Just be present

I did an interview for the German Magazine Design Report with freelance writer May-Britt Frank- Grosse about meditation, why it matters, and how the Meditation Incubator Project came about. The English version is below, and she sent me what it looks like in the magazine, so in case you can read German…. It is fun to see it in print :  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0sAH0ybNsEfYUtZUjdXU2JuWHJVQVBIcFhoUGIwMzNNTmdJ/view?usp=sharing

Here is the transcribed interview:

Interview: Rhonda Schaller, Director of Career and Professional Development, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn Author: May-Britt Frank-Grosse

“My main mission is to teach people just to be present. It is not that who I am and what I do is different. Everything is enlivened with the same value and the same inspired sense of self. ” Rhonda Schaller
Mrs Schaller, what is the Meditation Incubator? Frau Schaller, was ist der Meditation Incubator?
The Meditation Incubator project is a 10 weeks course. It is not for credit and open to faculty, students, alumni, and staff from Pratt Institute. In the course I teach three main things: meditation, visualization, and self-reflection.

Could you explain the curriculum? Wie ist der Ablauf des Workshops? The first couple of classes are on the tools of meditation. We look at the personal myth, we look at archetypes and metaphors in our life and our work. I teach four different types of meditation practices. The Tibetan Healing Meditation, which is the orb of light. The Basic Mindfulness, which is just breath work. Mindfulness Insight Meditation from Burma and Thailand and Mantra, which is sound based meditation and was made popular by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. After three weeks the practitioners pick the one that resonates most strongly and that’s the one they continue with.

So every class we start with a group meditation and we end with a meditation. In between we talk about how to deepen creativity, how to think fluently and flexibly how to create a visualization as a tool through which they slowly built a career plan or a life plan.

In the third session we try to bring everything so far together. We start talking about wholeness, happiness, and how we connect that to career wishes and a sense of presence. Because people tend to segment: I am happy here, I dream of this but then I am anxious and so I am lost.

Another class will look at visioning. What is my vision of myself and my life. You might come up with personal, financial, creative, or business goals. What do those look like. Another class will be on success. How do I define success. What does it look like, what does it smell like, what does it taste like. Who´s definition am I working from – family, culture, school, personal.

That is the authenticity part. It is about finding your authentic voice and defining it.
The next series of classes will be around value. What’s the value of your vision out in the world and the value of your vision to yourself and your personal values. Do they connect or disrupt. Then we will talk about the market, about networking and communication. We meditate on all of these things, we visualize different components and we plot it out.

The last part is always about perseverance. I found my authenticity, I defined my value, I created my market, and now how am I going to sustain momentum and persevere and actually make it happen in the world.

There is homework, assignments and worksheets and there is a lot of mapping. In some of the classes we actually mind map in the class, we lay it out on the table and we talk about it. Other classes you do it at home and upload ideas to our virtual classroom and people would comment on it.

So the 10 weeks curriculum really moves the participant from who am I to how do I get there and why does it matter. At the end through this contemplative practice tools practitioners leave with either a sense of “this is who I am,” “This is where I am going,” “This is how I will get there,” or “This is what I want to create” and “This is what it looks like and then I actually begin to build it”.

Do the participants come with certain questions to the workshop? Kommen die Teilnehmer mit bestimmten Fragen zum Workshop? Each individual has their own series of questions they are looking for answers for. So the tools that we teach are really about: how do we source the answers from within. How do we cultivate wisdom, awareness and reflection as part of a planning process. How do we begin to let answers rise to the surface and then actualize them. People will do it in different ways because they will be fine artists, graphic designers, interior or industrial designers. Everyone does it in their own way. But everyone is looking for meaning and purpose.

I don’t tell them what to do and how to make it real. I just give them the tools so they can implement and make it real. We call this the “professional career tool box” or “your life skills tool box.”.

Could you give and example from one of your participants? Können Sie den Prozess anhand eines Fallbeispiels beschreiben? There was a photographer in my workshop who couldn’t find the right subject. She was making shots, they were good, and she was finding a lot of commercial work, but when she started to use the meditation to give her the imagery she started making this really ethereal type of photograph. And they were so beautiful. She started getting in fine art shows. And she had never seen herself as a fine artist and all of a sudden her arts career began to materialize out of her work. She started to sell her work and people are collecting her. She still does commercial work to earn a living but she has found that fine artist in herself.

Other people have used it simply to deepen their sense of wellness and their sense of purpose and their work has gotten richer and their goals have gotten clearer though it wasn’t brand new goals.

What is the difference to coaching? Wo liegt der Unterschied zum Coaching?This particular class is about life planning and business planning. And so coaching people to find their purpose is inherit in the curriculum. But coaching offers just particular tools to help people make that leap from not knowing to knowing. So I think inherent in the process is probably coaching. Though it is more about how to find out who you are, experience your essences of spiritual creative being and then see yourself in the world being of service, what this journey looks like and how you get there. That is different.

How did you come up with the idea for the workshop? Wie ist die Idee für den Meditation Incubator entstanden? I taught meditation the first time at the School of Visual Arts in New York. It was in the masters of digital photography department. There it wasn’t as career focused in action steps but it was more centered on content and expanding what the work means and what it is saying. It was part of the curriculum and it changed the way the students worked so strongly in the masters of digital photography program that that it got very much recognized.

So when I came here an alumnus came up to me and asked me if I would create something for alumni at Pratt. So I created the meditation incubator. It has been wildly popular. But here at Pratt I teach it from a career professional development standpoint. Depending on the audience, the tools can be used in a variety of settings and a lot of different ways. But what they have in common is a deepening of tranquility. An expansion of calm and sense of self. And then that’s what we imprint and what we build. So you can define what the outcome should be. That’s the core.

