Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Place to Be Still

I am on a journey again, this weekend at a small conference for contemplative leadership: Search Inside Yourself with Mirabai Bush and Gopi Kallayil at the very special Omega Institute in upstate New York. Mirabai is among the early pioneers who ventured to India in the early seventies and brought mindfulness and meditation back to the United States. I've read her words, marveled at her work to build (with Gopi) a flourishing meditation and yoga program for Google and her luminous quiet courage to just ask us all to be quiet.

I traveled here with our Director of Education at the Museum. We made the pilgrimage across two flights and drove into the Woodstock/West Hurley area adding layers clothing with each passing mile. This dip into autumn places me just where I need to be: sun laced curtains of amber and crimson leaves surround me, and Jack Frost arrived overnight: his first visit to New England this fall.

This is my second visit to Omega, a place for reflection and learning bringing new breath to a very old summer camp for Jewish Children. As I arrived I excitedly looked for all the corners I found last summer: the path to the sanctuary, the "dessert bar" (Omega offers health in body, too), the little Buddha placed under a tree: the one holding an acorn someone left behind.

As an example of a well of Western Buddhism, Omega is the place for exploration, the place to be a kid again, returning to camp, looking for your favorite bunk and the view from it. The discovery of camp, like the discovery of oneself is layered with courage, independence and discovery.

The title of this workshop "Search Inside Yourself" offers many things: a opportunity to meditate with two of the best teachers in America, an opportunity to pause and ask yourself: why am I here? and most importantly an opportunity to pause. Last night Mirabai Bush and Gopi Kallayil opened our session with an invitation to understand our own Emotional Intelligence (EI). Mirabai and Gopi developed this beyond-popular course at Google to help employees increase EI and personal well being and thereby productivity and performance. Much of this is based on Dan Goldman's research and his book Emotional Intelligence.  

Emotional Intelligence is composed of development of the following:

  • Self-awareness.
  • Self-regulation.
  • Motivation.
  • Empathy.
  • Social skills.

I learned something very important last night. When Google offered the first mediation classes, attendance was very light. As we do at the Crow, these classes were offered as "stress reduction" and antidotes to stress. Google employees, and humans by nature are high achievers, and didn't want to go to a class that might be an indicator something was "wrong". Gopi recalled "When it was stress reduction people did not flock to it." And so, like all amazing leaders, the planning team went back to the drawing board and with Dan Goldman's research offered new promises gained in mindful work:

1. Teams that feel psychological safety are higher performing teams / and have a higher degree of EI
2. Peak performance is also driven when you create a little space in your life
(from the course Search Inside Yourself, Gopi Kallayil and MIrabai Bush)

Gopi invited us all to create a spacious place to sit back and think. How often do I hear a colleague say "we just don't have any time to think". And so the practice begins again, with me sitting here at a beautiful sun-dappled farmhouse table on a rock ridge in Upstate New York. With the space to think. What if you took just ten minutes today under this autumn sky and settled into yourself, in quiet? What corner would you find?

More information here