The world is changing rapidly — at warp speed. As we struggle to reconcile and adapt to this “new normal” — habits and routines have been turned inside out and upside down. Major shifts and disruption, on so many levels, have left most of us feeling weary and experiencing rampant fear, worry, dread, and anxiety.
To move forward, we need new coping skills and survival mechanisms to find serenity again. We are in what I recently heard said, in a pregnant pause. During this forced staycation, instead of allowing fear and panic to take over.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susie Levan.
Susie is a renaissance woman, serial entrepreneur, spiritual warrior and the real deal with many passions and talents. From 1972 until 1988, at a time when women were still fighting to have a career, Susie Levan was the EVP and COO at a male-dominated NYSE company. However, in 1988, Levan was shaken to the core after her kidnapping and near-death experience.
Susie is an inspirational, compassionate, and powerful woman who through her near-death experience and many struggles, discovered her divine purpose and has dedicated her life’s work to empowering other women to live their best lives.
In 1999, driven by the desire to support and empower women, she created the 501c3, Work-Life Balance Institute for Women as well as founded and published Balance Magazine. Through her bi-monthly Women’s Wisdom Circle, for over 20 years, she has taught hundreds of professional women meditation and practical tools to live a life of purpose, amplify their greatness and restore their power.
A serial entrepreneur, in 2012, she started buying $1 million+ dollar waterfront homes in Fort Lauderdale to remodel, stage and flip. She has flipped over 10 homes successfully.
On November 19, 2019, she released her book, “Getting to Forgiveness — What a Near-Death Experience Can Teach Us About Loss, Resilience and Love” which was #1 on the near-death experiences category for Amazon when released. With a powerful foreword by multi-Grammy award-winning artist Gloria Estefan, this fast-paced, riveting true story of how Levan emerged a stronger soul after her kidnapping and near-death experience is a must-read for women of any age. Levan blends practical advice and engaging thought-provoking lessons learned — relatable and actionable. Net proceeds of book sales are being donated to non-profit organizations in Broward County.
Susie is not only an author but is a certified non-denominational pastoral counselor, hypnotherapist, teacher of meditation, life coach, and Reiki master/teacher.
Susie channeled two meditation CDs with GRAMMY® nominated new-age musician Steven Halpern. As a transformational leader and change agent, she speaks frequently on metaphysical and spiritual principals to book clubs, business groups and organizations.
Than you for joining us Susie! 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?
What brought me to this career path are the successes, hardships, tragedies and tests that I have personally endured. Just like what we are going through now, we are all currently living in the midst of loss and disruption, in unprecedented ways. We are being asked to navigate our lives in a new way, not be defeated, and find our way forward. Never before, in human history have so many people unified towards beating a single common enemy. We are truly ALL in this together.
My backstory began on December 21,1988 — a date I will never forget! My family and I were part of a kidnapping scheme. Three gunmen came into our home with the intention of robbing a bank. My husband was the CEO of a local bank at that time and we had only been married three months. My daughter and I were taken as ransom and put in the trunk of our four-door sedan for five hours — left to die. I had a Near-Death Experience (NDE) while in the trunk that opened my eyes, literally, to a new mystical and spiritual dimension. After two years of being emotionally overwhelmed, stuck in fear and suffering from PTSD, a therapist ultimately educated and illuminated me to see what had happened to me as a gift from the universe — in other words, a miracle and deep spiritual awakening had occurred. It was through her counseling and hypnosis that I was taught the healing and calming power of meditation, forgiveness and gratitude — a huge game changer.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Though I had been Chief Operating Officer of a NYSE company for 16 years prior to my “backstory”, I felt that I needed new and different credentials to be able to help empower and support women with everything I had done to heal, in what was now my passion and purpose.
My having been kidnapped, being taken for ransom and Near-Death Experience changed my life forever! I was lucky enough to go back to school and become a Pastoral Counselor, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach, teacher of Meditation and Reiki Master.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture
Everyone should be happy, excited and motivated about their job and going to work daily. A fantastic work culture needs to have a manager or boss that creates:
- Happiness equals productivity, lower turnover and job satisfaction.
- Flexibility with work-life balance.
- Encourage teamwork, collaboration and open communication.
- Establish core values that every employee understands and are comfortable with.
- Hire people that are smarter and more talented than you and let them contribute to the success of your company.
- Always find ways to have fun and celebrate individuals and their accomplishments.
- Give honest feedback.
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?
