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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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What Happens When You Pull Back the Curtain on Possibilities?

Having just returned from Wisdom 2.0’s fantastic one and a half day Mindfulness in America summit in New York City, my head is swimming with the depth of conversations, ideas, and emotions that were heard and felt. About 600 people attended from all over the United States and other countries including China, Canada, and Ukraine. The speaker line-up was incredible and included dynamic leaders in the mindfulness movement such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tara Brach, and Soren Gordhamer. A wide range of perspectives on mindfulness was discussed including relevance for the military, healthcare, prison, politics, sports, social justice, communication, and personal growth. The possibilities and ways that mindfulness is percolating in our society are exciting. The sessions were mostly interview-style with some group mindfulness meditations showered throughout. When Karen May, Vice President of People Development at Google, interviewed Chip Conley, hotelier and author, about cultivating and harnessing wisdom, she used the phrase, “pulling back the curtain on what’s possible.” Her idea encapsulated my overarching takeaway. Practicing and integrating mindfulness in our lives, helps us remove personal barriers so that we can be more open, present, and engaged for each moment. We pull back the curtain on our true selves. We become more available and clear for the possibilities that arise.


Here are some of my conference highlights.


Jon Kabat-Zinn

About two years ago, I took an 8-week MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course created by Jon Kabat-Zinn and led by Laurence Magro through the Eileen Fisher Learning Lab. It was life changing. Since then, I’ve integrated into my life a daily mindfulness meditation practice along with living more mindfully. In this time, I’ve read many of Jon’s books and practiced with his meditations. Jon was the opening presenter at the Mindfulness summit and led us in a beautiful group mindfulness meditation. One of my favorite conference experiences was meeting him in person and having a brief conversation. He was gracious, encouraging, and present. 



Soren Gordhamer

Wisdom 2.0 founder and creator of the Mindfulness in America summit, Soren Gordhamer, offered the idea that engaging in mindfulness creates a “field of presence.” This is a gift that we can give to others in all situations as we listen and interact. Soren encouraged us to share our attention with the speakers instead of being distracted by our digital devices. The presenters would sense our focus, which would create a more welcoming environment for them to share their personal stories and ideas.



Chip Conley and Karen May

I loved Karen May’s interview with Chip Conley and their conversation about cultivating and harnessing wisdom. One of Chip’s tools for growing wisdom is to write down weekly what he’s learned. His positive ideas about aging included being able to recognize patterns and listen to your intuition more easily. Chip described that as someone who mentors and consults he often listens with closed eyes to enhance his “full body listening.” He also talked about being a “modern elder,” and is about to launch the Modern Elder Academy, which is devoted to helping people navigate midlife transitions.



Mark Bertolini and Dan Harris

Dan Harris, ABC anchor and 10% Happier author, interviewed Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini. Mark’s severe skiing accident led him to explore alternate methods of recovery when regular medicine didn't work. He used cranial sacral therapy, yoga, and tantric and loving-kindness meditations to heal. After experiencing positive life-altering results, he introduced yoga and mindfulness practices into Aetna’s culture. As a result of the new programs, Aetna’s culture changed. Employees reduced stress 33%, were more productive, decreased health care expenses by $3,000 per year per person, made better decisions, and increased engagement by 1,200%. All of this came about because of Mark’s terrible accident. Dan Harris commented, 

“Horrible moments can create great change.”



Gisele Bündchen and Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper, CNN journalist and author, interviewed the effervescent model and author, Gisele Bündchen, about lessons from creating a meaningful life. One of the things she believes is that everyone has a unique gift. She said, 



“Use your gift in service of others.”



Michael Gervais and Soren Gordhamer

Soren Gordhamer interviewed Michael Gervais, sports psychologist for the Seattle Seahawks. One of the things Michael spoke about was the need for elite athletes to have “mastery of craft” and “mastery of self.”  He integrates mindfulness into the mastery-of-self-plan to help athletes develop awareness, insight, and wisdom.



Tara Brach

Tara Brach, psychologist, author, and meditation teacher, was one of the few presenters that spoke to us directly without being interviewed. She talked about developing compassion for our selves and others. Tara emphasized that self-compassion needs to come first. Without that, we can't fully offer compassion towards others. She shared poignant stories and led us in a profound loving-kindness meditation that had me in tears. A beautiful question she offered to extend to those in pain was,

“Where does it hurt?”



Arianna Huffington and Soren Gordhamer 

For the final session, Soren interviewed author and businesswoman, Arianna Huffington. She talked about her company Thrive Global and their mission “to end the stress and burnout epidemic” by prioritizing our well-being. One of the products they’ve developed is the Thrive app (for Androids only), which helps establish personal technology boundaries by disconnecting with our phones so that we can reconnect with our selves.  Arianna mentioned a phrase that was new to me. I’m familiar with FOMO, fear of missing out, but JOMO, the joy of missing out, was new to me. JOMO encourages us to guiltlessly not engage in everything. Mindfully choose what’s meaningful. Embrace less.


As part of the conference wrap-up, Soren impressed upon us the uncertainty of life. He encouraged us to be purposeful with the time we have remaining. He said you don’t know if you have ten or 10,000 heartbeats left. Make your beats count. He asked,

“How do we want to spend those heartbeats?”


There were many other deep conversations and speakers. I’ve only shared some with you. Each one opened the door for possibilities and change. I left the conference with a sense of hope. Incredible people are working in small and large ways to infuse positive change for individuals, families, teams, groups, corporations, and the world through the path of mindfulness. Have any curtains of possibilities come forward for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come and join the conversation!






