If you think this post is only about yoga, you’re wrong. This post is about life, intention, and something we all need some help with from time to time: staying focused.
When I was on the retreat (yes, I’m writing about the retreat again as a point of reference), we “tuned in” with a chant every time we did something new or began the day or the session.
The chant was usually “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” If we’d already done that and took a break from a lesson but came back to the lesson, we’d do another chant, “Ad Guray Nameh” and that would be for the all-important purpose of: focusing, getting us all BACK on the same page, continuing the tone we set previously, and continuing the intention.
For the purposes of the yoga instruction, it’s not unlike the Pledge of Allegiance that is said in schools across the country. It’s not unlike the oath a witness takes with one hand on the Bible when in court. It’s not unlike “Amen” at church. It’s not unlike “to those about to die, we salute you” in the gladiator days. It’s not unlike singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a football, soccer, baseball, hockey game in stadiums and little league fields dotting America. Think: Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech.
Doing all those things Sets The Tone for what we’re all about to do. That’s all it does. It doesn’t change your religion, it doesn’t make a radical shift in your already unique personality, it doesn’t mean you’ve joined a cult. It means you’re simply On Board with what you said you’d be on board with… it’s basically committing: putting your money where your mouth is for the purposes of what you’re about to do. Y’know, “checking your ego at the door.”
So while I was on that retreat, I realized about halfway through it that I hadn’t seen a mission statement for the organization I’d just begun presiding: the high school rowing team’s Board of Directors.
This was a big deal to me because I’m big on communication and intention and orientation: not only knowing what the hell we’re doing, but also WHY we’re doing it, it’s part of my 3 thing (see yesterday’s post).
The lack of the mission statement (to me) highlighted many of the previous Boards’ struggles: dysfunctional behavior, personal agendas, bias, the lack of neutrality, and a host of other really random, toxic and odd behaviors befitting an entire season of “The Office.”
So for the two days I was home between the vegan yoga retreat I’d closed and the bacon beach bacchus I was about to experience, I’d decided to come up with a mission statement. I had based it on the PTA mission statement I used as my e-mail signature and posted on my bulletin board during my tenure.
Having that verbiage kept me impartial, it helped me to remember, at the time, that my clients were people who couldn’t open their own milk in the cafeteria, or who couldn’t yet tie their own shoes, or who needed to ask permission and then get a buddy to go to the bathroom with them. I’d often reminded the past principal of her clients during one of our many heated exchanges and I often got the sense that she didn’t like that reminder.
So for the rowing team, I needed to keep my eye on the prize here as well. Who are my clients as the president of the board of directors that oversees and manages the high school rowing team?
Are my clients the parents? No.
Are my clients the coaches? No.
Are my clients the other officers? No.
My clients are the at-times gangly, pimpled, awkward, loud, self-conscious, diamonds in the rough we call high school students.
So when I’d proposed my mission statement to the other officers on the Board, I began with a simple relative comment, “All of you were informed that I was on a yoga teacher training retreat for basically 20 days, in total. If you’re at all familiar with yoga, you might know that many classes begin with a chant, ‘om’ before the work begins.” I got a couple weird stares, and a couple self-conscious snorts from some of my fellow officers… that was about them, not me, so I ignored them.
I continued, “I’m not here to make you do that. I have no expectations that any meeting ever will begin with ‘om.’ The purpose of saying ‘om’ at the start of a yoga practice, group or solo, is to ‘tune in’ to get everyone / your spirit on the vibrational level of what you’re about to do. I won’t go into the energy and the vibrational effects of chanting because that’s not what this organization is about, but what I am here to do is to create a mission statement to do the very simple-sounding yet difficult act of creating neutrality and inspiring all of us to work in the best interest of the rowers, not our children who happen to be rowers, but all rowers. Capiche?”
The awkward glances and snorts were replaced with seating shifts, focused eyes, throat clearing and “great idea.”
So the mission statement I’d created for the rowing Board is open for discussion, editing, critique, and intention with the other officers. We will vote on it at the next meeting after everyone gets a chance to process it and think of how it might need any changes. I’m pumped. One of my goals all along, in all of my life actually (as it’s becoming stunningly clear to me every day) is to clear the lines of communication; to encourage people to be more aware of the words they say and more importantly, to hear the words other people say.
I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: 95% of all communication is nonverbal. That means eye rolls (contempt), shoulder shrugs (frustration), pursed lips (conflict, fear of speaking), pursed lips with puffed cheeks (‘you’re full of it and here it comes…’) dead stares (anger), fast nods (agreement, but rushing, ‘get on with it’).
