In the Spotlight: Jeff Zlotnik

For this month of Being, we are joined by Jeff Zlotnik, Founder and CEO of The Meditation Initiative. For more than 15 years Jeff has been LEADING free meditations – sharing techniques and simple tools to bring calm, peace, and presence in the Moment to prisons, hospitals, students, wounded warriors and the community at large.

Jeff believes that, “once we stop trying to change everything outside of us and we work on changing our mind and our heart and our reaction to the world around us, life gets a little easier, a little more peaceful, a little happier.”

What does the principle of Being mean to you?
Often I think people make the mistake of thinking that just Being means that you don’t do anything, but the practice of mindfulness and meditation is about bringing that sense of Being into every environment you’re in – it’s simple, applicable, and practical. To me, Being means first Being present and aware. That awareness helps us tap into what we’re sitting with. Where’s my heart right now? Where’s my mind right now? Am I steady? Am I fully present at this Moment? Paying attention to the Moment and that personal awareness go hand in hand with Being. But if we‘re just Being and our mind or heart is filled with anger, hatred, disgust or resentment, then Being has the potential to be not so beautiful. The reality is an angry person who meditates is just an angry meditator.

Often, even though we are trying to Be present, we are thinking about other things, we’re worried about tomorrow. This is when we need to slow everything down. To pay attention to the breath. To become comfortable in stillness, expecting nothing, simply sit and breathe. And as we Experience that quiet and stillness – that peace and calm, the question is, how do we take this idea of Being, becoming aware of feelings, sensations and emotions, and then bring that to everything that we’re doing. How do we bring that sense of Being into action?

The beauty of meditation is that it’s free. You have everything you need with you at all times, it only takes a few minutes, and it can be practiced anywhere – in line at Starbucks…before a meeting…anywhere.

Any time you do anything that is free and that can be done anywhere, it makes it a lot easier for people to add it into their lives. So a lot of it is really breaking down the barriers of what I think really hinders the movement of the mindfulness practice in this country. People tend to tie it to a dollar sign or think they don’t have the time or need to go somewhere special, but we all have a few minutes we can sit and breathe. So my role is about encouraging, motivating and inspiring people to make that a part of their lives. We don’t have to go any place special to Experience this sacred sense of Being. We have to learn to illuminate and Be everywhere.

What advice do you have for health care leaders as it relates to this principle of Being?
I like the simple metaphor from flying on a plane when they provide the safety instructions: “if the oxygen mask falls, put your mask on first before helping a child or someone else.” I think for health care providers, those who are in the industry of caring for others, the most important thing you can do is to care for yourself every day — your mental and emotional health and well-Being. You are engaging with so many people who really need and require you to Be present, attentive, compassionate, and kind with them. To bring your full sense of Being to those you care for, it’s important to give yourself that beautiful gift of really caring for yourself a few Moments each day. Make yourself a priority. Take a few minutes to check in with yourself, sit with yourself, and just Be with yourself.

To Experience Jeff’s simple practice of Being, enjoy his TEDxYouth@SanDiego talk where he equips high school students from hundreds of high schools across the globe with the gift of Being.