Category Archives: gifts & talents

Missives from the Mat 7 — Mission Statements, Tuning In, #Intention, #Neutrality, #Business, #Management


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.

Thank you.

You Have to Have Something for YourSelf


I had been in a state of ennui lately. Unhappy and feeling unfulfilled with myself.

There are some amongst us who love to be homemakers, and bake and sweep like Giselle in “Enchanted” or the eponymous Snow White.

I am not that person.

Phyllis Diller has a great quote: “Why bother cleaning the floor? You’re just gonna have to do it six months later anyway.” And that describes my interest (although not my involvement, I do do housework) in … well, the domestic arts. I write checks when other people paint their own walls. I garden, but that’s outside…

I do love to cook, this is true and I’m pretty good at it; it’s creative and I think that’s why I do it. But I hate planning the menus. So I set up my calendar on my computer with a menu that rotates every 29 days, yes, like a menstrual cycle (I’m coming out of my shell here, due to the post I wrote last week, and I’m not gonna talk like a sailor, but c’mon… loosen up). To counter the efficiency and forward thinking of that menu planner, I completely ignore it.

We have a vacuum somewhere. We have other things: chip clips, ziploc bags, a dustbuster somewhere. I have cleaning ladies every two weeks come to my home because I hate to clean the microwave and I hate to clean the bathrooms. (Click on that link if you want to laugh a lot.)

So it has been 13 years since I worked in an office. For a while after I left the office to stay home with Thing 1, I owned my own consulting business and wrote corporate and employee and strategic communications for several large, well-known multinational firms. Then I had another kid. Then another. That is awesome. I love my boys more than I ever dreamed I could possibly love anything. Their father is an amazing individual: patient, grounded, innovative, steady, calm and normal. In other words, he’s everything I’m not.  Well, I’m innovative too.

The thing is, I’ve been feeling lost. Purposeless and down about my situation of lacking a situation. I’ve thought openly and out loud: “This can’t be all there is… I’ve got a college degree, a proven career in communications but I have nothing but my yoga pants and some running gear and a bundt pan, no make that two bundt pans and that special brownie pan where all the brownies are corners or edges, to show for myself now.”

I’ve thought this so many times, it’s embarrassing. And I’ve overlooked the most important thing I have ever chosen to do with my life: be a mother. I didn’t place much value on my motherhood and mothering because I was so wrapped up in it for so long (I changed diapers every day for eight years) until I watched my 3-y.o. niece and her 9-month-old baby brother along with Things 1 and 3 for probably five hours last weekend. The loaners, they are the same age difference as my own first two kids and whooo-buuuoy, I totally appreciate now what I did then. I haven’t done any of those baby type things in six-and-half years. I caught myself chopping a cheese stick into pea-sized bites and making the same faces that the baby would to eat the yogurt and strained prunes I was feeding him. I cleaned his little chin with the spoon edge. I wiped him and his sister off with a warm paper towel — I haven’t had to do that in three days.

But the fact is that even with the sincerely awesome reminder of how valued we are to our children, the reality for me is that it’s damned hard,  unglamorous work. And now that my own children are in school seven hours a day and they don’t need me as much anymore, I have become, slowly without paying much attention to it, or maybe noticing but denying it (yeah, that’s more like it) a purposeless-feeling (not being, because I know I’m not purposeless) and sorta aimless woman.

Until last week. Until something cracked, like a beak pecking at a shell, I’ve come out and have discovered myself and in that discovery, I am allowing myself to Have Something For Myself: which is to really write; like tear-the-lid-off write, and to express and to be through that writing or probably more accurately: to allow that writing to BE through ME (yeah, that’s right). I’m just telling it like it is. It’s MY Something. I can volunteer for all the PTAs and bake sales and neighborhood activism I want. I can do that until I pass out, and these are important things to do, but they don’t light MY fire. And it doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but what I’m doing appeals to me. On top of this realization is the most wonderful challenge my brain has faced in a long time: Camp NaNoWriMo which stands for “National Novel Writing Month.” The June session is underway as I type and they have another one in August. Camp NaNoWriMo makes me work my right side of my brain; the side that has been atrophying and gasping for life.

And it’s not lightly that I use that word, “woman.” I have seldom considered myself a “woman.” I considered myself a female person, I feel young and act young and do things that young people do, so when I hear sometimes in the news or read in an article that a “44-year-old Virginia woman recently . . . .” I absorb all the words, but I don’t consider myself within that reference. I usually think, “Forty-four, my God that’s OLD.”  Until recently, again.

Just a smidge of my bulletin board. I realize now that it says so much more about me than I realize. What does your bulletin board say about you? Is it a bulletin board about what you want to do or about what you need to do?

When I look back on that deep and heavy post, “real,” I wrote last week, I feel it’s appropriate to consider it as the shedding of my cocoon. I am starting to flap my wings. And it doesn’t bother me, that I’m not 26 anymore. Because I feel I have a purpose that does something other than giving to others; I have a purpose that gives to ME*. I have a purpose that feeds my soul, my intellect, my Self. I don’t care, really I don’t if the book I’m writing flops like a giant blueberry pancake. I am enjoying the process; and the process is part of the journey. And the journey is what matters.

It’s because of this purpose, this deadline at the end of the month, that I feel a part of something that is truly and uniquely and completely MINE. No one can write the words I do in the way I’m choosing to write them.

So I propose to you, my cherished reader (and I don’t do this a lot, probably because it was a symptom of my self-preservation and lack of pride that anyone would actually read what I write): if you have Something that you want to do, do it. Have Something For YourSelf. Tempus fugit. Go and Do It.

Oh, and if you’re doing it already: LUCKY YOU. Don’t stop. *Because when you give something to yourSelf, you automatically want to give to others. It’s just the way the universe works. We aren’t meant to be unhappy givers; we are meant to be happy givers who also feel free to be happy “have-rs.” When you have happily, you give happily.

Thank you.