Miracle Leadership: Whose Emotions Do You Represent?

A leader is hired to represent the organization, not his or her emotions.

Don’t let anyone influence you to split organization vs. employees. They are one and the same.

This is misunderstood and typically is the demise of any leader.

Patience is underrated, so isn’t restraint; they are nice to say, torture to practice.

Lack of either one and you are not long for being a leader.

You will be pushed.

You will be criticized.

You will receive messages that are unkind, blaming, and unreasonable, maybe even true; will your anger at how it was presented prevent you from evaluating the feedback?

Your intentions will be misperceived or misunderstood.

And you still need to give respect, praise, acknowledgment, and inspiration every day.

How you handle being “wrong” will define your character.

You don’t have to like it, or maybe you just can’t do it, or you think, “why would I want to do it?’

If you were told that you are “talented” and the next step for advancement is a leadership position, the first three questions you should be asked are, “Who will you be representing; how do you control your emotions when you are criticized or blamed, and how you will say, “No?”

Don’t take that statement personally because if you did even in the slightest way, you are not ready.

Leaders do not expect praise, but that one note that says, “You are doing a great job,” well, it just makes it all worth it.


Join Together With The Band

We have slowly become a one person band, a lone meditator, a single Tribe. We may be drawn to it because we have had limited options. 

We need to rewrite this story.

if you want to learn meditation, join and learn from a community of meditators.

If you play guitar, join a band. If you don’t play guitar, search for a community group learning to play guitar.

If you like to act, join a community theatre. If you don’t like to act, but enjoy theatre, volunteer to take on a “backstage” operations role. 

To all my Brazilan jiu-jitsu brothers and sisters, eschew the impulse to learn from Youtube, a DVD, or, Instagram, go to class often and Train More.

Whatever your passion or interest, your health and wellness depends on learning with your tribe. Let your tribe be proud to say,  “we just got one more member!” 

Don’t let, “What will they think” get in the way. 

They are thinking the same thing.


And There Was Silence

It was 1990 or 1991 and I can remember how my thoughts started to change. Peace is Every Step, and the Miracle of Mindfulness were books that inspired me to purchase tickets to see Thich Nhat Hanh speak at Harvard University. Slowly walking up the stairs in the silent auditorium, I have a clear vision of my balcony seat as I looked around and took in the feeling of this event. This moment would be something different than I have ever experienced before. There was a silence that I was missing. There was silence as he walked in.

Just a few weeks ago, I was pointing out his books to my daughter on my old bookshelf. There were many of them on every shelf tucked in among the other books. They are easy to notice. I can look at the color and the size of the book and I know it is HIS book.

A few days later, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw the Plum Village announcement…and there was silence…

…then sadness, yet seeing his face reminds me of what his books taught. At that moment there was a struggle with understanding impermanence. He spoke about it often. Did I ever think, before this day, when he was alive, that I should remember to practice with him? Not in the same space, but with the community? The “Bells of Mindfulness” shook in my head.

He continues to teach, he said, “Smile often,” and let this be a reminder. When we sit, we sit together.

There needs to be more Silence.

Striking Gold at Camp

Our cabin mate Steve had a bit of a temper. We all knew that look on his face when he became angry: his eyes shifted down, shoulders started to raise, and it looked as if he were holding in his breath and was ready to burst. His hometown best friend was also in our cabin, and when I think about it now, he was the perfect friend for Steve. He was calm, and he didn’t react to his anger, and instead just took everything in stride. I can still remember it almost 50 years later.

One afternoon a package arrived for Steve. He received an assortment of candy bars, cookies, and other sweets. To a 10-year-old at camp, this was gold! Steve was a bit private, and although he wasn’t deliberately hiding what the package contained, it did not appear that he was going to share its contents either. Without any expression, he simply slid the package under his bed, but it was obvious that he was happy.

As I was leaving the dining hall that evening, one of our cabin mates came running up to me saying, “someone stole Steve’s candy bars, and he thinks it was you.” I replied, “what?! I didn’t take his candy bars!” but was just told “he is angry and waiting for you.”

Walking back to the cabin, I clearly remember being nervous. Steve could be intimidating, and we were not confident that he had control over his emotions. The situation played out exactly as I had expected: Steve stood up from his bunk and approached me with his eyes peering down and his shoulders raised, accusing me of stealing his candy bars. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but everyone was looking on in the cabin. 

Brad, our Cabin leader, approached us and intervened. Brad was calm and asked Steve, “Do you really think Patric really stole your candy?” Steve became frustrated and confused, desperately wanting to know who it was, eventually starting to blame everyone in the cabin. One cabin mate yelled out, “Patric didn’t take your candy, no one in the cabin took it.” I was relieved, but still confused at how he picked me out first! Steve eventually calmed down, and we never found out who took the candy.

