Creating Space for Meaningful Change
It was a cold, late February afternoon, and I was deep into the second day of a four-day silent meditation retreat in the quiet, peaceful woods of northern Massachusetts.
Despite this calm, serene setting, my body and mind were rebelling – agitated and defiant. Each time I realized that I should be focusing mindfully on my inhales and my exhales, I caught myself mentally scribbling grocery lists and fantasizing about sitting on a warm beach with a very large, frosty margarita. Underscore very large margarita.
This was going to be a brutally long four days.
How did I get here?
Over the years since I’d launched my business, I’d proven that personalized productivity tactics worked well not only for individuals, but also organizations; they drove profitability, increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced shareholder value. My clients were seeing and feeling success; and I was, too. I was building a successful company training and coaching people on productivity tactics.
Yes, my approach to personal productivity allowed me to be more in control of my time, my attention, and my inbox, but it left me aching– like something was missing.
I wanted more from my life.
My soul was craving something deeper than just efficiently and effectively getting through my day. I was beginning to wrestle internally with a couple of big, bold questions that both haunted me and challenged me: Why am I doing this work, why does it matter in the world, and how can I be of greater service in and for the world?
These questions stretched beyond the vision and mission of my personal productivity business. The “how” I was working and living question was slowing transforming into a “why” I was working and living question.
Which is exactly how I ended up in the middle of the cold, quiet, northern woods of Massachusetts charged with the opportunity to sit silently for four days. I needed to separate the signal from the noise. I needed the silence to hear to my spirit speak.
Four days of silence, deep meditation, and introspection was a new experience for me. When everything from your mobile device to simple dinner table conversation is stripped away, you can no longer hide from yourself. I had never looked this deeply inside before. Which is absolutely why I was so physically and emotionally uncomfortable.
As day two blended into day three, a deep, pervasive peace settled into my body and my mind. The voice in my head that provided a running commentary judging, evaluating, and critiquing was now blissfully quiet. My mind was still and settled. I was no longer reworking the past and fantasizing about the future. I was in the present moment – ready for an epiphany.
That epiphany did not come.
I returned home on day five, walked in our back door, and I hugged my husband, Andrew; and suddenly, I felt a strong surge of fresh, invigorating energy. I was not as tired as I expected to be after a long, exhausting weekend and a half day of air travel. It was as if the time on the meditation cushion had created the necessary space for a new energy to move through me.
“Interesting,” I thought to myself. Something was happening. That night, unable to sleep, I got out of bed and tiptoed into my office. I opened my journal and started to write. And I did not stop writing until Andrew came into my office a little after 5:00 am. I did not feel like I usually felt after an all-nighter – grouchy, foggy, depleted. I was energized, excited, ready.
There was deep work to be done on myself and in the world. The late-night journaling revealed that it was time to focus on my impact – not solely on my output. I wanted to support individuals and organizations in designing work that highlights our humanity. Work that celebrated that we are human beings not human doings.
What I came to understand late that night was that when our frenetic busyness subsides and we allow ourselves to experience deep peace and quiet, something powerful happens – we create an opening and a space that enables us to move beyond busy and awaken to the possibility that we can have a significant impact in the world.
It is time to redesign the way we work.
What did you create, launch, grow or build last year? What did you make possible? What was the impact of your actions? It is time to measure performance based on impact - the impact you have in and on your company, with your clients, with your vendors and suppliers, and with the broader community in which you work and live.
I am very grateful that I chose to spend those four days in silence in the woods. Little did I know that as much as I wanted to leave there with a blinding, life changing insight, that time was about creating space. Space to see what’s possible when we move beyond busy, awaken to a new possibility or feel a spark of fresh energy when we hug someone at the back door to whom we’re deeply connected.
In the weeks and months that followed that retreat, I chose to make a number of significant changes in my life and in my business. My work is more important to me than ever before because I am committed now to changing the way we work – the way we impact the world. Because if I’ve realized anything, it’s that work is not just something you do. Work is an expression of who you are. It is a source of meaning and purpose.
So, if you’ve ever found yourself burned out, tired, or exhausted and wrestling with the why of your work and your life, I invite you to join me on a retreat and journey – to reclaim your essence and your spark and rediscover what it means to live fully.