Jan 09, 2017

Tuck Mindfulness Society: Q&A with Eric Giles T’16

The Tuck Mindfulness Society (TMS) is a growing group of practitioners who use meditation and mindfulness techniques to develop better overall health, mental focus, satisfying personal relationships and leadership qualities such as empathy. One of TMS’s founders, Eric Giles T’16, is the Redwoods Resident at DaVita Kidney Care. We chatted with him recently to ask about how he uses mindfulness in his daily life, post Tuck.

What initially drew you to mindfulness meditation?

I was researching ways to increase my productivity at work and one book mentioned that meditation was a way to develop a sense of focus. Intrigued, I read more about mindfulness. As I read, I realized that all the characteristics mindfulness helps develop—equanimity, staying grounded in the moment, contentment, attention—were all woefully absent in my life. I had become a servant to ruminations about my past, to anxieties about my future, and was in a constant state of unease. At Tuck students call it FOMO (fear of missing out). Reading about mindfulness made me realize that contentment, joy, and happiness was always available to me, and that meditation was a technique to practice living in the present moment.

Describe what your practice is like today.

I do my best to stick to a regular practice. My goal is 5 minutes before I leave for work so that I start my day feeling grounded, then a longer sit for 15-20 minutes before I go to bed. I also attend a group sit and mindfulness talk at a local center each Thursday. I mix a few books about mindfulness into my reading list. Next up on my list is Smile at Fear by Chogyam Trungpa. MY practice is enhanced and more regular if I am in a community, so I do my best to read or participate with other groups as much as possible. I am also looking to attend a weekend silent retreat in the spring time.

Do you ever practice mindfulness when you aren't in formal meditation?

Work and life is stressful. When I feel my mind start to get agitated, I close my office door and just sit in how I am feeling and focus my breath. It only takes about 20-30 seconds before I feel my mind calm down. I am also a very kinesthetic person and cannot sit in a chair all day, so I often go for a 5 minute walk outside. I do my best to silence divergent thinking and just feel my feet hit the ground and absorb the sounds and smells around me. It is quick, but it brings my mind and body back into alignment.

How has mindfulness practice helped you at work and in life?

I remember before I went to Tuck I used to have "Sunday dread." I would feel anxiety each day before work, I would let mistakes haunt me for days, and I would struggle to focus on tasks. I certainly still get anxious before some tasks and, admittedly, there are mistakes that I let stay with me for longer than I should. But after two years of practicing while at Tuck, my disposition is much less volatile. I am no longer beset by constant anxiety, and my peers are amazed at my ability to constantly "be in the zone" when they walk by my desk. I’m more productive and happier now. These benefits carry over to my personal life. I’m better able to listen to loved ones, and I’m more empathetic towards my friends. I am also just more fun to be around since I can live in the moment.

Any final words of advice for committing to a practice?

Mindfulness is like becoming taller when you are a child. You never realize that you are growing until you look back at an old picture and think, "Wow! I’m a lot bigger." Mindfulness is the same way.