Work Emptiness Led to Meditating
What began as a yearning for more career satisfaction grew into a new profession for Jung Starrett, a former lawyer turned mindfulness meditation teacher. Peek into her personal meditation journey to learn how she swapped external success for internal fulfillment — and ultimately embodied both.
Q: How did you first discover meditation?
A: In 1997, I was struggling as a corporate transactional attorney. I loved the intellectual challenge and my colleagues, but the work didn’t feel exciting, satisfying, or connected to my heart’s purpose. I had a coach recommend the book "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn, but it wasn’t appealing, so I didn’t read it. Looking back, I wish a teacher had guided me into my breath so I could learn how to connect to my heart.
Fast-forward to 14 years later in my career when I was finding it hard to step away from success. Everyone told me I was really good at my job, but I didn’t feel successful within myself; I felt empty. The catalyst for my meditation practice was when a coach suggested that I needed to connect my mind, body, and heart so I could feel more fulfilled at work.
At first I resisted, but taking intentional breaths in middle-of-the-night moments of desperation started to help. I made a decision to begin to discover who I was, feeling like if I could remember that, my life’s purpose would emerge. I read books, listened to tapes, journaled, and took online courses. My journey began sitting quietly alone and paying attention to my breath.
Q: What’s your personal meditation style and how has your practice helped you discover who you are?A: I give myself permission to feel and welcome my emotions, and I practice total acceptance of who I am in that moment, no matter what’s present. Throughout my meditation journey, I’ve found that the value that’s most important to me is authenticity. Can I be myself and still be OK? Through feeling unsatisfied at work, I learned that I was missing several key ingredients to fully come alive. I was looking for more joy, vitality, a sense of play, and creativity. I also wanted to feel abundant, especially when it came to time. I used to go to sleep feeling like I didn’t get enough done. And finally, I wanted to embody more gratitude.
Q: How did your life change after you began meditating?A: When I started to meditate, my pace slowed. I used to follow the productivity tenets most of us subscribe to: needing to be fast and better at our jobs. Slowing down gave me the space to be, which was a real eye-opener. I was able to sense and feel more of my body — even colors became more vibrant! I realized that I had numbed a lot of things in my life in order to produce at the high level I did. When I gave myself more time and space and tuned into my feelings, I could be more creative at work and decision-making was less burdensome. A new sense of joy arrived.
Q: What does your daily meditation practice look like?A: My day begins after I sit. It didn’t come easy in the beginning. I couldn’t even sit still for one minute because my mind was racing. But over time, I’ve really benefited from having what I call my “time-space.” Just like we need time to digest food, I don’t like to add more to my day without giving myself space to digest my experiences. I used to time myself in the beginning — three, five, or 10 minutes — but I don’t do that anymore. I sit until I feel I am finished. Afterward, I journal. Then, throughout the day, I take an intentional three breaths to synchronize my whole self and check in with how I’m doing.
Q: What tips would you suggest for those new to meditation who might be worried about doing it wrong?A: When it comes to meditation, I believe that there is no right or wrong. I suggest relaxing and letting go of any notion of what meditation is “supposed” to be like and simply feeling into yourself as you are. Be gentle on yourself. Imagine a loving friend, grandmother, or mentor who would accept you unconditionally in all your humanness. Feel that presence and be in that presence as you are.
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