Tag: meditation

12/4/11 “Inner Wisdom”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about inner wisdom. After a week in silence at a meditation retreat, I had an opportunity to get quiet enough to hear my inner wisdom. Frankly, I had forgotten just how quiet you need to get to hear it. It’s not just an opportunity for external sounds to dissipate, but also for the internal voices of the mind, heart and body to begin to quiet down so that you hear that quiet voice within.

This inner wisdom has many labels. Some people call it conscience or intuition or a sense about something. Whatever we call it, we all seem to know what it is — that inner voice that quietly says what we know is true. So, as the mind continues to analyze this solution or that, or strategize about the next best move, that quiet voice simply makes a statement that our inner awareness recognizes.

Here’s a good example. Years ago when I changed careers, I remember distinctly hearing that inner, quiet voice continuing to give me the same message. I had been recruiting for 20 years and I was successful, at least in terms of having plenty of business and making good money. But when I got very quiet and really asked myself what was true, that inner voice told me it was time to move on. In looking at it, I realized that I didn’t find recruiting very satisfying. So I hired a coach to help me determine what might be a better career path for me. My coach was very helpful. She encouraged me to explore lots of different possibilities and to continue to listen to that quiet voice within. But that voice wasn’t telling me what profession was right for me, it was just telling me it was time to move on. Of course, my mind went into overdrive because it desperately wanted an answer right away, but my inner voice told me to be patient, that when the time was right, the opportunity would show itself to me.

As time passed, I found myself resting in the question. Instead of trying to force an answer, I continued to question and inquire. Eventually, it became clear that I wanted to become a coach. As I explored training options and figured out how to become a coach, things just fell into place. Movement from recruiting to coaching took place naturally.

This is one of the characteristics of inner wisdom: It isn’t forced. The Roman lyric poet Horace wrote, “Force without wisdom falls of its own weight.” As the mind and heart struggle to figure something out and we push or pull to make things happen, the entire experience becomes heavier and harder to do, and we often get farther away from what’s actually true for us. Conversely, that quiet voice has the energy of acceptance and spaciousness about it; it’s as light as a feather but as sure as anything can ever be.

Another aspect of inner wisdom is that like an ability or a muscle, hearing your inner wisdom actually strengthens it. I find that when I make the time to be quiet with myself each day, that inner voice is more accessible. It’s not that it’s louder; it’s just easier for me to hear.

This week, spend some quiet time with yourself. Try sitting quietly for 10 minutes doing nothing. Experience sitting still and quieting the mind by not attaching to any thought as it comes up. Thoughts do come and go, but they only stick around when we get stuck to them. Emotions come up and seemingly overtake us, but if we don’t continue to feed them with our thoughts, they also pass away. Sensations come and go as we continue to sit and be quiet. At some point, you may hear that voice within arising from some deep part of you. It often sounds to me like a pebble that’s been dropped into a well. You drop the pebble and wait in quiet stillness until you hear the pebble hit the water deep down at the bottom of the well. You know that eventually the pebble will hit the water, but you don’t know exactly when and you must be very quiet to hear it. When it does, you’re always a little surprised and yet you knew all along what it would sound like.

Be quiet for a time each day and listen. There’s a wealth of truth and understanding that each of us carries within the deepest part of our being. It doesn’t make a lot of noise and it doesn’t demand to be heard or understood — it just is. Try being silent enough to hear it.

Walt Whitman wrote, “Wisdom is not finally tested in the schools, Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it, Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof.”

Have a good week,


© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

3/7/11 “Self-Compassion”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge sprouted from an article I read last week in the New York Times, “Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges,” by Tara Parker-Pope.

She opens the article with the question, “Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?” She goes to say how research shows that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health.

This same idea became apparent to me years ago when I attended a weekend meditation retreat with Sylvia Boorstein, a wonderful meditation teacher who was focusing that day on “metta.”

In Buddhist philosophy, metta is often translated as “compassion” or “loving kindness.” The great meditation teacher Henepola Gunaratana maha tera has called it “loving friendliness.” This attitude focuses on friendliness, compassion and concern for the wellness of others. Metta is not something everyone has automatically. It is an aspect of thought that must be developed through meditation.

Within minutes of sitting with Sylvia, it became apparent that she had a different take on how we could develop metta in regards to others. What she really wanted us to do was first create it for ourselves. I remember her saying, “You can sit on your backside for years trying to cultivate more compassion for others, but if you don’t experience it toward yourself, you will continue to fail.” This idea was surprising to me. I had not thought about the importance of creating loving kindness toward myself. In fact, I often regarded myself as a familiar stranger, and, more often than not, I experienced a lot of judgment and blame toward myself.

During the retreat, we did a number of meditative exercises that created a lovely state of inner love and peace that I had rarely experienced. The more my meditation focused on self-compassion, the more I was able to be compassionate toward others. It was like learning how to exercise a muscle that hadn’t been used before. Once it became stronger, my ability to use it not just for myself but for others was the beginning of feeling a greater state of compassion for all living beings.

