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Maria Gonzalez Blog
Mindful Leadership

Discovering One’s Purpose in Life

Discovering one’s purpose in life is one the greatest concerns people express.  I have met many people who are extremely successful by external standards, but for them something is missing.  They don’t feel fulfilled, as if there is something they are “meant to do”, but they haven’t discovered it.  This can cause great angst and create a sense of incompleteness.

I too had that experience.  In my late twenties and early thirties I had a strong sense that I was on this earth for a purpose.  But, I had no idea what that purpose was.  I had great concern that I would come to the end of my natural life and that I would not have discovered why I was here.

This issue is so prevalent that I wrote a chapter in Mindful Leadership to address it.  It is incredibly satisfying when we start to have a sense of what we are “meant” to do.  In my view, we are all here to fulfill a Divine purpose, something only we can do.  And the way we can begin to uncover and discover what that might be is quite simple.  It requires some reflection and a lot of stillness.  It’s in that stillness that the insights arise.

The answer for each of us lies in the connection between our gifts and our passions.  We all do some things really well.  Some of these things we may not particularly enjoy. But, we do them anyways.  Yet, there are other things we do very well and we love to do them.  These are the things we are passionate about.  When we discover those things, it seems as if we can do them tirelessly.

The last piece of the puzzle is that as we use these gifts that we are passionate about, we feel tremendous joy.  Our work becomes effortless effort.  There is a rhythm to the way we complete the act of whatever we are doing.  And we do it in the service of all, for its own sake.

This is what it is to “discover one’s purpose”.  We do it for our sake.  And at the same time, our purpose becomes a gift to everyone.

 

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The Impact of One Person’s Kindness

I recently witnessed something beautiful and wanted to share it.

A young man got on the streetcar in front of me and he was using a walker. He was clearly in severe pain.

As he climbed up the steps with his walker, an elderly man sitting in one of the front seats, got up and told him to sit. Then another young fellow who had been sitting behind the elderly man got up to give him his seat, and so it went for another 3 people doing the same, giving their seats for others, in need.

It all happened in less than two minutes and it was a thing of such compassion that it was truly beautiful.

A real blessing to witness.  It brought tears of joy to my eyes…. a gift I wanted to share. It was pure Grace.

As I stood in my spot and looked around I noticed that a real calm had come over the streetcar.  These acts of kindness had impacted everyone who had noticed.  It seemed like a gentler place.  And as people later got off at subsequent stops, they appeared more present, kinder.  There was no pushing to “get out first”.  Suddenly there was a distinct civility.  There were more smiles.

All this because one elderly man, out of kindness, gave his seat to a young man who was struggling and in pain.

That was a true Mindful leader.  Compassion is one of the 9 Ways to be a Mindful Leader.  And a leader is anyone who is in a position to influence another person for any period of time.  When we exhibit kindness or compassion towards one person, not only do we impact that person, but we positively impact and inspire countless others.

 

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You Know You Are Wearing Down When…

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You may find yourself really looking forward to a vacation and some time off, to the completion of an assignment or some other milestone, but at the same time you notice that you are feeling cranky or impatient.  What you are looking forward to is something positive, but you know that in order to get to that point there is a lot left to complete.  As time goes on you seem to be less efficient and feel increasingly stressed.

At times like this you know you are wearing down.  Although you may feel you are working towards a deadline, the wisest thing to do is to take a step back…take a breath.  Give yourself the time to regroup so that you can do what you are doing Mindfully.  This is the time to become aware of the present moment.  Chances are that if you are stressed and impatient you are not in this moment.  You are in the moment that says, “I’ll never meet this deadline; I need this break so badly, but what I need to do to take a break makes it almost not worthwhile; I never handle these situations well; This always happens to me….”

What goes on in the mind in those moments tends to be judgmental, harsh, lacking in self compassion and unforgiving.  You have taken yourself out of the present moment and in so doing you are becoming less effective and less efficient.

So, here is a strategy you may wish to try next time you experience this sort of angst.  Take a breath and make a conscious choice to take a break…a break to come back to the present moment.  All you need are 5-10 minutes.  Take a walk and walk Mindfully.  Sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, outside if you can, and drink it Mindfully.  Get some fresh air, a change of scenery.  Listen to one or two pieces of music.  Most songs are no longer than 3-4 minutes each.  But really listen to the music.

This time out enables you to come back to what you need to complete, regenerated.  To be in the present moment is actually very relaxing and as you relax, you calm the nervous system.  This enables you to “reboot” the system and resume your work in a positive and Mindful way.

