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Mindful : April 2014
This beca me incredibly helpful in the rest of my life. I began to see how much unconscious self- criticism was pounding away in my head: needing to get perfect grades, to be thin, to save the world, to “succeed.” Noticing these thought chains was the first step to not allowing them to throw me off track. When I started college, I often thought of Nai- noa’s journey. When he crewed that first voyage under Mau, he didn’t think he could be a lead navi- gator. He had no confidence in himself; he dreaded the doldrums and couldn’t read the subtle ocean currents and swells like Mau. Nainoa only trusted the night sky to be his guide. During the journey, Mau would often leave the navigation to Nainoa. One night there was a storm— dark clouds, rain, winds whipping at 25 knots in constantly shifting directions. Nainoa didn’t know where to direct the sails. Mau went below deck, pulled his raincoat over his head, a nd didn’t offer any suggestions. Nainoa was filled with fear and doubt. The rest of the crew was looking to him for direction, but he couldn’t see anything; it was pitch black. He had no help from the stars or the moon. In desperation, he lea ned back against the rail and surrendered; his body relaxed and a warmth came over him. It was only then that he could sense where the moon was. He directed the crew to steer the canoe with confidence. After a time, the clouds par ted and the moon revealed itself, just where he thought it was. Four years later, at 27, Nainoa took his first solo voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti. In preparation, Mau advised him to keep in mind an image of the island that was his destination. “Don’t ever lose that image or you’ll be lost,” said Mau. “Envision Tahiti and pull it out of the sea.” The island destination that formed in my mind during that first teen retreat was a peaceful mind, a kind heart, a nd a different way of relating to people. Those early retreats helped shape the guiding vision of my life: that we are all capable of transformation, we ca n read and respond to whatever conditions arise, and we can treat each other and the planet with more kindness. A few yea rs ago, I found myself in a kind of dol- drums. I’d achieved everything I thought I wa nted— a well-paid job at a clean-energy nonprofit with a big office that overlooked the White House, traveling the world to international conferences, helping solve big problems. But when I honestly assessed the impact of my work, I wondered who was reading the reports I spent late nights writing. The only days I wasn’t wondering about how I was spending my time wa s when I wa s teaching at teen retreats. But when the newly formed teen mind- fulness organization, Inwa rd Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), needed a n executive director, I declined—I had worked too ha rd to build my ca reer. I continued to agonize about my direction. Maybe I should look for a new clean-energy job; maybe I should shift to sustainable ag riculture; maybe I should get an MBA and go into private clea n-energy finance. But then iBme hit a crisis: our new director fell ill with a life-threatening virus. This time, I was asked if I would take over. I had to feel my way through self-doubt a nd intense fea r of fina ncial insecurity. But I also reflected on how deeply satisfying it is to witness teenagers learning to navigate their inner worlds. I surrendered. I gave notice at my job. As soon as I committed to the decision, I felt clarity. How could I have more impact in the world than to introduce teens to the beauty of a moment and the safety they ca n cultivate in their own minds, to introduce them to what had made the most difference in my life? A wayfinder, I’ve made it to a midway island and I’m flashing a light back at the teens. When they come to a retreat they know, at the very least, that there is an island of peaceful mind and kind heart— and there’s a way to get there. And I know that if they can keep that vision in their minds, they can pull it out of the sea. ● Jessica Morey is the executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme), which offers retreats for teens, parents, and professionals. April 2014 mindful 63