I Did Not Lose My Mind (May 2014)
Shambhala Sun | May 2014
I Did Not Lose My Mind
It took an illness
of the brain for MEG HUTCHINSON to discover the inherent sanity of her own
mind. Her breakdown was actually a breakthrough.
I was twenty-eight
years old when my life fell apart. I had been quietly struggling with
depression since I was nineteen, but increasingly the lows were followed by
periods of ecstatic exuberance and boundless energy. What I had always written
off as an “artistic temperament” was starting to become an exhausting ride.
spring, I’d been selected to participate in a whirlwind musical tour of the
U.K., performing with several other bands. We drank too much and slept too
little, and it all felt easy to me. I was quick to laugh, suddenly extroverted,
filled with creative energy. But when I returned to Boston, I quickly spiraled
I began having
trouble sleeping, even for an hour. I got lost driving in my own neighborhood.
My reflexes slowed down and I had trouble playing the guitar. When I tried to
pack for a trip to Minnesota, I found it difficult to make decisions. My brain
could no longer handle even simple tasks. How many clothes would I need for a
two-week trip? How did that knob on the washing machine work? What season was
As I felt the fog
closing in on my life, bewilderment turned to fear. My brain was racing in
tight circles of anxiety, but try as I might, I couldn’t untangle my thoughts.
I felt as though I was rapidly developing Alzheimer’s.
I was experiencing
what I later learned is called a “mixed state,” in which someone with bipolar
disorder is suffering mania and depression simultaneously. After five days of
total insomnia, I called my family. It took tremendous courage to say, “Mom,
there is something chemically wrong with me. I’m coming home.”
My parents are
former hippies. My sisters and I went to an alternative school and were raised
on homeopathy and co-op foods. In my family, if you’re feeling “blue” you eat a
little more kale, go on another hike, or write a poem. But I was no longer in
control of my brain function; none of the things that had helped me with
depression in the past were having any effect.
It took all of my
focus to drive those two and a half hours home to the Berkshires. The Mass
Turnpike was still relatively empty as the sun began to rise. Looking at the
colorful morning sky, I realized I wasn’t responding to beauty. It was like the
channel through which I perceived life had turned a muted gray.
People who have
never experienced severe depression often imagine it to be an extreme sadness.
Those of us who have lived with it know that it’s beyond that. It is a profound
dullness, and it manifests in the physical body as tangibly as any major
As I drove that
morning, I had lines from Theodore Roethke’s poem “In a Dark Time” stuck on repeat
in my head. They were lines I had painted on my bedroom wall as a teenager:
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade...
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance?
Those words seem
like foreshadowing to me now. I felt myself sinking down into the deeper
recesses of my subconscious mind, wondering what I might find lurking there. I
focused on the word “nobility.” I thought, let me handle this absolute
confusion with some kind of nobility.
I pulled the car
into my mom’s driveway and walked up the path to the house I was born in. “I
have never seen you look this way,” my mom said. I saw the first wave of fear
cross her face. As a child, I was so happy and calm that Mom used to call me
“Buddha baby.” I’d always been emotionally self-sufficient, and my response to
adversity had been to work harder and stoically wait it out.
Yet now I couldn’t
solve my problems on my own, and it was beyond the abilities of my family too.
For several days my sisters tried everything—salt baths, warm food, massage,
slow walks, sleeping medication, valerian root, therapy—but finally we agreed
it was time for the hospital. Fortunately my younger sister was studying for
her master’s in social work and was able to educate all of us about psychiatric
illness and advocate fiercely for me.
I checked myself
into the psychiatric inpatient unit at Berkshire Medical Center, where I was
diagnosed with bipolar disorder and stayed for twenty-one days. I fought to
stay alive with my whole being while the illness ravaged my brain and made me
desperate to escape my body. That is where this story really begins.
Because my brain
was so compromised, I had a tremendous opportunity: I had the chance to see
what remained. I didn’t have words for it yet, but what remained was a deep
thread of consciousness connecting me to something at my core. A breakdown, I
came to find out, is actually a kind of accelerated spiritual lesson. So much
is accomplished so rapidly when the brain undergoes a terrific malfunction.
One’s entire identity is shattered.
