As the saying goes, if you don’t have twenty minutes to practice meditation, practice for an hour.
Being mindful means that we must feel every emotion we experience in every moment, without disengaging and letting our emotions manage us.
This post highlights a written interview with Keren Tsuk, Ph.D. I sent her a few questions and she’s been kind enough to send me the responses. It’s my honor to bring forth her experiences in this short post. I’ve absolutely loved her answers which feel meditative to me.
Keren Tsuk, Ph.D., is a keynote speaker, consultant, and thought leader in 21st-century leadership sought-after speaker, As the founder and CEO of consulting firm Wisdom To Lead, she specializes in the development of senior management teams and corporate leadership. Tsuk guides companies and senior management teams to reach their full potential using various techniques in the field of mindfulness. She is also the author of Mindfully Wise Leadership: The Secret of Today’s Leaders.
Please enjoy this conversation with Karen!
Nishant: What books—or even movies and documentaries—would you recommend to someone who wants to live a meaningful life? What books have you gifted the most, and why?
Keren: One book that had a deep impact on me was The Alchemist, about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who consults a Gypsy fortune-teller about the meaning of a recurring dream. The fortune-teller interprets the dream as a prophecy, telling the boy that he will discover a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids. After Santiago sets out, he meets various people on his journey. From everyone, he learns something about the world, and, in particular, he learns how to realize his true self from a wise alchemist. As he progresses, his challenges increase. He needs to believe in himself and in the journey. The story demonstrates that to fulfill our calling in the world, we need to search within ourselves, while also being open and curious to the signs outside that help us find our path.
I truly believe that each of us has wisdom, and nobody can know about ourselves more than we each do. This is the reason I called my company Wisdom To Lead: In order to lead, we need to connect to the wisdom within ourselves.
What touched me most from this book is that even on our challenging paths, everyone has a present to bring to the world. This present is our unique quality and calling in the world.
In order to fulfill your calling, you will also need to find your unique path. While you move forward in life, and people around you will show you the way, give you signs, open doors for you, and connect you to the people you need to meet to fulfill yourself. They will teach you what you need to learn along the journey. And as you go in your path, you need to connect deeper to your inner self and overcome fears and distractions. And as we get closer to our treasure and fulfillment, the challenges get bigger and we may have to face our fears. However, this is a sign that we are on the right path. We need to dare to get out of our comfort zones to experience the meaningful lives we wish for ourselves.
Another meaningful book is: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, which teaches us how to handle uncertainty and adversity. When I read the book, it gave me a wider perspective on challenging situations and how to handle them. Each and every one of us goes through tough times especially today under pandemic conditions that are transforming the world. We are experiencing uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity. It looks like the uncertainty is here to stay. This is why being present and being able to navigate in uncertain and challenging times is a crucial skill that we need to embrace and nourish.
At the beginning of her book, Chodron shares a difficult experience she went through when her husband divorced her and her life fell apart. She felt a lot of anger and fear. However, this turning point brought her closer to her mission in life, as she encountered Buddhism and went on a path to become a teacher. In the end, she was thankful for the experience, and that is a major theme of the book—the idea that life is all beginnings and endings. Moreover, she talks about becoming familiar with fear and looking it right in the eye so that we can really come to terms with what we feel that we cannot address. This resonated with me so much; this is what being mindful truly means. Being mindful is to feel our various emotions without disconnecting from them, and choosing freely how to react instead of being managed by our own feelings and emotions. So, if I feel fearful right now, I will accept that — that part of me feels scared right now but I won’t let this fear paralyze me. Acknowledging fear allows us to keep on going toward our goals.
A movie I love is the Pixar film Inside Out, which depicts a small girl managed by five emotions: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy, and Disgust. Joy tries to prevent the little girl from feeling sadness and other emotions. However, the film reveals that we must feel all of the various emotions that exist within us and that we can’t always be happy. The protagonist has to find a way to create space for her various emotions.
Being mindful means that we must feel every emotion we experience in every moment, without disengaging and letting our emotions manage us. Emotions such as sadness, anger, and disgust are just as valuable as being joyful and happy. Life is full of varying emotions and if we want to live fully our lives, we need to learn to live mindfully and be present with whatever arises within us.
Nishant: You have interacted with many successful people over the years – what have you found are the most beneficial exercises that people really feel have changed their lives for the better?
- Dare to get out of your comfort zone. Do something you never did before. When you try on new activities, you create space for new ideas to inform in your life. Creating space for the new to emerge involves meeting new people every now and again. Be open to new encounters and the opportunities that life brings you. Be active and go to places where you will meet new people: conferences, parties, seminars.
- Don’t stop learning and evolving. As human beings, we are continuously changing and life evolves. In order to continue growing and changing — continue to nourish yourself, transform and learn new skills and things. You can attend a transformative seminar, read books or whatever excites you.
- Nourish yourself. The most important essence of life is ourselves. Do things that fulfill you and take care of your body. From jogging, sports, having a regular meditation practice, or something else, do what makes you feel well.
- Learn to let go of things that don’t work for you anymore, and provide space for the new to emerge. This can involve letting go of relationships that don’t fulfill you, including clients and peers. Let go of work that is not fulfilling and meaningful for you anymore.
Nishant: What practices do you have in your life to calm your mind and body during overwhelming moments? Any recommendation to someone who constantly feels stressed out?
Keren: I meditate every day for 30 minutes. It’s part of my routine. My advice is to find a specific time in the day and to practice. It can be even 5 to 10 minutes a day; this will have an impact as long as you are consistent. As the saying goes, if you don’t have twenty minutes to practice meditation, practice for an hour.
Find time in the week for sports. Find whatever works for you: swimming, jogging, walking. And don’t let it go when your schedule gets intense. Read books that can help you broaden your perspective and handle stressful situations, such as the ones I’ve mentioned here. Meeting a good friend for a meaningful conversation or just being together can energize me and calm me.
Nishant: How do you cultivate joy in your life? Whom do you consider the most happy and fulfilled to you personally, and why? Could you share any instance(s) that caused you unhappiness and how you dealt with it?
Keren: I cultivate joy by doing what I love, realizing my calling, and working in a role that is meaningful to me and fulfills me. This brings a lot of joy into my life. If you are reading this, and this idea makes you feel uncomfortable and questions arise within you, reflect upon these uncomfortable feelings. Dare to ask yourself difficult questions and reflect if you are in the right role.
Secondly, I enjoy being with my family and friends. Being with people I love fulfills me. It’s really important to get to know ourselves and to understand what creates meaning and joy for us. A great portion of your week should be spent pursuing meaning. For me, the most fulfilled person is the one who does what they love for a living, playing through life. This is also a person who has good relationships with their friends and family. Research shows that connection is crucial for living longer and for better lives.
At one point in my life, I was unhappy when I pursued a job opportunity, and it was at a time in my life in which I felt unease. I was single, I was unemployed, and I was unsure of my future path. I felt like I was in a vacuum. I was rejected interview after interview. I remember being really frustrated and thinking: Why does this happen to me?
It was at this time that my Dad gave me a book to read called Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation, by Sanaya Roman. I read it and understood that this period in my life arose in order to teach me self-love, gratitude, and appreciation for my life. Although I didn’t have a partner or a job — I had myself, family, and good friends. I learned to love myself unconditionally. I learned that I was worthy of love even without external approval. I learned to be appreciative and grateful and had an epiphany: that love existed everywhere, and not only within the bounds of romantic love. We can connect to this love every moment, and we have the choice to live in love and appreciation.
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