Our Chaotic Lives

I recently went on vacation to Puerto Vallarta with a group of friends. One night, feeling emboldened by tequila, we decided to hire a funny little man to act as our captain and take us on a fishing adventure in his boat. Naturally, our list of requests was lengthy—not only did we want to fish, kind sir, but we also wanted to see a waterfall, do some snorkeling, visit remote and beautiful beaches, dance with unicorns, and also, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, actually catch some fish…oh, and if you could find a restaurant to prepare said fish for us for dinner tomorrow night, that would be delightful too. Our sassy little captain said he was up for the task so long as we brought the beer. Perfecto!

So off we went on a fishing extravaganza and yes, it was everything he promised it would be. We snorkeled and caught fish and enjoyed fresh seafood on a beautiful and remote beach. Now, as I sit here in my office, waiting for the snow to signal the beginning of winter, I keep thinking about one particular moment.

At one point, our captain took us to another remote beach to do some “seashell hunting”. We threw down our anchor and swam to a distant beach. When I finally got close to shore, thankful to be alive, I found myself pummeled right into the ground by enormous waves. Apparently, it was a bit rougher than usual according to our captain, but we carried on. Just below the surface, our captain promised that we would find the most unbelievable seashells; however, given the waves, this required us to completely submerge ourselves in the hammering surf to escape certain death.

After getting tossed about the sharp rocks and shells on my way to shore, I was scratched and bruised and wasn’t really all that interested in floating about beneath the cruel waves but I decided to be a good sport. Once I dropped below the surface and swam to the ocean floor, I was encapsulated by the silence and peace below. I was completely removed from the danger of the crashing waves and relished a wonderland of beauty. Naturally, as this was not Waterworld, I had to return to the surface to get battered around in the waves once again. Despite this pummeling I was eager to swim back out and dive below to that peaceful scene.

The contrast of this experience reminded me of my first encounters with meditation. I started pursuing meditation as a means to find more peace in my work and home life. As any overachiever personality would do, I downloaded three meditation timers and ordered 10 meditation books and manuals. I wasn’t just going to meditate; I was going to be the BEST meditator. (Move over, Siddhartha.)

If you are reading this, you know that I did not, in fact, become the next Buddha; however, what I was able to find was that place of peace and silence below the crashing waves.

At that time in my life, I was working in a particularly unhealthy practice group where my days were spotted by partners bickering and politicking and at least one attorney crying in her office. Gradually, I started taking a few minutes each morning to meditate. The more I started to meditate, the more I was able to carry that space with me throughout the day. I started to realize that “this job is not my life” “I am not this job; I am not this place”.

My meditation practice helped me to find space and quiet beneath the chaos of my professional life. It also taught me how to be more mindful of my thoughts.

When things got harried, I was better able to focus and be present rather than allowing my thoughts to run mad, creating unproductive anxiety.

Whether meditation is something in your repertoire or not, mindfulness is a skill we all need. How many times have you been in a meeting with a partner or a client and realized you were off thinking about that brief that’s due or the memo you need to finish?

Being present is not only a gift to yourself but it is a gift to others.

Honoring those who are choosing to be with you in that moment not only demonstrates respect and builds relationships, it clearly shows that you are able to weather the storm without crashing on the shore. You can be present and focus even when there are so many “fires” waiting to be put out.

As part of my coaching practice, I work with my clients to become more aware of their thought patterns and how those patterns impact their actions and results. Coach with me and learn how to find space within the chaos that so often contaminates our practice.

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