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Reader Comments (18)

Wow - that was quite a lineup! Maybe I'll go to the next one, especially if it is once again in NYC. I find I listen better in a group setting when I close my eyes. It helps curbs my attention being drawn away to a distraction. However, in conversation, I find eye contact helps me to stay focused on the other person and what they are saying. Stephen Ministry, a caring ministry for lay people, spends a lot of time teaching us how to listen mindfully. I think that is a wonderful gift we can give the world. I see your attention to being mindful and present in your blog comments, Linda. Your words reflect your true engagement with the post... I always look forward to what you have to say!

October 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- I'm sure you'd love this conference. Over the next few months, there will be other mindfulness conferences in Hawaii and San Francisco. The New York one was most convenient for me, although the other locations sounds incredible too. I close my eyes when I meditate, but like you, if I'm conversing with someone, I like to see their eyes, expressions, and body language. It helps me to better understand what they are saying or not saying. I love that you have a mentor who teaches listening skills. It is a beautiful gift to give. In the conversations that you and I have had, I know that you excel at mindful listening. Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement.

October 24, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Fascinating! I was excited to read about the Thrive app, because I'm an Android user, and so many good apps are for iPhone only.

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Janet- I'm an iPhone user, so I'm not able to test out the Thrive app. Arianna was very excited about it; they've been getting a lot of good feedback. If you happen to try it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

October 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I'll let you know if I do!

October 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

Great, Janet! I'd love to know more when/if you give the Thrive app a try. Thank you.

October 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

This sounds like it was an amazing conference, Linda. I've been interested in mindfulness practices for some time now but I've not explored any options in becoming more involved. You've inspired me to do more reading and research. I know from experience that being present and truly listening can have a powerful impact on your interactions.

October 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Diane- It was incredible. I'm excited for you and your mindfulness journey. At the conference, Soren Gordhamer shared that presence is a gift that we give to others. He said that speakers from other mindfulness conferences he ran always mentions how much they appreciate the engagement and interest from the participants (most of which are mindfulness practitioners.) The meetings with attendees that practice mindfulness listens differently to the presenters. The speakers sense that difference and notice through the audience's focus and attentive body language.

October 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Wow, what a fantastic conference! I never heard of it before. How lovely that you got so much out of it. It seems like it was a meaningful event to attend in this day and age. Thanks for sharing your experience.

October 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Sabrina- It was. The mindfulness conference was a first for me too. One of the magazines that I read, "Mindful" had an ad for the meeting. Since it was in NYC, near me, I decided to go. It didn't disappoint. Wisdom 2.0 has several conferences around the country during the year. If they hold it again next year, I'd love to attend. Continual learning is the best! I came away with so much and was happy to share some of the highlights with all of you.

October 29, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love mindfulness and really need to practice more. Hoping to be able to carve out some time for this. Other than focusing on breathing during the day (in between clients often) the best time for me is during yoga practice. It just helps me to have an awesome day.
I have read books by Jon Kabbat-Zinn and Tara Brach and really enjoy their work. I would thoroughly enjoy this conference. Keep us posted on the next one.

October 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Wow! That's quite a lineup of inspirational speakers! The advice that resonated with me was 'How do you want to spend your heartbeats?' Talk about breaking down a concept into it's smallest parts--you can't break the human body down much further than by heartbeats! I've often heard, 'How do you want to use your life?' or 'How do you want o spend your days?' But, focusing on heartbeats articulates that we should be mindful our lives all of the time--minute by minute. I'm going to remember that question for a long time. :-)

October 29, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Agin Murray

@Kim- It's terrific that you have a yoga practice. It's something I'd like to do more. There is one mindfulness meditation practice I do which incorporates some yoga movements, and I love how the movement and breathing work together. There are two more mindfulness conferences sponsored by Wisdom 2.0 happening soon. One is in San Francisco and the other in Hawaii. Here's a link to the site so you can find out more: Who knows? Maybe we'll get to meet in person at one of these. That would be wonderful!

October 30, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Stacey- They were incredible! Even though a week has passed, I still find myself thinking about the sessions, the speakers, and all of the incredible things that people are doing to make this world a better, kinder place. The "heartbeats" question was inspiring. Do you know that song, "Season of Love" from the musical, Rent? The lyric, which I love so much is, "525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear..." That's the number of minutes we have each year, and the song asks how do we measure a year. It's a similar idea with the heartbeats. Our time is precious. How do we want to spend it?

October 30, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I’ll echo Stacey’s Wow! What an amazing line up of speakers and what an amazing experience for you! JKZ and Dan Harris are on my list of ultimate dinner party guests.. If I ever pull it off I will be sure to invite you! Until then, I will definitely be looking into the offerings from Wisdom 2.0 in 2019.

So excited that you have continued your mindfulness practice. Mine has changed my life and even Mike is considering beginning a practice. Thank you for sharing your experiences and encouraging others. Thank you also for putting one of my favorite songs in my head this evening - 525,600 minutes... Hugs to you!

November 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Sharb

@Andrea- I'm looking forward to your dinner party. Let me know what I can bring! You would have loved this conference. If you go next year, let me know, and we can coordinate. You're welcome to stay with me, and we can go together if you'd like.

I understand what you mean about mindfulness practice and how life-changing it is. I sometimes wonder what took me so long to discover it. How cool that Mike is thinking about starting to meditate too. You're a good influence on him. And glad to help that song play in your head. It's one of my favorites too. Hugs to you, my friend.

November 11, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

This is an impressive line-up of speakers and topics. (And I'm so envious you were in near Anderson Cooper!) Thank you for sharing this detailed (and mindful) recap.

December 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Bestry

@Julie- It was a beautiful day. I'm looking forward to going next year. It was fun being that close to Anderson Cooper, but as I said in the post, for me it was getting to talk with Jon Kabat-Zinn that was the most exciting for me.

December 19, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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