How Feeling Empty at Work Led Me to Meditation
What began as a yearning for more career satisfaction grew into a new profession for Jung Starrett, a former lawyer turned mindfulness meditation teacher. Peek into her personal meditation journey to learn how she swapped external success for internal fulfillment — and ultimately embodied both.
Q: How did you first discover meditation?
A: In 1997, I was struggling as a corporate transactional attorney. I loved the intellectual challenge and my colleagues, but the work didn’t feel exciting, satisfying, or connected to my heart’s purpose. I had a coach recommend the book "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn, but it wasn’t appealing, so I didn’t read it. Looking back, I wish a teacher had guided me into my breath so I could learn how to connect to my heart.
Fast-forward to 14 years later in my career when I was finding it hard to step away from success. Everyone told me I was really good at my job, but I didn’t feel successful within myself; I felt empty. The catalyst for my meditation practice was when a coach suggested that I needed to connect my mind, body, and heart so I could feel more fulfilled at work.
At first I resisted, but taking intentional breaths in middle-of-the-night moments of desperation started to help. I made a decision to begin to discover who I was, feeling like if I could remember that, my life’s purpose would emerge. I read books, listened to tapes, journaled, and took online courses. My journey began sitting quietly alone and paying attention to my breath.
Q: What’s your personal meditation style and how has your practice helped you discover who you are?A: I give myself permission to feel and welcome my emotions, and I practice total acceptance of who I am in that moment, no matter what’s present. Throughout my meditation journey, I’ve found that the value that’s most important to me is authenticity. Can I be myself and still be OK? Through feeling unsatisfied at work, I learned that I was missing several key ingredients to fully come alive. I was looking for more joy, vitality, a sense of play, and creativity. I also wanted to feel abundant, especially when it came to time. I used to go to sleep feeling like I didn’t get enough done. And finally, I wanted to embody more gratitude.
Q: How did your life change after you began meditating?A: When I started to meditate, my pace slowed. I used to follow the productivity tenets most of us subscribe to: needing to be fast and better at our jobs. Slowing down gave me the space to be, which was a real eye-opener. I was able to sense and feel more of my body — even colors became more vibrant! I realized that I had numbed a lot of things in my life in order to produce at the high level I did. When I gave myself more time and space and tuned into my feelings, I could be more creative at work and decision-making was less burdensome. A new sense of joy arrived.
Q: What does your daily meditation practice look like?A: My day begins after I sit. It didn’t come easy in the beginning. I couldn’t even sit still for one minute because my mind was racing. But over time, I’ve really benefited from having what I call my “time-space.” Just like we need time to digest food, I don’t like to add more to my day without giving myself space to digest my experiences. I used to time myself in the beginning — three, five, or 10 minutes — but I don’t do that anymore. I sit until I feel I am finished. Afterward, I journal. Then, throughout the day, I take an intentional three breaths to synchronize my whole self and check in with how I’m doing.
Q: What tips would you suggest for those new to meditation who might be worried about doing it wrong?A: When it comes to meditation, I believe that there is no right or wrong. I suggest relaxing and letting go of any notion of what meditation is “supposed” to be like and simply feeling into yourself as you are. Be gentle on yourself. Imagine a loving friend, grandmother, or mentor who would accept you unconditionally in all your humanness. Feel that presence and be in that presence as you are.
Use this class, Demystifying Meditation, by meditation teacher Almeiri Santos to kick off a meditation practice & cultivate a more fulfilling workday.
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