Quepasana

PLEXIS’ Meditation Courses are Transforming its Employees

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How PLEXIS’ Maui Mindfulness COURSE is Enhancing my Effectiveness at Customer Care in Tech Support - By Michael Meenaghan

The awareness and equanimity I have gained from this retreat have helped every aspect of my life. You don’t hear many people say I love my job, but I really, really love my job!

Six Plexicans recently attended a free, 10-day PLEXIS Mindfulness Course held on Maui. All six of us received an enormous range of benefits from the retreat, and I would like to share a little about my experience and how it has transformed my effectiveness at customer care through my work in Technical Support at PLEXIS.

The PLEXIS Mindfulness Courses

Jorge Yant, the CEO and founder of PLEXIS, recently published a post, On Mindfulness in the Workplace, announcing several exciting new employee mindfulness opportunities. One of these additional opportunities is the nonsectarian PLEXIS Mindfulness Course which is hosted free of charge in Ashland, Oregon, and on Maui, Hawaii.  Jorge created a nonprofit called The Quepasana Foundation for the purpose of “expanding awareness through silent meditation in the Vipassana style.” Vipassana, meaning, “to see things as they really are,” is a meditation practice with over 2,500 years of history. Learn more about Vipassana retreats as taught by S.N. Goenka.

For Plexicans, Jorge not only extends the company-wide invitation to attend these courses free of charge, but he also devotes an enormous amount of his personal time and energy to personally lead these retreats. To me it really says a lot about Jorge. He doesn’t just talk about mindfulness; he is investing a lot of time and money into this and into us. This is clearly his passion. To me this is truly progressive leadership, and I have seen definite results already.

Quepasana as Jedi Warrior Training

The mindfulness course, Quepasana, is a unique and creative combination of classic Vipassana meditation along with three different types of yoga and sustainable living practices. Just as in the Vipassana tradition, participants commit to Noble Silence during the entire course. This includes not only verbal and nonverbal communication, but it also means we were not allowed to use any electronic devices. We lock up our cell phones, tablets, and computers before the retreat. When I got my phone back at the end of the retreat I realized this is the longest period I have spent away from my car and phone since I was a child.

Jorge told us with a smile that the Quepasana course is Jedi warrior training. By about Day 6 I realized this isn’t a metaphor. It takes tremendous strength and courage to undertake the challenges of a retreat like this. And each one of us rose to the challenge to come out of this completely transformed and enlivened. This retreat is excruciating and exquisite and magical all at once.

Practical Takeaways for PLEXIS Tech Support

After my first week back at PLEXIS in Tech Support I realized I had come back to PLEXIS as a different person with a distinctly stronger set of skills.

First, I believe I have a greater capacity to speak the language of empathy and compassion in addition to the technical jargon needed to address an issue. What I’ve noticed about Tech Support in general is that it’s a lot easier for someone to answer technical problems in technical terms, but it makes a tremendous difference if you have the capacity to drop in a few, well-placed words of compassion and empathy. It creates a human-to-human interaction that is sadly too often missing in many companies’ busy tech support services.

Additionally, I am positive that this course helped me become faster and more efficient in my turnaround time. Over the past year I have utilized quite a few of the PLEXIS wellness offerings for stress reduction, peace of mind, and enhanced productivity. This retreat gave me even more tools for this. A lot of people don’t realize how much work Tech Support does behind the scenes. When I have an issue that needs to be resolved I set up a series of scientific tests to try to discern the problem, and it frustrates me when the results don’t arrive after, say, 15 trials. Now I know that I can literally take a five-minute break when I’m feeling overwhelmed by this sort of thing, and that’s all I need to get really centered and get back to work tackling the problem.

Josh Goodwin ~ Your Light Will Always Shine Bright!

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Loving letter to all from his Father...

Dear friends of Josh,

As you can imagine, learning that Joshua was missing while visiting a remote coast in Maui plunged us into a hurricane of emotion; shock, bewilderment, disbelief, numbness, sadness, and hope. Yet through the raging emotional turbulence, there have been, and continue to be, moments when the light of deep gratitude shines brightly. A lighthouse in stormy seas, it brings momentary respite and peace.