However, when I first practiced metta meditation toward myself, it felt a little selfish. It seemed too self-indulgent. It wasn’t until I experienced a major health scare years later that I realized the importance of allowing myself to drop down into that incredible well of love that existed within me. I learned to appreciate how much it could truly heal me from the inside out. By allowing myself to love myself, I was able to experience that state of love and compassion on a daily basis, and in turn, it was much more accessible to me for giving to others.

In her article, Parker-Pope references several research studies on self-compassion with interesting results. Most doctors and self-help books suggest that developing more willpower and self-discipline are the keys to better health. However, new research shows that creating self-discipline as a result of self-criticism only leads people further into a state of anxiety and depression. People who score high on tests related to self-compassion have less depression and anxiety. These people tend to be happier and more optimistic.

However, self-criticism resulting in various disciplines for self-improvement is deeply rooted in American culture, so it can be a challenging habit to break.

In the book “Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind” Dr. Kristin Neff writes, “Self-compassion is really conducive to motivation. The reason you won’t let your children eat five big tubs of ice cream is because you care about them. With self-compassion, you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.”

Jean Fain, a psychotherapist and teaching associate at Harvard Medical School writes, “Self-compassion is the missing ingredient in every diet and weight-loss plan. Most plans revolve around self-discipline, self-deprivation and neglect.”

This quote reminds me of all the times I’ve told myself I couldn’t eat something and within days found myself stuffing my mouth with that very thing. Then the amount of guilt and self-recrimination I experienced afterward took days to recover from and left me with a profound feeling of failure.

This week, try giving yourself a break from all the internal thoughts and feelings of judgment, blame and self-hatred. How about spending some quiet time thinking of all the good things you did this past week for others? How about taking a compassion break just like you would a coffee break? Spend a moment or two saying to yourself, “I’m going to be kind to myself in this moment.”

Try patting yourself on the back for something you’ve done well this week or for having a good conversation with someone. Free your mind from the inner voice that says, “You made of fool of yourself” or “You could have done a much better job” or “That was a stupid thing to say.” Don’t hold onto those thoughts and allow them to rule your state of mind. Instead, tell yourself, “I am not inadequate but actually just as I am: human, loving and kind.”

You might just find that you feel better about yourself as well as others.

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.


Good day, team,

Here’s a challenge I wrote last year that seems appropriate to republish. Since many of the conditions that inspired it are still with us, I thought you’d appreciate seeing it again.

Lately, many of my clients are going through a particularly stressful time so I thought it would be useful to understand more about what’s actually happening to us when we become too stressed.

Here is an excerpt about the chemistry of stress from “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership” by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatizis; it appears in the September 2008 edition of the Harvard Business Review. (The entire article is well worth reading.)

“When people are under stress, surges in stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol strongly affect their reasoning and cognition. At low levels, cortisol facilitates thinking and other mental functions, so well-timed pressure to perform and targeted critiques of subordinates certainly have their place. When a leader’s demands become too great for a subordinate to handle, however, soaring cortisol levels and an added hard kick of adrenaline can paralyze the mind’s critical abilities. Attention fixates on the threat from the boss rather than the work at hand; memory, planning and creativity go out the window. People fall back on old habits, no matter how unsuitable those are for addressing new challenges.

“Poorly delivered criticism and displays of anger by leaders are common triggers of hormonal surges. In fact, when laboratory scientists want to study the highest levels of stress hormones, they simulate a job interview in which an applicant receives intense face-to-face criticism—an analogue of a boss tearing apart a subordinate’s performance.

“Researchers likewise find that when someone who is very important to a person expresses contempt or disgust toward him, his stress circuitry triggers an explosion of stress hormones and a spike in heart rate by 30 to 40 beats person minutes. Then, because of the interpersonal dynamic of mirror neurons and oscillators, the tension spreads to other people. Before you know it, the destructive emotions have infected an entire group and inhibited its performance. Leaders are themselves not immune to the contagion of stress. All the more reason they should take time to understand the biology of emotions.”

Your challenge this week is to check your stress levels and try to regain balance for your heart, mind and body. Perhaps you’ve noticed a tendency to disengage when you’re at work. If that’s the case, try finding one particular thing you really love doing and focus on that for awhile. Passion naturally re-engages us, and lends us a new source of energy. Maybe you find yourself becoming negative toward your co-workers; try getting some exercise at lunchtime to counter those feelings. If you find that your behavior is having a negative impact on others, try asking for help. Talk to someone you trust on the team. Let them know you’re having a hard time and could use help seeing things in a more positive light. Experiment with meditation techniques. Recent studies have proven that daily meditation reduces high blood pressure, high levels of cortisol, migraine headaches, and a number of other high-stress symptoms.

Whatever your experience of stress, remember that it’s not just your brain that does the work: A healthy body and an open heart are necessary to face each day as it comes, with all of its successes and failures. If you’re running at a deficit, figure out what you need to do to turn that loss into a gain. And chill out from time to time throughout the day. It might just help you think more clearly and creatively while it supports your body’s ability to be stress free.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2009 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.