I have moved this blog to my consolidated blog- Mindful Clarity. Please join me there.
Friday, July 13, 2012
I taught in law schools for a long time, but as a vendor, teaching students how to use a product. This fall, I am officially an adjunct professor for one courageous and forward-thinking law school- California Western School of Law. And to make it even cooler, I am teaching a brand new, cutting-edge class, that I developed myself! (with a little help from a lot of friends) Please allow me to toot my own horn here for a moment, because this here is something that I am incredibly proud of.
I get to teach law students how to be happier. What could possibly be more fulfilling? OK, it will also teach them to be more effective leaders, more productive lawyers and will likely increase their chances of becoming incredibly successful in the practice of law or wherever else they end up. But to me, those are side-benefits to the real reason I wanted to create this class, which is cultivating the conditions for World Peace.
I know that this is somewhat of a lofty goal for the tiniest seed of a 10-week seminar including only 16 law students. But my goal is to make this a mandatory training program for all law students in every law school in the country.
This course is called Life Skills for Lawyers. I will be teaching a combination of mindfulness meditation and emotional intelligence and will be using one of my favorite tools, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI©). Here is the course description:
Life Skills for Lawyers is a course developed and taught by Christy Cassisa, Esq., an attorney, coach and certified Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI©) Practitioner. This seminar will cover various tools and practices that will enhance and expand the student’s view of what it means to be a lawyer. We will explore aspects of mindfulness and emotional intelligence including self-awareness, managing emotions, motivating oneself, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationships. Students will also learn about and take the MBTI© personality assessment, and will use this information to learn about natural variations in themselves and others. Students will also be introduced to several contemplative practices, such as mindfulness and meditation, to aid in stress reduction and increased concentration. We will also explore the natural consequences of incorporating mindful practices into our lives, such as increased empathy and ethics. Students will keep a journal and will be expected to discuss their thoughts and experiences in a confidential, open and non-judgmental way.
Classes of this sort have been taught at law schools all across the country, including Berkeley, Missouri, Miami, Florida- Levin, and many more. But this appears to be the first time a course has incorporated all three components into one course. I developed this course and proposed it in February of 2012. It was accepted by CWSL in March of 2012.
Then something amazing happened. Google's Chade-Meng Tan released his book, Search Inside Yourself, on April 24. It was a road map for a course that was being taught at Google, and had been in place for more than 5 years. I incorporate the MBTI into my course, which is different than SIY, but essentially this book is has the same goal as I do. AND it has created a massive buzz around mindfulness and emotional intelligence in the business world, just in time for the launch of my class. Brilliant Minds... (Yes, I just compared myself to "Employee 100" of Google.) So now it's my turn to give a TED talk, meet the Dalai Lama, and be on the front cover of the NYT.
In the meantime, I can't wait for September, and I am eager to meet the curious souls who will be undertaking this amazing opportunity. It is free and credit-free, which means that while they won't have to pay for it, neither will they receive course credit. But the skills they will learn will change their lives for the better forever. Guaranteed, or their money back.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I am 4 weeks into an 8 week course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, being offered by UC San Diego Extension. This course was originally developed by Jon Kabat Zinn at UMass Medical Center in 1979 as an effort to help people manage chronic pain and illness through the power of mindfulness, self-awareness and compassion. I am taking it in part to prepare for a class I am teaching this fall, and in part as a gift to myself.
I discovered mindfulness in the summer of 2010, almost a year after the birth of my second daughter. I was struggling- emotionally and physically- to recover from the sheer exhaustion of two babies in less than two years, the complete loss of my previous identify and the challenges of reinventing myself as a professional woman with an entirely new set of priorities. I had my first daughter at 35, my second at 36, and before kids (BK) I was able to maintain the facade of control that I thought was the main requirement for a successful life. As a lawyer and then academic account manager, BK, I could control my schedule, rely on my brain and feel confident that I would successfully GSD (Get Shit Done). With the onset of mommy-brain and the rigor of infant-driven schedules (insert laughter here), I no longer believed that I would GSD. In fact, I felt pretty sure that everyone on the planet could tell that I was no longer qualified to participate in the professional world. I was adrift, disconnected from myself and from the beauty of life.
Enter the happy discovery of a mindfulness retreat at Yokoji Zen Mountain Center, a buddhist monastery in the beautiful mountains of Idyllwild. The retreat was conducted by a skilled teacher, Beth Mulligan, and the entire weekend was about reconnecting with self through the tool of mindfulness. Simply paying attention to the breath- something that is always always present- in the present moment. Cultivating compassion for whatever the body is feeling, and being aware of whatever the mind is doing. That's all. So simple. Being ok with whatever IS, rather than trying to direct it. It was an introduction that likely saved my sanity. And it turns out, set the course for the rest of my life, as coach and teacher.
I attended the retreat again in 2011, and while I was in a much better place than the previous year, the gift of meditation was again that of a renewed spirit and refreshed body.
