Our deepest held values deserve gentle excavation and understanding. This practice is about gaining access to our values at a very fundamental level.
I’m Rich Fernandez, CEO of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), a non-profit that brings mindfulness and emotional intelligence to communities and organizations around the world. I’m a psychologist by training and was formerly the head of executive education at Google. And I’m really happy to be sharing with you meditations for living with meaning, purpose and resilience. So let’s get started.
I like to call Module 1 “Discovering Meaning,” but in some ways that’s a misnomer. I’d prefer to think of it as uncovering meaning—because from my perspective, what’s meaningful resides in each one of us. The purpose of this session, then, is to invite reflection and offer a few ways to practice uncovering what’s most meaningful and important for you. I like to invite this quality of vividness and clarity to understanding yourself and your values because it’s those values that are most important to each one of us. It’s really that simple. The question then becomes: how do we gain access to our values at a very fundamental level?
So I want to offer you an exercise that will help you access your core values. Some of you may already be familiar with what your values are: for example, family or stability. If you have those in mind, that’s great—stay in touch with those as we move through this exercise. But I want to guide us, in a very particular way, through an exploration of those things that are important to you. This will take the form of a meditation, but it’s also a bit of a thought experiment.
Uncovering Meaning By Gaining Access to Your Values
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Uncovering Meaning with Rich Fernandez
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1. I invite you to close your eyes or simply direct your gaze downward, softening your visual field.
2. Collect your attention and focus on centering and connecting with your body wherever you find yourself—seated or standing. Just notice, taking this moment to arrive with your body and mind and heart. Perhaps take note of your posture and see if you might sit in a way that’s upright but not rigid. This can have a quality of alertness and relaxation at the same time. Notice where your feet, your body, make contact with the floor or chair.
3. Notice the breath, this flow of air. Notice as it moves in and out of your body: just collecting the attention and bringing this quality of a calm and stable mind.
4. Now I invite you to call to mind someone, or some people, whom you admire. This could be somebody who’s very close to you, such as a family member—perhaps a parent or grandparent or an extended family member. It could be a dear friend or a mentor who’s like a family member. Or it could be someone at work or a world leader. It could also be a character, perhaps not a real person, but a meme, like a superhero or a character from mythology. Simply call to mind, with vividness and clarity, someone you admire. Now see how that feels for a moment in your body. What arises as you reflect on this person, or people, whom you admire?
5. Now, try naming what it is you admire about them: their qualities and attributes. It could be kindness, warmth, generosity. Whatever it is, see if you might give a name to it. Really allow your attention to settle on these attributes for a moment. Again, try bringing a quality of vividness and clarity to these attributes you admire in this other person or people.
6. And now, perhaps taking three slightly deeper breaths at your own pace, we can slowly move away from this reflection. And if you have your eyes closed, as you’re ready, reopen your eyes and rejoin. Thank you for taking that thought experiment with me.
I’d like to build on that now and invite you to consider that the attributes and qualities that you admire in others are the same qualities to which you aspire yourself. In some ways, these are also your core values.
When I do that exercise, I think of my grandmother: her warmth and her strength. She was perhaps my greatest teacher. In fact, those are the attributes to which I aspire: to be authentic and vulnerable, yet strong. And I realize those are actually some of my values: warmth—because, for me, that represents connection; and strength—because it means I’m standing in my own kind of superpower.
7. If you have something nearby to write on, take a minute to record these attributes you identified. If you don’t have access to paper or writing tools, just close your eyes and reflect a little bit more deeply on those qualities or attributes. Let’s take 30 seconds to do that together.
Perhaps this exercise has brought some clarity to some of your deeply held values. There can be many, but this is a way for us to reflect on the things we hold near and dear in our lives.
If you recall, this module is what I call “Uncovering Meaning.” This can begin the process of uncovering the attributes that are important and meaningful to us. I invite you to continue to reflect on these things that are really alive for you.
In the next module, I’ll invite you to consider how your personal values may match with your action in the world. We’ll explore a sense of alignment between what you say is important and your behavior. Considering this then helps us to transform what’s meaningful to us into a set of intentions and clear purpose in our lives.
Until next time, I invite you to continue to reflect on these core values and attributes that are meaningful to you. See you soon.