Four Key Lessons along the Journey to Work-Life Integration
An eternal student, I have intense curiosity about this life, about my purpose, about what I find to be truly meaningful. 10 years ago, after the birth of my 3rd child, I began a journey of deep inquiry about work life balance and discovered the empowering gift of integration. Integration brings with it the idea of inherent wholeness, a sense of deep interconnectedness, and both the art and science of living well in relationship with self and others.
Here are 4 lessons that I continue to practice. From this place, I am tapping into the wisdom of living an integrated life.
1 – Open Heart/Mind to Learning
I often carry around a rainbow-colored backpack that my daughter gave me as a reminder of my commitment to ongoing learning. From the place of student, I open my heart and mind to new teachers, to new methodologies, to new training, and to the works of the many souls who have passionately committed themselves to going deeper and discovering what is unknown to them. I delight in the questions, in the discovery, in the Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind of it all. And from that place, I feel a sense of wholeness and interconnectedness to myself and those around me. The spirit of this led me to yoga teacher training, to Birkman Method certification, to coaching certification with Newfield Network and Tiara International. I delight in sharing, with others and my clients, the jewels I’ve learned along the way to see what resonates with them.
2 – Elicit the Support of Mentors and Loved Ones
I learned, sometimes through failure and disappointment, that I do not need to go through this journey alone. At times when I fell down or lost hope, what was instrumental in lifting me out of the fog of uncertainty was the compassion, love and wisdom of my support network and my mentors along the way. What I discovered is that it is not a one-sided conversation but a mutual sharing of love and understanding that is exchanged when I spend time with them and reveal my vulnerable heart. This interconnected web of people in my life helps me feel deeply loved and connected to something much larger than myself.
3 – Shift from Limiting to an Empowering Mindset
I experienced a huge breakthrough in working with a coach on a limiting mindset of “this is too hard.” From our discussion, I was able to shift the observer within myself to create a new, empowering mindset on completing a project with ease and wonder. When I tap into the place within myself of ease and wonder, life flows without the obstruction of my limiting beliefs. My empowering mindset helped me find new language and create the mantras: I am trusting. I am at ease. I am in the flow. That feeling of flow is a perfect way to describe living an integrated life – no matter what comes my way.
4 – Commit to Ongoing Self-Care
For me, I have found the nourishing qualities of self-care to be essential to living in the flow state of integration. Through trial and error, I have found that a weekly mix of the following shapes my self-care regimen.
- Stillness, meditation, mindful breathing, forest bathing, going on a retreat
- Laughter, silliness, playfulness, lightheartedness, singing and chanting
- Creative expression in journaling, painting, vision boarding, coloring and dancing
- Yoga and Pilates practice with a community of fellow students
- Time spent being truly present to my loved ones and with a grateful heart
How is work life integration unfolding in your life? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Life a more fulfilling life. Understand your unique qualities as a leader, as a communicator, and as a woman. Jennifer H.G. Connelly hosts the Work-Life Integration Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 2-4.
Jennifer H.G. Connelly
Possessing a unique blend of corporate, public affairs and nonprofit management experience, Jennifer serves as Principal of her own consultancy and CEO of Triple W Forum. As a leadership coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher, and Birkman Method consultant, she leads retreats, workshops, and provides team and one-to-one leadership development coaching both in the US and internationally.
This article is reposed with permission from the author.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
In House: Women’s Retreats & Why Work-Life Balance is Not Impossible
Jennifer Connelly believes in the power of integration. Originally quite skeptical, a couple of things have happened to transform her idea of what is possible, which she now shares in her women’s retreat. A life well-lived is a life that you are passionate about in every area: work included. When you are doing your soul’s work, pursuing your calling, and using your inherent, unique strengths to better yourself and the world around you, magic happens. Triple W was created from Jennifer’s desire to help women, including her own daughter, find this calling, to center their lives around what brings them joy and a sense of purpose.
We spoke with Jennifer recently about what integration means to her, how she’s seen it transform her students, and how the wisdom of nature and the sacred space of the Art of Living Retreat Center complete the experience of the Triple W retreat.
A Women’s Retreat for Work-Life Integration
Our curriculum for the women’s retreat is centered around work-life integration. It looks at integration from a variety of pillars. One of the pillars is nature – so when one of our facilitators found the Art of Living Retreat Center, it could not have been a more perfect backdrop for this program.
Another one of the pillars of Triple W is wellness, so yoga is woven into the curriculum design. We do breath work, yoga postures, yoga nidra, meditation, and guided imagery, as well as journaling. The center provides a perfect backdrop for these aspects.
We also do assessment work through the Birkman Method – I work with each of the attendees in the women’s retreat, and they get a personalized Birkman quiestionnaire. The results from that test help us find what they’re naturally drawn to, what their interests are, what their strengths are, and how they can tap into that more often. What is really unique about the Birkman method is that it looks at the student’s underlying needs, and how they can fulfill those in order for them to be their most powerful self. During the weekend, we learn how to identify these needs, how to become more self aware, what drives us and motivates us as individuals.
We also explore the thing that none of us can avoid – stress. That forms another key pillar of Triple W’s teachings. We look at how to manage stress using the wisdom of nature, yoga, and science – not only the science that comes from the assessment work they do during the weekend, but also the science of the brain and nervous system, and what they have to teach us about living a more integrated, happy life.
