible to experience being completely in the present and to realize that we do not have to change our environment, but only our perception of it.” Jörg Brüggmann and Gilberto Arantes would like to carry these life-changing experiences even further into the OHB cosmos: “That’s why we are preparing a space in which everyone can grow.”