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Leadership & Self Mastery: Body and life changes after attending Strozzi Institute leadership course

Set peace of mind as your highest goal

I wanted to bring you current about how I'm living up to the promises I made to myself after completing the Leadership in Action 1 course at the Strozzi Institute, Center for Leadership and Mastery. If you haven't read about that experience you can here.

A good deal of what I learned is still running its course through me and has informed how I move through the world. I think sometimes when we take seminars or workshops we don't let them live in us and unfurl what has been wound around our lived patterns, unconscious habits, or repetitive thoughts. We just go about our business as usual. Integrating what we've learned isn't an overnight process, it's a daily diligence. I've made it a practice to notice where I dig dark holes for myself and also where I can lift a pattern in the moment -- if only for a moment.

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Update on my progress.

My overall goal is to "Be peace." Everyday I keep in mind the phrase by Brian Tracy "Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your entire life around it." Here is what I'm doing and not doing to move toward this on a daily basis.

1. Letting go of non-essential details that don't move me toward what I want.
I dump catalogs and email en masse, and have given up returning phone calls from people I don't know who don't tell me why they are calling. I don't have my assistant return these calls any more either. That's a big step for me because I want to take care of everyone. But not at the expense of myself. I have hours more time to devote to my friends, my clients, myself. A big psychic and physical space has opened up.

Is social networking inessential?  If so I'm guilty. But, I've done it in a more organized way in that I've done my tweets in advance and only when I feel inspired in the moment to I do a spontaneous tweet or two. I'm also working on being more disciplined in responding to others. But quite frankly I don't really know how. Saying thanks for retweeting something seems superficial and if I don't have something meaningful or connecting to say, why say it? I still feel awkward in this domain. If I'm inspired by someone, I respond.

2. 30 minutes of meditation a day.
Since I've been waking up at around 4:30am every morning I've taken to meditating at that hour and then going back to sleep. I've been fairly consistent at 5 times a week for about an hour. Also, I've incorporated 5 minutes of Kototama, the sacred sounds of Aikido, into my daily practice. It's energizing and feels good. I think it's helping shift things on all levels (see #5 re: my mother). This is fascinating to me. Sometimes working on one thing indirectly effects others. It's not always best to go into something in a straight line. A curve, a squiggle, a circle, a spiral, a dash can all get you to the center.

3. 15 minutes of jo practice.
I don't do jo practice when I go to Aikido class for 1.5 - 2.5 hours. But on the days when I don't go I have been practicing 20 of the 31 jo katas for at least 15 minutes out in the garden. It scares the birds, but they are getting used to it.

4. 30 minutes a week in the garden doing nothing.
I have done this three times. Not a record I'm proud of, but it's something. Then I tweeted about it once. It's pretty hard to do nothing and then do nothing with the nothing. So I'll need to work on not making everything into some sort of productive activity.

Do any of you have advice on this?

I know that Sogyal Rinpoche said that Westerners practice "active laziness". We keep busy, which is a form of avoiding what's important. On the other hand Easterners practice "passive laziness". They loll about and pretend its productive. Obviously we know where I fall on the continuum.

5. Not reacting to my mother 1 out of 20 times.
This is going surprisingly better than I thought. I still have a reaction, but I just breathe, keep my mouth shut so no regrettable words escape, and re-center.

I had a conversation with Sharmila Murthy that gave me a new perspective. Sharmila practices the Huna method of forgiveness every night, cutting the cords with everyone she's close to in order to see them fresh the next day in the present, as new people wiped free of their past.

I've included this as part of my other nightly bed time rituals. Sharmila also recommended just supporting my mom, listening without responding. I went to see the Opera Tosca with my friend Andy, and over dinner he reported that his relationship with his mother and sister had improved tremendously when all he did was listen, nothing more. This is something I think I can do. Listen without judgment and just be there and relax.

6. Hanging out with my friends.
This was not on my original list, but astute course leader Mark Mooney made a comment that stung. He said that perhaps I was so involved with my online community as a way of avoiding intimacy with my actual friends. Ouch. One of my own internal commitments was to deepen my relationships with friends I already have and love. So twice a week I devote to seeing my good friends.

Last week I went to see the Samurai Exhibit at the Asian Art Museum with Diana. I met Zillie for tapas at Whippersnapper. Next week I will meet Brett for Laotian food and my cousin Scottie and his girl in wine country.

After that I'm went to Los Angeles and San Diego to media coach some clients on-camera. In San Diego I stayed with Danny and his family so we could catch up. Then in Los Angeles I dashed about with my best male friend Terry for the weekend. We love to go to thrift stores, walk his dog in the hills, and taste new Thai food.

In August I went to my parents' home to go to garage sales with my mom, and baked my dad chocolate chip cookies for his birthday, which I do every year.

In the big picture I'm keeping in mind Diane Krause Stetson's tag line for her business to keep me on track:

Discover who you are. Decide what's important. Do what matters.(TM) Touching in with this phrase helps me make decisions in the moment as to how I want to think, act, be.

I'm acting on what I say is important to me every day and questioning the activities and thoughts that don't serve what matters most. It's a process of refinement, a deepening of practice, one thought, one breath at a time.

Susan Harrow is the author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul. She runs a Media Consultancy where she helps everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to celebrity chefs, entrepreneurs to authors grow their business through media coaching and the power of PR. For more information please contact Susan.

Susan Harrow is the author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul.

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