Susan O’Connell, President – San Francisco Zen Center

Show Notes:

Susan O’Connell

Mindfulness Practice

  • A repetitive effort to be aware of being present moment by moment.
  • Susan uses intention as a powerful tool for bringing mindfulness into her daily life. She does this through making a public vow (with people present) where she says, writes and then acts in accordance with the person she wants to be. She vows to “wake up” and not waste this life and to wake up for the benefit of everything.  That vow underlies the returning to the commitment to be awake and aware for Susan.
  • The unpleasantness (difficulty with being present) comes with the fact that we are not in control of the change happening in our lives.
  • The body (posture) and the breath are our best friends for awareness. They are grounding things to be aware of to be where you are.
  • “Dislike” is just an idea.  It is an association with an idea and that can be changed. You are not your thoughts so learn to let them go.
  • Meditation is not about having no thoughts. Instead, turn towards the discomfort. It goes away more quickly that way. Life is not always about comfort it is about learning to be OK with everything that arises, the “good” and “bad”.

Habits of Entrepreneurship

  • Susan has a daily meditation practice.  Being a part of a community really helps to strengthen the practice of meditation but if you do not have a community, Susan suggests an app like Insight Timer that shows you all of the people around you doing meditation.  This bring community.
  • Susan uses the habit of confessing to a couple of people when she is stressed. It is very important to pick the right people when in a position of authority but it is absolutely normal to feel all of our feelings (anger, sadness, anxiety, etc.) and being able to confide in people you trust is a wonderfully important habit. This allows you to get these feelings off of your chest without acting out negative feelings in your environment.
  • When noticing she is trying to control things, Susan laughs at herself. She simply laughs are herself if she finds she is trying to move someone in a certain way and she just lets herself be happy and let that show.
  • Susan uses the thinking habit when she “fails” to remember that one little failure isn’t necessarily going to make or break you.
  • Susan uses the habit of speaking less and perhaps last during a meeting. She watched her habit of speaking first at meetings and asked for feedback after or in the meeting and she learned to let go of that survival habit of speaking first. She finds herself more speaking in the middle of a meeting to offer direction.  The habit is to notice when you speak (during meetings, etc.) and to know where you are in that continuum of why you are speaking first and to see if you have a balance within yourself and within the group. Are you speaking skillfully or out of anxiety?
  • The habit of accountability is something Susan uses. She wears mala beads to remind herself that she has made a vow to act in a certain way.
  • The habit of using discomfort of hunger as a friend and a teacher. If we see this urge we can become more skillful about how we respond to it.
  • The practice or habit is about moving towards the discomfort and learning that life is not always pleasant. To be OK with everything that arises, moment to moment without judgement (something or someone or a situation should be that way or this way) is what life is all about.