Monday, November 16, 2009

Gratitude List...because of the downturn I discovered...

1. Cortados (latin lattes probably made with Cafe Bustelo) from bodegas and homemade lattes beat Starbucks any day
2. Rockstar haircuts from Chinatown
3. Levi's AWESOME skinny jeans
4. Selling a little stock to pay rent during a lean spot did not kill me
5. Drycleaning bags cut into squares make great doggy-curb plastics
6. Threading instead of waxing saves a LOT of money
7. Happy hour with friends at home is a lot more relaxing
8. QiGong from the little underground places is AMAZING and 1/3 the price of a spa massage
9. I can still paint my own toenails
10. Making birthday gifts always was and is still more fun
11. I don't miss frivolous shopping at all
12. Consignment shops in NYC are full of AMAZING stuff
13. Coconut oil is a FABULOUS deep conditioner
14. Theme parties beat lounges hands down
15. I have more music already than I could ever listen to in a year
16. My doggy likes broccoli more than doggy treats
17. This meditation/yoga stuff really works on managing stress and keeping peace of mind
...I have a feeling this could go on for a while...but I guess the thing I'm really happy about is recognizing how full and beautiful my life is at any given moment. I wouldn't trade the moments I remember to recognize that beauty for all the gold in Fort Knox...if there were any gold in Fort Knox...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Corporate Yogi Undercover - Finest Worksong

There is an often-quoted study somewhere that the majority of heart attacks take place between Sunday night and Monday morning. If you know where I can find this study, send it right along. But from personal experience, I know even the sound of the stopwatch on 60 Minutes used to give me a sense that my night was ticking ticking ticking down to the demands of Monday morning.

So Sunday night, I ventured off the island of Manhattan to listen to live country music at a little place in Billyburg, Spike Hill. Uncle Leon and the Alibis were playing - I especially liked their country-fried version of "Baby Got Back" - anyway, here's the reason I'm sharing this: their rabble raising anthem is entitled "I Hate My Job", and a good 9 minutes of the hour long set was dedicated to explaining the song, singing the song, then getting the crowd to sing along through the refrain - once to get the words down, then again with more passion with lots of harping and harassing anyone who wasn't singing/likes their jobs.

Hearing this song called to mind a line from Drew Carey: "Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar." People, really? Really? Is this really the best thing to plant in your brain before you get up and go to work in the morning? Really? How does this make things any better?

Uncle Leon, you rock, and thanks for the reminder about "little in the middle but baby got back" - but wow, all things considered, from what I can tell not many of us are actually suffering. Sure we experience interpersonal brain-pattern clashes, but other than the fact we have a habit of THINKING we are suffering, most of us are doing just fine from one breath to the next...aren't we?

So here's the challenge: look through your Itunes and tell me what a positive Monday Morning Anthem might be - heck, I'd even accept a neutral one like Finest Worksong by REM only since I already have thought of that one, you have to come up with something else. Because here's the problem: most work songs (and most work movies) are negative. 60 Minutes stopwatch ticking notwithstanding, I promise to pick a winner from everyone who suggests a work song and buy them a leisurely Sunday night dinner. And if you're in a foreign country or something I'll paypal you the money to take yourself to dinner. So...suggestions?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Perspectives from a Party

Life is a great storyteller - offering moments of insight into the mundane and the sublime, the tragedy, beauty and celebration of it all. The great storytellers all do this and it resonates for us because in their observations are embedded the very paradoxes that exist in our own lives.

Last night, life delivered one such a powerful response to conversations we've all been having about how short life is, and the mandate to overcome obstacles and put yourself fully into whatever you're doing no matter what, where, how or why.

Last night friend Sheena Mathieken threw a party to celebrate the six month mark of her really cool Uniform Project. In the Uniform Project, Sheena has pledged to wear the same dress every day for a year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. You can go onto her site and see the many ways she has injected creativity into it - looking, as she says, as if accessorized in the "Marquis de Sade's boudouir". She created this initiative as a fundraiser for educational initiatives for kids in slums in India. So far, the effort has won attention from the BBC, Elle, The New York Times, and The Times, London. Slightly over $28K later, with German press at the party and a room full of New York's creative influencers, it's clear Sheena is just getting her engines started.

Updating her about what's up in the world of corporate yogis, the focus on shifting consciousness she laughed, "if it were really about fitness or staying thin, my secret is following your passion AND keeping your dayjob - I have two full time jobs now and the energy alone is enough!". Even her boss acknowledged the energy this is demanding of her and that she is completly engaged and happy in what she is doing.

But last night after we left the party, someone in the building apparently fell down an elevator shaft and died. I'm not the first to report this - it's posted on Gothamist and ABC news. The tragedy to the deceased and his circle of loved ones is unimaginable. For the rest of us at the very least it is a powerful reminder to live our lives with passion and purpose, contribution and without complaint.

Which is what Sheena was already doing and hopefully will continue to do. Stressors clear, I'm offering up a prayer that this accident doesn't take Sheena off course either in this project and all the incredible contributions she has yet to make. I'm urging you to go to her site and tell her to keep going and if you have an extra $5 in your bank account make a donation.

The world needs the Sheena's and the you's and the me's to look life in the eye and give all we got while we're here - as you live your own greatest story, don't let anything take that offering off track.

Friday, November 6, 2009

From my hOMe office...

