‘MEDITATION IS NOT EASY. It takes time and it takes energy. It also takes grit, determination, and discipline. It requires a host of personal qualities that we normally regard as unpleasant and like to avoid whenever possible. We can sum up all of these qualities in the American word gumption. Meditation takes gumption. It is certainly a great deal easier just to sit back and watch television. So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why?’ - Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English
MINDFULNESS, MISSION AND METHODOLOGY
The other night, I participated in a live online masterclass, with a small group of people interested, like me, in the topic of developing a methodology.
Nerd much? Well, hear me out. I’ve spent the last five years consulting and the latest two incorporating (first unknowingly, now consciously) mindfulness and coaching tools into my practice.
And I am convinced that there is something important and innovative to this approach because I find that what is missing in today’s workplaces (at least many of the ones I have been privy to) is clear, compassionate communication. There’s a lack of intention, purpose, respect and connection to values. Essentially, all the stuff I bang on about here in my beloved pulpit of a newsletter. And when it’s lacking internally, it often is absent from external communication strategies. And that’s where I come in!
I’m not the only one who thinks that this stuff matters! Only days ago, I was in Zürich for the yearly TEDx talks and on stage was a brilliant womanwho told a story of falling apart, due to a debilitating burnout, and how dangerously her industry was impacted by burnout culture (she works in cybercrime). Guess what tools she brandished, so to speak, at the end of her speech as the lifeline that made a difference in her recovery? I’m sure you guessed it: the tools of presence and mindfulness.
Right outside, during the break, I had the pleasure to exchange with her and with another compelling young woman who shared that she too is reassessing her career because of the same issues, although her difficulties arose in a different field.
I feel for them. I’ve been there (ish) and many people I’ve worked with, clients, colleagues, friends. That place is a place of disconnection, and exhaustion, where we feel deeply misaligned between our personal values and those promoted in the workplace.
Now here I am: I have amassed tools and techniques to break this cycle, which I constantly strive to adapt to get the best possible outcomes for my clients. While I love the work I do, it’s pretty limited. Because there is just one of me.
For a few months, I’ve been thinking: how great would it be to bring other coaches and consultants to join me? Perhaps even a graphic designer, and social media strategist. How great would it be if I could build something just a bit bigger? We could do better, for more people, and move the needle one workplace, one individual client or project at a time.
Another question arose on the back of the first:
How can I streamline the work I have done, break down the concepts to their core, turn them into logical steps and connect them into a methodology?
Because for me (and Catherine Raffaele, who taught the aforementioned masterclass), a methodology can frame my unique way of working, captured in a system.
Developing a methodology is useful for making something easy to understand. It's also useful to scale, for me, from solopreneur to leading a small agency. It’s useful because it would encapsulate my insights, beliefs and values, so I could teach others. Furthermore, at the core of my desire to systematise my work is the need to express my method with clarity. I have a sense that clarity leads us more directly to connection.
Because this topic had been percolating at the back of my mind for such a long time, I was pretty sure that ideas would be pouring down as soon as I’d sit down and make myself work on it. And they did. Although I’m not sure I would have sat down to kickstart the process had someone not invited me to do so and offered their method for developing this expert methodology! I was primed when I read the words: Methodology Masterclass Live + Flash Sale.
Here’s the good news: I can do this. I can identify, take the knowledge out of my head, and create something that will help level up my services. (Cathy’s masterclass and her programs are great, so if that’s something that interests you, here’s a link to find out more.)
Now for the bad news.
Our group was prompted to reflect on what we do, for whom, and how, to explore the barriers that get in the way, whether our own or our clients. And the pieces were falling into place quite seamlessly (though messily, as I scribbled in my notebook).
Do you know what insight stuck with me?
The meta or high-level part of the job is sound: the juicy workshops, the one-on-one coaching sessions, and the corporate consulting. These things I master relatively fluently: although I won’t rest on my laurels, I know what I’m here for: to support purpose-led businesses in unlocking their values to better communicate with their clients. And to
But it’s not just what I do, it’s how I do it. I realised that I create some form of experience, with guidelines, definitions, and rules of engagement; a space, whether virtual or physical, in which I invite clients to engage in a specific way, with me, with each other.