Is there a movement to implement meditation at Universities in the US? Gibt es eine Meditations-Bewegung in den amerikanischen Universitäten? I have only been in higher ed for 7 years – I was a working artist for many years. I believe this kind of practices have been gaining popularity since the late 90’s. There is very established universities like Brown or Columbia that have contemplative studies in the curriculum and in teaching and learning centers. But I wouldn’t say it is wide spread. The center for contemplative mind and society – it is a wonderful organization – they sponsor trainings for higher education professionals to create contemplative practices in pedagogy.
And there is a foundation called “tuning the student mind.” They fund initiatives that bring meditation and contemplative practices to colleges and universities. They would like me to create a module that can go to other colleges. Especially in the art and design colleges. Because artists and designers are very open to these practices. Whether scientists and bankers would be I am not sure, maybe the physicists will. (Laughs)

Would it be even more helpful if students did the meditation program in their regular classes? Meinen Sie, es würde helfen, wenn Meditation in die Lehrpläne integriert würde? Just 10 minutes of meditation before class or even in the middle of the class to meditate on the information they just got and then come back to the learning would have great impact. You know this opening deepens the knowledge. I think it would be an amazing tool which I hope to incorporate in business classes that I am going to teach in the spring. I let you know how this goes! (Laughs)

It is an entrepreneur class for artist. One is on strategy. How do I create a vision, create the steps and make it happen. The other one is on communication. How do I articulate what I do, how do I present it. How do I communicate verbally and in writing. And how do I create a strategy.

But the meditation will just be a contemplative practice to introduce and augment the curriculum. So there is different emphasis. It will be the first time to introduce and combine what I did in the workshop and at SVA into an elective class at Pratt. I am looking very forward to it.

 

 

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Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry

Beautiful book by Arthur Zajonc (2009) reminds me of what matters on Labor Day. No emails, no phone calls, just quiet study watching the leaves dance as if on springs in the wind, and how all is connected and projected in the light of my personal hologram. The Book jacket reads ” when we turn to meditation, we turn toward renewal, peace and insight”.  And on a random opening to pg. 63 I find this beautiful Navajo Night Chant:

“With beauty before me, I walk. With beauty behind me, I walk. With beauty above me, I walk. With beauty below me, I walk. With beauty all around me, I walk.”

We are invited to open to the unexpected, in the moment, on the breath and to deeply see.

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Quiet Breath meditation invokes calm

Here is a new breath – mindfulness meditation. Inspired from the beautiful book “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Han – enjoy. It is only 6 minutes long – a great way to start or enhance your practice.

Quiet breath – Image of Pebble : click on the link below

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0sAH0ybNsEfbFNqQVg2a0ZZOWM/view?usp=sharing

All is good. All is right. All is. Right view, right conduct, right livelihood.

 

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Contemplative Practices

So much to report! The new Meditation Incubator class is almost ready to launch – so excited. Putting the finishing touches on the site this month.  It’s 10 weeks with over 33 meditations and visualizations applied to deepening creativity and creating a life/career plan. Here is the course outline:

Course Outline – At a Glance   Meditation Incubator – Creative Mind Business Mind

Over the last year and a half I’ve received a total of 326 applications to participate and accepted 200 into the program I run at Pratt Institute.

Summary of our survey data for participants in the SP14, FA 14, SP15:

On average 91 % of participants continue to meditate and visualize after the class.

As a result of practicing meditation and visualization participants who attended each session and finished the course experienced:

100% feel less stressed

100% greater clarity of mind

100% feel more creative

100 % feel more directed in their career and job search

100% feel more able to set goals and take action steps

100% feel learning to meditate and visualize has been a valuable part of this course

This year I’m offering the online course to the public for the first time – from my living room to wordpress.  I’ve worked on it looking forward to sharing.

And this weekend I head up to Smith College for the Summer Session on Contemplative Pedagogy, August 27, 2015, with over 140 educators sponsored by The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE).

Peace.

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2014 in review

Wanted to share this . Very cool.

Have been so busy with grad school, creating contemplative arts curriculum and launching the Meditation Incubator project.  2015 will see more meditative lens applied to words, ideas, and life. Promise.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 470 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 8 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Is happiness different than success ?

Have stated teaching creative mind business mind as part of the Meditation Incubator project at Pratt Institute. We’ve been talking a lot about success. Success in life, in work, in finding a sense of meaning within. Is happiness connected to success ? Are they the same, different ? Interesting question for so many of us, don’t you think.  Ultimately are they shades of the same color – can we really be a success on our own terms if we are not happy ? Can I be happy and not consider myself successful ? Whose definitions am I using to determine the answers ?

Success is so personal, happiness is so personal. For me it is being calm contented spacious. Successful – staying with what matters for me, purposeful living. Trying to tame the ego and quiet the mind at the same time is  a process that is success making. If that makes sense. I’d like to look at success as a process rather than an product or attainment. verb instead of noun?

And happy – ah…. a state of being. Happy is an aura that surrounds me, success a process within me ? Do I have them backward.. pondering. No clarity – but it doesn’t matter. Love the question, grow from the freedom of not being defined.

 

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Community matters

We can talk all day about the etherial plane and the presence we constellate in breadth. But it is community. It is human. And should not be forgotten.

I love the veils and visualize the mantra as I meditate.

I am not who I think I am.

But…..the big but. I am not Buddah. I have not evolved that far. I am still in the belief that I am a person, though I work on that illusion, I do. I need my community. Sometimes wonder if I even have one, of course doubts and fears seep in because I still identify as human.

As human, I cannot survive without caring. Without giving. Community matters.

Pick yours. give something away. It is good.

Then sit and mediate. Let the light fill the world. Let your light fill your being. It is the same.

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