…The best approach to managing uncertainty is to turn my energy towards the things I am certain about by taking responsibility for the things I can control, such as how I perceive or interpret things and how I respond to them. I like to compare feelings such as anxiety, fear, or loneliness to an alarm clock calling my attention to something that must be addressed.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Conway Chisenhall, the Co-Founder of DeRose Meditation.
Chisenhall opened the first certified DeRose Method entity in the United States and is a sought-after leader in the field of meditation and mindfulness. Chisenhall has been teaching the DeRose Method since 2007, initially in Argentina and now New York City.
Thank you for joining us John. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path? Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I had to learn two foreign languages in a foreign country to acquire the information and skills I needed to launch and build my career. After completing an economics bachelor’s degree at Texas, A&M University, I worked on improving manufacturing efficiencies at a midsize company in my hometown San Antonio, Texas. I saved most of my money and decided to travel before I got too settled. I felt the best way to get exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking was not more traditional schooling, so I committed myself to learn to live in a Spanish speaking country and an unfamiliar setting. I studied Spanish in high school and college but could not put a sentence together, so I traveled to Argentina to learn Spanish and then save the world with economics, but thankfully I ended up making a completely unexpected career shift when I discovered DeRose Meditation.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Be kind. Surround yourself with people and ideas you admire. Spend more time building and polishing your process. Be clear and open to yourself about your values and what true success feels like and looks like to you. Spend less time thinking about goals or trying to anticipate the future. Let life surprise you. Spend most of your energy on making the most of the present moment. Sometimes that just means taking a nap, and other times it means doing an all-nighter and forgetting to eat while you build your project or write your novel. No career or job is designed to fulfill you. A job has its purpose, and you have yours. Make sure you can find some common ground between your purpose and the job’s, but they will never be the same. Be willing to negotiate. Take strategic pauses to unwind. When we feel unmotivated or burned out, yes, it’s possible you should change companies or careers, but quite often it’s related to the personal process being out of sync. I always try to take full responsibility for my situation, and from that stance, I’ll reflect on how the direction and best first step forward. Since college, I’ve repeated the self-affirmation, “If any other human has ever done what I am setting out to do, then I have a chance. If not, every day, something new is being achieved for the first time somewhere in the Universe. More often than not, the ones who make it through all the difficult times are not the smartest, or the most gifted and talented; it’s the ones who don’t give up on their mission, their life purpose. Burnout happens when people disconnect their daily activities from their purpose in life.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
It might seem boringly obvious, but for people to be engaged, productive and creative, they need to have a clear vision of how their work with your organization fulfills their deepest calling. Regardless of the tasks, if they get the feeling that their work satisfies their essence, activating their deepest life values, you will see the true power of the human species. Make sure your team is taking care of their physical, emotional, mental well-being, and know enough to recognize when once of these areas is being malnourished. It might seem a bit cliché, but I’ll take someone with a clear sense of mission over technical excellence any day. As General S. Patton Jr. once said: “Give me an Army of West Point graduates, and I’ll win a battle… Give me a handful of Texas Aggies, and I’ll win a war.”
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
So many good books positively altered the course of my life. Still, to name a few, I’d say The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, My Many Lives by DeRose, and a small and unsuspecting historical fiction called I Remember, By DeRose
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each?
In my experience, the best approach to managing uncertainty is to turn my energy towards the things I am certain about by taking responsibility for the things I can control, such as how I perceive or interpret things and how I respond to them. I like to compare feelings such as anxiety, fear, or loneliness to an alarm clock calling my attention to something that must be addressed. When I notice these internal alarm system goes off, I begin to reflect on what it means for me. I focus my energy on deciding the response I consider to be constructive towards a satisfying result. I learned a valuable lesson from my mentor, Professor DeRose, when he told me that I have control of 2/3 of my destiny, using the example of an archer, explaining that, first, I can choose to leave the arrow in the quiver or take it out. Secondly, if I take it out, I can choose the amount of tension on the bow and the direction to point it, and third, once the arrow is shot, I can not take it back. I’d say having two-thirds control over my life is pretty good odds if I use that control responsibly, and the one-third that is out of my control is an excellent learning opportunity.
