Forget greed is good... now mindfulness is City's mantra

By David Wilkes

* Soaring numbers of financiers in London finding solace in 'mindfulness'. * Form of relief draws on ancient Buddhist ideas to fight mental suffering. * Encourages people to slow themselves down and 'inhabit the moment'.
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street directed by Oliver Stone.
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street directed by Oliver Stone.

'Greed is good' may once have been the only mantra bankers were interested in.

But now, it seems, the Gordon Gekkos of the world are meditating on some rather more peaceful ideas.

A so-called 'quiet revolution' is gripping the City of London - with soaring numbers of fast-paced financiers finding solace in 'mindfulness'.

A form of stress relief pioneered in the US in the 1970s, it draws on ancient Buddhist ideas to combat mental suffering and encourage practitioners to slow down and 'inhabit the moment'.

As well as meditation, practitioners use breathing exercises and stretching in the quest to become more accepting of their feelings.

Hollywood stars Meg Ryan and Goldie Hawn are advocates - as is Kok-Song Ng, who finds time to meditate for 25 minutes twice a day while working as chairman of global investments at GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund.

He has said: 'Meditation brings calm and equanimity - not to be over-elated when times are good or over-depressed when times are bad. I think it gives you greater clarity of mind.'

While the idea of high-flying executives meditating between meetings may seem unlikely, increasing numbers of banks, fund managers and professional services firms are adopting such methods of stress relief.

The CFA Institute for investment professionals is said to be considering launching a meditation programme, while KPMG, Goldman Sachs and Unilever have promoted mindfulness in wellbeing seminars.

The Bank of England has also run meditation 'taster' sessions attended by dozens of staff as part of a series of 'Working Lives' seminars.

Other firms are said to be reluctant to publicise their meditation initiatives for fear of being perceived as 'new age'.

But Sally Boyle, a human resources director at Goldman Sachs, said: 'In years to come we'll be talking about mindfulness as we talk about exercise now.'

Professor Stephen Palmer, founder and director of the Centre for Stress Management in London, believes the credit crunch has prompted business executives to look for an outlet for anxiety.

He said: 'We can blame Lehman Brothers. When people have their worlds turned upside down like that, it offers a chance to reflect on life and ask "What am I doing?"'

Gordon Gekko, a character played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film Wall Street, famously said: 'Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.'

Meditation:

• Inspired by ancient Buddhist meditation, mindfulness courses were developed in the late 1970s by US doctors to combat stress.
• The guiding principle is to live more 'in the moment', spending less time going over past stresses and worrying about future problems.
• Techniques include moving the focus of attention around the body and observing sensations that arise - the so-called 'body scan'.
• A secular practice, it is said to help people recognise and overcome negative thoughts while noticing small pleasures.
• Thousands of mindfulness sessions are prescribed to UK NHS patients every year to help treat anxiety and depression.

- Daily Mail

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