The Zuidas thrives on an ambitious business mentality, with working weeks of 70 to 80 hours being the norm. But to strike a balance there needs to be time for relaxation. Leonie Stekelenburg offers a ‘mental reboot’. She is co-owner of MindfulBizz, a company organizing a ‘Stretch & Meditate’ class twice a week at ClubSportive.

Leonie knows what it is like to have a busy job. “As a strategy consultant for an international company I used to work at least 12 hours a day. At the time I didn’t realize I was very close to having a burn-out; I just thought of myself as a very driven person.”

‘Many people associate meditation with ethereal stuff but it actually helps me to keep my feet on the ground’

“It only sank in when I made a career switch and moved to a start-up company conducting research into what humans could do to use the full potential of their minds. I learned about ‘adrenalin addiction’, the neurophysiology of stress and ‘flowering’. In other words: How to avoid a burn-out? What impact does stress have on our brain? How can you get the best out of yourself?”

Train your mind

Leonie felt she wanted to do more with this. She resigned from her job in order to gain more in-depth knowledge. “I wanted to help others so I followed a mindfulness teacher training at the Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Oasis Institute in the US.”

“There I learned that you need to understand your behaviour patterns before you’ll be able to break through them. And that a mindfulness class is totally different from doing yoga exercises for an hour. Mindfulness is targeted at one’s consciousness: you literally train your ability to focus.”

“Back in The Netherlands I followed a course at the Institute for Applied Psychology (ITIP) where I met one of my present business partners. Two years ago we started MindfulBizz, teaching and developing mindfulness in organizations. Now our company has four partners and a nation-wide network of certified trainers.”

Mindfulness Zuidas

Mindfulness with MindfulBizz on the Zuidas. PHOTO: KATJA MALI

Both feet on the ground

Their free drop-in classes at ClubSportive are open for everyone and there is plenty of demand for this ‘rebooting’. I join Leonie’s mindfulness class. She makes us ponder such things as: How am I doing? What does my body tell me? How do my thoughts affect my state of mind? After ten minutes of stretching we close our eyes. We train our ability to focus and are told to pay attention to our breathing as soon as our thoughts start to wander.

‘Mindfulness helps our team members to make better choices and come up with more creative ideas’

Tranquillity and balance

After the 30-minute session I feel wonderfully relaxed and I strike up a conversation with Irene Hofman, an enthusiastic regular at this class who works in the Zuidas as a content strategist for Computer Futures.

“I love attending this class. Afterwards I’m better able to focus. Many people associate meditation with ethereal stuff but it actually helps me to keep my feet on the ground. After a meditation session I feel tranquillity and balance. And that helps me for the rest of the day. In my opinion, all companies should invest in mindfulness.”

No new-age spirituality

Pieter Ligthart is a partner at Russell Reynolds Associates, an executive search and leadership assessment agency. “Mindfulness is part and parcel of my daily life. It helps me to get to know myself better and I register things at many more levels.”

“Contrary to what many people think mindfulness is not spiritual; it is actually very rational. Leonie and Olga van de Velde used mindfulness and meditation techniques to train our research team members, helping them to make better decisions and come up with more creative ideas.”

Mindful company culture

The mission of MindfulBizz is to help organizations build a mindful company culture. They offer an eight-week basic mindfulness course for employees (adapted to business situations), a two-day outdoor teambuilding course and ten-week courses in mindful leadership. Their clients include companies such as AES, CBRE, Darwin, Russel Reynolds, Effectory and Ahold online.

ClubSportive welcomes members and non-members to the daily free mindfulness classes (Monday to Friday 12:30-13:00 hours). Location:  Gustav Mahlerlaan 24.