Working in a mission-driven field like animal welfare, where we give so much of ourselves to pets and people, makes taking care of ourselves that much more important. The ways we can practice self-care are endless, from exercising, listening to music, being outside, talking with friends, watching a good movie and of course, playing with animals. And, while all these activities are wonderful ways to decompress and de-stress, there’s one tool in particular that can help you more-effectively handle stressful situations as they arise. That tool? Meditation.
Meditation can be practiced anytime, anywhere and in any situation.
Not sure where to start or what it even means to meditate? Dr. Jyothi Robertson is here to help. Simply put, meditation is a tool. “It’s one of the ways we can ground ourselves, to create space in our lives to meet the challenges in our everyday lives and work,” says Dr. Robertson.
If the term “grounding” is unfamiliar, it means to center yourself, or bring your focus to the present, especially during times of stress or overwhelm in attempt to calm down. The techniques Dr. Robertson teaches can be used in any stressful situation – from emergency situations to difficult conversations or any triggering event.
Recognizing the critical need for a tool like mediation in our field, Dr. Robertson will be hosting a free virtual meditation gathering called The Journey You Own on the last Thursday of every month (through December 2022). The event is meant to create a shared, supportive space to explore grounding practices for all levels. Everyone is welcome.
“There’s this view of mediation as being super ‘out there,’ ‘new age’, whatever term you want to use. But it’s such a powerful tool for everyone, no matter what your interest or occupation is.” Dr. Robertson encourages people not to be scared or intimidated by it. “You can come to the event for a little bit and leave. You can join anonymously. Some people joined while driving, just to listen and see what it’s all about so they could go home and do it later.”
Dr. Robertson has been exploring contemplative meditation practices formally the past three years and informally since childhood. As a student of meditation, she is interested in bringing these practices to our community and those working in mission-driven fields. The intention is to create a shared space to practice and provide the opportunity explore various techniques of meditation together monthly; and then ultimately bring that practice into our everyday lives.
Whether you’ve been practicing meditation for years or have never tried it, you’ll gain something. The Zoom event is casual, calming and free. Most importantly, it will provide you with simple ways to center yourself throughout the day.
“In our everyday, if we can take two minutes out of our day to sit, what can that do to create pauses and spaces in between? For example, when we’re having a challenging conversation with an adopter, or maybe our boss or colleagues. What can it look like to create that space? Using these monthly events to practice at home on a cushion is a way to manifest that same emotion and feeling in our everyday lives.”
She continues, “You learn to understand how our thoughts impact our actions, our speech, our listening – our everything. Meditation doesn’t get rid of our thoughts. It shows us our thoughts and allows us to become aware of them. So that as we become more aware of them, we become less reactive to them. I think that’s really powerful.”
Why is meditation so important for those in animal welfare?
“For us to be able to do the work that we do, we need to be able to take care of ourselves. To create space. To create practices that keep us resilient, that keep us strong,” says Dr. Robertson. “It will be very challenging for us to continue in this field of animal welfare if we do not start becoming introspective. Our rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, sadness, fear, anger, rage – all these emotions are high. And they’re not decreasing. So, for us to engage with animals and people in a compassionate way, with communities another humans, it’s integral.”
Our own Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Executive Leadership Team, Maddie’s Fund shares, “I went to the first one and it’s incredible. Jyothi explains what the meditation is about and then we do it and then folks talk about their reactions or provide other resources. It’s an amazing combo of doing and learning – and it’s virtual.” She continued, “I just recently attended a workshop where the message was ‘self care is a revolutionary act’ (quoted from Girl Trek founders Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon). It feels like folks are always on the brink of burnout and maybe this can help. It’s definitely helping me.”
Irene Chansawang, Grants Specialist at Maddie’s Fund, also attended the first session. “Jyothi’s voice is so calm and soothing. From the start, I really enjoyed learning about a different meditation practice than my own and being guided along. It was the perfect way to decompress after a busy day.”
What can you expect from joining the session? Dr. Robertson breaks it down for you
The hour will typically follow this structure:
≈15 minutes – Setting the view and intention
≈15 minutes – Guided meditation highlighting different types of meditation monthly
≈15 minutes – Group sharing of the experience
≈15 minutes – Group sharing of other practices we find helpful in our lives or how our own practice is evolving
“For this past session, just about everyone had their videos off which is totally fine – whatever makes you comfortable. You’ll see that there’s a 15-minute sharing where people could talk if they want to, share what their experience was with sitting with their thoughts, but you don’t have to.” Dr. Robertson shares that there was only five minutes where they sat in silence. Interestingly, people found it to be short. “Normally I get the opposite reaction of it feeling so long.”
The beauty is that every month is the introduction to a new type of practice, so you can see what resonates best with you. “It’s wonderful for people who have never experienced meditation before and are interested in knowing what different techniques are. And that if you come one month and you say wow, that was really challenging – you should try another month, because I’ll be bringing a different technique each time. And some will resonate with some, and others are like no way am I doing that one again.”
This month (June 2022) Dr. Robertson will share the matha practice, which translates into loving kindness. “It’s a generosity, compassion and empathy practice. We’ll go through a series of visualizations to foster that feeling of kindness to others,” she shares. “We’re always giving to the animals and others, but it’s a little harder to internalize that love for ourselves sometimes. This will help.”
Be sure to register even if you can’t make the live event, because you’ll receive a recap email with recordings of the intro and information about the meditation technique for those who are more visual.
Sessions are held on the last Thursday of each month at 8pm EST/5pm PST. Register today, and learn more about the series.