As I wrote this down, I thought, yes, that’s right. A safe space. That’s what I aim to create. Intuitively, that’s what I love with a good teacher, a coach or a mentor. I’ve changed, or transformed, those times when I was given this sense of safety. Don’t we do so much better when we feel secure, knowing we are allowed to be ourselves, explore, make mistakes, and try again?
Isn’t that what’s missing from so many workplaces? Burnout is associated with chronic workplace stress. Wouldn’t we feel much less stressed if we felt seen, heard, and our opinions considered even when we are in disagreement?
FROM INTENTION TO MINDFUL PRESENCE
The future of work I am envisioning, the one I want to strive towards, is one where we are intentional about how we interact with each other. I mean intentionally more respectful and caring (because you can be intentionally nasty, I must admit).
For us to be intentional, we need to cultivate a sense of connection to ourselves, to our own beliefs, and values. How else could we find ourselves remembering who we want to be, how we want to show up? But then again, how connected are we, as a people, to our own deep intention for this life?
While the ideas and questions were coming out, from under my pen, something felt a bit off.
I reflected that I do what I do well, and I’m generally satisfied with the quality of the work (the testimonials on the website do attest to that). But crucially, what I achieve emerges in a specific context: I have relative control of the environment, the agenda, or even, the connection and the experience (when talking about a workshop).
It dawned on me that my work is its own mindfulness practice for me. Nowadays, my work persona isn’t far from the coach persona and is very close to the teacher persona. I can feel it from how present I strive to be, connected to myself, to others, and to my purpose.
But when things aren’t framed so clearly, when I step outside of these safe boundaries, I’m not quite so present. A couple of less-than-glowing recent interactions came to mind.
This led me to this big question, one which I didn’t expect from that methodology workshop:
How can I step into that state of presence when it’s not easy, in spaces when it’s not ‘the usual’?
The answer is annoyingly simple, and yet not easy at all.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
So if the work I do can feel like a mindfulness practice, but day-to-day interactions do not, what tools do I have at my fingertips to tap into this more regularly?
Thankfully I am enrolled and about to complete an eight-week course with teacher Oren Jay Sofer in mindful communication, called ‘Say What You Mean’ named after the title of his seminal book, where he explores tools of mindfulness and Non-Violent Communication (or NVC) which he studied with its founder, the late Marshall Rosenberg. I’m caught up on the lectures, but not so much on practising the tools he has put together for us. His methodology is clear, though the subject matter is dense. The framework is there, I’m so grateful for it: all I have to do is follow his lead. And practice.
So I must acknowledge that things aren’t that bad for me: I have tools, actually a whole tool kit. It’s just going to take me a lifetime of practice to get better at using it appropriately.
Most of us don’t stick with meditation. I think I know why. Let's say you practice 20 minutes a day, doing mindfulness or loving kindness, the truth is that you may not see the benefits of the practice at all in your formal setting. It may not look that different day after day.
It may not feel that gratifying, but you will see the difference in your life, which is where it counts.
You’ll become more sensitive, attuned to yourself, and connected to your own deep intention.
We all need help and frameworks to deactivate our reactive parts, manage difficult conversations and get us on the road to a better life full of connection and joy.
And I believe we need more of this practice at work. Together. I think that’s the future we need: mindful work.
In trying to go meta with my methodology, I saw the subtle signs of where I needed to put my own attention. Reconnecting with how I want to show up, as often as I can, so I don’t miss the mark, so I do justice to myself, to my clients, and to the work. And perhaps, to life.
And while it’s not a panacea, to achieve that, it’s worth committing to the daily grind, the journey of trying and failing, letting go more gracefully, and beginning again.
And that’s okay. After all, as both Cathy and my meditation teachers advise, whether we talk about mindfulness or methodology, it’s best to take things one step at a time.
Until next week.