I was speaking to my husband about this mission statement stuff this morning and we agreed that we should create mission statements for ourselves, on a personal level, to make sure we are honoring our own personal growth which will naturally affect the growth of the organizations we serve: our children, our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends, people in traffic with us, people in the coffee shop with us, people on retreat with us, our families of origin and … our Selves. Maybe when we get all that done, we can come up with a mission statement for our little team here at the house.
So, do you (at business, at home, on the street, in the car, at the water cooler, on the couch with your kid, in the bed with your lover, in the mirror with yourSelf ) have a mission statement?
What is your mission in life? To be world-class selfish or to be world-class awesome?
Mine is to be world-class awesome. As soon as I finalize it, I’ll share it.
My mission statement would be something like “I’m not here to save the world. I don’t want you to believe anything I say and take it for gospel. If I can contribute to some of you seeing the crazy predicament the whole human race is in, great. If not, you’re on your own. I just want to be a kinder, more patient person and I hope you will see the value in that yourself.”
So good to hear from you!
I wonder what your mission statement would be if you removed the tone of “not” and “don’t” and “if” and “crazy” … i think your final sentence actually sums it up nicely.
Lots of what we did (well, lots of what I do anyway, have been for years) at the retreat is try to focus on the affirmative, the positive, the outcome we want rather than introduce the negative or the negation of what we want. When I say to the boys “sit on the couch” instead of “stop jumping on the couch” it’s clearer and smarter and there’s no wondering if doing somersaults on the couch is permissible. 😉 Saying “i don’t want to have another argument” states a negation, so it’s hard for positive energy to flow and “argument” is another negative. saying “I want peaceful relationships with everyone around me” might be easier on the psyche. that way you’re setting the intention and it’s a smoother manifestation because you’re already in that space.
try thinking from the state of intention rather than negation… see what happens. just a thought.
thanks, as always for commenting!
I love this too, Molly. I am going to try this out tomorrow. Especially with my little monkey jumping on the couch! Plus, what you think or wish for happens pretty often. Make it a positive!
Well, I must confess that I’m not a “positive thinking” type of guy. It seems to me to be an attempt at coercing the Universe into creating stuff that I think will make me happy. I’ve done the Ernest Holmes practices and I’ve found that even when it seems to have worked, it just paves the way for more desires. The Buddha stated desires and aversions are the cause of suffering. In other words (mine) you are stuck in deep dukkha if you cling to how things should be. I have no desire to be a guru and do anything but share my truth.
I’ve thought about having a family mission statement, but not a personal one. Great idea. I’ll be thinking about it for sure.
Also, getting people to actually listen to the words people are saying…I think that would solve so many miscommunications. I was thinking today about how much time I spend repeating myself because people just aren’t listening the first or even second time. It gets exhausting. Sometimes I just stop talking and if they go to the wrong place at the wrong time (or whatever) well, that’s a natural consequence, right?
we did this active listening exercise in the training. for five minutes, one person got to talk about WHATEVER s/he wanted. the other person, the listener, had to sit expressionless the entire time, no nods, no smiles, no winks, no frowns, no nothing for the entire time. ALL FIVE MINUTES. we were encouraged to witness our own inner reactions and responses, but not share them. just eye contact and a soft face. it was amazing. i remembered almost everything my person said, still, to this day almost four weeks later. i can’t say that about half of the things i talked about with Dan this morning. after the five minutes were up, you weren’t required to talk about it, you just bowed to the other person and took a mini break and then switched positions.
i am looking forward to coming up with my mission statement. i’m a little afraid too, but i think it will be great.
I love this, Molly! Thanks for sharing this piece of your experience. I am going to try it out tomorrow. I need to be more present to my family. I want to remember them and what they say.
it’s amazingly effective. there’s a passage in the book i’m reading, “the art of racing in the rain” in which the dog, who wrote the book, writes about how people don’t listen to each other and how when that happens it throws everything off. suddenly a conversation about someone’s day relationally tangentializes into a discussion about someone else’s trip to the shoe store…
I didn’t do the mission statement but I mad a family seal. It’s Politeness is given respect is earned. I like your mission statement I think it’s great to keep people on track.
JASMINE! i like the seal idea! nice! it’s like a credo. good job!
YEAH thanks… I still have to have it registered and not looking like a cartoon! But It’s our motto… we tend to be to OPEN and kind people forget kindness doesn’t mean weakness.