Later that week was a competition among the cabins, in which the cabin that found the most “gold nuggets” (rocks spray-painted gold) would win. Each cabin had to decide how they were going to strategize and work together. There would be clues and hints in the maps that each cabin was given, and the competition would last for three days from Friday to Sunday afternoon.

Steve found the first nugget, and we were all excited. It was a big piece of gold! However, Brad asserted, “Steve, you were not supposed to go out on your own, you need to bring a cabin mate with you, those are the rules.” The following day, Steve found another big nugget with his hometown friend. 

With only one day in the competition remaining and our cabin falling far behind the others, Steve began to get angry and accuse the rest of us of not finding any nuggets. He declared that he wished he was in another cabin—as the others had found more nuggets than us—and questioned the group as to why we couldn’t find any nuggets. Everyone was a bit quiet and unsure of how to respond. You could feel the tension.

Sunday morning—the last day of the competition—we could feel Steve’s mood, and it wasn’t good. He claimed that he was not going to look for gold today…he was finished. Despite his refusal to participate, our cabin continued to split into two separate groups to go search for nuggets. My group of three walked out beyond the fields, trying to follow the map’s hints and clues.

Eureka! We saw the most beautiful pile of gold nuggets about 20 yards in front of us and we all sprinted to them. There were so many nuggets that we couldn’t take them all back at once, as we were far away from our cabin, sending one group member back to find the others to help retrieve them. 

The only person who would not come and help was Steve, who was still ruminating on our lack of progress, though his hometown friend came to help us move the huge nuggets back to our cabin. He was so excited, but may have been questioning his loyalty. It was probably difficult for him to leave Steve, but he did. I also remember Brad being extremely happy too, as despite not being allowed to help our group, he was continually following and encouraging us. Though it took us a few hours, we brought back enough nuggets that we ended up claiming 2nd place out of 12 cabins!

Steve had certain leadership skills: He had charisma, he was a hard worker, determined, focused, and he could be very friendly. Could Steve evaluate that he alienated his team, created tension, and would not celebrate his team’s contributions? Steve had plenty of gold. He needed to learn how to enjoy it by appreciating where it came from.

