Written by Noelle San Jose (she/her/they), Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager

As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we’re excited to spotlight an initiative that’s making a significant impact within our company: weekly meditation sessions hosted by GPJ Well – our Employee Resource Group (ERG), focused on all aspects of wellness. These sessions have become a haven for employees dedicated to deepening their meditation practice, offering a moment of peace and clarity amidst our busy lives.

Our lead meditator and VP Executive Creative Director, Erik Reponen, has introduced an intriguing challenge: meditating with eyes slightly open. This technique encourages greater awareness of our surroundings, fostering a connection with the environment rather than turning away from it. By embracing our immediate surroundings, we can achieve a more stable emotional state and reduce the tendency of our minds to wander.

Personally, I really enjoy joining these sessions because they’re like workouts for my brain and body. Plus, it’s great to see how my colleagues are progressing and handling their challenges. I love the practice of slowing down my racing mind and focusing on getting grounded in a calm, emotionally regulated state. It definitely takes conscious effort, but it’s so worth it. Here are some quotes from frequent participants:

Lisa Bogler, Business Process Manager
James Christian, Executive Creative Director

To give deeper insight into this initiative, I sat down with Erik to discuss the origins of the program, its benefits and tips for those new to meditation.

A: I actually came into GPJ Well by way of meditation. My meditation practice is the cornerstone for my mental well-being. I found this to be doubly true during lockdown. As we emerged from our caves, I was compelled to contribute something meaningful beyond the day to day work to the community. So, I reached out to see if there was potential to establish an ERG for meditators.

A: We work in a high-stress industry. No one is immune to its effect. Simply put, through regular meditation practice we can actually cut through the accumulation of stress and anxiety and develop clarity, strength and stability in our everyday lives. It is about being totally present, which is hard to do. It takes practice, and that’s why we call it practice. Through regular practice we become more integrated in body and mind, and begin to relate to our world in a less distracted and more wakeful way. Think of how many bad habits and situations that could have been avoided if we could mindfully respond instead of just react. That has a positive effect on not only your own mental and physical health, but those around you. The research on meditations benefits are overwhelmingly positive

A: I meet a lot of folks who tell me “I tried meditating, but it’s not for me. My mind is just constantly running.” My response is, “that just means you were doing it right.” There’s a misconception that if you’re doing it “right” your mind is totally still every time. Our minds ARE really busy. We just never stop to really pay attention. The practice part is learning how to work with that. Also there are some things to look out for when getting started. That’s why I suggest you find a qualified and reputable teacher to learn the basics (and don’t hesitate to ask questions!)

Once you have a handle on the fundamentals you can explore the apps and guided meditations etc. with some perspective. There are so many different modalities and teachers out there, it can be hard to know what’s legit, — so definitely do your research. 

A: We hold short, introductory, virtual sessions internally every Friday, designed to fit in our busy schedules. Inviting consistency is key to starting your own mindfulness meditation practice and establishing a similar routine. The work that the Insight Meditation Society does is pretty much the gold standard for Mindfulness Meditation. Check out content from founders, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and Tara Brach. They all have a very accessible and secular teaching style with many books and videos.

Mental Health & Wellness Resources compiled from GPJ Well