Experiencing Zazen: Another Hacarus Company Activity

Zazen: Seated Meditation

Reporting here at Hacarus,
It’s me, Tomomi!

Let me tell you a thing or two about my job as CHO (Chief Health Officer) at Hacarus.

Not only do I support healthy living in physical exercise and dieting, I also make it a point to support the mental health through incorporating mindfulness exercises in the company. Putting mindfulness in practice at work is one thing, but since we’re in Kyoto, why not get the full experience of mindfulness at a temple?- a place where zazen is commonly practiced.

Seated meditation at a temple is a common sight. In fact, it isn’t uncommon at all for the everyday person to go experience seated meditation at a temple. Not too far off from Hacarus, there’s a temple known as Ryosoku-in, where we participated in zazen.

But before that, I’m going to have our CEO, Kenshin Fujiwara, talk a bit about how my position as CHO came to be and how it relates to mindfulness and zazen.

The Reason for an AI Venture to Integrate Principles of Zazen into Work Style

On April 2018, Hacarus established the CHO position requiring earnest support of employee health. By health, I’m guessing the first thing that would come to mind would be low carb dieting or monitoring physical exercise. However, aside from the physical domain of things, supporting our member’s mental health is extremely important to us.

In that respect, we also treasure an employee’s behavior at the work place. As a part of our code of conduct, we make it a point to have certain rules and boundaries to maintain healthy attitudes, friendliness, peace, and harmony amongst our workers.

What is our Code of Conduct?

1) It’s up to you to make your job exciting or boring.
2) Don’t be domestic, be Global.
3) Don’t Follow the mainstream, be Unique.

What we don't approve of

Here is a list of behavioral characteristics that we don’t want/approve of at Hacarus:
1) Negativity. Someone who sends out negative vibes at the work place, and therefore, affects others.
2) Toxic attitudes. Someone who’s attitude frequently changes from negative to positive (bluntly put, a emotionally unstable or bipolar person). Such attitudes would likely create unnecessary drama with others and make the workplace an uncomfortable place to be.
3) Inflexible, one-way mindsets. Working at a venture means being flexible in your way of thinking. That means not having the traditional mindset of a large corporate company. Therefore, a hard-lined carved in stone attitude towards work wouldn’t match our company culture. You need motivation.

To care for all Hacarus members, means to have all members who can fall in line with our code of conduct.

The Connection between Zazen and our Code of Conduct

As you may have thought, none of the above 3 concepts are necessarily in line with zazen.

But actually, it does connect. How, you ask? Well, because in zazen you give up all worldly thoughts and stop thinking for that moment in time. You feel with your five sense and just “be”. By being one with nature as your human self, you become present with the earth and with your mind. By doing so, you let go. You let go of stressors and change your environment for the time being and gradually develop coping mechanisms through regular practice of zazen. The modern day person’s mind is full of thinking, thoughts that can distract you from many other things that truly matter. Through zazen, dealing with your thoughts become second nature.

In other words, in Buddhist terminology, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind altogether are known as the six sense spheres (Sadayatana). I didn’t know that myself.

CTO Kitora, CHO Tomomi, CTO Takashi, and CEO Kenshin

After zazen, we listened to the monk’s lecture. It was pointed out that the likelihood of members in Hacarus, because we are an IT venture have an imbalance in our mental state. From waking up to spending the whole day sitting in front of a computer screen, to straining our eyes and even using our cellphones before bed meant that we were getting an overload of information day by day. Thinking about that and experiencing zazen made things a lot clearer for me.

Which is why, being in a state of existence within zazen would shut down our brains temporarily from this overload of information. Instead, we’d be able to focus on the information that would come from our senses and be aware of our state of being. In a sense, we’d have control over our mentality, something that may be a vital “training” for the modern day person.

For the third point that I had mentioned earlier, I want to about that in regard to zazen. In zazen, you reach a point of fulfillment. In principle, having your heart full (mindfulness and zazen being a great support for this) leads to you having the motivation to do your work. On the contrary, I haven’t met a single person until now who was cranky/mentally unstable and at the same time, motivated.