Whoa. I've heard and read about bloggers getting lots of responses to a post. Having inconspicuously posted for a few years on the yoga work connection both here and in my WebMD LifeWorks blog, I've always been delighted when people respond. But since yesterday, I've been blown away by the number of folks responding to the notion of me being back in the "working for the man" saddle was pretty mind-blowing. I got a total of 18 phone calls, 33 personal emails and 11 comments/messages on Facebook alone, not to mention the ones I haven't even looked at yet that are coming in through Linkedin.

Yahoo peeps are convinced I'm working for Yahoo. AOLers and former AOLers sent sympathy notes to hear I'm back with the walking man. In fact, the only folks who haven't voiced conviction that I've joined their ranks are the over 300 NYPD officers I taught to meditate last year. Although, you know, I was once in the Army so it's possible...

Given this morning's announcement about October jobless rates, anything is possible. The unemployment rate, calculated using a survey of households as opposed to companies, rose by 0.4 percentage point to 10.2%, the Labor Department said Friday. While I know I'm not alone in counting blessings that we've averted a 1930's crisis, these numbers served as a reminder that I'm also not alone in having to be crafty in order to keep my puppy fed, the cat litter fresh, and my own sweet self in new shoes when I have a Gala to go to.

So let's get a couple things out on the table:

First of all, NO, I'm not abandoning my passionate quest to champion mindfulness and mastery tools at work. In fact if anything I'm getting more fired up about it and thinking of a new offering I want to launch in January. Stay tuned on that...

Second of all, NO, it really doesn't suck. It never did. It never will. Even when co-workers come up and say "Gosh, isn't that stuff we have you doing just so AWFUL?" Truth be told, it doesn't even suck even a little - I can think of lots worse ways to spend the day.

Third, I wouldn't be much of a yogi if I let it suck - you know? This is where I get to see if I can really walk my talk satisfying a curiosity I've had for years. Sure it's easy to be "enlightenment girl" in a quiet room with drawstring pants on, a great sequence in mind and a killer quote to get the asana party going, but conjuring enlightenment while doing data entry I could have done as a freshman in college while folks around me are frustrated literally to the point of tears - NOW THAT'S PRACTICE!

Which brings me back to the central point about this recent turn of events in my life and similar challenges in the lives of so many others: it's no big deal. The reason I left corporate America so many years ago is that it was painfully obvious to me that most of the things people make themselves miserable about at work are really no big deal. Consider food lines and shanty towns of the 1930s, look at your own hardships and repeat after me: it's no big deal. Listen to global news and think about your worries and repeat: it's no big deal.

Because here's the takeaway I've learned in 13 years as a corporate executive, 8 years as a consultant and 4 days of a temporary stint in cubiclelandia: you must decide that "it's no big deal" AND work with complete focus, complete contribution. Sweep streets as Shakespeare wrote, MLK Jr exhorted. The Bhagavad Gita tells us to work with your heart singing, no matter what. Corporate yogis, it doesn't matter how many times you make it to practice this week, meditate, pour over the words of Eckart Tolle or other guru of the month, or eat right for your blood type. If you haven't put it all into the MLK/Bhagavad Gita perspective your practice is functioning an escape mechanism rather than mastery tool.

And that's what I was reminded of within the first hour of the first day by that coffee machine: whatever is bugging you at work is really no big deal. Get to work with that in mind. Don't wait for your the world to be perfect for to decide to remember it. Your real job in all you do is taking care of your state of being, and that's what I'm hoping you'll always find me doing no matter what job I happen to be doing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Corporate Yogi Undercover

It's happened: after 8 years motivating folks in conference rooms, ball rooms, cubicles, workstations and offices, I'm back in the ranks. Driven by the downturn, one of my clients approached me desperate for extra hands on a project, and I turned to her just as desperate for cash in my bank account. With things turning around economically, I was looking for something to get me through the gap until a few huge projects I'm pitching come in. Hard as it is on my ego, I packed up my yoga-teacher, Harvard-Business-Review-Events-presenter, international employee-engagement-expert self and hustled in to get an employee badge and be shown how to log-onto their systems.

Without naming names to protect the innocent and shield the not-so-innocent (and after all, aren't we all a bit of BOTH?), I'll just give you a topline of where I'm going everyday:

1. NYC HQ of a recognized media company
2. Notorious sweat shop working hard to change that
3. Global operations include every significant market on the planet
4. Former consumer of yoga/transformational workshops - like many organizations forced to choose between stretching dollars rather than employees, their programs have been dormant for a couple of years.
5. Like many companies, they've leveraged real estate downturn by moving office locations

This is the third day I'll be going in - and already the situation has been an amazing affirmation of all the reasons that led me exactly eight years ago to leave my job to start Balance Integration. My first day by the coffee machine, one of the guys said to me "oh, you're new, that must be why you're smiling". When something I said made him laugh - I pointed out that his face had not cracked.

I have to get to work in a few minutes, but check back here over the coming weeks for play-by-plays. So far, my meditation practice is still on track so all is well.

Side note about the awesomely appointed Wellness Room door in the picture above: It's a little 8x10 room with soft lights, a pillow and throw, a really great massage chair, some nice smelling stuff wafting out of a socket somewhere, and a cd player with spa sounds. When I first noticed it I wondered if anyone ever uses it given the 18 hour days people put in. I'm glad to announce that when I slipped in there while my computer was being worked on to take the chair for a little test-drive, another employee knocked to see if it was available.

Stay tuned...