If you told me 17 years ago, when I first started practicing yoga, that I’d someday teach meditation to a group of 300 executives in suits, over breakfast at the Ritz Carlton on behalf of the Boston Business Journal, I would have thought you were a yoga prophet from Crazytown. Not because I’d question the public speaking in front of hundreds of people–that always seemed like fun to me– or the fancy hotel– who wants to argue with a yoga prophet suggesting you practice your speech among the orchids of a ritzy (literally) ladies room and eschew your typically simple homemade breakfast (or sometimes bar shoved into a pocket before bolting out the door) for exquisitely displayed fruit salad, an artful yogurt parfait, and a light egg dish with vegetables and polenta? (Was that it, a darling little polenta cake?). Not me… I do not want to argue with this yoga prophet.
The part about which I’d be skeptical would be if you told me how open this corporate gathering would be to sitting still, becoming quiet, setting aside their coffee, forks, and smartphones (not that I could foresee a smartphone back then), and starting a work day peacefully and on purpose. It makes perfect sense NOW. But, even just 5-years ago, I may have thought this was a stretch. I’d assume meditation was better suited (excuse the pun) for the hippie set, wearing loose-fitting clothes, sitting upon zafu cushions covered in sari patterned silk, at a Buddhist center. C’mon, a bunch of fast-moving, over-scheduled executives aren’t going to listen to you, Rebecca, you kooky kid.
Except I’m not a kooky kid anymore. Not a kid at least. Still pretty kooky. However, what I’m doing is no longer so out there, relegated to the 1960s flower child set and those who admire or aspired to be like them. We’re all aware that life sped up exponentially with the start of the Internet Age, and it’s no coincidence that this coincides with an increased acceptance of mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation. This real-life application of meditation makes me recall the following quote by Gary Snyder:
All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher that the religious institutions originally worked with: reality. Reality insight says… master the twenty-four hours. Do it well, without self-pity. It is as hard to get the children herded into the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chat sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One move is not better than the other, each can be quite boring, and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms. Changing the filter, wiping noses, going to meetings, picking up around the house… don’t let yourself think these are distracting you from your more serious pursuits. Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties we hope to escape from so that we may do our “practice” which will put us on a “path”– it is our path.
The excerpt appears in one of my favorite meditation resources Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who’s among the best known pioneers of making mindfulness more widely acceptable (largely through his work with the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School). Cue this video of him giving a great talk on the Google campus in 2007; it’s an hour long but far more beneficial than the brain drain of yet another episode of who-knows-what.
It’s true, isn’t it? Wherever you go, there you are–in a suit or stretchy pants, a hotel ballroom or yoga room. The way you live in the room of your own mind, first, determines how you will live and work, feel and act, everywhere else.