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When in Doubt Open Your Heart

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There are times that we are at a loss for what to say or what to do.  Someone may be telling us something that may be painful to them and perhaps painful for us to hear.

The habitual tendency may be to change the subject, to make them laugh, to distract them.  These may be the only strategies that come to mind.

But, there is an alternative.  The greatest gift you can give another person is to listen with an open heart.  So when in doubt open the heart.  Just listen to what they are saying and do nothing.  It may happen that you are spontaneously moved to wish them well or send them positive thoughts.  That is what it is to experience compassion.

It may equally occur that you are just present, just still, just silent.  It takes great courage to listen to someone’s pain in that way.  There is great wisdom and great strength in that silence.  There is a peace that comes with deep silence.  That is the silence of an open heart.  And in that opening of the heart you are contributing to healing…healing the other person and healing yourself.

You see, because we are all one, whatever you do for another, you do for yourself.

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Meditate This! A Podcast on Mindfulness & Mindful Leadership

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I hope you are well and enjoying the beginning of summer.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Peter Falker and Jason Hollander, who are from Minnesota and New York City, respectively.  Peter is an entrepreneur in the investment business and Jason is in public affairs at New York University.   They are two very interesting and funny guys who are intrigued by Mindfulness, discovered its benefits and wanted to share it with the world.  Jason and Peter have chosen to communicate Mindfulness in an accessible and down to earth way with humour and insight.  So, they created a Podcast called: Meditate This! In their words, the aim is to “interview some of the world’s experts on the art and science of living mindfully—through meditation and other means. Neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, authors, entrepreneurs, and artists will give their take on what it’s all about”.

In our interview we talked about Mindfulness and Mindful Leadership, including how it benefits our lives, as well as, the corporate benefits.  And most importantly, we discussed how to apply Mindfulness in our everyday lives, both personally and professionally.  You can check out the interview which is in two parts:  https://meditatethispodcast.squarespace.com/gonzalez

They have also interviewed a number of other people including, Richie Davidson, a world renowned neuroscientist and pioneer in Mindfulness research, as well as Sharon Salzberg, best-selling author and meditation teacher.  Here is the link:  https://meditatethispodcast.squarespace.com

You can also download the interviews on  iTunes

At launch they received an unexpected shout-out from Deepak Chopra!  How great is that!

I hope you enjoy these Podcasts as much and I do, and if you do, spread the word.

Have a great summer.

Best,
Maria.

 

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An Act of Kindness Can Change the World…

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An act of kindness can change the world…especially your world.  There are few words to describe the impact of such an act.  It may be random; it may be deliberate.  The act may seem small.  But, we never know whose heart we touch and the impact we have.  And in so doing, what we may not immediately realize is that with each kindness, we are creating a “reservoir of happiness” within ourselves.  Our Spirit knows when we have done something for another, been kind, been of service, and the only possible outcome is happiness.  It is a joy that wells up within the being and can not help but be shared.  Because what else could one possibly do with happiness?  In fact, when we share happiness it grows.  And as we share it, the world we touch changes and our world changes.

Thai Life Insurance has created a beautiful commercial that illustrates this perfectly.  Words are unnecessary. The message is crystal clear.  My suggestion is to meditate as you are watching.  Be fully present and aware, to the best of your ability.  And in so doing, you will witness an incredible Mindful leader!

https://www.youtube.com/embed/uaWA2GbcnJU

I would like to thank Daria Love for passing along this link.

 

 

 

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How to De-Stress: Don’t Let Your Ego Rule Your World

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Allowing your ego to dictate how you think and feel can be an enormous source of stress.  But what does that really mean?  And how does that happen?

The ego is not who or what you really are.  The ego is merely a combination of habitual patterns that have evolved over a lifetime.  These patterns dictate how you think and feel moment by moment.  They create enormous pressure because they cause you to live up to expectations that may make no sense or be in any way useful.

Here’s an example, some around you may think that having a particular car or a certain size of home is important.  In fact, that view may be so prevalent that you consider it to be true.  It may also be that certain positions or organizations are considered to have greater status, or certain schools for your children may be more desirable.  Certain vacations may seem a necessity, and the list goes on.

The point is not whether any of this is right or wrong.  That is irrelevant.  The point is that if these things matter to you only because others think they are important, but you are potentially ambivalent about them, then that is “the ego ruling your world”.  And that, over time causes great stress.  It may cause you to move further away from what really matters to you.  Then suddenly you wake up one day and don’t know who you are.

