I’m so privileged to have Betsy Parayil-Pezard on this episode to discuss meditation. She was born in the USA to Indian parents and has been living in France for the past eighteen years. She has practiced different forms of mindfulness since 1998 and shares her vision of mindfulness in prisons, homeless shelters, and with CEOs.
You’ve recently written a book on “To meditate is to Rebel.” What inspired you to write this book?
[0:53] Meditation has helped Betsy in so many ways, so that was her first motivation. She wanted to write a book about mindfulness for French people because, having been living in France for so long, she began seeing the obstacles that French people have to mindfulness. Betsy says that the French often describe themselves as very rational, causing them to not be attracted to meditation. Betsy wanted to invite people to explore what meditation is from a rational perspective.
“I believe that there’s this awareness that we develop when we meditate that allows us to see our connection to other people and to the problems in society.”
Mindfulness has led Betsy to observe how we are all connected to each other. It sounds very cliché, but it’s actually very rational when you consider the idea that we are actually interconnected and, in a false way, our society separates us.
How does mindfulness make us more interconnected?
[3:58] Betsy sees that not knowing how other people are experiencing life keeps us from experiencing a part of ourselves. Betsy has brought people who are at the top of companies to a mindful-conscious dialogue with people who are in distress, and a lot of great awareness arises in both parties. In one party, there’s the feeling that “This person, who has everything that I would like to have in life, is not different from me.” On the side of the leader in a privileged situations, the person will often think “What do I need to be doing in my life that will serve other parts of the society?”
Mindfulness has a series of 4 steps:
- Place your attention on your breadth
- You are distracted by something e.g. a though, a feeling or a sound
- You become aware of that distraction
- Place your attention on your breadth
This is just a training or workout that brings a greater knowledge of how your mind works. Its actually a simple process.
What challenges do people face in practicing mindfulness?
[5:47] Some of the most prominent reasons are:
- People often feel that this is not for them because they have a busy mind, they can’t sit still, they have too much stress, etc. That often comes from a misunderstanding of what mindfulness is. You don’t have to be less stressed to meditate.
- The performance culture of leaders makes sitting down difficult. It feels like sitting to meditate is something that takes us outside of our lives or outside our efforts to get results.
Why is mindfulness becoming such a basic leadership skill today?
[12:03] Betsy believes that the world is getting safer in some ways, but that there’s an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. There’s a feeling that there is no meaning. In Betsy’s vision, we will be more attracted to leaders who help us experience something other than fear. Leaders today will need to work on their own fear first.
Mindfulness is a way of confronting difficult emotions. When practicing mindfulness, Betsy learns to see the composition of her mind and then learns to operate from a place of stillness within herself as a leader.
“Mindfulness helps people to connect on a different level, Mindfulness creates meaning that people are looking for, and finally mindfulness creates an experience that people are looking for!”
Mindfulness helps you to listen better to yourself and others. It helps you to connect in a more profound way to yourself and others. This helps you connect with your purpose and give meaning to the mission both for yourself and to those you are leading.
What happens when we act from a place of fear?
[15:50] The other day, Betsy was listening to a discussion with a presidential candidate from one of the last elections. He talked about a moment where he came to a debate, was less prepared than previously, and his popularity started to slide immediately after. Watching his numbers slide was very difficult, and this caused him to operate from a place of fear; he started to panic. He did not use his full capacities to make decisions from that moment on. That’s one example of how fear can get the best of you.
What is important about leading from a place of stillness?
[18:33] Stillness is so uncommon in our society that when you bring stillness to a group, it’s very disruptive. Coming into the room and taking your time influences everyone. It gives them space to access their own resources, and it gets them to bring their best resources to the team. Stillness connects us to our intuition and connects us to indicators that are intangible.
Can you give one TIP that will help people to meditate?
[21:30] Start small. As people are starting off, I would recommend doing two or five minutes. What’s important is to do this regularly; not necessarily for long periods of time. Betsy also encourages using an app called Petit BamBou, and she is even the English voice artist on the app.
“Stillness is a resource, and you always have it with you.”
Her book in French: Méditer c’est se rebeller