This is something I’ve had to remind myself of lately as I’ve struggled with putting to practice what I’ve been preaching. I have written about the importance of breath and clearing the mind, yet I have had numerous sleepless nights because my mind has taken over. I meditate and take deep breaths, counting my breaths, envisioning blue skies in my mind and the next second my mind goes back to the clutter that kept me awake. It is a reminder how powerful our minds are and the strong mind body connection.
Frustration kicks in when I’m unable to return to a place of observation and that’s when I remind myself – I’m a human being. I cannot judge myself. After all, that is why it’s called a meditation practice. We are constantly practicing, and some days are more difficult than others. But we cannot lose faith in ourselves and we must believe that as long as we are practicing, we are making progress.
I recognize my progress – especially when I observe myself reacting without taking pause. Immediately I question myself how I allowed that to happen. I can’t belabor how I reacted, but my observation is progress.
Sometimes it helps to hold an item to remind you to take pause. I have a stone on my desk that is meant to be a reminder and I often hold onto it to keep my mind centered and calm.
What does this have to do with fundraising?
Fundraising takes patience. It needs to be practiced daily. That doesn’t mean ask for money daily. We must take the time to observe. Look inward. Reflect on the mission and the individuals who benefit from the work that we do. Don’t lose faith. Believe that as long as you are doing the practice, that you are making progress. And if you err along the way, please remember – you are only human.
Being able to have and express different points of view is what makes our country so wonderful. We are given the freedom to create and develop our own thoughts and then, we usually find like-minded people and gravitate towards them. We learn who shares the same views and whether we can have a friendly debate with those who do not. You know the rule – never discuss religion or politics with friends and family if you want to avoid conflict.
What if that individual is a donor?
I recently had an interesting conversation with an Executive Director (ED) that shared how she referenced a bible verse with a donor because she knew that donor greatly valued her faith. Had the ED not known this fact – that could have offended the donor. Instead, the donor found the conversation particularly meaningful and stated she would be increasing her support.
The ED also shared with me that she had recently meditated for the first time in a long time. Could there be a connection?
The only way to have clarity and to hone into the interests of your donors, is to create space in your mind to allow those thoughts to come through. Take a moment before making that donor call to take a few deep breaths. With each breath reflect on what you know about your donor and what is important to them.
Provide the space and you too will have meaningful conversations.
Other than checking in with family members, I totally disconnected last week while on vacation and it was wonderful. I highly recommend it for everyone. I was surprised how easy it was. Of course, it helped that we were in a very secluded area (see picture – beautiful right?) with no television . We did have wifi but I resisted the urge to look at any social media or check emails.
There were many benefits for me from disconnecting but what I noticed the most was having clarity – having a clear mind. This gave me space.
Try this exercise to understand what I experienced:
Visualize your mind as an empty oval. Now fill one-third with all the letters of the alphabet. This represents your emails and other correspondance that you are reading and replying to on a daily basis. Fill another third of the oval with dollar signs $$$$. This represents your income and expenses. The last third of the oval is filled with stick figures. This represents family and friends.
Now take a deep breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
As you breathe out, visualize the letters, the $$$, and the stick figures being blown out with each breath. With each breath out, you can see more space becoming available in your oval. Eventually, it will be an empty space. Do you feel peaceful? Hopefully you do.
If not, try the exercise again and concentrate on the visualization. When you can visualize the space in your mind – that is clarity. When you have clarity, you have the opportunity to dream. This is where questions may be answered, solutions to problems may be provided, and revelations may appear.
Create space in your mind and opportunities will present themselves.
The world has been mesmerized this past week with the rescue of the 12 Thai boys who were trapped in a cave with their soccer coach. Thankfully they all made it out alive and are now being cared for and re-united with their families. They were trapped in the cave for 2 weeks under extreme conditions. It turns out that one method used in their survival was meditation. As Eliza Barclay reports, the soccer coach spent 10 years in a Buddhist monastery and taught the boys, ages 11 to 16, to meditate as a coping mechanism.
Meditation has been proven to relieve stress and anxiety but also provide clarity when making difficult decisions. There are multiple ways to meditate and a Google search will provide 84,500,000 results that will provide you with plenty of information. But you don’t need to spend hours researching different methods or arranging the perfect meditation space – you can start right now.
Take a moment now to sit comfortably. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, gently close your eyes. Now with your eyes closed, inhale deeply and exhale deeply again. Repeat that at least five more times trying to only concentrate on the breath. If your mind wanders, you can count the breaths or repeat a word such as calm – peace – quiet – with each breath. When you are ready, gently open your eyes and take a moment to feel the difference within. You should feel calmer and more relaxed. Now you are in a much better position to tackle whatever challenge lies ahead.
I find it very useful to meditate before an important meeting or solicitation. It provides a clear mind and a calm demeanor. Try practicing the technique every day and increase the number of breaths you take before you open your eyes. Make a sign to post on your cubicle or door with the message, “Please do not disturb – I am meditating”.
Imagine if others follow your lead and take a few minutes in their crazy day to close their eyes and breath deeply. I am willing to bet your office environment will reflect a greater sense of calmness. You may even find your donor meetings have better results. Give it a try! Namaste.
I recently came across an article that describes compassion as a way to open our attention and make it more inclusive, transforming the way we view the world and ourselves. But how do we bring that into our daily lives? I’ve been practicing mindfulness for many years and I emphasize practicing because it is a challenge to bring calmness to the chaos in the mind to feel present. When you experience that feeling of presence, you definitely see the world differently and with compassion. For me, it provides me the insight when I am faced with a challenge particularly when the challenge involves personal relationships. I am able to recognize how we all get caught up very easily in focusing on ourselves and us vs. them. Compassion is understanding that we are all connected and it begins with kindness to ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves so that when we are faced with challenges, we don’t allow the negativity to consume us. Self-care allows transformation in many ways. My self-care regimen includes meditation, journaling, exercise, and a focus on gratitude. Even in the worst of times, there has to be one thing you can be grateful for. It might be a hug from someone you love or a cup of coffee because if you’re like me – you can’t function in the morning until that cup of coffee.
What does this all have to do with fundraising? We cannot fundraise unless we have compassion. Not only for the people we serve but our organization as a whole. Nonprofit work is difficult with lower salaries and long hours but we must be united in our mission and understand every individual plays a role in our success. Compassion starts internally and then will be expressed to our donors, which they see as passion. I have had many donors say how obvious my passion is. That gets them excited and they want to join in because they feel the connection. It’s the connection that you must focus on. It is not me – not you – but us. We are all one. When we treat our donors with compassion, we can transform the world together.