A Mindful way to deal with this to examine your “wants” or “requirements” in life and say, “does this matter to me”?  Am I doing this for myself?  If others did not consider this or that important, would it still be of interest to me?  And as you ask these questions, pay attention to the message your body is giving you.  Does the body become happy and excited, or does it feel burdened?  By listening and watching the body you will become increasingly aware of who and what you are, and what matters most to you.

And that means that “you rule your world”, not your ego.

 

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How to De-Stress: Take Time Each Day in Stillness

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The ability to de-stress each day is an important ingredient in living a richer and more fulfilling life.  But, most people find de-stressing a real challenge.  There is so much to do and so little time.  Consequently, the thought of de-stressing seems more like a luxury than a necessity.

But, in reality it is a necessity.  If you don’t de-stress regularly, you may find yourself unable to be at your best, to be effective, and to be creative.  At worst, you will find yourself ineffective, exhausted and unwell.

Think of yourself as a battery.  If a battery goes low, it doesn’t perform.  So, in order to enjoy life to the fullest, to sustain high performance and to be resilient, charge your battery each and every day.

One of the most effective and simplest ways of doing this is to “take time each day in stillness”.  It doesn’t have to be a great deal of time.  If you take 5-10 minutes of complete stillness each day, you will experience an enormous difference in your life.  You may wish to sit on a park bench or sit in your garden.  The outdoors can be very energizing.  But that may not always be possible.  You may wish to be indoors and in stillness admire something of beauty, like a flower, or a piece of art.  Or you may wish to just close your eyes wherever you are and simply be still.

You will notice that the more you practice stillness the more you will experience the calm that is within all of us.  With greater practice you will begin to hear what your heart wants to tell you.  Those gentle whispers that are so important for our well-being are only heard in stillness.

 

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Live Each Moment “as if for the first time”

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In the last Blog I talked about living each moment “as if for the last time”.  In this Blog, I would like to suggest living each moment “as if for the first time”.  Now these two notions are by no means in conflict. They are two sides of the same coin and come together in the “present moment”.

When you experience each moment as if for the first time, you assume nothing and you are open to everything.  In essence you are open to any and every possibility.  Everything and everyone looks fresh and new.  You don’t anticipate that someone with whom you have challenges will challenge you.  You are just present to what is.  You don’t expect that this rose will smell like every other rose.  You are just present to what is.  You don’t expect this walk or drive will be like every other walk or drive.  You are just present to what is.

And when you are present to what is, you are, in fact, living each moment as if for the first time.  In meditation we call it “beginner’s mind”.  Which means that no matter how many years you have been meditating, you approach every meditation with a fresh view, as if you had never meditated before.  And that fresh view, that presence, will bring you more joy and peace than you can imagine.  This happens because you experience life with wonder.  It will open up possibilities and solutions to issues that were previously real stumbling blocks.  All that, because you will see things with fresh eyes.

And then you might behave more like your dog who is so excited to see you each time he sees you, whether you have been gone 5 days, 5 hours or 5 minutes.  To him, the joy of seeing you is “as if for the first time, every time”.  This is an expression of true wonder and awe.  Albert Einstein made this point beautifully when he said,” The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all true art and science.  He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, his eyes are closed.”

So next time you enter into a conversation, be fully present and truly listen…assume nothing.  Next time you walk down a familiar street, or any street, just walk, look and listen as if you have never been there before. Allow yourself to be amazed by being present.  And in that presence you will see things you have never noticed before…as if your eyes had suddenly been opened, just because you have allowed yourself to be there “as if for the first time”.

 

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Live Each Moment “as if for the last time”

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The next time you go for a walk, walk as if it is your last walk.  The next board meeting you have, be there, as if it is your last board meeting.  The next time you speak with a colleague, speak as if you will never speak with them again.  The next time you share a meal or a cup of tea with a friend, do so as if it will be the last time.

The next time you look into your spouses eyes, look as if you will never see them again.  The next time you play with your child, do so as if it will be the last time.  The next time you walk or sit with your dog, do so as if for the last time.

You get the idea….  How would you like to experience each moment, if it was the last moment of your life? That question is worth pondering.

But no matter how much I ponder, there is only one possible answer.  I would like to be fully present, fully alive, fully AWAKE!

This notion of “the last time” is not pessimistic or improbable.  In fact, it addresses the law of impermanence. No matter how much we think we are in control, or how much we try to be in control or to control, the reality is that, other than our behaviour, we control nothing.  Despite our sophistication we have no idea when we will take our last breath.  We have no idea when the music will stop.

So knowing this, make your best effort to be right here, right now, each and every moment, with whatever you are doing and whomever you are with.  Don’t waste a moment.  Each moment is precious.  It can never be bought, sold or recaptured.  Each moment is a gift!

 

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