Calling Heart-Based Movers and Shakers Behind the Scenes: Modern Day Mindfulness at Work Workshop

The gift of a calling is that it asks you to listen deeply to awakening, to face your inner critic with humble curiosity and to trust a process that will ultimately allow you and your community to grow in ways you had not imagined possible. Exquisite!

1_AwakenTitlePageListen, Love, Leap
Modern Day Mindfulness at Work was first offered as a pilot workshop, sponsored in part through a EAP Made grant. It took the form of intimate “virtual tele-class” professional/personal development sessions, workshop style, created and led by me, Kirthi Nath.  Modern Day Mindfulness at Work was created for heart-based movers and shakers interested in exploring spiritual mindfulness practices as a foundation for purpose-based livelihood and self-care. Core to the workshops were experiential meditation and creative presencing tools sourced from a variety of traditions —  Buddhism, Tantra, Yoga. The workshops also included space for practice, reflection, and sharing. We met every Wednesday from 9-11 am via conference call for four weeks between January 14-February 4, 2015.

Despite my experience as a teacher, vision for the workshop, and background with the topic, I had doubts. Are there other heart-based movers and shakers who are spiritual and curious how these practices can support them professionally and personally? Is it ok to say the word “spiritual”? Would people have enough attention and bandwidth to be present for a workshop mid-week, first thing in the morning? Are the meditations I want to share too wild or too fill in the blank? Sometimes they can veer towards epic sensory spiritual adventures, other times they stay focused in breath, and I wondered how they would be received. Clearly, my inner critic had plenty to say. Instead of trying to push this away, I listened. My wiser self also had a vision — one that wanted to talk candidly about leading from love, intention and values, one that wanted to co-create opportunities to play and invite in magic, one that wanted to sign weekly emails with the salutation ‘love’. Instead of trying to push this away, I listened. To all voices. The dance with inner critic and wiser self: listening, letting go and letting be…LISTEN, LEAP, LOVE.

Creating Quiet in the Morning
Have you ever woken up and felt anxious? Do you check your gadget first thing? Have you noticed how even a simple email causes stress? If we take a breath, we can see and witness how the stress we feel is out of scale with reality. Yet we all feel the stress. I know I have.

We live in a world of digital connectivity and addiction to stress. Yet, we want calm. We want creativity. We want to thrive.

When I first proposed holding my workshop in the morning, I may have been shooting myself in the foot. So many of us wake up with these habits that stress us out. We feel we need to start working first thing. The truth about work is that we’re more productive when we are present.

I recently co-produced a film interview with Annette Richardson, senior advisor at the United Nations for Partnerships.  All day she interacts with hundreds of people and makes high-level, life changing decisions. When exploring success and self-care practices, she shared her key to “success”. She has a morning ritual to give herself time to wake up, free of stimulation from outside voices, emails and external distractions. In the morning she takes space for herself, to be quiet, so she can be present and available throughout the day to listen, interact and make decisions that come from a grounded place.

It makes a huge difference to allow time for quiet in the morning, space for ourselves in the morning. For visionaries, this can be hard to do. It’s one thing to be told that this is good thing, that this will help you thrive. It’s another to experience and explore for yourself.  I always say: don’t believe me, try it out for yourself. So we held the workshop in the morning, mid-week.

Morning was a good time for me! I did the workshop from home, with my morning tea. Mornings are easier for me. In the afternoon, something else often comes up to knock aside things like this.  ~ Jessica

We began every session invoking the magic of rituals. Each call started with a mudra meditation. We combined a mudra (hand held gesture) and a mantra (words repeated during meditation) as a way to quiet the mind and come together as a community.  Throughout the course, we explored various meditations and creative presence tools via a mixture of lecture, experiential meditation, reflection, soul inquiry and share.

From this workshop, I’m grateful for and still use the perspective shifts and ask myself often, what I am grateful for. The ‘creative presence tool’  and gratitude practice allows me to take a step back from my work and not become too frazzled with what is going on around me. ~ Dorothy

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Practice Makes Practice
I applied for the EAP MADE grant because I appreciated EAP’s focus on regenerative practices and modeling of racially diverse leadership voices. I wanted to share this workshop because I have experienced first hand the gifts of spiritual practice in my work and personal life. I offered this specific wisdom workshop because I was frustrated with the dominance of whiteness in Westernized wisdom teachings and wanted to be part of the expansion of diverse voices. I thought it was important to invite more people of color to be part of the conversation — as leaders, co-creators and also part of the ever growing cultural library of resources referenced and passed on.