Managing anxiety, fear, or loneliness is often very personal, but what I have seen work without fail is the strategy of focusing on the things you can control and accepting the things you cannot. This takes practice, and is not perfect, but doesn’t everything work that way to some degree? This doesn’t mean accept the things you don’t like; what it means is focus on changing the things you can control in a way that has meaning for you. The tendency is things get better quickly. If not, the real issue has not yet been identified or addressed. Our perception of good and bad are continuously shifting throughout life. Losing a job today sucks, but it also gives you the freedom to find different work and before you know it, you’ve constructed your dream life scenario. I consider the feelings of anxiety, fear or loneliness as internal alarms that cause discomfort to inspire me to make adjustments and build the life that fulfills me (not my partner, my mother/father, or my son/daughter).
From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Here are some steps that I recommend to support those around us who may be feeling anxious effectively.
- Be a good listener. It’s as simple as that, just lend a friendly ear. More often than not, the answers are already within them, and sharing their concerns with someone like yourself makes it easier for them to process the information and discover a solution themselves. A supportive listener doesn’t need to have all the answers. Don’t minimize their concerns or assume you know what’s best for them. Only offer suggestions once you have 100% confirmed they asked you for one.
- Invite them to participate in meditation, breathing, or exercise session together. We offer diverse classes with and without movement.
- Make a meal, watch a movie and/or read a book together. Whether you are living in the same household or not, we all have to eat and nourish the mind. This can be a fun way to focus the mind on some tasty foods, re-watch that funny movie from childhood.
- Encourage them to use positive affirmations to substitute negative or discouraging feelings. It takes just as much energy to imagine the best-case scenario as it does the worst case. Something good can come for any situation. I often remind myself of a quote from Professor DeRose, “evil is the name given to the seed of good.” Something good eventually comes from what today we might call evil or bad. Find the good, and nourish it with your thought, attention, and maybe even see to its fruition yourself!
- Turn to professional support. If I can recognize I need professional help planning or implementing my company’s advertising campaign, I should have the same attitude towards turning to professional support regarding psychological or emotional well-being.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
- Maintain your pre-quarantine routine, especially the sleep schedule. The routine keeps the body and mind occupied. When we lose our routine, our body’s cycles are disrupted, making it easier to fall into unfavorable states like anxiety and depression.
- Make time at different intervals throughout the day to connect with people, update yourself on family and friends rather than the news cycle. We are all in a similar situation of isolation. Do it all: text, call, video chat. While you are at it, watch a movie together. Organize a group to watch a movie or series together or coordinate a sort of book club and meet a couple of times a week to discuss.
- Nourish yourself well. Feed your physical body with rich and healthy foods. Feeding your emotional body (giving the idea, you can adapt the language) with pleasant emotions, nurturing bonds with loved ones and warding off any negative emotions that they appreciate, since they do not help at all at this time. And feed your mind with positive information. Keep it to a maximum of one hour per day to update yourself on the COVID-19 situation and positively nourish all aspects of yourself the rest of the day.
- Join daily DeRose Mediation practices and workshops. Our sessions include breathing, body movement, lucid relaxation, meditation, and more to get you a well-rounded mind and body self-care routine. Our workshops are not lectures, rather more about self-discovery within a supportive group of people just like yourself. Any takeaways from the workshop are designed to be put into practice immediately until, eventually, you’ve found an incredibly powerful personal map for success and self-fulfillment. Visit www.derosemeditation.com/start to get started now.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Obstacles and difficulties come with life. And life is the art of overcoming them,” Professor DeRose.
This speaks to me because I genuinely believe life is what we make of it. Quite often, it’s in these obstacles and difficulties where we find the opportunity to define ourselves and become something, we perhaps never imagined possible. Our legacy shall not be determined by the specific details of our struggle, rather the way we danced through and around it. Each difficulty is a new opportunity to take a step closer to being who each of us desires to be. Challenges are a great gift. Find the challenges that build the staircase to your podium. I also like this anonymous quote, “F-E-A-R has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a self-knowledge movement that is focused on self-realization and self-sovereignty. I think this is the fastest path to reducing conflicts among people and nations. Conflict occurs when we feel threatened. When we are individually realized, self-secure and self-sovereign, we will have no reason to feel threatened. Serious conflicts will likely be few and far between because they become too costly.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Visit us at www.derosemeditation.com and follow our @derosemeditation social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn.