Pat Croce, an entrepreneur famous for going from athletic trainer for the Philadelphia 76ers to team owner and president, is remembered fondly in the Philadelphia region for his high-spirited energy. To Sixers fans, Croce’s name brings to mind the climbing of Philadelphia’s Walt Whitman Bridge prior to the 76ers 2001 NBA Finals appearance. They also remember when he excitedly high-fived other team representatives after the Sixers won the right to draft “The Answer” Allen Iverson in 1996.
Croce is now retired, but he keeps himself busy with other “answers” these days.
More than three years ago, Croce tried mindfulness meditation for the first time in his life. “A synchronicity of events happened where I thought, ‘Let me just try this,’” he said.
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Among his inspirations to begin practicing meditation were TED Talks by Pico Iyer on “The Art of Stillness” and another talk by Andy Puddicombe, who created the meditation app Headspace. Croce also mentions two books that helped get him started on his path to mindfulness – “The Art of Happiness” by the Dali Lama and “Start Where You Are” by Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. He also recommends “10 Percent Happier” by Dan Harris as a book that’s especially good for beginning meditators.
Croce shares these resources because he is excited about what meditation has done for him and what he believes it has the power to do for others. “Meditation is probably one of the greatest means of understanding your mind,” he said.
Vita reached out to Croce because he became well known as a supporter of mindfulness after he and his wife, Diane, made a $250,000 contribution to his alma mater, West Chester University, toward the establishment of their Center for Contemplative Studies in 2016. He regularly tweets about mindfulness and when talking to him about the subject, his passion for it is obvious. CSL Behring’s King of Prussia campus, which is about 20 miles away from West Chester, offers twice-weekly 15-minute meditation sessions to its employees through its wellness program and we wanted to ask him for his thoughts on meditation in the workplace.
Croce, who meditates 20 to 30 minutes every day, said that even brief meditation sessions like the sessions CSL Behring offers employees can be very beneficial. “I would suggest a minimum (meditation time) being 10 minutes, but 15 is ideal,” he said.
He was quick to add that when one practices meditation regularly, it becomes part of who they are. “I think it’s really important that your readers understand, you don’t do meditation, you are meditation,” he said. “When you take one full deep breath in through your nose and follow that air and then exhale through your mouth that is meditation.”
Croce believes that employees who meditate will be happier and more productive, among several other benefits. “Not only will meditation help with relationships but it will help with your reactions,” he said. “It will help with your attention to your task at hand.”
The reason that mindfulness meditation is so powerful is because it makes people realize the importance of living in the “now,” said Croce. “Forget about being a means to an end,” he said of meditation. “The means is the end. So when you meditate and you apply this pure aware presence to your task at hand, that is the most important thing you can be doing on earth,” he said.
Neida Ratzlaff, who leads meditation sessions at CSL Behring, echoed much of what Croce said. “It’s a way of conditioning the mind,” she said of meditation, comparing it to physical exercise. “Meditation helps you train your brain to stay focused on positive things, not dwell on negativity,” she said.
For the workplace, Ratzlaff said that meditation is beneficial because it helps people organize their thoughts and not be overwhelmed by projects. “I also think it can be good for confidence building, goal setting, and encouraging people to stay on track and focused,” she added.
CSL Behring began offering meditation at its fitness center more than two years ago said Lisa Cancglin, the fitness center manager, who is also a meditator. The 15-minute sessions are offered free of charge to all employees and contractors, she said.
“Our 15-minute meditation allows people to take a small break from their hectic work day to reset, refocus, and enter back into the day with a new vision,” Cancglin said. “This calm space offers time for them to step away from their ‘to-do list,’ allowing a chance to clear the foggy mind, breathe, and reset their focuses.”
Cancglin agreed with Croce that meditation can help with workplace productivity. Like Croce, she meditates every day and said that as a competitive runner, meditation has helped her keep her focus during training. “Meditation calms the nerves and has taught me how to control my breath when nerves get the best of me,” she said.
Employees who meditate at CSL Behring testified to the practice’s benefits. “I feel fabulous after,” said Linda Rodden, Senior Project Coordinator, Global Medical Affairs. “I have noticed that my entire body is relaxed and I feel much calmer,” she said. “I also notice a significant increase in my focus when I return back to work and I am much more efficient.”
Croce said that one of the biggest benefits of meditation is that it focuses the mind on the present and therefore makes people focus more on the moment they are in, rather than moments from the past or what they are anticipating as moments in the future. By being more focused on the present, you become a better listener, he said.
“You’re really, truly listening to what other people are saying, not listening so you can respond, but listening,” he said. “If your supervisor says something and you’re truly listening, how wonderful is that for everyone?”