When I first met Michelle, my EAP Project Facilitator, she asked me, “How can this experience support you? We trust what you offer will be of benefit for the community, so let me know how we can support you”. I was taken aback, so I was honest. I asked for an extension for the workshop start date so I could go on spiritual retreats.

In October I went on a 7-day silent Metta retreat and in December I went to Hawaii for 7-days and swam, looking into the sky chanting metta phrases every day.

I share this because I almost didn’t.

I wanted to share so much in this course, it’s like a Michelangelo sculpture — you carve away what’s not needed. I almost didn’t include Metta in the workshop because I thought it was either too Buddhist or co-opting Buddhism, but an inner voice whispered, this gladdens your heart, you know the energy of this practice, share it and trust that they will know what to receive and what to let go, and you will pass this on honorably.

Since the workshop ended I’ve been practicing Metta every week ~ Jared
Metta and working with my inner critic and wiser self was exactly what I needed to steer my creative and freelance practice in a direction that was emotionally and intellectually sustainable. ~Dorothy

Oftentimes with callings we feel we’re not ready, that we need more preparation, we need more learning, more, more, more. But callings come to us when we’re ready to listen — and we grow with it. I’ll never forget the first day of our workshop – none of us knew each other yet we knew, we were exactly where we meant to be. Open.


Not an Island

Perhaps you can relate. To be great and valuable, the inner critic chimes in to say that you need to be able to do it all yourself. We all know and talk often about co-creation and collaboration. Are you still hirable if you ask for help? Can you thrive when you practice self-compassion and gratitude? The EAP MADE grant let me explore this. There was a part of the grant for me as visionary and a part for workshop delivery. Like you, I’m multi-talented and could’ve done it all myself. Instead, I listened to my heart which wanted to work with others, to co-create. So I humbled myself and hired Jason Wyman to design the workbooks. We worked very closely as I developed all the assets, and then I let go.  What he created was beyond my imagination and just like I dreamed. And I paid him market rate. I mention money because it’s important we break the ceiling that’s real and self-perpetuated, and we honor ourselves and each other by paying each other well.

This was my leap. To allow help. To explore and experience more deeply what it’s like to co-create wonderful in community, and give myself the chance to focus on content creation, delivery and showing up.

Emerging Arts Professional and the MADE grant is rare. It gives grants to projects that are needed but not mainstream. It comes with real people who really care in your successes. If you have an idea or project that’s aligned with a MADE grant, I encourage you to apply. I almost didn’t, and look what blossomed when I took the leap!

The Modern Day Mindfulness at Work helped me cultivate a reflective practice in both my personal and professional lives. At work, it allowed me to take a step back and relax into situations that are often frustrating or anxiety producing. It also added a lovely respite in the middle of my busy week. It was something I looked forward to every week! ~ Jessica

Love, Kirthi

About the Facilitator:

Kirthi Nath is an award-winning filmmaker who believes that ordinary people ripple extraordinary change. Kirthi is the creative director and lead filmmaker at Cinemagical Media, a media production company that focus on creating films and workshops that support individuals, communities and companies to ‘be the cause that creates the effect’.  In addition to filmmaking, Kirthi teaches (in person and online) courses and delivers talks that focus on Creative Presence, Spiritually, Mindfulness and the Practice of Good. In 2014 she was a Made Grantee and taught a 4-session online course about Modern Day Mindfulness at Work. Kirthi has practiced meditation, been on numerous silent retreats and immersed into informal and formal Buddhist and Yogi studies since 2001.

Curious how you can order the tele-class or just want to connect? ~  send me a note: kirthifilm(at)gmail(dot)com  //

Modern Day Mindfulness at Work was a workshop series supported by Emerging Arts Professionals’ MADE, a re-granting program that draws on the inspiration and power of the network to propose and execute projects that address immediate solutions of the day. Organizer and facilitator Kirthi Nath offered tools, meditation exercises, and practices in a weekly format. The workshop series aligned with EAP’s focus on regenerative practices, empowering a healthy sector. All of us thank Kirthi for her contribution to the network. Learn more about MADE here:

What’s for Dinner? Bringing Racial Equity to the Table: Served Up Some Realness

You’ve been at that great feast. The one where the food is tasty and the conversation has got good flavor too. You take a bite while listening intently to the fellow across the table. They sip some of wine while you give your two cents on the state of affairs. Well we had a bit of that going on at What’s for Dinner? Bringing Racial Equity to the Table for Emerging Arts Administrators, an EAP MADE project awardee. On October 18th artists and staff from several Bay Area organizations came together to talk about what structural racism looks like in their field, at work, and in their lives, and what to do about it. It was a juicy conversation indeed.