I was suddenly
stripped of everything I had ever counted as my “self.” I was wearing a
combination of my sister’s clothes and hospital pajamas. I was sharing a
desolate room with a total stranger. I wasn’t allowed many personal
possessions, and none of the food resembled anything I normally ate. I couldn’t
concentrate long enough to read even a paragraph, and when I looked in the
mirror, my eyes were so dark and my face so thin that I didn’t recognize my
reflection. None of the ways I’d defined myself in the world had any bearing.
On a psych unit, no
one cares if you were a straight-A student, if you were a three-season varsity
athlete, if you were popular or successful. Your personal narrative is useless
in there. In fact, I experienced a strong allergic reaction to my own ego. I
was overwhelmed with memories of my arrogance and competitiveness and felt a
strong regret for all the ways in which I had judged others.
Reality is totally
up for grabs on an inpatient unit. When I said, “I’m a folk musician and I was
on tour in Europe,” I got the same impartial stare from the social worker in
group therapy as the guy next to me received when he claimed there was a devil
living in his neighbor’s garage.
I had none of the
tools left with which I’d always oriented myself in the world. Instead, I
discovered a deep knowing that was a witness to my experience and guided me
even when my brain was failing. What remained was a quiet gentleness, a belief
in something larger and greater than the excruciating emotional pain at hand.
It was this deeply ingrained instinct, however faint, that kept me safe from
even myself. I did not lose my mind that summer. I found it.
It took six weeks
for me to sleep long enough to dream again. The first night I did, I dreamed I
was walking up a steep mountain road with hundreds of fellow refugees. The
earth was gray and dark, but we were all dressed in bright colors and carried
our few belongings on our backs. The dream was vivid, and I woke the next
morning with a strong sense of hope.
The second night I
dreamed that I was walking along a forest path. The trees were tall and green
all around me. I began to run faster and faster, leaping higher and higher
until I lifted right off and flew.
Slowly, each day,
the world returned to me. My sister took me whale watching off the coast of
Provincetown. We had been on many whale watches in our lives, but this one was
extraordinary. Three whales came right up to the side of the boat and began to
breach and splash backward into the water. They danced and played, staying
beside us for a long time.
I stood at the
rail, holding my sister’s arm, laughing and laughing with her in the salt air.
As the sun went down, the sky turned the most amazing purple and gold, and I
felt the beauty reach me. I thought about that Roethke poem again: In a dark
time, the eye begins to see. I was seeing the world in a way I never had
This is not a
miracle story. I survived because I got help. My brain stabilized because I
already had a solid foundation of health and a good support network, I took
medication diligently, went to therapy, and changed my lifestyle. I healed
because I walked through that door the illness opened for me.
I no longer think
of that summer as my “breakdown” but as the year of my “breakthrough.” At age
twenty-eight, I was given a wake-up call, which will inform the rest of my
life. I was given a profound teaching on the truth of suffering, on the nature
of reality, and on the preciousness of human life. Without that pain, I may not
have woken up until I was a very old woman. Or not at all.
I have always had
an interest in Buddhism, yet it was my experience that summer that prepared me
to meet my teacher and take refuge. For many years I’d been walking past a
Buddhist monk on a path near my house. I’d always felt a strong connection to
him but hadn’t felt bold enough to say hello. After returning to Boston, a
friend invited me to dinner with a Tibetan lama. It turned out to be that same
monk I’d been walking past all those years. I was ready now to become a
In these seven
years of recovery, I have found a middle way between Buddhism and Western
medicine. In order for me to practice meditation, I’ve finally accepted that
medication must play a role in keeping my brain healthy. But it’s the spiritual
work that has allowed me the most profound healing, both physically and
I think we’ve made
a grave mistake in calling psychiatric illnesses “mental illness.” This implies
that at our core, we are essentially diseased. Many illnesses of the brain are
severe enough to cloud our mental consciousness, but my experience confirmed
for me that the mind and brain are not the same thing.
It took an illness
of the brain for me to discover the inherent sanity of my own mind. Now I
meditate every day to strengthen that clarity. I meditate to give it more and
more space in my life, to ensure that this inner witness is even stronger the
next time I have to go through something difficult. Having lived through a
small death, I recognize the importance of practicing for the bigger death of
this physical body.
There is no greater
incentive in recovery than the realization that we have always been well. We
come into the world with the “nobility of soul” that Roethke talks about. No
matter what the circumstances are, that purity remains and we can find our way
back to it. Illness can break our hearts, but it can also break our hearts
From the May 2014 Shambhala Sun magazine. To see what else is in this issue, click here.
