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The Mindful Leaders program is a BLI initiative to train students on a unique leadership style that emphasizes mindfulness practices, vulnerability, and sustainability. Our six-person cohort kicked off the six-month program with a weekend in southern Michigan. We come from different majors, different schools across campus, and different backgrounds, but I think it’s safe to say we all love each other. We immediately hit off, and that bond only strengthened over the course of the weekend. We practiced various kinds of meditation and listened to guest speakers talk about their ties to mindfulness and leadership practices. At night, we cooked together in our lake-side house and watched the sun set over the lake.
And I hate to be cliché, but this weekend changed my life.
We were each given a tenant of mindfulness to contemplate over the course of the weekend. Acceptance was my word of the weekend.
I’m not too good at acceptance though. I’m much better at avoidance. Here’s why:
I’m currently applying to PhD programs in psychology, finishing an extensive research project, trying to manage two student organizations, being a resident adviser in South Quad, and being an older sister and daughter. Some days it feels like a lot to manage. And as soon as a bump in the road comes up, I swerve.
It takes me days to work up the courage to open emails with edits or suggestions to project changes. I tend to put off tough conversations—sometimes I avoid them all together. I am incredibly superstitious and afraid of jinxing my accomplishments. I was much more comfortable with “avoidance” than “acceptance.”
As I chewed on “acceptance” during that weekend, the Serenity Prayer came to mind:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This has become my mantra as of late because I think it really captures a lot of the “mindfulness” I’ve been trying to channel. To be truly at peace, while still being present, could be perceived as the goal of mindfulness. In a word—serenity. Reaching that peace requires a lot of things: accepting the past, embracing the present, and knowing the future can wait its turn.
I’ll be the first to tell you that acceptance is far from easy to achieve. For me, it is difficult to accept the mistakes that I have made in the past, be it in my writing or my behaviors. Sometimes, it’s even difficult to accept the good parts of my life.
Have I mastered acceptance? Far from it. But I have improved, through meditation, journaling, and our bi-weekly meetings as a Mindful Leadership cohort. Our kick-off weekend laid down not only the social foundations for our program, but the basic philosophical ideas we would be striving towards. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in bettering themselves or the organizations they are apart of to apply for next year’s cohort.