The structure and organization of the day helped to digest a rich amount of information and dialogue. [workshop participant]

TMJpresenting2We began by establishing some clarity around language. What is white privilege? Internalized oppression? Institutional and structural racism? Are diversity, inclusion, and equity the same? Why does it matter? Popular narratives around success and failure in the United States are so divorced from a structural analysis that it inevitably serves to reinforce racism, and even other forms of oppression. And yes, we also talked about the role that art plays (intentionally or not) in that process, and how that process influences the making of art. And finally, we explored what that means for artists and arts organizations to be a major source of that narrative, of storytelling in our society.

We need a space to practice our own story telling.  [workshop participant]

One of the earliest ways that we try to make sense of the world is to try to understand the stories that are told to us. As a result, we have millions of conditioned responses swimming around in our head. This is good, and that bad. Watch out for this one. Embrace that. Hold this one at an arm’s distance. We are constantly juggling them, trying to keep them in check. What do we do with all of those stories? What do they do to us? From here we investigated the influence of implicit bias and resolved that there is interconnectivity among the art, society and the artists. Storytelling for the artist is deeply personal, and the response to that art is both personal (including privilege, bias, etc.) and structural (swimming in the context of history, culture, etc.) The mere existence of our art is not just a comment on the art itself, but also the structure in which it exists.

This training was very informative and provided some great tools on how to approach racial equity professionally and in my everyday life. It was great to be in a room of arts professionals looking for the same answers, especially when discussing intersectionality.  [workshop participant]

So we dug deeper and unpacked our various identities in the context of privilege and marginalization. We even asked the scary question, “How does identity exist within your organization or the arts community?” Then we went even further and explored how we could leverage our areas of privilege for the greater good by making very direct, conscious choices around issues of race.

And we did it all while making some amazing Play Doh art! So yes. You missed a great dinner conversation. So don’t miss out the next time we decide to serve up some realness around race and the arts.

– Tammy Johnson

 A word from Organizers Cristal Fiel and Tyese Wortham

In our ten years of experience as arts administrators, we have come across the issue of racial equity time and again. However, we didn’t know how to speak about racial equity and the arts so that colleagues and leadership would be able to listen and hear us until going through Tammy Johnson’s Step-Together-Step curriculum.

In response to our desire to push the conversation of cultural equity forward, we applied for Emerging Arts Professionals’ (EAP) MADE program and were awarded the opportunity to bring in art and racial equity trainer Tammy Johnson to the EAP network. Our goal for “What’s for Dinner: Bringing Racial Equity to the Table for Emerging Arts Professionals” was to provide a safe space for emerging arts administrators, artists, and allies to learn how to tackle issues around cultural equity that might arise in workshop participants’ respective cultural institutions.

As arts administrators of color, it is important to us that we approach our work with a lens of cultural equity. Our previous trainings with Tammy’s Step-Together-Step curriculum have informed us with a language around race and racism and have empowered us to feel more comfortable with talking about the “elephant in the room.”

We all come from different places, but we hope that the Emerging Arts Professional’s continued dedication to this issue would allow the network to find common ground to advance a culture that calls for a more equitable society.

– Cristal and Tyese

 About the facilitator:

tjredoneTammy Johnson is a dancer, writer, and equity consultant. After directing electoral campaigns in Milwaukee, Johnson spent a decade advancing racial equity as a trainer, writer, and public speaker at Race Forward. Having gained recognition for her knowledge of equitable public policy practices at Race Forward, she co-produced Race and Economic Recovery with LinKtv and Race Forward’s Wordvideo blog series. Johnson is co-director of the award winning bellydance duo Raks Africa. Tammy lives in Oakland,California and can be reached at

About the organizers:

Cristal Fiel holds a bachelor degree in Sociology and Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. As Editor in Chief of the literary and arts organization, Maganda Magazine, she discovered her calling to work in the arts field. She has served as administrative coordinator and board member of the Asian American Women Artists Association, and has volunteered with a number of Bay Area organizations, including the San Francisco Film Society. Fiel is currently a program associate at the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Tyese Wortham is a grantmaker and administrator in the arts, teaching artist, and dancer with a commitment to advancing cultural equity in San Francisco Bay Area’s arts landscape by serving under-represented and under-resourced communities. She has been recognized for her expertise in cultural arts as a panelist, consultant, facilitator, and committee member for various Bay Area arts organizations, including the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. Tyese served as a fellow in the first cohort of the EAP Fellowship Program.