Photo: Meg Hutchinson, by Stephan Hoglund
About a Poem: Pat Enkyo O’Hara on an Anonymous Poem by a Sung Dynasty Nun (May 2014)
Shambhala Sun | May 2014
About a Poem: Pat Enko O'Hara on an Anonymous Poem by a Sung Dynasty Nun
spring all day, I never saw it,
among the clouds,
along the bank.
Coming home, I
spring at each
branch tip, already perfect.
Everybody is looking for something. The writer of this poem, a Sung
Dynasty nun, is seeking “spring.” How do you seek spring? How do you seek
happiness? Or enlightenment?
Well, seeking requires going somewhere or doing something in order to
find. And yet, it is that which seeks that is what is sought. With this nun, we
traverse a mountain path, hear the creaking of straw sandals, find ourselves
among clouds and at a riverbank. Trailing her, we feel the grit of our own
longing, our desires for more.
Then she catches the scent of plum blossoms and laughs. It’s as if,
suddenly coming to her senses, she realizes what’s been there all along. How
could she have missed it? There is “spring at each branch tip, already
We can experience the scents, sights, and sounds of spring only in this
moment. Spring or awakening can only be experienced when we drop our idea of
it. When we come home to its reality in our daily life, then the gnawing of “I want” becomes the joy of “I am.”
Pat Enkyo O’Hara
is the abbot of the Village Zendo and the author of Most Intimate: A
Zen Approach to Life’s Challenges.
translation by Sam Hamill and J.P. Seaton from The Poetry of Zen.
Into the Light with Dale Cooper (Review; May 2014)
Shambhala Sun | May 2014
Into the Light with Dale Cooper
quirky-cool special agent famously upended the idea of the TV G-man. Now he’s
back in a deluxe new Blu-ray set. ROD MEADE SPERRY looks at one of pop
culture’s most endearing, enduring dharma friends.
Twin Peaks: The
9 Blu-ray discs; Paramount
A man is dying on
the floor of a jail cell between two mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Not
even two weeks ago, despite his middle age, he’d had a head of youthfully dark
hair. Now it is completely, shockingly white.
system of the sheriff’s department that holds him has been set off, creating
the effect of a tumultuous indoor storm that rains upon the white-haired man
and his captors.
One of his
captors—the very one who has most doggedly pursued him—is kneeling. The
white-haired man has committed the kind of unthinkable crimes that would
disgust and shake most of us to the core, but FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper
remains fully with the moment. He holds the white-haired man, stroking his
hair, comforting him even as the horrors of his crimes are finally admitted
between last gasps. Then, Cooper speaks. The words come out of him naturally.
“Leland,” he says,
“the time has come for you to seek the path. Your soul has set you face-to-face
with the clear light, and you are now about to experience it in all its
reality, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked,
spotless intellect is like a transparent vacuum, without circumference or
center. Leland, in this moment, know yourself, and abide in that state… Look to
the light, Leland. Find the light.”
Though spoken as
much from the heart as from the head, Coop’s words are not truly his own.
Compare them with this passage from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, meant
to be recited to the dying as they pass on:
[so-and-so by name], the time hath now come for thee to seek the Path [in
reality]. Thy breathing is about to cease. Thy guru hath set thee face to face
before with the Clear Light; and now thou art about to experience in its
Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless
sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum
without circumference or centre. At this moment, know thou thyself, and abide
in that state.
Leland, though in
his final moment, is surprised, almost smiling, in response to Coop’s
urging that he “find the light.” “I see it!” he says.
“Into the light,
Leland… Don’t be afraid.”
And with that,
Leland Palmer is dead.
moving; hardly your typical SVU jailhouse scene. But this is no ordinary
TV jailhouse, and it’s certainly not ordinary TV.
This is Twin
Peaks, where nothing—not family, not FBI men, not even an owl in a tree—is
as it seems.
twenty-four years, and you’ll find that Leland Palmer has, in fact, been
necessarily the kind of karmic (or “dharmic”) rebirth that Special Agent Cooper
was shooting for, but Leland and the entire Twin Peaks cast are again
finding new life—and new fans—by way of a just-released Blu-ray set.
