A simple phrase spoken in the context of the meditation movement and so much more often these days. And not just to be said and for the sake of being said but really for what the phrase means. In the midst of all of this meditation mayhem (ironic statement, I know) and for the yogis who pay someone weekly to give them permission to breathe, I have found countless more who neglect those basic functions—quieting the mind and giving yourself permission to breathe.
I have come off of a long year. Those who are close to me know how the challenges have outweighed the joys and in the throes of those times when I had felt defeated, I wish I had heard these three words. Several experiences I have had caused me to feel alive amongst these defeats. Their fleeting presence is not forgotten at the end of this academic year. Now that my journey through a fabulous leadership program is coming to a close and the anticipation of celebrating a milestone of my own (yay to 30!) as well as the countless other achievements and milestone moments of my friends and family both near and far, I cannot help but give myself some space and desire to quiet the mind.
This past Thursday night, I was able to witness a group of about 40 women commence their journeys toward more purposeful and defined public service endeavors- both volunteer and career specific. While hearing their stories and reflection on the mission of the program, I was swept up by the reflections that started swirling around in my head. I had been given the space for which my unquiet mind had been searching. And, although the room was not quiet, the energy and messages delivered from the graduates and speakers fueled my thoughts.
It became ever so clear to me that night that in the challenges I faced this year were the answers to the questions and the issues I felt myself wrestling with throughout. I live the purpose of providing context for others in their journeys to personal and professional satisfaction. My passions are at the intersections of community engagement and leadership development, which are driven by the field of career development. I spend almost every moment of my day considering the world of work—how to help others break into it, make sense of it, appreciate its intricacies and overcome the challenges of substantiation within it. What I realized was that I felt like an imposter…how could I inspire another with sound, well-researched and contextualized advice (based on best practices in the career counseling/consulting fields) when I was facing my own struggles and perhaps not taking that advice myself? I realized then that I able to though because I have been and will continue to relate the struggles I faced to my clients’ similar and very real, emotional struggles too. My frenzied mind was not able to realize that. But my quieted mind did that night.
My quiet mind embraced the challenges I faced and intentionally reflected on my experiences, thankful for the professional and personal vulnerability that these last 12 months have given me. Leadership Pioneer Valley gave me tools and resources for indulging my passions for community trusteeship and leadership development, the ability to see the larger whole and to make a difference at that macro level as well as the opportunity to thrive and feel renewed when meeting new people– taking my tired, frenzied mind wholeheartedly into that restorative environment. Only now, and through the experiences of those women’s graduation that night, was I really been able to appreciate its benefits and I began to apply those realizations to my current reality.
In my profession, I help students and clients see what they may not see about who they are and what they bring to the table. Without the experiences of this past year, I would not have gained this knowledge of myself. What a gift to be able to bring this perspective to those with whom I currently and will work. Finally, I am grateful for Thursday night’s inspiring (and yet quieting) program. Without my interests in supporting women, engaging with the community and taking the time to remember my inner voice I would not have had the chance to confirm that my public voice is strong and sustainable.
Below are 5 takeaways from my quiet mind exercise after Thursday night’s program. I encourage you to take these questions and thoughts with you and ponder them for yourself. I hope that you will quiet your mind and gain the perspective you seek if you too are desiring to quiet your own mind. If you could see what you are meant to see when your mind is quiet, there is no telling what is in store for you, professionally and personally.
1. What am I hearing in my own inner voice now that I didn’t know existed prior to these challenges?
That true leaders start with themselves, pay attention to that inner dialogue and instincts and that sometimes what is being taught in terms of structure and best practices is not as important as the gut feeling you have and the lessons you have already taught yourself on how to weather the storm or come out of a funk.
2. In which direction(s) am I being pulled (by whom) and for what purpose(s)?
Over-saturation of competing priorities as well as over commitment produces an exhausted, saturated mind. Clarify your objectives by engaging in a concrete assessment of where you have come from, where you are going and how the two have intertwined to remind you of your passions.
3. Coming together is good. Staying together is great.
Know what and who are in your “kitchen cabinet”. Identify those in your board of advisors; keep them updated about your struggles, realizations and triumphs. Ask them for real, honest advice and feedback. Update your appliances to streamline functionality. They can serve as your quiet patrol, allowing you take a step back and away from the chaos that clogs your inner thoughts.
4. I will remember that I gave and that I received.
Acknowledge partnerships that exist in your communities. Give for the sake of giving for that kind of giving allows you to receive much more. Take stock of the impact you’ve made—quantify and qualify this throughout your career and do not forget to remember your personal milestones for many times those are the most rewarding opportunities of growth.
5. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
I did not think that I could get any busier. This year, I did. I lauded myself as a multi-tasker and a very productive individual. All of that meant for nothing, not even bragging rights really, when the thing that I wanted to do most was sit in a room by myself, pretend to be an introvert instead of an extreme extrovert for once, just being and not doing. Not only did that pull at my emotional well-being, my personal and professional circumstances also tested my resilience. At many times I felt as though I was going to push through all of this, and although my mind said yes, my mind and body asked to be nourished. I’m finally paying attention. I thought I was taking on a lot this year. People gave me warnings, I said I could do it and I suffered the consequences of struggle and the triumph of self-awareness and pride.