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Archive for the ‘gratitude’ Category

To everything, a season

After a few months of relative inactivity online (but rather deep internal reflection), I feel like it might be time to bring formal closure to this blog.  I am still meditating every day – but I think it might be time for me to let go of the external communication regarding this important part of my life, and instead continue to deepen the internal focus of this lifelong work.  I have every intention of continuing to meditate daily, and I am grateful to all of my teachers, as well as all of my supporters (i.e., all of you!) who have helped me establish firm roots on this path.

A few days ago I returned from a meditation retreat where a poem was shared; it deeply resonated with me, and I think it has beautifully applicability here.  I’m honored to share it with all of you – and I sincerely hope that our paths cross again.

May all beings be happy and free.

Stef

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Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive – shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah
or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

~Roger Keyes

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Meditation, my employer, me, and ABC News

As I have mentioned before, I started a meditation group at my work place.  (See the January 12 entry.)  Over the past year+, the group has grown, gaining members, momentum, and attention.  That attention increased quite dramatically over the past few weeks; the long-story-short is that a reporter for ABC News with Diane Sawyer was writing a story about meditation in the workplace, and through a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend he (the reporter) heard about our meditation group.  The reporter sent an email to my employer, asking for more information and an opportunity to film; and after a flurry of emails and meetings, the reporter (along with his producer, a camera man, and a sound woman) came to my employer, and filmed me facilitating a 25-minute meditation session for a group of over 50 people.  After the meditation session, the reporter then conducted a 15-minute one-on-one interview with me, which was also filmed.  Holy crap.

To say I was “nervous” for this experience would be the understatement of the year.  My job is as a Corporate Trainer – which means I basically write, teach, and speak for a living.  Over the course of more than a decade doing this work, I’ve delivered multi-day-long training classes to rooms full of people about rather technical topics, and I’ve been able to remain calm and collected.  Further, as a frequent facilitator of the meditation group at work, I’ve had the opportunity to lead meditation sessions for groups of colleagues ranging in size from 10 people, to 70 people, to over 140 people, and I’ve been genuinely peaceful in each of those settings as well.  But to conduct a meditation session on camera, as a formal representative for my employer, and then give a one-on-one interview to a reporter from a national media outlet…. It was all certainly a big test of equanimity.

But it was all so good.  Yes, I was a nervous wreck.  (I slept like crap the night before, and barely ate anything all day, my stomach was in such knots.)  But I was also deeply, fiercely supported by people all around me – from my family, to my friends, to a vast array of colleagues at work…. And, I was gifted with an amazing opportunity to help open the possibility of meditation to who-knows-how-many people – and that, that, is profound.  And interestingly, once I actually started the meditation session, the anxiety fell away, and calm really did enter me – it felt like home.  Wow.

I don’t know when the broadcast will air, and I don’t know how much (or little) exposure the company, the meditation session, or I as an individual will have in the final cut.  But I do know that this was an experience of a lifetime, and one that I absolutely could not have predicted, expected, planned for, even manufactured.  It just shows me that when actions are performed with good intentions, clear thoughts, and strong courage, some pretty amazing results can occur.  And that knowledge is the gift I want to take with me from this experience.  I hope I ‘remember’ to act from that space of skillful intention, wise thought, and appropriate fearlessness more often than not.

Stef

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In January of this year I started a meditation group at my workplace.  (If you are curious about it, see the January 12, 2010 post.)  Over the past eleven months the group has grown from 14 individuals to over 500 people, and from weekly meditation sessions at one location to two locations (with more locations expressing interest).  I continue to be amazed at various people’s desire to try meditation.

A few weeks ago I was asked to facilitate two different meditation sessions for two different work groups.  Last week, I facilitated one of those sessions (for around 70 people); today, I facilitated the other (for around 140 people).

Today’s session was particularly noteworthy, for a few different reasons.  The people in today’s audience were all from the Construction area of my company; so about 90% of the participants were male, middle-aged (40-60 years old), Caucasian, and Midwestern.  [Now, I am making some big generalizations here, but for the sake brevity, please allow me a bit of latitude and go with it.]  Imagine an average construction-industry kind of guy (a “guy’s guy” – steak and beer, football and hunting, etc. etc.); and then multiply that by 140; and then put them all in a hotel convention room; and then put a podium with a microphone at the front of the room; and then stick me behind the podium/microphone; and there you go.  That was today’s experience.

I don’t usually get too terribly nervous speaking in front of large groups of people (it was a large part of my job for a significant period of time), but I confess that I was a little apprehensive about today’s session.  Given the audience and the topic, I just didn’t know how it would all go.  So I got up front, put on a smile, drew a deep breath – and jumped right in.  Here we go.

No, not everyone was terribly excited about the topic (or the experience).  Yes, some people (many people) looked kind of uneasy.  I imagine some people were muttering things under their breath to their neighbor.  But I also suspect those folks were in the minority.  For the most part, the individuals in the room tried to suspend judgment, and tried to give the experience a fair shake, an honest attempt.

And it was beautiful.  Truly.  As I stood before 140 men, seated silently, their eyes closed, their bodies still, I felt a deep sense of calm pervade the room.  I felt a palpable sense of earnestness amid the crowd.  And I felt skepticism yield to surprise – I felt minds, and hearts, begin to shift.

It’s difficult to articulate (as is the case with so much about meditation); but it was amazing to witness, and truly beautiful to experience.