Following the notification of Josh’s disappearance Jorge, Libby, my wife, Cindy and I flew to Maui to meet with the commander of the Coast Guard Search & Rescue mission already engaged in a full-out campaign to find Josh. The commander was accompanied by officials representing S&R teams of the Navy, local police, fire department, State Park Rangers and a Private Detective. Meeting them, we were immediately touched by their sincere compassion and commitment to service.

We learned that over 90 searchers, specially trained and knowledgeable of the area, were working around the clock using helicopters, airplanes, scuba divers, several boats, jet skiers, and trackers. In all, they, with the help of local volunteers, combed over 1700 square miles of coastline water, shores, coves, inlets and accessible inland terrain monitoring all continually for three days. The men and women of these agencies are practiced experts and passionate about saving lives, and they know that they are racing the clock. Thus, in accordance with Coast Guard regulations based on calculated survival probability, their search mission was suspended after three days. We are so very grateful for their compassion and dedication.

Meanwhile, we, along with local volunteers, neighbors, and friends, including his “brother”, Robert who was last to see Josh, continued the search scouring every possibility again and again in the fervent hope that he would suddenly appear wondering what the fuss was about. Despite all efforts, no sign of Josh has been found. Presently he remains, officially, a “Missing Person.”

We stayed another three days on the gorgeous jungle coast retreat where Josh lived and worked. He was thriving, radiant and living his dream from his storybook Thai cottage embraced by nature at its finest where raw jungle meets the primordial sea. He was with friends he loved and doing work that fired his passion. All could see that Josh was a very happy man.

Josh's life and love touch so many people. Even in his short time on the island his humor, warmth, kindness, and epic bear hugs have become legendary and his absence is felt deeply by all.

The night before he came to the island Cindy and I hosted a send-off dinner wherein most all of his beloveds were at the table together. His daughters, nephews, sister and brother-in-law came together to celebrate an adventurous new chapter in his life. We are so very grateful that he got to experience it fully and from the pinnacle of joyfulness.

On a wall of Josh’s cottage, I found a photo that I’d given to him not long ago. It’s a favorite image of mine showing a content, peaceful, loving man, my son, beaming proudly behind the beautiful daughters who adore him. Seeing it filled me to tearful overflow with gratitude for the richness of Josh’s life and the boundless, eternal Grace of his presence.

For now, there are no answers, no trace, and no closure. Even so, as we continue to hold him in our hearts and thoughts, we know his is not far. He's in our stories, our tears and in our laughter.

I cannot thank you enough for continuing to surround Josh in love and light and for all the support you have been sending to all of Josh’s family. It is deeply felt and we are grateful.

With love, David

Mindfulness Online Articles and Resources

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Online resources are plentiful and inspiring.  The below list is intended to get you started and we will add new ones as we find them.  Be sure to comment below if you find any additional ones that be helpful additions to the list!

Stillness and Samadhi: My Quepasana Story

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To share one’s story about an experience of Samadhi is not easy. Even Rumi said this is a place that is beyond language: When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the concept “each other” makes no sense

I define Samadhi as an awakened state of consciousness found in stillness. I can’t speak for all 21 of the participants at my recent Quepasana, but I believe all of us experienced many moments of this expanded awareness. When I returned home it was difficult to summarize the depth of this experience for family and friends. The breadth of such an experience cannot be conveyed by words, photos, or even videos. Nevertheless, this story is my way of sharing little views into the heart of my Quepasana journey. I hope it serves as a thank-you note to everybody who made this retreat possible including all of my new Quepasana friends.

Aloha!

I haven’t spent much time at the Quepasana retreat center in Ashland, but it was immediately apparent that Hale Mana is what I call sacred space. As a former artist’s colony it is lovingly immersed in art and creativity. Everywhere you look there’s another semi-hidden jewel. My favorites were the conjunctions of something alive and something practical, like the kitchen counter sculpted around a living tree.

One translation of the Polynesian phrase, Hale Mana, could be the “house of sacred power.” I understand “mana” as a universal energy that can be manifested as authority, competence, and effectiveness. I think that once someone embodies the courage and vulnerability to accept an opportunity to become something more than they were before then a place like Hale Mana is awaiting with open arms. Synchronicity, mystery, and magic will follow.

