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12 Nov 2018

How I Slowly Lost My Mind (and how you can free yours, too)

LarisaBenson

I have a big powerful creative brain. Which is a good thing, because there are a lot of complex problems to solve and creative strategies to hatch on the road to amore just and compassionate world.

My family sacrificed so much for me to be able to go to college, so from an early age I felt driven to excel, studying hard and powering through long days and late nights to make them proud. Yep, my brain and I, we work hard, dream big and get a lot done. I’m grateful for my brain.

Except when it runs amok.  (I’ve always wanted to use that word, “amok.”) Sometimes my mind gets on a track and I can’t seem to shut it off.  Like a roller coaster or a runaway train that goes in circles, sometimes I really wonder how I keep from going under (with all due props to GrandMaster Flash).

Perfectionism. Worry. Overload. Stress. Anxiety. Shame. Self-recrimination. Sleepless nights. Nod slowly if you recognize any of these patterns. Fill in the blanks with your own annoying or destructive brain habits. For most of my life, I just tried buckling down harder, gutting it out, dancing faster and hoping no one would notice I was coming apart at the seams.

Finally I hit a wall. Well, actually, I ran smack into it several times, because I’m stubborn and I really resisted the idea of slowing down. Juggling a fast-paced career, parenting, family dramas, weird scary health problems and a growing sense of dread about the state of our society and the future of our planet, my aging body simply started to give way to exhaustion.  

I went to a workshop at the Nippon Kan Theatre on the advice of a friend, and I learned for the first time about meditation. I mostly cried through the entire two days. A floodgate was released, as intense feelings of despair and humility, relief and hope coursed through me.  

That workshop was a turning point in my life.  I began, tentatively at first but with great sincerity, to practice meditation.  Over the years, my practice evolved and I began to access resources within myself that were both mysterious and familiar.  

My process of self-renewal began slowly at first, and it hasn’t always been a smooth road. But as I learned to relax more deeply while maintaining my focus and composure, my mind started to change. I found my rhythm and began to sincerely enjoy the practices, which has been the key to integrating them into my daily life. Little shifts gave way to new habits, and a more reliable sense of well-being emerged from within myself.

And guess what? It’s contagious. When I’m relaxed, people around me relax. My own clarity invites others to show up more authentically. Negotiations work out and agreements yield better results and more satisfying relationships.

Sure, I still have worries and I still get irritated, scared or carried away from time to time. But on the whole I enjoy a more consistently positive outlook and plenty of energy. I’m far less easily triggered, I rarely get sick, and my recovery is quicker. I still work hard, but it feels much easier. I have access to a much deeper well of resilience and creativity.

About the same time I was finding my way on the path to practical meditation, a small start-up called Google was going global. The pressure to scale up massively increased the stress on their teams of engineers. They launched an internal effort to hack the life-stress, recruiting the most respected researchers in the field to help crack to code for increased well-being.  

SearchInsideYourself

The result was an 8 week course in practical meditation they called - wait for it - “Search Inside Yourself.”  (Okay, they’re engineers, not marketing geniuses.)

Since they began offering this course, there’s been a 9+ month waiting list inside Google to take it. Companies that work with Google started to ask about it, and now it’s spreading worldwide.  Google’s research on the primary determinants of successful teamwork was published in the New York Times. They’ve spun off a separate nonprofit, the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. “SIYLI” for short.  (Again, please forgive the nerdy humor.  I didn’t name the course, I just know it really works!)

Our mission: 1 billion people practicing daily compassion worldwide.  These people know how to take things to scale. It could happen!

My friend Tony Back from Vital Talk and I are in training to become certified instructors for the SIYLI course.  We’ve both been meditating for over a decade, and we’re excited about the potential for such a practical and modern approach for teaching and sharing these ancient practices.  

In partnership with Impact Hub Seattle, we’re offering our “beta” version of the course to members and friends of members at a steeply discounted price while we’re teachers-in-training.  Curious to find out more? Join us at our Impact Hub Lunch + Learn session on November 28, 2018.

We welcome you, just as you are. Try it out for yourself.  Free your mind one breath at at time, and find yourself healthier, happier, more compassionate, effective and resilient. 

Click here to find out more about the full training and to register online for the two-day course January 25-26, 2019. Space is limited, sign up now!

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