What’s for Dinner?” was a workshop supported by Emerging Arts Professionals’ MADE, a re-granting program at draws on the inspiration and power of the network to propose and execute projects that address immediate solutions of the day. Cultural Equity is one of the four primary Areas of Study for EAP, and we are deeply thankful to Tammy Johnson, Tyese Wortham, and Cristal Fiel for providing this workshop to all of us. Learn more about MADE here:

Philanthropic Pursuits: Insights from Irvine Foundation’s Josephine Ramirez

Josephine Ramirez was appointed Program Director at the James Irvine Foundation in January 2010, with overall responsibility for the Foundation’s Arts program. Before joining Irvine, Josephine was Vice President of Programming and Planning for the Music Center in Los Angeles, where she founded the programming department in 2003. Previously, she was a Program Officer at the Getty Foundation, managing funding in the areas of arts leadership development, Los Angeles cultural organizations, arts education research and arts policy. Also at the Getty, she was Research Associate at the Research Institute, creating and implementing a multi-year investigation of the connections between art making and civic participation. Earlier, Josephine worked as a Program Producer and Education Director at the Mark Taper Forum and was also an independent consultant to cultural organizations around the country. She was the Community Arts Coordinator for the King County Arts Commission in Seattle before moving to California in 1989. For the city of Los Angeles, she has served in several appointed posts, including Vice President of the Cultural Affairs Commission and Chair of the city’s Cultural Master Plan Advisory Committee. She is a former Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, an award that supported her research on informal, nonprofessional art making and its relationship to individual and community vitality. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Josephine earned her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Washington.

Josephine was interviewed by Leah Reisman, who is currently pursuing a PhD in sociology at Princeton and was a 2013-14 EAP Fellow.


LR: What pieces of advice would you give to someone who wants to follow a career path similar to yours?

JR: Well, first, about working in philanthropy, I think that unless you’re in the financial situation to head your own family foundation or give away your own money, a career in that part of the nonprofit field may not be the best place to set your sights on in any exclusive way, at least at first. While it would be fine to work towards that as an eventual goal, jobs in philanthropy are not exactly plentiful so narrowing your scope to just that when you’re starting out might not be a workable strategy. I mean, if you fall into it, great, but it might lead to some pretty frustrating years if that is your only goal.

Perhaps a better way to approach your career is to answer questions like, what do you want to do or change in the world? What do you believe? What are the things that are worth working hard for? Where do you feel like you could make a difference? And it very well could be that your answers will lead you to work that would, sooner or later on, make you competitive for a job in philanthropy.

LR: Right. So focusing on philanthropy is a kind of overly narrow approach, especially given the state of employment and just the variety of opportunities out there.

JR: Yes, and in general that’s kind of an overall healthy life exercise: to practice being open to the wonderful curveballs that life can throw you.

LR: So that’s actually a perfect segue into this other question—why do you think that you are where you are now? What curveballs did life throw you?

JR: I am where I am partly because I have an opinion that I worked to shape through what I experienced in my earlier career.

In an overall sense, cultivating your voice is key. I tried, and continue to try, to be curious, with a critical eye, about what I thought, about what struck me as compelling and what didn’t about my work and about the work of others I observed.

In my own way, I think I was continually trying to pay attention to what seemed out of sync or sort of wrong-headed and to what resonated with me to from a sense of my own mission in my work. It can take a while to develop that because, sometimes, you’re just feeling lucky to be there and to have a job in a field you want to be in.

LR: Yeah, I think that’s great. So kind of developing a filter through which you’re navigating your way through experiences based on a gathered understanding of what is important to you, what resonates, and what doesn’t.

JR: Yes. It’s a combination of cultivating your voice and establishing your reputation. Also, I would say, one of the biggest assets that you can hone as you progress in your career is a really strong emotional and social intelligence. You can have all the right experience plus the pedigrees, but if you don’t know how to talk and relate to people, you’re not going to be competitive for the top jobs.

LR: That makes a lot of sense. So what has best prepared you for the challenges of your job?

