Meet Paul Baranowski. He’s the guy who is leading their practice.
In October we launched a partnership with InterAxon, a brain-sensing technology leader based out of Toronto that has invented a headband named Muse to measure the brain’s signals and encourage a daily meditation practice. It’s pretty radical stuff and a great tool for our culture of digital distractions. This G&M article announcing Ashton Kutcher loves this Toronto startup sums up nicely why we are excited to partner with this remarkable Canadian company.
After choosing REALthings cushions for its in-house meditation space (Muse staff meet twice a week to meditate), InteraXon began selling branded REALthings cushions online as accessories to support its headband.
Julie sat down with Paul Baranowski, the director of engineering and meditation ambassador at InteraXon. Paul has been meditating for 11 years—from the Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, to studying and practicing with Ken McLeod, to in depth training of Ngakpa Chogyam teachings. He is also a founder and senior teacher at Luminous Ground, a public meditation group that meets weekly. We asked Paul about his practice, and about the benefits he’s seeing from his team meditating at work. Here’s some of what he had to share:
Maybe happiness is possible
“My life before discovering meditation was pretty terrible. I felt very disconnected from people, and a lot of rumination was happening in my mind that was based on fear. It just didn’t stop. There were a couple of people in my life that seemed genuinely happy, so I thought maybe it is possible. If it is possible, I’m going to find out how.”
Sitting still without moving can be difficult
“I remember one of the first times when I was sitting by myself, and I was rocking back and forth. And then sometimes just lying down and then getting back on the cushion. Also, I was probably being hard on myself—wanting to do it right and thinking about being good at it. And when I wasn’t, I’d beat myself up about it. That is the big thing when people start out: self judgement.”
Doing it in the first place is the first obstacle
“It was really hard to get started. How do you stay motivated? This idea of meditating for the rest of my life was too big of an ask for me. So I set a smaller start amount of time. I’m just gonna do it for six weeks, for only five minutes a day, no matter what. Now I sit every day in the morning after my shower, before breakfast, usually for a half hour.”
ON HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED...
In every way...
“I feel more connected to other people. I understand myself much better. There are practices that help us get in touch with our motivations, and I’ve done a lot of that. I’ve changed from these ultra-selfish motivations, which are entirely based on fears, to motivations to want to live a life of happiness and freedom and also wanting this for others. Basically, a life based on compassion and love instead of fear.”
Life shows us where we shut down
“Anything that blocks me from what I want to do is something I try to transform, so that I open myself up constantly to new possibilities. And that has been the continual process: Life shows us where we shut down. Oh, I don’t like public speaking. Or, I don’t like dressing a certain way, or whatever it is… We think it is our personality, but it’s really just our fears controlling us.”
Mindfulness is showing compassion to yourself
“Every practice that we do involves loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. It might not be what you are directly practicing, but you are showing these things to yourself in some way. A body-scan meditation shows love and compassion towards our body. Taking joy in the fact that we have a body, and being OK with whatever is happening in our body.”
ON MEDITATION AT MUSE...
Muse provides a motivational framework to keep people going
“With the headband itself, you get to track your progress over time by the metrics and feedback it gives you. It also provides reminders on your cellphone to actually do it in the first place. This year we launched the Muse Professionals Program, designed to train professionals to help bring meditation to their clients. Psychologists, psychiatrists, trainers, chiropractors, and nutritionists are noticing, if their patient has a calm mind, they are able to receive feedback better and make positive changes in their life. It is also fantastic tool for clinicians to monitor engagement, as well as extend client relationships outside of sessions. ”
We meditate before management meetings
“At InteraXon we often do a three- to five-minute meditation session before our team rallies that happen once a month. And we meditate for 30 minutes before our management meetings. By meditating at work, you are able to hear other people, what they are saying, what they are trying to say. People tend to be less reactive. There is much more collaboration and integration and team work happening. You are able to focus on what’s really happening.”
People are super excited about Muse
“It has been overwhelming enthusiastic. Our clients finally have a way to introduce meditation at work that doesn’t involve them having to run their own classes and be a teacher because they are not mediation teachers but they understand the benefits of meditation and they want to be able to bring it to their people. A lot of collaboration is happening—ideas, suggestions—I’ve never seen anything like it.”
To create a more mindful company…
“You need ambassadors. If you are the only ambassador, start small. Find one or two other people who are interested in meditation. Get them to practice with you for one session a week and grow it from there. Establish a community of people who will generate enthusiasm for the rest of the company."
And for inspiration
“There’s an amazing quote that I really like from hundreds of years ago by this guy Tilopa.”
The Six Words of Advice Tilopa gave Naropa
Let go of what has passed
Let go of what may come
Let go of what is happening now
Don’t try to figure anything out
Don’t try to make anything happen
Relax, right now, and rest.