The show was, of
course, a true pop-culture phenomenon in the early nineties (despite a short
run of clunker second-season episodes). The brainchild of writer-directors Mark
Frost and David Lynch, it posed a now-famous question that seemed meant to
remain unanswered—Who killed Laura Palmer?—and then, bafflingly, went
ahead and filled in the blank. A full viewing of the series makes clear a sad
truth with which even its creators agree: without that question, the show,
despite guidance from directors like Diane Keaton, Uli Edel, and Lynch himself,
became more or less direction-less. (Luckily, when Coop’s nemesis,
Windom Earle, finally appeared in the last few episodes, he brought with him a
renewed sense of the old Twin Peaks spirit. By then, though, most
viewers had lost the thread and weren’t interested in looking for it anymore.)
But throughout Twin
Peaks’ run, there’s one constant: Dale Cooper. Played with quirky
confidence by previous Lynch co-conspirator Kyle MacLachlan (Dune, Blue
Velvet), Coop was young, handsome, and—by all network-TV standards of the
time—seriously weird. Though a bit of a goody-two-shoes, Cooper was somehow,
enviably, cool—a thumbs-up, yet decidedly non-Fonzarelli, kind of
cool. His contagious can-do-it demeanor was only enhanced by his stated work
style, made from a mix of “Bureau guidelines, deductive technique, Tibetan
method, instinct, and luck.”
All this, of
course, makes Coop eminently watchable. But he’s more than that. He’s more,
even, than the “top-notch lawman” that Twin Peaks’ sheriff describes him as.
Coop may even be a bodhisattva.
Now it should be
said that David Lynch is not a Buddhist, and there’s no word on
co-creator Mark Frost’s spiritual leanings. But no matter. Neither Lynch nor
Frost needed to be Buddhist to create Dale Cooper any more than Bob Kane needed
nocturnal crime-fighting experience to create Batman. Or, to put it another
way, as Lynch wrote in his book Catching the Big Fish, “The filmmaker
doesn’t have to be suffering to show suffering.”
But it should also
be said that, while Lynch is no Buddhist, he is a meditator. For some
thirty-four years, he’s been a practitioner of TM, or Transcendental
Meditation, which was taught by the famous/infamous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and
thrust into the public’s collective consciousness by John Lennon, George
Harrison, and Paul McCartney. (Ringo Starr tolerated his bandmates’ dabblings
at the time but would have preferred that they’d stayed focused on music.) So
it’s not a stretch to see, as one astute friend of mine has suggested, that
Coop is Lynch. It’s all a matter of, as Bill Clinton put it, what your
definition of “is” is.
Like Lynch, Coop
delights, wholeheartedly, in the odd. Like Lynch, he believes in the power of
dreams and intuition. He marvels at the mysteries of the natural world, and
he’s fascinated, lovingly, with human beings and what makes them tick. As such,
Twin Peaks can be argued to be a meditation on life, death, good, evil,
and identity as seen through Lynch and Cooper’s shared vision.
Also like Lynch,
Coop meditates, as is confirmed in episode No. 28. (He reports to his never-seen assistant, Diane, that he’s been
meditating in lieu of sleep, which has not been coming easily what with all the
goings-on in Twin Peaks.) So he shares with Lynch an active interest in how he
can better perceive reality by first looking closely at his own mind. More
important, though, Agent Cooper seems to be a fine dharma friend to his
colleagues at the sheriff’s department, whether any of them know it, or care,
Being unashamed of
his intellectual and spiritual sides, it isn’t long before Cooper’s got the
entire department not only tolerating his ways but also playing happily along.
In an early episode, he gathers them in the woods for an experiment. Employing
a blackboard that he dragged into the great outdoors, he gives the TPSD crew a
summary of his admiration for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as a quick
Tibetan history lesson. Then, he asks them to indulge his beliefs about
“deductive technique, Tibetan method, instinct, and luck” with a session of
unorthodox, dream-informed mind-storming meant to sort the wheat from the chaff
in the mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder.
skeptical, his colleagues warm to Coop’s unusual ways; they suspend all they
know—or think they know—and instead trust and affirm their new partner
in crime fighting. In a following scene, we even see Lucy Moran, the supposedly
ditzy department receptionist, reading a massive hardcover book titled, simply,
Now, Dale Cooper
never declares himself to be “a Buddhist,” but that too is of no matter. What
matters is the way he connects with and inspires the people around him; the way
he lives every moment as truly and deeply as he knows how. He lives in exactly
this way even when his methods have clearly failed him.
