Recently I’m invited by an informal learning group to share experiences on meditation and using mindfulness in the workplace. This invitation triggered some reflection of my own journey, which made me realize how fortunate I am to taste the flavors of mind training in different chapters of life. Here a journal of reflections, also as a reminder for myself while dwelling on this path.
I was introduced to meditation through a volunteering experience in 2012, where I served as a translator for a Buddhist exhibition. What really caught my attention was the tranquility in the exhibition room and the comfortable energy around 2 Buddhist monks. This is the type of energy that I could hardly feel in my busy commercial role in a large organization. In hindsight, I felt it was my body’s instinct that drew me to explore.
In the first phase I was fortunate enough to have met Dzongsar Rinpoche when he was in Germany. He gave a simple advice for beginners, just sit for 10min everyday without any particular aim, no need to control your breath, no need to focus on a particular point, open or close your eyes, the only requirement is to have the back straight while seated. I tried that for 10days and already felt overwhelmed by my busy mind, it felt like a waterfall. I could hardly imagine how busy my mind was in a constant buzz. And I felt pretty frustrated. Dzongsar Rinpoche’s comments then nudged me to explore more. His words were: congratulations!! While you see you have a waterfall, that means you’re not entangled in it. At that point I thought, well, if a meditation expert says so, then it must be ok. So I continued the 10min for another 30 days. Something interesting happened, I noticed that my mind went from a waterfall to a river, the thought flow seems slower, despite that outside circumstances didn’t change. This experience gave me even more confidence and triggered even more curiosity. How interesting is our mind!
The 2nd phase of my journey again thanks to Dzongsar Rinpoche’s advice to join S.K.Goenka’s Vipassana retreat. In 2014, I had a daily practice of about 20min, and I joined a study group with the guidance of Dzongsar Rinpoche. During a teaching session in Berlin, I asked a question whether at this stage of my practice following the advice to join the 10 day Vipassana retreat is a good idea. To this day, I still vividly remember Dzongsar Rinpoche’s answer, he looked at me, smiled and said, well this is good for you, don’t read about it, just go. You will suffer, but it is good for you. I think it is purely due to the trust that I have in my teacher that I went to the retreat (really not having read anything about it). Actually if i had read anything about it I probably wouldn’t have dared to go. Because this is a silent retreat that requires about 12 hours of meditation per day for 10 days. I wrote about this experience in another post.
This retreat became a life changing experience, because the learning from my own bodily sensations excels any books or stories. It feels like peeking through the door of a different life state. Despite being short, I can never forget about it. This retreat taught me about impermanence, how to experience life as it is, about equanimity and not falling into the habit of attachment and aversion.
While maintaining my daily practice after the retreat, I felt my life changed from the inside. Living in the present moment brought the beauty of appreciation, feeling the compassion of self and others, which in turn brought inner joy that sprung out like a clear alpine spring, fresh out of the snow mountain. I suddenly understood why in all the self help books, authors would say, true lasting happiness can only come from inside.
It was also after this experience that I decided to change my career. Life is short, when I have experienced a different way of being, I can no longer go back to the autopilot way of life, working based on external stimulus. I’d like to use my work to contribute to greater awareness of the mind.
Career shift for me happened more like a flow, in an emergent way. I felt very fortunate to have met communities of OD practitioners, mindfulness trainers and coaches who helped me along the way.
What is worth noting is the challenges during my daughter’s birth and the chaos that happened in my family life afterwards. I remember the first time when I met Mingyur Rinpoche in London, I asked him exactly this question. I felt I suddenly didn’t have time to practice, my life was filled with work and family obligations that I felt my mind didn’t really have the depth of awareness that I had experienced. This was also a life changing moment. Mingyur Rinpoche answered roughly like this: do not attach to whatever joyful state that you once experienced, you are now entering a different stage of practice. That you need to bring your awareness of the present moment at any time, anywhere, in any circumstance. He said, in China there is the saying: failure is the mother of success, just keep on it. For example while you feed your baby, you can meditate on her lips while she eats. To this day, whenever I see my daughter’s lips as she eats, I would think of the words of Mingyur Rinpoche, that I can bring awareness to the present moment, anytime and anywhere.
In recent years, I entered a stage that I experience a lot of complexity both at work and at home. I had times that I felt being more autopilot than I wished. What has never changed was my daily practice. 10 years have passed since I did my first meditation session, and I am deeply committed to still dwell on this path. Precisely the more challenging the world becomes, the more I need to steady my inner root. Awareness in the present moment is the anchor.
Reflecting on the journey and my circumstances now, I feel all the experiences gave me opportunities to practice, when I am ready, the right opportunity will arise. So all the complexities in life are door openers to connect with those people who I could help or serve. It is precisely because of my own experience that let me to swiftly connect with other’s experience. Working as a coach I felt a deeper understanding of using self as an instrument.
The learning community invitation came after I joined a short weekend retreat offered by Mingyur Rinpoche. I was hughly inspired by his story and the neuroscience research done by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson 20 years ago (findings in this book Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body). During this retreat I was reminded of the importance of awareness. Oftentimes during times of changes, it is the tranquility of the mind that opens doors to creativity and possibilities. Especially in challenging times, we tend to go into “fight flight freeze” mode. I realize this in my work in complex organizational transformation, when there is frantic energy and fear, there is a lot of suffering and overload among people. That’s why especially during challenging times it is so important to connect with our awareness, find our inner root, with which we open up possibilities.
As I conclude this post, I realize how precious it is to cultivate awareness and live in the present moment. Life is full of beauty even in challenging times. I sincerely hope that we could have more peaceful energy in today’s workplace, in society, that more and more people are connected with their heart energy. Because only through such awareness could we bring our mind to a creative state, that we create the future that is sustainable and beneficial.