“Many Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankel is one of the great inspirational books of our time. His memoir is brutal and very descriptive about his life as a prisoner in Nazi death camps and its lesson for spiritual survival. As a psychiatrist, Frankl decided that everything about him was being controlled, his food, his shelter, his daily activities — and he could not avoid suffering. But what the Nazi’s were not able to control was how he would cope and his thoughts! He thought about the beauty of the world, the brilliant and warm sun, green grass, birds, his wife and how beautiful she was and when he would reunite with her, and so many other things that kept him wanting to stay alive — he had, unlike so many in the camps that did not survive, a purpose, meaning and never gave up.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
My tool and superpower for handling and coping with life in general, not to mention everything that is going on at this moment — stress, fear anxiety, is meditation. I’ve made it a priority in my life for the last 32 years. Mindfulness and meditation are sometimes used as if they were the same. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but are, in fact, not the same. Mindfulness is the awareness of “something” while meditation is the awareness of “no-thing.” Meditation is a time to zone inward not outward. Meditation delivers a long list of scientifically proven benefits for those who devote time to make meditation a daily practice.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Our response to uncertainty and danger is universal — it activates our fight or flight stress response. Meditation allows you to better steer your uneasy, relentless and persistent negative emotions. As you learn to use breathing techniques to become aware of your inner world, you begin to be able to affect that inner world. There are thousands of different meditation techniques which can affect your inner state online today. Your emotional and physical state are not separate. As you improve your emotional state, it will have a direct impact and effect on both your physical and mental wellbeing. There are thousands of scientific studies on the endless benefits of meditation: mental clarity and focus, reduced stress and anxiety, better sleep, reduction of chronic pain, better mood, peace of mind, decision making and self-compassion…just to name a few.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
The world is changing rapidly — at warped speed. As we struggle to reconcile and adapt to this “new normal” — habits and routines have been turned inside out and upside down. Major shifts and disruption, on so many levels, have left most of us feeling weary and experiencing rampant fear, worry, dread and anxiety.
To move forward, we need new coping skills and survival mechanisms to find serenity again. We are in what I recently heard said, in a pregnant pause. During this forced staycation, instead of allowing fear and panic to take over, I hope users gain peace of mind and a sense of well-being through relaxed and focus from my guided meditations at www.gettingtoforgiveness.com/meditation.
Meditation is training your mind to focus and redirecting your thoughts. Meditation is about going inward. It has been scientifically proven, that with daily use, meditation can alleviate mental, emotional, and physical stress, boosts your immune system, and contribute to healthy sleep patterns. Less stress equals less anxiety, during these extraordinary times. Meditation helps you feel grounded no matter what life throws your way. As we all meet the struggles and challenges of this moment, you will find strength and equanimity with meditation.
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?
More than ever, the awareness that we are all connected is finally sinking in, in one way or another, around the world. So many of us are feeling bored, stuck, and filled with fear like never before. We can’t let fear run rampant in our bodies or our minds. It will destroy the best of us if we allow it.
Instead, to find calm during these troubling and out of our control times, we are being asked to re-evaluate our lives. I recommend you choose kindness for ourselves and for others. Love ourselves, our friends, families and neighbors. This is a time to stop to appreciate and find out what is actually important. Our lives have changed quickly and radically and what was, will never be the same again.
In a world of lockdown and as we re-evaluate our lives, what I know is that we don’t need to be fixed, however, we can’t let fear run rampant in our bodies or our minds. It will destroy the best of us if we allow it. What we really need are tools to help us feel in control and in-charge again. These five steps won’t make all our problems go away and we might still have fear and depression on occasion, but what I know for sure is if followed, you will discover greater happiness, a more energized life, have more peace of mind, and feel more empowered. They will help you manage your life during these turbulent times. Follow them to feel more relaxed and sleep better at night. I recommend you do the following five steps daily or as often as possible:
- Wake up 30 minutes earlier every day. Start a daily meditation routine today (5–10 minute practice of deep breathing). Meditation will offer you freedom, bring you calm and nourish your soul. Let it become your superpower!
- Turn off the news. Disconnect from the noise. Allow yourself one 15-minute block every couple of days, if you need to be in the “know” with what’s happening. Fear fuels fear.
- FaceTime or Zoom family and friends at least 3–4 times per week to keep in touch visually, for your emotional and mental wellbeing.
- Start a Gratitude Journal and write three-things daily that you are thankful and grateful for, with your feelings and emotions, before bedtime.
- Do something for others who need help in your community or your neighborhood, i.e., seniors, non-profits, food banks, hospitals. It will change the lives of others, but mostly yours!
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
We are very lucky that there are now literally thousands of resources available on YouTube or free online meditations or download meditation Apps to help you get started. You can also download my two guided-visualizations at www.gettingtoforgiveness.com/meditation
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
A Life Lesson Quote that is relevant with what we are all dealing with today and I think of it often, is when Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa. I met President Mandela in South Africa in 1994 when F.W. de Klerk was turning the country over to him after his election. It was a very powerful moment in time. His Life Lesson quote, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela
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. 🙂
Many changes are occurring in the lives of all of us. With the likes of email and social media marketing, anyone can start and perpetuate a movement today. My movement would be to encourage and teach everyone a simple and uncomplicated way to meditate by simply using their breath. I would get them to participate via my website, blog and podcast with practical tips, tools, and how-to techniques. Meditation has been the catalyst that changed my life — the greatest acceleration that brought me peace, calm and became my superpower in a time of personal crisis. You can have that superpower too — through meditation!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?