This past year has been an exercise in remembering to pay attention to the breath on a daily basis. For most of the year, I practiced mindfulness without the daily structure of a formal sitting practice, but with this class, I am committing to a daily practice. (Well, most days....) And it is a PRACTICE- I am far from perfect, but I am practicing.
So much research has proven the physical and mental benefits of meditation, and the relatively new field of neuroscience is providing the language for explaining the whys and hows of these benefits. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that I am committing to this practice for myself, as a gift.
Here is the poem I wrote in August 2011 during my mindfulness retreat. It applies equally to a daily practice or a weekend retreat.
why am I here?
simply a gift for myself
time and space
to just be
to rest, relax, recharge, refocus
be still, let go
let go of the million small hurts
let go of the fewer humongous ones
the incidental, the inadvertent, the intentional
focus inward and be kind, be compassionate
acknowledge my fear, my guilt, my anger and sadness
and let it go
find my joy, my peace and harmony, my pure soul
and let it go
what could ever be so important that I would allow it to taint this glorious life I've been given?
meditation is the gift of myself, for myself
How many other gifts can you say are really truly free?
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
|My Widget kitty, enjoying the peace of the bag.|
Recently, research has shown that being positive and grateful for the little things in life make you happier, and indeed, more successful. (see previous post). Rodgers & Hammerstein probably weren't thinking of neuroscience when they wrote the song in 1959, but its relevance to overall wellbeing can't be denied.
Mindfulness and emotional intelligence play into the effectiveness of this strategy. When you practice mindfulness, you become aware of the moment to moment thoughts and emotions that play through your body in response to an event. When you find that moment between trigger and reaction, this is where choice comes in. Maria chooses to think of her favorite things when the event of the moment (being bitten or stung by a nasty, for example) causes her to feel sad. And not only does she choose to think of her favorite things, she chooses simple things for which to be grateful- raindrops on roses, doorbells and sleighbells. Schnitzel, for goodness-sake!
These days, we tend to think that the next BIG thing is what will make us happy. The new job, house, car or big-screen TV. It also tends to be about acquisition of something, rather than simple appreciation of the things that nature and the world already provide. The next, the next. When will the NEXT really be enough?
What if we practiced the simple wisdom of Maria- more gratitude for the simple joys of life? Ice cream & moonbeams & cheese macaroni. Momo & kisses & hot minestrone? Beautiful fairies with butterfly wings. These are a few of MY favorite things. (And the new verse tailored just for my girls).
Viktor Frankl said: "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness."
What do you choose to put in that space?
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
I just came across an amazing TEDx talk that articulates what I want to do and who I want to BE in the world- Positivity and Happiness. Which, of course, will lead to Peace. Call me Polly-Anna, but it seems to me that peace and happiness are much better goals in life than drama and pain.
Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think, Inc., explains the science behind positive psychology in a concise, funny and easy to understand way.
There is LOGIC in the pursuit of HARMONY, don't you know.
Achor states, “[It’s] the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”
In coaching, we call this lens, your "context". One of my goals as a coach is to challenge my client's "context", or "story". My previous post talks about the context I had that everyone who criticized me hated me. Now that I see this as context, and not REALITY, I can choose to NOT use it any more. I can CHOOSE to view the world through a different, more positive lens.
What could be possible in your world if you choose to look through a different lens? Choose to have an optimistic view of people and events? Choose to practice gratitude and kindness as a habit? Come from a place of choice, not victim, and feel empowered.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
|federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
I know I have stories,and as part of my coach training program, I've had to really look at them. It's sometimes painful, always scary. But in the end it's so freeing to let them go.
Here's an example of a story I've had my whole life: I used to get upset when people criticized me. Like, really upset. And I would always run away. Many broken relationships litter my past due to this story. My marriage almost broke because of this story.
The story I had was that it was perfectly logical for me to feel really hurt every time someone criticized me- because I "knew" that it really meant that they didn't love me, or even like me. Or maybe they even hated me. So the story I made up here is that if someone found fault with anything I did, it was really just a tiny indication of the really huge-mongous issue they had with me.
Where did this story come from? Probably from my childhood when someone said something mean to me the first time. Maybe I was 5, or 6 when my friend told me that she didn't want to be my friend any more because I looked like a boy. Maybe it was when I was 12 and Philip told me I had hippo hips. The point is I was 5. Or 6. Or even 12. I was not a full-grown adult with the cognitive abilities I now have, and I certainly didn't have the understanding that other people have their own stuff, and it's not not always about me. In fact, that it's most often NOT about me.
So although this is improving, changing this story is still a work in progress, as makes sense for something that has lived for 35 years. AND the sun is shining on that soft squishy spot and is healing it. My commitment is to continue shining the light on that spot until it's totally healed, and part of that commitment is to share with you my story.
So what's your story?