Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
From Burnout to Compassion at Work (and Beyond)
Category:
Mind

Compassion might not be the first quality you think of when considering what it takes to succeed at work. Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it — not exactly the stuff of water cooler conversation. But for researcher, consultant and author Leah Weiss, who teaches leadership in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, compassion is one of the keys to a fulfilling professional life.

“By definition, work is about relationship,” Leah says. “We contribute something that is valuable to another person and we are paid for this contribution. But relationships at work can be so much more than utilitarian. When we focus on compassion, our teams are more effective and we benefit from increased productivity and mental and physical health.”

This spring, Leah will teach two workshops that present the ancient principles, scientific research and practical tools that support compassion, mindfulness and a clear sense of purpose in the workplace — and in life in general. Benefits of incorporating these “soft skills” into personal leadership include increased focus, reduced stress levels and new habits that create a more sustainable and fulfilling career.

“Engagement is at a low,” Leah explains. “People are not as invested in their work, and you see it in all kinds of different expressions including absenteeism and even ‘presenteeism,’ when you’re there physically but you’re not there mentally, you’re not engaged. We also see it in the rise of everything from micro-aggressions to bullying to outright workplace violence. It takes superhuman effort to succeed in that context.”

To address these challenges, Leah brings a diverse background and range of expertise. Throughout her twenties, Leah lived in India and Nepal, working with Tibetan refugees and also spending up to 100 days a year in meditation retreat. When she returned to the U.S. to pursue a degree in social work, emerging research on compassion fatigue catalyzed a new direction for her.

“We know through the use of fMRI studies that mindfulness meditation increases gray matter density in the regions of the brain linked with learning, emotion regulation and empathy,” Leah explains. “Other capacities improved with mindfulness include response to chronic stress, focus and productivity. I was trying to formulate ways to teach the essence of what I was learning through Buddhist meditation, but most people aren’t going to go on a hundred-day retreat.”

Recent research helps connect mindfulness and compassion as interlocking qualities that can increase resilience and improve overall well-being at work and beyond. “According to recent studies, managers and executives at Fortune 1000 firms spend 13 percent of their work time mending employee relationships and dealing with the aftermath of incivility,” Leah shares.

When people are in an uncivil work environment, they work less efficiently, take more sick days and experience more anxiety. There is mounting evidence that practicing compassion in the workplace offers real results. When we cultivate connections with our colleagues, we meet deadlines more easily and our strategic collaborations are more effective. “Strong social connections also strengthen our immune system, decrease inflammation at the cellular level, and help us recover from disease faster,” Leah shares. “Healthy social connections have even been linked to a 50% increase in longevity.”

Through her own work, and as a founding faculty member of Stanford's Compassion Institute, conceived by the Dalai Lama, Leah shares tools that help people increase present-moment awareness and cultivate compassion for self and others — all as part of their everyday routines. Her book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind, has reached thousands of individuals and organizations.

Leah recommends intentionally practicing compassion toward someone you find challenging at work. Here’s how to do it:

  • Bring the difficult person to mind, and imagine her outside of work — perhaps interacting with children or taking a walk in nature.
  • Imagine possible insecurities or life disappointments that led to the behaviors you find bothersome.
  • Imagine separating the person from those things that cause the undesirable behavior.
  • What behaviors does she display that you can appreciate: humor, the ability to get things done?
  • Think of crossing paths with this person outside your normal environment — can you imagine meeting her for the first time and enjoying her company?
  • Notice how this exercise allows you more understanding or generosity in your next encounter

Find more practical tips and information about Leah's work here.

Learn more about Leah’s two Esalen workshops, Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion and Compassion Cultivation.

Photo: top, courtesy of Leah Weiss; below by Melina Meza.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Mind

Compassion might not be the first quality you think of when considering what it takes to succeed at work. Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it — not exactly the stuff of water cooler conversation. But for researcher, consultant and author Leah Weiss, who teaches leadership in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, compassion is one of the keys to a fulfilling professional life.

“By definition, work is about relationship,” Leah says. “We contribute something that is valuable to another person and we are paid for this contribution. But relationships at work can be so much more than utilitarian. When we focus on compassion, our teams are more effective and we benefit from increased productivity and mental and physical health.”

This spring, Leah will teach two workshops that present the ancient principles, scientific research and practical tools that support compassion, mindfulness and a clear sense of purpose in the workplace — and in life in general. Benefits of incorporating these “soft skills” into personal leadership include increased focus, reduced stress levels and new habits that create a more sustainable and fulfilling career.

“Engagement is at a low,” Leah explains. “People are not as invested in their work, and you see it in all kinds of different expressions including absenteeism and even ‘presenteeism,’ when you’re there physically but you’re not there mentally, you’re not engaged. We also see it in the rise of everything from micro-aggressions to bullying to outright workplace violence. It takes superhuman effort to succeed in that context.”

To address these challenges, Leah brings a diverse background and range of expertise. Throughout her twenties, Leah lived in India and Nepal, working with Tibetan refugees and also spending up to 100 days a year in meditation retreat. When she returned to the U.S. to pursue a degree in social work, emerging research on compassion fatigue catalyzed a new direction for her.

“We know through the use of fMRI studies that mindfulness meditation increases gray matter density in the regions of the brain linked with learning, emotion regulation and empathy,” Leah explains. “Other capacities improved with mindfulness include response to chronic stress, focus and productivity. I was trying to formulate ways to teach the essence of what I was learning through Buddhist meditation, but most people aren’t going to go on a hundred-day retreat.”

Recent research helps connect mindfulness and compassion as interlocking qualities that can increase resilience and improve overall well-being at work and beyond. “According to recent studies, managers and executives at Fortune 1000 firms spend 13 percent of their work time mending employee relationships and dealing with the aftermath of incivility,” Leah shares.

When people are in an uncivil work environment, they work less efficiently, take more sick days and experience more anxiety. There is mounting evidence that practicing compassion in the workplace offers real results. When we cultivate connections with our colleagues, we meet deadlines more easily and our strategic collaborations are more effective. “Strong social connections also strengthen our immune system, decrease inflammation at the cellular level, and help us recover from disease faster,” Leah shares. “Healthy social connections have even been linked to a 50% increase in longevity.”

Through her own work, and as a founding faculty member of Stanford's Compassion Institute, conceived by the Dalai Lama, Leah shares tools that help people increase present-moment awareness and cultivate compassion for self and others — all as part of their everyday routines. Her book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind, has reached thousands of individuals and organizations.

Leah recommends intentionally practicing compassion toward someone you find challenging at work. Here’s how to do it:

  • Bring the difficult person to mind, and imagine her outside of work — perhaps interacting with children or taking a walk in nature.
  • Imagine possible insecurities or life disappointments that led to the behaviors you find bothersome.
  • Imagine separating the person from those things that cause the undesirable behavior.
  • What behaviors does she display that you can appreciate: humor, the ability to get things done?
  • Think of crossing paths with this person outside your normal environment — can you imagine meeting her for the first time and enjoying her company?
  • Notice how this exercise allows you more understanding or generosity in your next encounter

Find more practical tips and information about Leah's work here.

Learn more about Leah’s two Esalen workshops, Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion and Compassion Cultivation.

Photo: top, courtesy of Leah Weiss; below by Melina Meza.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

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