By Annie Bhattacharjee, Guest Writer
There is nothing sexy about road rage, and if the universe wanted to send me a sign that I needed to work on my emotions — message received!
This time last year, I signed up for a course that started at Google called “Search Inside Yourself (SIY).” A fusion of mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership, I was attracted to SIY since I had hit a point of extreme burnout. Additionally, I was still processing surprising news that my team was impacted by company downsizing and in thirty days our jobs would be eliminated. I declared to myself and others that I would use this as an opportunity to transform and empower myself instead of staying stuck. As I left Santa Monica, CA where I was staying in an Airbnb 2 blocks from the ocean, my transformational journey started with me being cut off by a black sports car that was too impatient for my rental car to make a right turn into Abbott Kinney. I was NOT able to let it go and yelled “LEARN HOW TO DRIVE!!” My body tensed, and instead of diving into the feelings in my body, I responded instead by speeding up to show him that no one was going to cut me off, especially in an area with high volumes of pedestrian traffic visiting the boutiques in Venice! There is nothing sexy about road rage, and if the universe wanted to send me a sign that I needed to work on my emotions — message received! Not exactly the start of the transformation and mindfulness meditation practice I was hoping for, but a clear message nonetheless.
I arrived in the Bay area with my head spinning with negative self-talk: I blamed myself for not planning better, knowing better, or foreshadowing the situation at work better. The critical thoughts then shifted to questioning why I chose to drive through Venice on my last day in LA vs. stick to the sweet vibes of Santa Monica so I could leave southern California with a little more grace. As I entered the gorgeous classroom of the SIY 2-day event, I could not help but relax and let go of the analysis paralysis I was drowning in. Here is the view from the floor to ceiling windows of the Presidio that snapped me into the present moment:
The two days of SIY class were filled with a lot of silence! We were meditating, journaling, walking in a meditative state, and conducting body scans. The last place I expected to create a space for silence was among 200 other people, because when I am around that many people, I want to connect by talking and sharing stories. As a highly extroverted social butterfly, it’s so challenging to stay QUIET — especially around others! The beauty in the silence came from slowing down and feeling the energy surrounding the room, seeing the eyes of people, taking in the gorgeous views, and smelling fresh lavender growing in the gardens.
My favorite learning of the day came from Dan Harris — a video about how mindfulness is a superpower. You can check it out for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/embed/w6T02g5hnT4?rel=0&showinfo=0 . How full circle that this cartoon depiction showed an example of being cut off in traffic. I had no issue relating to that scenario!
As the SIY experience ended, I transitioned back to daily life and started my meditation and mindfulness practices like the good student I strive to be. I decided to take out the emotion and reactivity of being laid off and returned to work at the same company with a role where I help patients get earlier detection of breast cancer. My mom was diagnosed with early finding of pre-cancerous cells, so I am personally tied to the mission of my work. In the silence and reflecting vs. doing more, I became clear that creating success and having fulfillment are two different things. Success had me stuck on being outer-focused — making other people happy, pleasing them, meeting their needs, and ‘looking good’ according to societal norms. Post SIY, I started to focus on happiness, which arose in the silence of reflecting on what I need to be fulfilled, namely quality time with family and friends, writing, and afternoons spent at the beach. What transpired was a new balancing of DOING with BEING.
I met up with an old friend after the course, and she seemed different — so relaxed and in tune with her body, I felt I was meeting a different woman than the intense, anxious, and forceful emerging leader I had known when we worked together two years earlier. She informed me that she had a life-changing experience during a silent five-day Vipassana retreat. I was happy for her and glad to hear her transformation experience. I am not jumping in to take my practice to the next level through a similar retreat.
For me, silence is sprinkled into life, and when I forget to weave it in, I feel it! So far this year, these monthly posts have been reflections on more recent events. This month, I was reminded of this time last year because I recently was blaring the music in the car, overthinking my life as I turned 40, and, lost in the noise, I made a turn and heard the deafening sound of metal hitting metal. I had hit a car that had not yet merged into traffic. I cannot seem to get that noise out of my head. It wakes me up and makes me crave silence. Luckily the passengers I hit were ok, and I was ok. As I crawled back in my car, there was no music; I drove in silence the remaining 2 hours and took in the greenery of the trees. I am still working on choosing silence and play proactively vs. as a recourse from road rage or rear ending a car. My practice is certainly not perfect. Each time I am re-awakened to presence, it lasts longer. I am working on embracing mindfulness as a superpower. Perhaps it’s another way to experience silence in action.
Questions for Reflection:
Take a drive this week without music, podcasts, or phone calls. What do you notice? How does your body feel? (Bonus: try this again with a new route.)
Eat a meal in complete silence, mindfully savoring each bite. What do you notice? How do you feel?
How much unscheduled playtime do you have to nurture your inner child? Is it enough? If not, what can you do make more time to play?
What things create a lot of noise in your everyday? How can you open to auditory spaciousness?
Virtual Tea Party Report
Our fourth gathering was intimate and profound. Three women joined us — two from the East Coast and one from California. Our conversation about Silence activated some deep memories, and the discussion was rich, leading to new experiences for the women as the theme unfolded and came alive in their lives. The new time of Sundays at 5 pm seems to work, so we are continuing with that day and time this coming month.
“Thank you so much for hosting such a powerful virtual gathering. I kept telling my husband afterward that I was having these intense floods of memories during the call. It was really quite a profound experience for me. Your exploration of such a deep topic was inspiring and activating to say the least. I really appreciate the space and intention you have created. [later] More people should know the power in your meetings. I’ve been playing with my silence [theme from last month] all week!”Aikta, 41
“Your work is nuanced and very encouraging. Amazingly done!”Cathleen, 68
” I really enjoyed our Virtual Tea Party. It was even a lot better than I expected. I didn’t expect to learn so much. I enjoyed the small group discussion.”Jinyao
Go slowly, travel with heart. ™
#goslowly #travelwithheart #ttwithchloe