Old readers will know that I’ve spent a great deal of time working with my Emerging Leaders on establishing self care practices in their lives. We adopted the habit of opening our meetings up with a guided meditation, which everyone really loved. But I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for my young people to take these practices home with them, so to speak, because let’s face it: it’s not easy for anyone to transform their lives. At the start of my own efforts toward mindfulness and wellness, I would begin doing something like yoga or meditation with a lot of enthusiasm, but if something urgent came up, such as a big work project, all that would go to the wayside. Eventually, I found my way into my own rhythm of integrating yoga, meditation, cardio, and strength training into my life, but it’s taken years to get here. For me, it wasn’t so much finding the time for it all, but accepting the fact that I am probably never going to be someone who will have an established routine for all this. I do what I have the energy for in whatever combination I find appealing on any given day.
Since I’ve been approaching my youth work with a very light touch this year, I haven’t pointedly been asking my young people if they’ve been practicing self care. I don’t want to hound them about anything, because at the end of the day, I trust that whatever is meant to stick with them from all the things that have come out our time together, will take root. We like to celebrate the big victories, of course: graduations, college scholarships, first jobs, etc. But I count the subtler shifts in my young people’s lives as triumphs that are just as significant as external milestones, because what goes on under the hood lays the foundation for everything else. How I love to see these sprouts break ground. Such a moment happened just this morning.
Maurice had breakfast with my husband to continue a running conversation they have about martial arts and work/life balance. I crashed this little gathering for a bit and listened as Maurice mentioned his intention of taking advantage of opportunities in Shanghai to get back into meditation and being present in his body. Since he’s been working in finance for over a year now, he has noticed that it takes effort to remain inside himself, and he also notices that everyone rushing around Wall Street is “walking around with their head elsewhere.”
This may sound weird, but my heart soared to hear this. Why? Because it shows that Maurice has become conscious about being unconscious. He has a longing for presence. He recognizes the lack of balance and mindfulness in his life, and is setting the intention of attending to that lack when he has the advantage of a new environment. That is a big step!
I first started toying with the idea of Game Plan precisely so we could capture these subtle movements in a person’s life, these little victories that no one else (perhaps not even the individual himself) may consider an occasion to celebrate, but which I am convinced are the building blocks to a good life. Even if Maurice gets caught up in a whirlwind of activity in Shanghai, I know he is self reflective enough to return to NYC and process that for himself and share what’s come out of that with me. In my book, that would be no less rich of a learning experience than if he had managed to establish a daily meditation practice.
I’ll round this post out with the modest suggestion to recognize these subtle undercurrents in your own lives and in the lives of the people you love and/or serve. The seeds of positive change sprout in their own time, not according to any program or funding schedule, or any artificial timeframe we’d like to impose.