JR: For this job [at the Irvine Foundation], I would say learning what I’ve learned so far about organizational cultures and the social intelligence piece. How does this place work? How do I learn to talk like them? That is a really important skill to have and to deepen.

LR: I think in this hyper-competitive universe it is really important to pay attention to those pieces, and they often, I think, get left by the wayside as we are scrambling to make ends meet. So I think it is important, and I’d love to hear just about some of the challenges that you receive in your current work, and how those kinds of skills have helped you cope with them.

JR: In general, the development of your professional network is very important. When you’re not exactly sure how to move forward on something, the ability to have a strong personal-professional network to call on and say, “Hey, you got 10 minutes? I need to talk to you about something that’s bugging me.” The ability to just sort of drop the facade that we know exactly what to do when we don’t, and say, “I’m really stumped by this one, and I’m not sure of the next best step.”

LR: So there’s humility to it—an ability to ask for help and to cultivate [relationships with those] who can provide those kind of complimentary and contrasting perspectives.

JR: It’s how we work in community—I’m there for you if I possibly can be, and I know that you will be for me. I have a set of people in my circle that I have known for 20 to 30 years from working in the field who know me well. We know that we’ve got similar values about why we’re doing the work. And I never underestimate the power of those relationships.

LR: Yes. I’ve been doing a lot of asking others for opinions as I’ve been growing up in this field. And one of the most gratifying things that has happened to me over the last couple years has been people starting to come back and ask me questions, [experiencing] those relationships and that kind of mutual respect that come from trusting someone and really valuing their opinion. Anything else that you would say has prepared you for the challenges of your job?

JR: An inquisitive mind, and a lot of improv training—that really serves one well.

LR: Yes! I’m at a very different level and a very different kind of position, but I’ve also found the kind of training and types of experiences you get in theater, and in improv especially, to be very valuable in cultivating social-emotional intelligence.

JR: Right! And for me obviously it wasn’t about becoming a professional artist.

The payoff, after hours and hours of improv training, is really more about being able, in any professional environment, to just—boom—stand up in front of people and do whatever it is you’re supposed to do, even when your natural inclination is not to stand up in front of people at all.

LR: Yeah, that resonates. That makes a lot of sense. So, a more practical question—how does work-life balance work for you?

JR: Balance is about making sure you’re in touch with: Who am I? What do I like to do? With respect to work stuff, where am I? And, what do I believe in? I’ve had all different kinds of balances. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I forced myself to join a softball team. I’m not a sports person, but it happened to be a very fun social outlet. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t have a relationship or kids, so I was in a place where I could just immerse myself, learn the city, learn my job, and then all my socializing was either around work friends or my softball team. I would say it wasn’t a great work-life balance compared to other situations, but it worked for that time.

LR: One last question—who or what inspires you?

JR: This might be corny, but I have quotes around my computer screen that include stuff like: “A good argument = the compliment of rational opposition,” “Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,” “It’s impossible to advance the dialogue on any issue without having a critical stance,” “Genius often arises out of constraint,” “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” And then, there is a fabulous German word, “entlistungsfreude,” that means the satisfaction one gets from crossing things off lists. Nerdy, I know.

I also have an image of Michael the Archangel, a piece of rock from the island that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on, a small image of the Madonna and Child, a tiny figure of Ganesh — all to remind me of important stuff like justice, tenacity and faith.

LR: Yes! That’s awesome. I love that. So you have your talismans. You created a little environment that makes you feel positive and inspired in your work. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me!



leah-reisman-230x185Leah Reisman, Graduate Student at Princeton University

Leah is a graduate student in sociology at Princeton University, where she plans to focus on cultural organizations and cultural policy using an ethnographic perspective. Before beginning graduate school in 2014, she worked in a variety of museums, including the Research Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, the Field Museum in Chicago and San Francisco’s de Young Museum. Leah has also conducted independent research at a science museum in Chicago and an art museum in Oaxaca, Mexico. She has a background in anthropology, and her interests include museum management, cultural policy, philanthropy, evaluation, and qualitative research methods. She enjoys cooking, running, and speaking Spanish!

Leah is EAP Fellowship Alumni  2013-14

Philanthropic Pursuits: Insights from Irvine Foundation’s Josephine Ramirez is part of the series The Heart of It: Stories from Leaders in the Bay Area Arts Community, an EAP MADE Project. Learn more about the series by visiting the MADE page in our website.