The Art of Fencing

A Prince once grew up in a family of expert fencers. He had roots that went back to the 14th century when fencing became a sport. Within the small contiguous villages where he lived, fencing competitions were held every year. A person from this village gained prestige and adulation by participating and winning; it was part of the culture that was formed for hundreds of years.
Fencing is a beautiful art; a blend of athleticism, mental control, finesse, awareness, and strategy. The mental training of fencing is just as important as the physical techniques. The slightest break in concentration could be devastating. If a fencer’s skills are sharp, they will need to exist both through physical and mental pressure.
The Prince learned how to fence at the age of three and progressed significantly faster than his brothers, sisters, and peers. His uncle was a champion and heralded as a hero in his village. A competitor was only allowed to compete in this competition when they reached the age of 12, but typically, even a person who was considered a prodigy still didn’t have the skills to be competitive until age 16.
The villages have prepared for this competition for a lifetime, but the actual competition is held only once a year. The winner also brings great recognition to their village.
The competition is grueling. A competitor will have at least 50 matches if they get to the finals. The villages close all businesses, schools and dedicate their time to watching this competition day and night. The event takes approximately five days to finish, but it depends on how many matches and the duration of the matches, so it could go a day longer or a day shorter each year.
When the Prince was able to compete at age 12, he won the tournament and he won easily. The village people were in awe of this skill and he was treated as a hero like his uncle but at a much younger age. No one younger than 18 ever won this tournament. He continued to win year after year, no one could beat him, he never lost a match. It was amazing, there were thousands of fencers who dedicated their lives to this competition from the other villages, yet the Prince was still winning easily. Soon he was the most famous person in all the villages, winning eight years in a row and considered the best fencer that ever lived.
When the Prince turned 20 years old his curiosity was piqued, and he decided to travel outside the villages. His family, friends, and even people from the other villages were very protective of him and implored him not to leave. This was dangerous as no one had ever did this before.
The Prince wandered out one evening without anyone knowing. He was so fascinated by what he saw he decided to keep traveling. He traveled for days and days and met some people along the way. No one knew who he was or that he was a famous fencer and he didn’t tell anyone. He knew his family and friends would worry, but his curiosity overwhelmed him.
After a few weeks of traveling very far from his village, he noticed a group of people practicing fencing. He was happy and puzzled as he didn’t know anyone else knew the art of fencing. He approached this group and they welcomed him to practice. They told the Prince that there was a competition that was coming up soon and they graciously invited him to compete. The Prince was excited, he felt that if he won this competition he would be accepted by his new acquaintances. After all, the Prince was a champion and never lost a single match in a competition. He faced and beat the best of the best in all the villages where he lived.
The Prince approached the first competitor very confidently and looked upon him with a fiery gaze. When his opponent made eye contact with him he got a strange feeling; his opponent projected a look of apathy to such a serious match that was about to happen.
Within two minutes the Prince was overwhelmed by his opponent. He lost the match quickly. He was embarrassed, devastated, and was in disbelief about what just happened. The Prince was offered a second match against another opponent and it resulted in the same conclusion! His skills were clearly inferior to the competitors of this village.
The Prince immediately retreated. He was not only embarrassed, but he was also depressed, anxious, and cried uncontrollably. “What did I just experience,” he thought. The Prince was never exposed to this kind of pain; he never felt this deep feeling of unworthiness. He was worried that news of this event would travel to his village. He was not prepared to lose or face any kind of defeat.
He continued to travel aimlessly with a confused, unsettled mind. He was running away from his village, never to return. He was holding on to a deep shame. In his travels, he ran into many people who asked where he was from, but he wouldn’t say. One day he met an old wise swordsman practicing with a big smile on his face. He approached the man cautiously and the man put down his sword and said to him, “You are suffering my friend, why?”
He asked the Prince to pick up a sword and spar with him. The Prince hadn’t picked up a sword in years. Every time the Prince scored on the old swordsman he was exuberant, and he yelled out in victory; when he was scored upon, his emotion of anger was displayed outwardly in his face and in his body language.
The wise old swordsman said to him, “Stop, put down the sword and your anger, It is obvious that you never learned the art of fencing.” The Prince was confused and said, “Why do you say this, I have dedicated my life to fencing since the age of three, I was a champion?” The swordsman replied back, “You have only trained for competition, not life. Each lunge, parry, or riposte should have no attachment to the next one. Your emotion is driving both your intent and reaction to the outcome of that intent. Whether you are scoring on your opponent or your opponent is scoring on you, you are losing.” I can teach you the art of fencing, but I will need to undo everything you have learned for all these years.”
The Prince dropped his head realizing what he was saying was true; his life was defined by prestige, honor, respect, and winning only. He was protected from losing, and only trained with a mindset for competition, but he found defeat and couldn’t handle what went along with it.
The wise old swordsman put his hand on the Prince’s shoulder and spoke compassionately, “You are trapped between your past thoughts and your fear of the outcome of the next event. When a fencer learns how to be non-attached to each score they stop believing they are the emotion; therefore, they do not carry emotion to the next move. They are free.
You need to first accept that the art of fencing is suffering and you are suffering because of this attachment. Fencing is not conceptual; it is a truth. Only through real practice, pressure, anxiety, and stress, we will learn to apply the true art of fencing to life itself. You are not able to understand this right now, but if you allow me, I will teach you.”

What is Positive Anxiety?

I was led to believe that I “had” Anxiety.

Well, that is what I was told…

My solution was to find a way to get rid of it!

And, I asked that specific question, “how do I get rid of it?”

The more I thought about it the angrier and more frustrating it became, I fought it.

20+ years later, I was explaining “Anxiety” to one of my meditation instructors. He listened intently as I described what I was doing, what was happening, and how I was feeling (dizziness, out-of-body feeling, heart palpitations, tiredness, and agitation). “This is anxiety,” I told him.

He said, “I don’t understand anxiety, but what you just described to me was actually positive and it sounds like you are having symptoms (Thoughts, senses, and impulses) by doing too much of what is positive.”

After all this mindfulness practice, I had an epiphany, there was nothing to get rid of! What I “had” were symptoms (thoughts, senses, and impulses) not anxiety. When I made this connection, everything started to change.

What I was taught in mindfulness is that we have a flow of thoughts, senses, and impulses and they are transient. I was practicing observing them, “On purpose, non-judgmentally,” as they came and went. What was missing was the knowledge of stimulation and the deep-rooted mindset that I had something called anxiety.

The pressure I was putting on myself, the consistency of work without rest, worrying and planning constantly about the future because I didn’t want to fail, and trying to make it perfect; my mind and body became over-stimulated and led to my thoughts, senses, and impulses. It happened every time. Why would I stop doing the positive behaviors that were making me successful, productive, and efficient?

When I learned this, one of the purposes of mindfulness for me was to become more aware of when I was starting to reach “The edge of stimulation.” This takes time and patience to learn this. We need to catch it early and the only way to do this is to spend time listening internally.

There was no reason to change my behaviors, they were positive. I just needed to know when to cool out and give myself permission to do this without guilt.

Exercise is positive and healthy, but I often did too much of that too, and I got symptoms that could include, dizziness, heart palpitations, tiredness, and agitation. Should I stop exercising? No, but I just need to rest before my body and mind were over-stimulated (adrenal stress) and I got these symptoms.

We should not be wasting our time trying to get rid of anything because there is nothing to get rid of.