I’m very grateful I was able to receive this gift of peace, awareness, and presence.  Amazing.

Stef

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Mistakes

Last week, I made a very public mistake.

Uh oh.

I sent what was supposed to be a helpful email to many, many people at work (upwards of 400 people)  – and the email included an error.  The email said we were meeting in one location, when in fact we were actually scheduled to meet in an entirely different location.  (As in, not only a different room, but a different building altogether.)  And when the meeting day and time arrived, I went to the correct location – but not many people were there.

Uh oh.

I’m a pretty “Type A” kind of personality, and am generally on my game at work.  I’m detailed, organized, fast, and sharp, so as a general rule I don’t often make many mistakes.  On the occasions when I do make mistakes, I can usually catch-and-correct them before they spread too broadly, before too many other people find out (if even at all).

But not this time.

This time, I had over 400 witnesses to my error.  And while only one person even said anything to me about it, I honestly don’t know how many people were affected by it, and are either 1) too polite, or 2) too irritated/angry to approach me about it.  But I know many, many people were potentially impacted by the mistake; and by the time I became aware of my error, it was too late to fix it.  No “catch-and-correct” this time.  Uh oh.

What to do?

When I found out about the mistake, my head immediately dropped, and my mind said, “Oh no.  Oh no.  Oh NO!  Oh, this is bad.  Quite bad.  Very bad.  Yikes.  Bad.  BAD.”

But not even a full two seconds later, my chin lifted, and my heart said, “Well, hon, this is unfortunate, isn’t it?  But, you know what?  You made a simple mistake.  And yeah, it probably would have been better if the mistake hadn’t been made; but it has been made, and you can’t change that at this point.  So, just do what you can: apologize.  Then let it go.  You did your best.  Your intentions were good.  Your heart was in the right place.  These are the things that really matter.  Yes, recognize that a mistake was made; and course-correct as much as you can; and then let it go.”

These two fraction-of-a-second mental exchanges may not sound like a lot, but they represent the entire spectrum of my meditation practice.  My habitual mind is one of self-irritation at best, self-flagellation at worst.  My habitual mind is never quite satisfied, thinking I could always do more, do better.  But.  My meditative mind is one of mere self-acknowledgment at the smallest end of the continuum, and pure self-adoration at the largest end.  My meditative mind accepts everything exactly as it is, including me; with all of my gifts, and all of my flaws.

As I continue on my path of meditation, I am finding more and more that I am faster to smile, quicker to laugh, and more difficult to upset.  I’m finding I am more relaxed in more situations and settings, and more aware of the times when I am uncomfortable or stressed.  I’m finding that when I do make mistakes, I can see them as errors, not fatalities.

Meditation isn’t a panacea, it isn’t a “cure all”, and clearly it isn’t making me perfect.  What it is doing is helping me gain more perspective, and be more balanced.  More understanding.  More realistic.

Mistakes are going to happen.  Life is going to happen.  And instead of being driven crazy by it all, I’m learning about compassion.

And, I’m learning to avoid writing emails when I’m rushed.  : )

Stef

Gratitude

My husband and I know a person who has a 20-year anniversary with our company coming up, and to celebrate, that person is taking a handful of people out to lunch.  I began to think about my own number of years with the company, and thought that if I arrive at 20 years, it would be a cool idea to invite one influential/important person from each year to a common meal.  I shared this idea with my husband, and he asked me the natural question, “Who would you invite?”  I began to reflect on my progression with the company thus far, and fairly quickly identified one key person from each year that played a particularly meaningful role in my career (which often impacted not only my job, but also my broader/larger life). As I shared each name with my husband, I gave a 1-2 sentence summary as to why I selected that individual.  The entire conversation was less than 5 minutes long, but at the end of it, I sat back, and couldn’t help but smile.  In that moment, I realized I was feeling genuine joy.  In the process of identifying people who have positively influenced me, I re-experienced some of the kindness, compassion, care, and helpfulness that those individuals had shown me many years before.

Often times I view meditation as a seated, silent, stationary, stoic process.   And that style of meditation certainly has a positive, helpful role to play in my life.  However, today I got to remember that meditative concepts can be applied to any (every) moment in any (every) situation.  I don’t have to be sitting on my meditation cushion in order to engage in mindfulness; and I don’t have to be still with eyes closed in order to realize the benefits of meditation practice.  Gratitude is a beautiful expression of a still, peaceful, meditative heart – and this is what I experienced today in my conversation with my husband.

If you are maybe interested in meditation, but aren’t sure about trying out the process in a “traditional” sense (i.e., seated, silent, still, etc.), consider engaging in a gratitude practice for a few minutes, and see what results for you.  Sometimes I will actively engage in a gratitude practice by mentally create a “gratitude alphabet”: I think of a word for each letter of the alphabet that represents something I am truly grateful for right now, no matter how “trivial” each item may seem.  (Example: A: aster [flowers from our new garden]; B: Big Bowl [where the conversation in the above paragraph took place; and where I enjoyed quick-yet-tasty food]; C: computers [man, they make life easier!]; D: Drano [no more standing water in our shower]; etc…)

There are many, many ways to meditate; today I got to remember that I don’t always have to do adhere to a structured, set routine; I can mix things up a bit, and sometimes be pleasantly surprised as to what I find along the way.

Stef

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