Striving Towards the Flow State
Andrew: And what are the insights the brain has to teach us?
Jennifer: Oh, I could spend all day talking about the brain! I’m not a neurologist or neuroscientist, but a student of life. I’m always studying the brain. The brain itself, as an organ, craves and desires to be in the flow state of integration. Instead of looking at life as separate elements, they strive to see the linkage. They see the differences, but they also see how those differences link together. When the brain is in that state of integration, the brain is happy.
We see this when we look at the opposite of integration, disintegration. The things that take the brain out of the flow state of integration are chaos and rigidity. One of the resources I rely on heavily when I talk about the brain is Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work, and his studies on how these two forces affect us. We talk a lot about how to minimize chaos in our life, but how do we minimize rigidity? A flexible brain and an adaptable brain, one that trusts that flow state, is more open to learning. It decreases anxiety,stress, and tempers the mind, allowing you to be your most effective, productive self.
The flow state feels like a sense of ease. Something we talk about in yoga is getting to that place of ease, so that when you get there, you can contemplate the infinite. You can see so clearly the interconnection of all things. That’s what the flow state of integration feels like. It feels easy. It feels natural. It feels like you, as your original self. Instead of feeling anxious, rigid, in a hurry, angry. That’s a disintegrated brain.
It’s All in the Eyes
Andrew: What inspires you to get up in the morning and bring this integrative approach to people, to contribute what you’re teaching and learning in a women’s retreat?
Jennifer: Sometimes it’s been hard. However, I know that what I do is a beautiful gift when I see the looks in the eyes of my students when they really connect the dots. So I try to remember that. The other thing is my daughter – when I started Triple W, she was in kindergarten, and I wanted this for her. I wanted to do something in the world that had continual relevance, so that one day, I could watch her walking through the door and attending herself. As I was preparing for this last women’s retreat, she came into my office, and was helping me put together some things in my folder, and she said “Mom, I can’t wait to get to go to Triple W someday.” That is my inspiration.
Andrew: You say women come out of this with a new look in their eyes – can you describe that? What do you recognize there?
Jennifer: The look! Well, it’s funny. The opposite is what caused me to start the Triple W Women’s Retreat. It’s a look of desperation, exhaustion, being overwhelmed. I saw that in many women’s eyes. A long time ago, I had a role in professional development, and I was responsible for helping marketers become more effective and learn the latest trends, and be on top of their game. These were very driven people.
But I could tell, some of the women I’d look at would have this look of being unwell. They tried so hard to be successful that they forgot themselves in the process. They sacrificed their own self-care. And I recognized myself in those eyes, and I said to myself, “I need to do something about that because I feel it too. I feel unwell. I feel like I’ve forgotten who I am.”
So that’s what started it. The students in my class might walk in the door looking a little desperate, a little overwhelmed, or just plain tired, because they’re trying so hard to be good in this world. And when they leave, the look in their eyes is one of rejuvenation. You can just see that little sparkle of something in their eyes that says “I feel like myself again. Not like something I’m trying to be, but the me that I knew was there all along. This weekend makes me feel good to be alive.”
Andrew: And that really fits in with this grander discussion happening in the world about work-life balance, especially for many women and mothers.
Jennifer: Oh yes. When I first started Triple W, I was a person who would proudly declare, “Balance is not possible”. I feel that the term ‘work-life balance’ makes you feel like a failure. I had this negative attitude about the word balance, but I don’t anymore. I’ve realized that word couldn’t be more beautiful. A lot of people are just like I was. They’d hear “work-life balance” and think “that’s not possible.” But integration is a much better way of phrasing it. Life is work, and work is life. And you are you throughout all of that. So this idea of integration resonates with me far more than the term “work-life balance” ever did. Integration is the secret to understanding that it’s okay if you can’t do it all.
Why the Art of Living Retreat Center?
Andrew: What is the role of nature in your program?
Jennifer: I think many of the participants in my women’s retreat are coming from cities and towns, and feel a little separated from the great outdoors. We have this disconnect from nature, we think that we’re separate from it, but truly we are as connected to nature as any other living thing. In order for people to really connect to that, though, you have to be immersed in a natural environment. There’s something very restorative about being in nature during this retreat. There are even these things happening at a subtle energetic level that we can’t quite see by spending time in nature, by spending time amongst the trees, really talking about ancient rock formations and what they have to teach us. We use a lot of natural metaphors, and explore how the natural world can give us insight into our own experiences, how that ties into our own transformations. We talk about rivers. We talk about mountains, about how they’re messy and beautiful. Nature teaches us about transformation.
The center itself carries with it so many things. When I first realized that this is where Triple W was going to be, I was so moved. If I could build a place like this, I would. To be in partnership with folks who have the inspiration to create a place so sacred and special, and to add healthy, mindful eating as part of it, and an Ayurvedic spa… those are things that I would talk about in my sessions outside of the center! Ayurvedic massage is really powerful – it helps to stimulate the Vagus nerve and increase parasympathetic nervous system dominance. When I teach here, I can say “Go down the road, and schedule all your appointments during the day!” Because we have a lot of free time built into the experience, so students can experience the benefits of the center, too. It really completes the experience.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.