At one point in the
series (I’m doing my best to exclude spoilers here!), Coop is, at least
temporarily, stripped of his FBI badge and gun in response to what the Bureau
sees as a cavalier and dangerous attitude. But the former special agent is
nonplussed. While he feels that his dressing-down is the result of Washington’s
being shortsighted and closed-minded, he goes with the flow even as
bureaucratic justice goes unserved. He’s come to love Twin Peaks—the people,
the landmarks, the unanswered questions that seem to reproduce like
dandelions—and so he takes his ex-agent status as an opportunity, forgoing the
G-man outfit that he wears so nattily for more region-appropriate duds. Cooper,
it seems, is just as comfortable in a classic flannel shirt as he is in his old
standard-issue black-jacket, white-shirt, black-necktie outfit. He even starts
investigating local real estate offerings, thinking that he might just have
found his home. Right where he is.
And what is it that
could fill the gap in his life now that his career, to which he has been so
dedicated, might be going the way of Twin Peaks’s endangered pine weasel? Coop,
unashamed and calmly excited as ever, states his new priority himself: “Seeing beyond fear, and looking at the world with love.”
Rod Meade Sperry is the associate editor of the Shambhala Sun and the editor of the new
anthology A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and
Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers.
Painting by Caroline Font.
Who Are We, Really? (May 2014)
Shambhala Sun | May 2014
Who Are We, Really?
Although the world gives us plenty of evidence to the
contrary, human nature is basically good, says SAKYONG MIPHAM. Believing in humanity’s basic goodness is our hope for the
the deepest minds have come to the conclusion that there is something
profoundly worthy about being human. In the Shambhala tradition, we call this
the sun of basic goodness. The sun is a symbol of life, warmth, and wholeness,
like the wisdom that is naturally within the mind. When we practice the view of
basic goodness, we enter the heart of being human by connecting to our inherent
Right now there
seems to be a not-so-subtle feeling that humanity is bad. The tragic stories we
read in the news are often a sign that people are not connecting with their own
and other people’s goodness. The moment we do not respect ourselves or others,
we have bought into a system that destabilizes our dignity as individuals and
as a society. For what is society but a network of relationships among people?
How we conduct our
lives is based on our values and understanding of ourselves. Through the
ceremony of daily life humans collectively perform, we contextualize our
existence and come up with a sense of self-identity. At the same time, our environment
has a tremendous influence on our sense of who we are. Based on this feeling of
self-identity, we determine how life will proceed. This is what the Buddha
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s most recent book is The Shambhala Principle: Discovering
Humanity’s Hidden Treasure.
The Myth of Multitasking (May 2014)
Shambhala Sun | May 2014
The Myth of Multitasking
We have the illusion that multitasking makes us more
efficient, but it only makes us unhappy. SHARON SALZBERG shares some tips for
getting work done well without getting worked up.
We would like to
believe that attention is infinite, but it isn’t. That is why multitasking is a
misnomer. The brain can focus only on one thing at a time. We take in
information sequentially. When we attempt to focus on multiple tasks
simultaneously, what actually happens is that we switch back and forth between
tasks, paying less attention to both. This does not mean that we can’t walk and
chew gum at the same time, of course. What we cannot do is concentrate in the
same moment on two distinct, input-rich activities that require our attention.
While we may be able to talk on the phone and stir coffee simultaneously, we
can’t carry on a conversation and text at the same time without losing
information and time. Studies show that when people are interrupted and have to
switch their attention back and forth, they take—on average—
50 percent longer to accomplish the task and make up to 50 percent more errors.
That’s because each time you switch tasks, your brain has to run through a
complex process to disengage the neurons involved in one task and activate the
neurons needed for the other. The more you switch back and forth, the more time
you waste and the lower your quality of work.
Strung out by
information overload, however, many of us are becoming habituated and addicted
to distraction. “Successful” multitasking has been shown to activate the reward
circuit in the brain by increasing dopamine levels—the brain chemical
responsible for feelings of happiness. The danger of this is that the dopamine
rush feels so good that we don’t notice we’re making more mistakes. This is
comparable to the rush you might feel while playing the slot machines in a
casino. Stimulated and entertained by the flashing lights, the ringing bells,
and the distracting, carnival-like atmosphere, gamblers go into a pleasure
trance, addicted to the illusion of winning money when, in fact, they’re going
broke. It’s important to be aware of how multitasking can stimulate us into
mindlessness, giving the illusion of productivity while stealing our focus and
harming performance. “When you are walking, walk. When you are sitting, sit,”
is ancient wisdom. Hopping rapidly from one thing to the next, answering the
phone while we’re shuffling papers while we’re sipping a latte, we fritter away
our attention and forget more easily. In addition to dopamine, multitasking
prompts the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones, which contribute
to short-term memory loss as well as long-term health problems. This also means
that the information we take in while multitasking is harder to retrieve later
than information we take in while concentrating. That is why learning to be a
unitasker in a multitasking world is so vital.
