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“The Tribe Bringing Mindfulness to the World” – A Personal Account of SIYLI’s Teacher Certification Program, Expand

Laurie Cameron

By Laurie Cameron

I am half-way through the year-long mastery program to become a certified Search Inside Yourself Teacher.  I have been teaching executives and practicing mindfulness for two decades, so a number people in my life were surprised when I applied to join the first cohort of SIYLI teachers.   But I had a strong pull coming from that place of inner wisdom we all have – and I knew that the SIYLI experience was going to integrate well in my ongoing work.

Three Elements of the Journey

  1. The Tribe

When I walked into the serene yet buzzing room at Hotel Kabuki on the first day of session one, I could immediately tell I was home.  There was a gentleness in the smiles that greeted me near the breakfast buffet. A combination of anticipation, curiosity, depth, confidence and humility emanated from the faces of my cohort members who traveled from Singapore, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Portugal, Mexico, Maine and even Mill Valley, CA.  I am humbled and honored to be a part of this group. Our connections have deepened as we continue to experience masterful practices that cultivate  presence and connection with one another.  We have become a tribe.

  1. Our Shared Mission

I exhale with relief knowing that I am part of a global “we” in carrying out my own calling.  In our deep discussions, and sometimes debates, on the latest findings in neuroscience, mindfulness and emotional intelligence, what emerges is the realization that we are all arm-in-arm. We are unique but so alike in our passion and purpose. We share a commitment to develop ourselves and depend on each other as we forge new ground in mindful leadership in each of our geographies and business domains. Through global Google hangouts, Skype calls and emails- we send each other materials, ideas and encouragement as we do this work together.

  1. My Developmental Journey

As a confessed life-long learner, the SIYLI experience has been phenomenal. I carry with me a metaphorical string of learning moments from the masterful teachers we have had so far.

  • I have a bead for a session with Shauna Shapiro, as she gracefully walked into our circle, sat down in the middle of the room and embodied a compassionate presence that taught us more than anything on slides.
  • I have another bead for the morning when Chade Meng Tan personally challenged us to cultivate three qualities to become master teachers.
  • There is a bead for the breathtaking way Marc Lesser led an exercise took us into examining our own Ways of Being as teachers – the polarities of competencies that we need to master and integrate as go forward.
  • I have a bead for the moments that Meg Levy tuned in with wisdom and taught precisely what was needed in the moment.
  • I have one for Dan Siegel who spoke to us as a wise mentor, evoking in me a deeply charged, purposeful focus in how I go forward with the science and lessons that can help my clients become stronger, wiser leaders.
  • And I carry one for Elizabeth Lindsey’s wordless teaching.  She generously demonstrated that we are wise, loving and connected beings, and she did so in a way that affected most of us in the room at our core.

I look forward to our next two in-person retreats, and all of the connections in between. We will complete our SIYLI program with our shared mission as a tribe of Wayfinders building wise and compassionate leaders.

How to Manage Your Body and Your Physical Space During Meditation

While the meditation is primarily about the mind and the spirit, the body also plays a key part. Because emotions are coded in physical sensations, the body is an essential gateway for gaining insight into those emotions. That’s why being physically comfortable and having a conducive physical space is an important part of a good meditation practice.

If you manage your body and your space well, you’ll be able to let the physical aspects go so you can fully immerse yourself into the meditative experience. Otherwise, aches, legs falling asleep and other physical ailments can distract you from your meditation.

Your body is an important part of the meditation experience

Your body is an important part of the meditation experience

So, how can you create a conducive physical space for meditation? Just follow these four tips:

Stretch Before Starting Your Meditation

If you plan on meditating for more than ten minutes, spend a few seconds stretching out your muscles first. This helps get more blood flow to your extremities, which reduces the chances of your legs falling asleep.

Have a Regular Meditation Space

Pick a space in your home or office to use for meditation. It shouldn’t be your bed and it shouldn’t be your desk. It could be a specific chair, a mat in the corner, a dedicated meditation room or even your favorite place to stand next to the window. Using the same space regularly will create a mental anchor to that space. Your mind will naturally start to drop into a mindful state of mind whenever you move into that space, simply through repeated conditioning.

Try Different Meditation Positions

Try meditating sitting down. Try meditating standing up. Try meditation lying down. Try meditation while walking. Try it while cross legged, try it in a chair, try it in half-lotus position and try it with your legs stretched out in front of you.

