Saybrook University PhD Graduate in Mind-Body Medicine Addresses Work as a Spiritual Practice: Beth A. Haggett, PhD
Beth A. Haggett completed her Ph.D. in Saybrook’s School of Mind-Body Medicine in January 2013, with a specialization in Health Care Systems. She accepted a position as Director of Product Development for Zenger-Folkman, a well-respected company specializing in Strengths-Based Leadership. This was an unexpected career move that was both exciting and intimidating. Transitioning from a demanding but flexible research and study schedule to a 40 plus hour workweek with much less flexibility was a concern for her. Mostly, she was apprehensive about her ability to maintain the centered, mind-body spirit approach to life that she had worked so hard to achieve during her Saybrook Ph.D. journey. Could she manage juggling the demands of a challenging new career, family, and self-care without sacrificing quality of life in any arena? When would she exercise, meditate, practice QiGong, cook nutritious meals, ride her horse, spend time with husband and family, and connect with friends? When would she write, publish, teach, and continue to study and learn more about Mind-Body Medicine?
She could feel the old over-achiever, multi-tasking, neurotic, rush-to-complete-tasks gremlin of her past, sauntering forward to reclaim its place, pushing aside the peaceful, centered, soft-belly breathing, attuned woman she had become. It seemed that overnight Beth’s breathing became shallow. She had difficulty sleeping, and found herself tossing and turning, fretting and agonizing over the harried life ahead of her. Here she was the first Ph.D. graduate of the MBM program, and already reverting to old behaviors and stepping into a different field only a month after obtaining her degree. Was she abandoning the field of Mind-Body Medicine and her social work roots altogether?
She managed to juggle attending the Wisdom 2.0 conference to reward herself for her accomplishments. It is a conference where thought leaders in both Mindfulness and Technology come together (think Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Marrianne Williamson, along with CEO’s of Google and LinkedIn). She was drawn to a booth and the books it displayed, trusting her intuitive attraction to them. She was thrilled and amazed to find that they were all about engaging fully and mindfully in work. These books teach that work can become a spiritual practice and a vehicle for contributing to the world; that we can go about our work in such a way as to balance awareness, concentration, focus, and energy to maximize that contribution. How thrilled Beth was to realize that she could continue to learn and practice each day in the course of her work. And, that through her work, she can become more enlightened and more conscious. The books spoke to her and seemed to address the very challenges she faced each day at her new job.
Now, as Beth remembered to breathe deeply, to focus fully, to be mindful and resist the urge to do ten things at once, to discipline herself, and to honor the rhythms of hard work and contribution, she recognized that she has not relinquished her reformed more aware self after all. Although her practices now might look different, they can feel the same. She can use each interaction with a customer or co-worker, and each challenge or deadline, as a chance to look within, to engage mind, body, and spirit fully; to increase her capacity, creativity, ability, and inner knowing. Beth provided this comment on using work as a mindfulness discipline: “I see how this will benefit both my organization and myself. I can see that with my work as my practice, I have unlimited opportunity for growth and spiritual development. I look forward to introducing the Zenger-Folkman leadership development firm to the mind-body practice of Shaking and Dancing.”
Beth is grateful that her heart continues to lead her towards things that make a difference in her life. She is sleeping peacefully once more. Beth expressed her new conviction: “I am so grateful for the knowledge I have of how our mind, our body, and our spirit work in beautiful harmony when we take just a little time to keep them in tune.”
The two books that impressed Beth most, guiding her to mindfulness in work, were both written by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tarthang Tulka:
Tulku, Tarthang (1978). Skillfull means: Patterns of success. Berkley, CA: Dharma Publishing.
Tulku, Tarthang (1994). Mastering successful work: Skillful means wake up! Berkley, CA: Dharma Publish