My Mindfulness Journey

My mindfulness journey began in 2007 with a Centering Prayer workshop. The workshop really piqued my interest until after lunch when the leader said, “Now we are going to do a twenty-minute sit.” The sit is supposed to center you, but for me it aroused a panic attack. I had tried meditation before and could not even do five minutes. Somehow I made it through and decided I would join the new Centering Prayer group. However, I did not start out sitting twice a day for twenty minutes, as instructed. Instead I started with five minutes and worked my way up.

In early 2008, my husband, Walt, shared a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called Peace Is Every Step. The first paragraph opened me up to his teachings:  "Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live.  What a precious gift!  We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others." While still practicing with the Centering Prayer group, I started to attend the SnowFlower Sangha regularly and began attending weekend retreats.

At the SnowFlower retreat in October 2008, I took the Five Mindfulness Trainings, committing to practicing reverence for life, true happiness, true love, loving speech and deep listening, and nourishment and healing. SnowFlower encourages all participants to lead our sessions, which consist of a twenty-minute sit, ten-minute walk, another twenty-minute sit, a short dharma talk and a discussion. In 2010 I began to lead regularly. For me the best way to learn is to prepare a talk, so this really grew my practice.

After our Centering Prayer group disbanded, SnowFlower became my primary practice group. What helped me come to terms with practicing with a Buddhist group was Paul Knitter's book, Without Buddha, I Could Not Be a Christian. About that time, I learned that Holy Wisdom Monastery (an ecumenical Benedictine community), not a Catholic church, was my true spiritual home. Buddhism is my life practice.

Here are some of the resources I have used to guide me on the path:

My Personal Story

My father, a general practitioner doctor, was dedicated to his patients and his family. He operated on one speed—super fast—as he always had more to do to take care of his wife, ten children and patients. As most doctors practicing in the late 1900’s, he expected himself to know it all, and he worked to ensure he did. My mother had the patience of a saint; I rarely remember her raising her voice to us. In retrospect I see she had the ability to ignore unpleasantness. Born the fifth of nine girls and one boy, I inherited the speed, know-it-all and “human doing” (someone focused more on doing than being) tendencies of my dad and the ability to ignore unpleasantness from my mom.

Our life views and patterns of interactions with others are shaped by our early relationships. In seventh grade, I was rejected by my best friend. In response I closed myself off from close friendships and focused on being a know-it-all and a human doing. This brought a sense of worthiness and praise from teachers, so it worked well in high school, college and grad school. Early in my career, my bosses were impressed by how quickly I caught on and how much I could accomplish. But as I grew into management roles, I was doing too much too fast, leaving my team in the dust.

My first marriage provided me with three wonderful children, two boys and a girl. When we divorced, I had to learn how to forgive: Myself for no longer wanting to be who he wanted me to be and my ex for not wanting the life I wanted. While this forgiveness was difficult, it was in the best interest of our children and allowed us to remain partners in raising them. It also allowed me to let a wonderful woman, his current wife, into my life and the life of my children.

After spending some time figuring out who I wanted to be, I got together with my current husband, Walt, and his son. Walt wants the life I want, filled with quiet evenings, hiking, biking, canoeing, reading and just being together.

As our youngest went off to college, I was matched with a delightful Little Sister. After 12 years in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, we are "sisters" for life.

I also found time to explore my spirituality, which brought me to mindfulness.

Being the “baby hog” of the family, I was thrilled with the birth of each of my four grandchildren. Nothing keeps me in the present moment as well as spending time playing with those four.

My Corporate Story

Prior to retiring to become a mindfulness meditation teacher, I spent more than 30 years helping companies capitalize on synergies by linking business, marketing and operations strategies with lean project implementation. My expertise is in planning, program management, project management, continuous improvement, new product development, product management, market research and analytics, problem solving and cross-functional team leadership—from business case to successful execution. Whether as Chief Operating Officer, Marketing Director, Product Manager, Project Manager or Strategic Initiative Program Manager, my success was based on finding the balance between strategic and tactical, task and people orientation, high-level and detailed plans, too little and too much communication, and no engagement and complete consensus.