For example, one day during our two-hour yin yoga class the lyrics for the music which was playing were saying something about giving love. At the same time we could hear noises from what sounded like a large tour group next door at Charles Lindbergh’s grave. It sounded like the tour guide was taking a group picture, so three times in a row the group gave a loud cheer, “Aloha!” That invisible cheer sounded like a perfect representation of the original etymology of aloha as love and presence. Here was this big group on their whirlwind tour of the island making the most of that one little moment in time that the photographer was capturing. And here we were next door on our mats opening ourselves to our own moment of aloha, all of us fully cognizant of the brevity of these experiences.

There is far more to be said about the surreal magic and beauty of the sacred space that everyone has co-created at Hale Mana. The red ball of the sun cresting the horizon at sunrise and then immediately disappearing into the clouds above it. Sumptuous teaspoons of cacao pudding-bliss. Rainbows and the sound of whales breaching, salty ocean spray, and the chorus of birds awakening just before dawn. But I want to tell the tougher parts of the story, too.

Noble Silence

I’d had one previous experience of Noble Silence at a week-long dathun at the Shambhala Mountain Center around 2004. At that time I think I fell prey to a victim mentality, and I took on a depressed, overwhelmed, fearful energy. It’s very challenging to be immersed in a micro-culture of downcast eyes, no words, no physical touch. Thankfully Quepasana purposefully set the stage differently.

When the weather was beautiful I would soak up the sun or sit at the cliff overlooking the ocean and absolutely revel in the beauty. But when the weather turned colder I would sit around the dinner table with my retreat friends eating meals with downcast eyes. At first I felt like I was taking on an old depressed energy or attitude, but I was able to quickly throw that off and say, “no, that doesn’t fit.” I can’t communicate, but there’s no reason I can’t be happy. There’s no reason I can’t smile to myself and enjoy the multitude of blessings that are so abundant here. I think most of my retreat friends were able to say this for themselves, too. For me to have the strength to say this required all of the following pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

Equanimity

In simplest terms, equanimity means “I don’t mind what happens.” One night during yoga nidra we listened to a recorded talk by S.N. Goenka about clinging to pleasure and our aversion to suffering. This message could not have been more timely. We had all heard numerous references to the warrior spirit, Jedi warrior training, and similar affirmations asking us to rise up, stay strong, and not be blindly reactive to perceptions of pain or pleasure. As Jorge would sometimes say, this is “Simple. Not easy. But Simple.”

Noble Silence honed our awareness, but without equanimity it was hard not to flounder on the shoals of suffering. For example, I had enormous sensations I would identify as pain coming from the area of my left knee. Raising awareness about this particular sensation sometimes created more panic as my mind raced around the arena of speculation and worry. One early-morning sitting of “strong determination” left me covered in sweat, feeling faint and dizzy, overheated from the over-exertion of trying too hard. Thankfully I was able to regain equanimity through gentle reminders like the Goenka talk and through the structure of the meditation we practiced after Anapana such as the body scans.

From resistance to surrender

Resistance is an enormous force at any mindfulness retreat worth its salt. In retrospect I am glad we were not pampered any more than we were. It’s tough love to do this work from 4:20 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. There’s a good reason the setting is not at a luxury spa. And yet we were immersed in greater natural beauty than some spas may offer. It’s beautiful, but it’s work.

My personal resistance was the strongest in the first two days as my ego discovered things it did not like. At that point in the struggle there were things to complain about. Luckily Noble Silence meant nobody else had to listen to this drivel. Eventually through Jorge’s guidance—he is all too familiar with this phenomenon—I was able to separate myself from the chatter and watch thoughts and sensations passing through like clouds moving across the sky.

The death-knell for my resistance rang loudly during a kundalini yoga class on about the second day thanks to Noa’s orchestration of asana practice, kriyas, mindfulness affirmations, and transformative music. For Jorge to invite us to move our bodies through these mindfulness practices made all the difference in my overall retreat experience.

During that yoga class I remember the lyrics for one of the songs saying something about “playing the victim card.” And I remember feeling a wave of gratitude for the combination of supportive elements that was keeping me free from feeling victimized or oppressed. For the remainder of the retreat the yoga classes continued to be my principal crucible for daily transformation and awakening. For me, to move my body consciously is to move my soul.