Rather than divide
our attention, it is far more effective to take frequent breaks between
intervals of sustained, one-pointed attention. A Web designer named Brian
figured this out for himself with no knowledge of neuroscience. “I work for a
community news site and have to be online from nine to five,” Brian says. “It
can really fry the brain and get tedious. I’ve found that if I take ten minutes
or so for every hour of work to do something for myself, like read somebody’s
blog or take a walk, it helps me concentrate when I turn back to my duties.”
Although this may sound difficult, Brian’s increased focus enables him to return
to the task at hand with surprising ease. “Instead of hopping from thing to
thing—which is so tempting with the Internet—I focus on what’s in front of me.
Then I let myself dillydally to give my brain a rest. When it comes to work,
less is definitely more in terms of feeling satisfied. And efficient.” While
this may sound counterintuitive, relaxing our focus for regular intervals and
pacing our sustained concentration sharpens attention and renders the mind more
Debunking the myth
of multitasking, we become much better at what we do and increase the chance of
being able to remember the details of work we have done in the past.
The Pauses That
Being more in touch
with our motivations or intentions will reveal a lot about the ethical dimension
of our actions. Before a conversation, pause for a few moments to determine
what you would most like to come out of it. Do you want most to be seen as
right or as helpful? Do you want to foster progress or hinder it? Also pause
before sending an email, with the same reflection: What do I most want to see
come from this communication? The other party to feel diminished or encouraged?
Them to go away or increase their involvement in my project? And do the same
thing before a specific choice or decision—What do I most want to see as the
outcome? Peace or excitement? Ease or stimulation? You don’t need to condemn
what you see or decide you’ll always see the same thing inside yourself, like a
fixed characteristic, but try to become more sensitive to what is motivating
you in this moment before you speak or act.
One Thing at a Time
In this meditation,
we try to be more fully present with every component of a single activity. At a
time when you’re not likely to be distracted or disturbed by obligations, make
yourself some tea. Fill the teakettle slowly, listening to the changing tone of
the water as the level rises, the bubbling as it boils, the hissing of steam,
the whistle of the pot. Slowly measure loose tea into a strainer, place it in
the pot, and inhale the fragrant vapor as it steeps. Feel the heft of the pot
and the smooth receptivity of the cup. Continue the meditation as you reach for
a cup: Observe its color and shape and the way it changes with the color of the
tea. Put your hands around it and feel its warmth. As you lift it, feel the
gentle exertion in your hand and forearm. Hear the tea faintly slosh as you
lift the cup. Inhale the scented steam and experience the smoothness of the cup
on your lips, the light mist on your face, the warmth or slight scald of the
first sip on your tongue. Taste the tea; what flavor do you detect? Notice any
leaf bits on your tongue, the sensation of swallowing, the warmth traveling the
length of your throat. Feel your breath against the cup creating a tiny cloud of
steam. Feel yourself put the cup down. Focus on each separate step in the
drinking of tea.
9 Tips for Stealth
Meditation at Work
1. As you sit down to work, scan the
sensations in your body, from your head to your feet. Notice areas of tension
and breathe into them.
2. Nourish yourself! Eat a meal mindfully,
noticing the colors, the flavors, the textures of what you are eating.
3. Try to perform a simple, conscious act of
kindness every day. It can be as simple as holding an elevator door or saying
thank you in a sincere manner.
4. Mentally acknowledge those who have helped
you learn the skills you have, who have taught you to be better at your job. We
are all part of a larger web.
5. Notice how you are holding something in
your hand—a pencil or a cup, for instance. Sometimes we exert so much force
holding things it exacerbates tension without our realizing it.
6. Every time you feel bored, pay more
attention to the moment. Are you listening carefully or are you multitasking?
7. Read an entire email twice before composing
8. Travel to work some days without your iPod,
book, or phone. Experience the transition to work as a journey.
9. For an upcoming one-on-one conversation,
resolve to listen more and speak less.
Reprinted from Real
Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg, with permission of Workman Publishing
Illustration by Andre Slob.
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