Mascara and meditation???

As many of you know, I used to live at a Tibetan Buddhist center. It was a surprisingly busy place, and there were many different kinds of retreats 'up the hill.' Up the hill and away from all the activities down below.

As I was sorting through the mail one day, I noticed that there was a FedEx package addressed to one of the up-the-hill retreatants. I knew who she was. She was incredibly generous, kind, and interesting. When I brought the package to our main office, wondering what it was, one of the other office ladies told me, 'Oh yeah, that's her mascara. I'll bring it up to her later.'

I was in shock. First of all, I didn't know you were allowed to have things FedExed to you in retreat. It seemed illegal, like making toilet-wine in prison. Second of all, a mascara?????

We're allowed to wear make-up? In retreat?

And even if it was allowed, why would you want to? It's not like anyone would see you. I just automatically assumed that caring about your looks somehow made you a lesser meditator.



Weirdly enough, no one else seemed to have a problem with this. It was only in my head that the world where you wear mascara and the world where you meditate didn't join up.

A few years later my teacher gave me a star for being best-dressed retreatants. I guess I got over the 'real meditators don't even know what a mascara is!' attitude.

In any case, I'm thinking about this story today because the mindset that goes, 'I didn't know that was allowed!' sneaks in everywhere.

  • I didn't know mothers could go to yoga three times a week.

  • I didn't know you could change your job, even if the one you have is just fine.

  • I didn't know I could ask for a raise. I thought the boss would simply reward me. #goodgirlalert

  • I didn't know I could upgrade my office.

  • I didn't know I could say no to that invitation. (No is a complete sentence.)

  • I didn't know I could celebrate Christmas with my friends.

The list goes on and on.

As women we're trained to ask for less. Don't speak up. Be nice. Be agreeable. Don't be ambitious. Don't dye your hair in lock-down.

But here is the interesting part. We're so used to quieting our wants and needs that we don't even question it. We don't even NOTICE that we're doing it. Why not? Because it's our baseline. Our normal.

So if you're reading this and think to yourself, 'This is so not me! I know what I want and I NEVER hold back,' I invite you to spend a day or two noticing the following:

  • How do you react to compliments? Do you deflect or accept them?

  • How many times a day do you talk yourself out of an idea, a thing, an activity? As in, 'That sounds nice, but. . . . .' Notice the but. Buts are very sneaky because they sound like logical reasons. Like, 'But, I don't have enough time. But, I should just be grateful for what I have. But, that's not for someone like me.'

  • Lastly. . . . how many times a day do you judge a fellow sister for looking a certain way, asking for certain things, or doing certain activities. That judgment? That nasty little dialogue in our heads? Only the perfect way of deflecting what we secretly want for ourselves. I'm not saying this is always the case, but often enough to pay attention to.

So what does all of this have to do with office space and work? Only everything. The woman who thinks she doesn't deserve a bath on a Wednesday afternoon, is the same woman that will have a harder time going for that promotion. The women who judges other women for being too ambitious, is super judgy about her own dreams and visions. All these filters and mental programming take their toll, and they are often followed by resentment, lo-level bitterness, and a peculiar version of pride. 'At least I don't ......(fill in the blank) .

The solution? Train your mind to adapt to small, small improvements. Tiny, tiny, upgrades. Like, bring flowers to work. Wear something nice. Treat yourself to your favourite coffee. Put on some music. Allow yourself to have more fun. Inject small moments of joy and laughter. Look for reasons to feel good. When we feel good, we do good.