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On the Importance of Vulnerability

Today begins another cycle of Mindfulness for Financial Advisors. As you may know, I have classes with entire teams or firms, as well as regularly offered classes with individuals.

When someone from a firm or team wants to sign up their group, there's a bunch of scheduling discussion and then one question: Is everyone on board with learning mindfulness? I frequently offer complimentary introductory classes, which tend to be helpful for those unsure of what they'd be agreeing to. It's one thing to read my blog or newsletter, and it's another thing to practice and reflect with a group for an hour. After introductory classes, at least half of the people aren't interested in the full course, and some unsubscribe from my list, which is wonderful as I don't want to annoy people with my musings about self-awareness.

Unsubscribing is helpful to everyone, but here's what's not helpful—telling someone they've been signed up for an 8-week mindfulness course when they have no interest in it. What I've learned—the hard way—is that you can't "hope that so-and-so will come around" and become engaged in the practices and the class. They might come around, of course. But here's what happens if they don't, and also before they've started to come around: they aren't vulnerable. They can't be.

Resistance = Closed

When you're closed off to mindfulness, whether it's for religious reasons (the mindfulness I teach is completely secular, by the way), or because I tried that and it didn't work for me or My brain can't do that, or I'm already in therapy and it's the same thing (it's not, although they are complementary), there's nothing for you to learn. Your mind cannot be changed because it isn't open. Closed minds don't make for vulnerable humans, and mindfulness requires vulnerability. If you've made up your mind about mindfulness being not for you, you shouldn't be made to participate by your company. There's nothing for you to discover and it won't just be time wasted—it could be detrimental.

Mindfulness Should Never Be Required

"Making" your staff take an 8-week mindfulness course is actually harmful, for two reasons:

  1. The person who doesn't want to do it has no agency, and no one wants to feel like that. It can even be triggering of past, unresolved trauma.

  2. That person could dig their heels in even more, showing up with an attitude. This affects the integrity of what we call the container—the solidity and cohesiveness of the group. They can make it difficult for the other members to bring their full selves to class and be vulnerable. Everyone's experience is compromised.

Now, some people aren't at all affected by the resistance of one or two people, even when that resistance is palpable, as they're on their own journey and life is full of obstacles. Good for them for that mindset, but not everyone is capable of it all the time.

Meanwhile, Mindfulness is Sometimes Court-Adjudicated

A court can tell someone that they need to take a mindfulness class for their anger, for instance, as part of the conditions of their release or parole. I've had some of those people in my classes and they might be initially resistant, but so far they've come around. And they tend to be some of the most open and curious people in the class.

There are also people who people sign up for mindfulness knowing it's good for them but find the practice so difficult and frustrating that they develop resistance. Here's my suggestion if you're interested in learning mindfulness—be patient with yourself and know that everyone at some point is resistant to practicing. Everyone is closed now and then, usually because something unwanted arises and they don't want to deal with it as it's painful. Part of the learning journey is broadening your capacity to move into the resistance and toward where it shows up in the body. Resistance shows up in all parts of life, and if you're resistant to mindfulness, there's probably a lot more you're resistant to, or there's something big you're resistant to and you're using mindfulness as your proxy. Feeling your resistance and learning how to skillfully meet those moments . . . is mindfulness. We all need to feel safe enough that we can unmask ourselves and do our inner work, but that can be very challenging if it's not on our terms.

May ease find you.



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