That is Step #1.

What we can do is learn more self-awareness. Learn the connection of Adrenaline = Stimulation = Symptoms.

Then understand that too much Adrenaline = Overstimulation = Negative symptoms (Thoughts, senses impulses).

That is Step #2.

Step #3 is the very next action you choose when you are aware you are approaching the edge of stimulation!

This is what I am trying to teach, this is Positive Anxiety!

Keep the Body Still and the Mind Will Follow…But WE need to Practice!

In Meditation practice, I heard it said, “Keep the body still and the mind will follow.” This is a physical strategy that leads to a mental benefit. There is a technique to this strategy.

Techniques do not translate automatically from the physical to the mental.

Techniques also do not translate automatically from the mental to the physical just because we “Think or Talk” about them.

Jiu-jitsu is a blend of both physical and mental techniques. Most students believe that learning the physical techniques will somehow translate into developing mental strategies in jiu-jitsu. This never happens.

As a leader, if we talk about wellness and self-care as a priority, this will not translate into either the physical or mental practice in our community.

As a Jiu-jitsu teacher, I need to specifically teach and demonstrate both the physical and mental techniques; jiu-jitsu sans leverage and breathing is not jiu-jitsu. We get fooled because we are impressed by the physical techniques.

As a leader, I need to say, “let’s breathe together and decrease our stimulation, regulating our body and mind. This is how we practice meditation and this is how we practice mindfulness as a community.”

Do not be impressed with my words.

Reflections of the “Right” Practice

Last week Will Kabat-Zinn and I held a workshop called, “From Learning to Doing.” Our workshops are just a discussion between the two of us on topics related to mindfulness. We tend to use many analogies related to martial arts as we both have this connection; it is the way we communicate and understand a point we are trying to articulate  The point we were discussing last Friday was, ‘how do we actually use mindfulness in our daily lives?’

Many of us spend time going to mindfulness workshops and practicing in a quiet, calm place and we have an idea of what we are supposed to practice, but are we actually using the skills we are practicing in our work or family settings? What are examples of how we use these skills?

Will nicely explained the difference between sitting meditation and mindfulness practice. It is a question that comes up often. We find that analogies help us to remember what we are practicing. Sometimes the words to describe the difference between sitting meditation and mindfulness is confusing, but an analogy is a good way to remember.

Sitting meditation for me is the time I practice my scales, arpeggios, chord grips, experimenting with chord inversions, and the myriad of other techniques on guitar. This time is also used to practice improvising in different keys or playing songs to backing tracks.

I think of “Mindfulness” as playing the actual song in a live setting! All the skills that I learned in “sitting mediation” I now need to apply to the song in a live performance. This is not as easy as practicing them alone, quietly in my home. There are now many more distractions and butterfly’s in my stomach.

Both practices are necessary for me because they complement each other for what my goals are. You can think of your own analogy, but this helps me remember the purpose of each and that I need both.

“Right Mindfulness” is part of the 8-fold practice, I think of “Right” mindfulness as the skills being applied in my work or family life. I may fail, or not be mindful, react in a way that I wish I didn’t, but I always have my sitting time to strengthen my skills to try mindfulness again and again.

Writing and Sparring: Going in and out of the Flow

When I sit and write there are distractions. Then there is a stream of creativity that I am processing from my mind, through my arms, to my fingertips and into this blog. This is a flow. When there is a distraction I am out of the flow.

There is only one technique to practice and that is to bring myself back to the flow of a writer over and over and over.

When I spar in jiu-jitsu and I am in the flow of movement, I am not aware of it, that is a flow. I only become aware when I come out of it, my mind wandered out, and then I bring myself back to being a martial artist, over and over and over.

The “technique” of writing or sparring is bringing ourselves back to the flow.

You won’t be aware when you are in the flow. When you think, “I am in the flow,” well, that simply means you came out of it.

When we are truly present in life, we are practicing living. That is a flow. When we feel anxiety and stress we are spending significantly more time over-analyzing, gossiping, complaining, blaming, projecting reasons this or that can’t happen, or trying to be perfect…those are just distractions that took us out of the flow of life.

When I am stuck on a distraction, and I am only writing and sparring physically, am I really a writer or a jiu-jitsu player?

Return to the Flow and start living, being a writer or a martial artist.

Mindful Friday Talk, October 8th, 10:00am-12:00pm

On Friday, October 8, from 10:00am-12:00pm, I will be hosting a segment of the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth ‘Mindful Friday’ Series. Joining me will be my good friend Will Kabat-Zinn.

Will and I are going to be discussing a few topics including; how to use mindfulness in our everyday lives; positive anxiety, and how to incorporate mindfulness into your school or business.

During this discussion, we will also be stopping and facilitating mindfulness exercises.

For more information and to register for this talk click here.