Different positions work best for different people. Try out different ones to see which one(s) work best for you.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Once you’ve found a posture that works for you, try out some small adjustments. For instance, crossing your legs just a little bit looser can prevent your legs from falling asleep. Sitting so your backbone lines up from top to bottom can prevent backache. Seemingly small and minute adjustments can make a big difference, especially in longer meditation sits.

Getting Physically Comfortable

By paying just a little bit of attention to how you manage your physical body, you’ll be able to free up a lot more attention for your meditation. Best of all, you don’t have to think about this all that often. Once you find something that works for you, it’ll pay off for weeks and months to come.

What posture works best for you? How do you manage your physical space during meditation? Share in the comments!

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

The Flow State: What It Is & How to Achieve It

You’ve probably felt it before. That state where time seems to stand still, where you just seem to know exactly what to do. You’re fully immersed in the experience, taking one action after another, without thinking or distracting yourself. That’s the flow state.

In many ways, the flow state is very much like a state of meditation. The chatter in the mind fades away, as does the ego. Instead, you’re left with just the present moment – just you and the task at hand.

Find flow at work, at home or at play!

Find flow at work, at home or at play!

This flow state was first examined and written about in detail by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist. Since then, many studies have been done on the subject. Flow state has been observed in many different kinds of circumstances – from programming to surgery to all kinds of sports.

Why Cultivate a State of Flow?

There are a few key reasons to consciously cultivate this state:

  1. It’s a state of immense concentration. You’ll often get a lot done – and produce higher quality results – while in the flow state.
  2. It creates a powerful sense of clarity. You know exactly what needs to be done, without needing to think about it.
  3. Being in flow removes normal mental obstacles. Stress, worry, lack of concentration, self-doubt, all of that disappears during a flow state.
  4. The flow state is intrinsically ecstatic. Just being in the moment, facing a worthwhile challenge is highly pleasurable.

How to Create a State of Flow

A flow state cannot be forced. Instead, flow comes naturally when certain conditions are met. The primary conditions are:

  1. A challenge or task that is not too easy. Otherwise, apathy or boredom will prevent the flow state.
  2. A challenge or task that is not too difficult. Otherwise, anxiety, worry or stress will prevent the flow state.
  3. A clear goal. Flow is achieved when working towards something you care about.
  4. A focus on the process, not the goal. This may seem contrary to #3, yet is an essential part of flow. An athlete might have a goal of winning the gold medal. But the flow state is only achieved when the athlete focuses on playing the game, right now, in the moment – rather than thinking about winning the medal. Yet without the goal and the desire behind the goal, flow will not be achieved. Both the goal and the focus on the process are necessary.
  5. A lack of interruptions. The flow state is easily broken. For flow to be achieved and sustained, you need to be able to focus on the task at hand without interruption.

When these conditions are aligned, flow is a natural consequence.

Of course, meditation will also increase your natural ability to achieve flow. Meditation lets you deliberately practice going into states of concentration, as well as filtering out distractions. A consistent meditation practice, as well as the deliberate cultivation of these five flow factors, will help you achieve flow much more consistently.

What are your experiences with flow states? Are there any memorable experiences that you can share?

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

How to Mindfully Prepare for Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations are difficult in large part because so many parts of ourselves get tied up into them. Our emotions, our sense of self, our ego, our sense of competence, our sense of being loved – all of that can be challenge in a difficult conversation. One of the best ways to prepare for difficult conversations is to sort out these different parts of ourselves first, before we jump into the fray.

Prepare for difficult conversations mindfully

Prepare for difficult conversations mindfully

The Three “Underlying Conversations” in Every Difficult Conversation

In every difficult conversation, there are actually three underlying conversations going on. The three are:

1)      The content of the conversation. What actually happened? Are we perceiving an attack from having done something wrong? The part of ourselves that’s most often challenged by the content of these conversations is our competence.

2)      The emotions involved. What am I feeling during this conversation? Am I being attacked – not the work itself, but myself as a person? The part of ourselves most challenged by the emotions of a conversation is our sense of being a good person.

3)      The identity conversation. Who or what am I, if what the other person says (or the underlying assumptions behind their words) are true? The part of ourselves most challenged by the identity conversation is our sense of being worthy of love.

When these three conversations get muddled into one, it’s easy to get hurt or defensive. Before going into a difficult conversation, it helps to separate these various parts of yourself. We’ll cover a specific meditation to do so in a moment. But first, let’s talk about preparing to go into a difficult conversation.

Before Going into a Difficult Conversation

Use this process to help mentally prepare for a difficult conversation.

Start by examining what’s really driving your desire to have the conversation. Is it productive – in that it would actually solve a problem, or move a project forward? Or is it reactionary – a desire to show that you were right after all, or to hurt someone who hurt you? A few minutes of meditation can help dissipate the emotional charge, so you can see what’s driving your motivations more clearly.