Mehta

Our final meditation practice of the retreat was the loving-kindness meditation, Mehta. I don’t think it’s possible for someone who has not participated in Quepasana to understand the depth of how we were touched by this meditation, this entire experience. At no cost whatsoever we were given this enormous gift to be fully loved and supported in a conscious and creative experience of transformation. I don’t think it’s possible to finish such an experience and take this for granted.

The responsibility I carry forth from the retreat is to continue the practices of inviting the sacred dimension of stillness and Samadhi into my life. To remember Nature’s Starbucks. To lay under the stars and breathe. To engage the mula bandha “anytime.” To trust whatever unfolds with the equanimity of the warrior’s spirit.

I am filled with loving kindness. I am well. I am peaceful and at ease. I am happy and content

 

Strengthening Our Commitment to Mindfulness in the Workplace

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One of the most exciting developments in the business world is the recent focus on the principle of mindfulness in the workplace. Nationally, major developments are taking place at the intersection of technology and health, involving industry giants such as Aetna, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. Remarkable transformations are taking place at both the organizational level for these companies and on the individual level for a growing number of employees. But first, a few things on mindfulness in the workplace…

What is mindfulness and what are the benefits of engaging in mindfulness in the workplace?

As the phenomenon of mindfulness in the workplace sweeps across some of the most forward-thinking companies in the nation, two common questions arise: what is mindfulness, and what are the benefits of mindfulness practices?

As a leading progenitor of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of such books as Mindfulness for Beginners, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” This is a practice, a skill, and an awareness that can be honed to serve us well in our lives and in our workplaces. For example, if one’s mind is wandering during a meeting, we can choose to indulge in those thoughts and miss essential information and participation, or we can practice the discipline of bringing our awareness back to the present moment. Other examples of practical applications of mindfulness in the workplace include:

  • Meditation to reduce stress, improve concentration, and boost the immune system
  • Yoga to promote flexibility, focus, good posture, healthy circulation, and more
  • Breathwork to calm the nervous system, release tension and provide peace of mind

Advanced mindfulness programs such as Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” employee program seek to improve everything from overall wellbeing to focus, creativity, and productivity. Most mindfulness initiatives include practices such as meditation, yoga, breath work, and guided self-inquiry. Although many of these practices have an Eastern, religious origin, their application in the workplace is non-sectarian.

A recent article via Wired.com about the surge of mindfulness in tech attests to the effectiveness of meditation:

“Repeated studies have demonstrated that meditation can rewire how the brain responds to stress. Other research suggests that meditation improves working memory and executive function. And several studies of long-term practitioners show an increased ability to concentrate on fast-changing stimuli. One paper cited by the Google crew even implies that meditators are more resistant to the flu.”

Regular mindfulness practice in the workplace is effectively managing stress, worry, lack of focus, addictions, and more.  Employees at Google, and other companies report that mindfulness in the workplace is benefiting them by increasing their creativity, collaboration, peace of mind, and productivity.

How can businesses integrate mindfulness within the fabric of our culture?

In order to lead the change we want to see in the world, healthcare and technology executives must spark the mindfulness revolution through holistic organizational initiatives—setting the standard for leadership by giving our employees the resources and the education they need to open the doors for mindfulness. Healthcare and technology are already pioneering the integration of mindfulness practices within our corporate culture.

For example, Mark Bertolini, the chief executive officer of the health insurance giant, Aetna, is one of the leaders of the workplace mindfulness revolution. After a near-death experience, Bertolini transformed his personal health and well-being through mindfulness practices, and then he shared those gifts with his company. The New York Times reports that more than 13,000 of his employees have participated in his free yoga and meditation classes, and the employees describe enjoying “a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain. They also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year.”

The results are clear that mindfulness in the workplace has significant benefits for both employees’ well-being and the overall health of the company.

 

Sources

“The Neuroscience of Meditation, and the Virtues of Shutting Up.” Newsweek

“At Aetna, a C.E.O.’s Management by Mantra.” The New York Times

“In Silicon Valley, Meditation Is No Fad. It Could Make Your Career.” Wired

“What is Mindfulness?” Wildmind Buddhist Meditation