Inside the Mindfulness Machine

bridget-s-bardo by james turrell (mindfulness)

Working for an organization that teaches mindfulness has been profoundly disappointing.

Before I took the job (now 4 months ago), I had an idea that just by working there and being around mindfulness, I would automatically be more mindful. I thought this would be pleasurable personal growth, a painless process. I would would be a better person almost magically, like how Super Mario grows by jumping on a mushroom, with a perky trill in the background.

This is not how it’s worked. If anything, it’s the opposite. I’ve had to face that I am still the small Mario, that there is no magic mushroom, that work is still work. It is very disappointing to still be me. (read more…)

What Happens When a New Yorker Moves to California?

I grew up in New York City. Even though I haven’t lived there in over ten years, I still have a lot of New York pride. Growing up in New York endowed me with some special skills, like knowing where to stand on a train platform for the optimal exit and recognizing a real bagel.

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As a shy child, it also allowed me to not just avoid strangers, but take pride in it. I learned to walk quickly and with purpose. I was suspicious of anyone who wanted to talk to me. It made me feel street smart (or as street smart as an eleven year old on the Upper West Side can really be). (read more…)

Getting Better at Getting Rejected

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“I’m going to start online dating. What do I need to know?”

My sister has never online dated, and now that she’s happily married, she’s not likely to. But she’s not shy about sharing advice. “Be prepared to get rejected,” she told me.

This is what I call a truthslap.

We know that being rejected—or rather, being resilient—is not an innate quality, but rather a skill. Or at least something that be learned. There’s a reason Jia Jhang put himself through “100 days of rejection therapy” (and a reason why his project was covered by media outlets from Huffington Post to Bloomberg).

I’m choosing to believe that online dating is my own gauntlet of rejection therapy, and that being rejected is a skill. That means I can master it. To master it, I have to practice it. (read more…)

But I Want to Be a Prodigy

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The chalkboard outside my local yoga-pilates-zumba studio reads, “‘You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start, to be great.’ – Zig Ziglar.” It irks me every time I pass it. First, I want to erase the extra comma. Second, I hate that a catchy phrase, posted to sell glorified fitness classes (of which I have taken many, in search of flexibility and salvation), resonates and stabs me a little in my soul.

As a child, I wanted to be awesome at everything I did, right away. Inflating my unrealistic expectations was the tremendous ease with which so many early school milestones had come to me. Reading, writing, arithmetic—check, check, check. Watching classmates labor to grasp the same skills enforced a sense of difference and superiority and the belief that I should be able to conquer anything, first try. Teacher talk about hard work and different people having different strengths sounded like pap for the strugglers. (read more…)

F*&%! Where’d the Path Go?

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I’m confused about what comes next in life. It’s not just me. I see others struggling too. I’ve heard the following statements in just the last few weeks:

  • A friend: “I just want someone to tell me what job would be good for me.”
  • Someone thinking about changing jobs: “I’m paralyzed by a fear of a misstep.”
  • A 24-year-old: “I feel like I’ve squandered my life so far. What have I achieved?”

We worry about our place in the working world, and if we are making the right decisions (as if there is such a thing). We worry about which next step leads to the right ultimate goal. We struggle to figure out what are strengths are and how to use them. We worry that we are missing the right/best/perfect opportunity. (read more…)