Without any sugar coating, everything that I’ve written above is my aim as a part of management, to ensure and support the health of my employees through the code of conduct.

Back to Tomomi →

The Surprising Effects in the Zazen Experience

Next, I asked our members for their thoughts on the zazen experience:
・The mornings felt amazing
・They thought less about trivial, worldly thoughts which resulted in a more refreshing day
・Zazen positively affected the way they though about meditative breathing in human activity
・After zazen, some employees became more mindful of their five senses and in simple everyday activities (like in baths)

・Sense of smell became much more clear
・Interest in temples and the surrounding environment grew
・Sitting in a typical zazen position was not required, so taking things step by step made doing zazen easier
・Explanation on zazen by experts made their individual understanding grow (they better understood the difference between zazen and meditation)

Apart from learning more about your mind and body, there were many other lessons to zazen, like awareness.

A lot of change occurs from zazen, when you accept it, you are able to put your thoughts in order

When thinking of zazen, one would think of "nothingness" or a step towards "enlightenment". In accordance to what Fujiwara had said earlier, there are 6 senses where you would use for awareness and eventually put your thoughts into order. In zazen, you feel the present and being in the now and being closest to who you are.

In our daily lives, our eyes (vision) and mind (consciousness) are functioning on its own. Other sensations are perceived as simply supplementary roles. During zazen, sensations that we generally unaware of become our center of focus and we come to observe those sensations.

Zazen itself is an art, a form of self-discipline where one would have to stay in a difficult position. When thinking of zazen, you may imagine being beaten by a stick when your posture begins to loosen up. (A keisaku, a flat wooden stick is used "during periods of meditation to remedy sleepiness or lapses of concentration.") Depending on the sect and temple, the training received differs but at Ryosoku-in, there is no strict or harsh measures taken regarding loss of focus or seating position and posture. In fact, if you'd like choosing your own position (like "prayer hands" etc.) or have the monk lightly strike you. However, these generally are not implemented on the general public. For us Hacarus members, we asked for keisaku. Despite the loud sound that comes with being lightly beaten, it doesn't hurt at all and in fact, it's quite...refreshing!

Participants in zazen come from many different companies and because of that, even the monk who is the leading host of the event holds the explanation in English. As expected of a globalized town like Kyoto.

Where zazen takes place (Ryosoku-in)

Having participated in zazen once does not necessarily mean that you would immediately become a mindful person, increase focus, or get rid of stress. However, habitually doing zazen and implementing mindfulness daily, even for just 5~10 minutes a day, would have positive, refreshing, and relaxing effects on your mind and body. Triggers of stress would likely decrease and you'll develop coping mechanisms in response to moments of stress.

From April, Hacarus commenced a 10-minute mindfulness exercise to begin from before work hours. We start off by turning off the lights, lighting up incense sticks, sitting on mats and doing zazen.

Every after our mindfulness exercises, I make time for members to share their feelings and reflections after the session. A lot of members had mentioned their struggles with concentration explaining thoughts of work would come up instead of focusing on their six senses and being in the moment. However, about 10 days later, employee reflections like "I feel like I'm in space", "I feel something like chakra flowing through my veins" and "10 minutes of meditating oddly felt so short today" began to appear.

Focusing on the present, which is obtained from mindfulness and zazen can be used to focus on each task at work. Employing mindfulness and zazen in the workplace seem to prove high effectivity in maximizing ability (= high productivity).

As CHO, one of the most important tasks would be to focus on the health of our employees.

For that reason, I'll continually make efforts to make mindfulness and zazen a part of Hacarus.

-Tomomi, CHO at Hacarus

The original article (in Japanese) can be found here:

You can also see another article (in Japanese) on CHO Tomomi's health implementation support for Hacarus staff in another article:

5 いいね!
5 いいね!