Also, talk to a few people you trust. Mentors, team members, and so on. The first few times you talk about an emotionally charged topic are the hardest. Once you’ve talked about it a few times, much of the emotions dissipates – allowing you to have that conversation in a clear headed manner. Talking to a third party will also allow you to get an objective perspective from them, instead of seeing it just from your point of view. Finally, talking to a neutral third party allows you to practice what you’re going to say.

Then, once you’ve done that, take some time to examine the three different parts of your mind that tend to be present in a difficult conversation. This meditation will help.

An Exercise to Prepare for the Conversation

This exercise will help you sort out the different subconscious internal conversations that go along with a difficult conversation. Identifying these various parts will help you have the conversation in a much more objective and compassionate manner – without being defensive or angry.

Here’s the exercise:

  1. Start by thinking of a specific conversation you’re about to have. Or, for practice, you can use a difficult or emotionally charged conversation you’ve had recently.
  2. Run through these three separate internal conversations separately. Ideally, speak them out loud, write them down or run through them with a friend.

    • What actually happened? Do I feel like my sense of competence is being questioned as a result of what happened?
    • What emotions are involved? Do I feel like whether or not I’m a good person is being called into question?
    • Who am I if what the other person says (or assumes) is true?  Do I feel like this makes me less worthy of love?
  3. Repeat the exercise from the other person’s point of view. How are they experiencing each of these questions?

Running through this exercise before a difficult conversation will help you remove any emotional baggage attached to the conversation. It’ll also help you see things from the other person’s view – and see why they might be feeling defensive. It’ll allow you to approach the conversation from a place of compassion and connection, rather than accusation or defensiveness.

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

How to Manage Your Emails Mindfully

People are often less mindful with email than they are with face to face communication. Computer screens have the tendency of creating a “zoned out” state. Yet, mindfulness in emails can be very important – in fact, it can be even more important than mindfulness in face to face communication.

Why? Because in emails, the receiver is acting on incomplete information. You don’t have all the nonverbal cues telling you what the other person is really trying to communicate. When you’re reading an email, it’s easy to misread a person’s intentions – and see an attack or criticism, where there wasn’t one. Likewise, when sending an email, it’s easy to send an email that’s received harsher than it was meant to be.

Mindful emailing can help prevent both of these situations. Mindful emailing means staying connected to yourself during the email process, as well as staying connected to the fact that you’re communicating with another human being.

Add mindfulness to your emails!

Mindfulness can improve email communication

You don’t have to practice mindfulness every time you open an email. However, practicing mindfulness during charged or potentially heated email exchanges can go a long way towards diffusing tensions and preserving relationships.

Developing Mindful Habits for Reading & Sending Emails

When you notice heat, anger or defensiveness arising during an email exchange, pause for a moment. Then go through this meditation process.

Take a Conscious Breath. Take a few moments to just pay attention to your breath. This can help “break” you out of your negative state. If you’re feeling negative emotions strongly, consider pausing for a couple minutes to do two minutes of breathing meditation.

Visualize the Sender / Recipient. Take a moment to visualize the other human being with whom you’re communicating. Become present to the fact that you’re in an exchange with another human. You’re not just typing letters into a screen, but interacting with another being. Spend a couple moments with this idea.

Re-Read the Email. If you’re sending an email, re-read the email. Remember that the receiver doesn’t have the same non-verbal cues as an in-person communication. Remember that they might not necessarily assume positive intentions, unless positive intentions are abundantly clear. Is there any way that your email could be misconstrued? Use your emotional barometer as a guide and rewrite your email if necessary.

If you’re receiving an email, likewise, pause and re-read the email. Notice any emotions or sensations that arise in your body, and simply let them pass without judgment. Realize that you also don’t have the benefit of nonverbal cues, and that you may be reading criticism or attack where there isn’t one. Re-read the email and see if the email could be read more objectively.

Take Three Breathes Before Replying. Before you hit “send” on your reply, take three deep, slow breaths, at least four seconds in and four seconds out. Stay as present as you can to your emotions and to your breath. During these three breaths, feel free to change your mind about sending, or to decide to edit your email before hitting send.

Mindful Emailing

It’s easy to be impulsive with email. A person who never lashes out at others in person can easily send off a criticizing email without being aware that it might hurt the receiver. Taking just a few moments to go through these steps can help avoid a lot of misunderstandings, as well as needless stressful emotions.

To your happiness and success,

-          Search Inside Yourself

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