Jason Pickard is a CSC Advisory Board member and holds a B.S. in Commerce with a concentration in Finance from the University of Virginia. He is passionate about health and wellness and dedicates much of his time studying and practicing a holistic lifestyle. Jason lives in NYC with his wife and four children.
CSC: Tell us how you first discovered the value of mindfulness in your life...
JP: My mindfulness journey began with the realization that I was 26, obese, and nearly dead. That was the beginning of taking responsibility for myself. I graduated from UVA in 2002 with a degree from the McIntire School in finance, ventured into trading, and became relatively successful. Despite my early success, I was very unhealthy, unaware, and unconscious of my actions. I left UVA educated professionally, but not in taking care of myself or being an integrated mindful human being.
It reached a tipping point in 2006. I was 26 and working as a portfolio manager at a large hedge fund (where I am currently employed). However, I was 330 pounds and getting sick often. I was out of balance, depressed, and uncomfortable. Despite my physical size, I felt small psychologically. I realized that success and happiness were not equal. What was the point of this financial gain if I was not going to be alive to enjoy it? Would I have a family of my own to share this with? What would it say on my obituary? Would it be a copy of my resume?
Over a three year period I went from 330 pounds to 160 pounds in 2009, losing more than half my body weight. I did so through overhauling my diet, sleep habits, people in my life, and engaging passionately in exercise. However, despite that change and hard work I was still as sick as when I started! I was still not mindful of my actions. I had awoken some, but until this point I had only transferred my food addiction to something more socially acceptable – I was now addicted to exercise and a strict, rigid, and ultimately depressed lifestyle. I had little knowledge of true balance in my body, mind and spirit, such that I was extremely adrenal fatigued and dull. I knew I needed to dig deeper into the dynamics that got me here in the first place. I needed a teacher, and I found Holistic Life Coach Paul Chek.
CSC: What are some of the most important lessons you can share about your own mindfulness journey?
JP: “The Map is not the Territory!” There are many who can write books about meditation or mindfulness or any academic subject matter, but deeply knowing something through experience constitutes a completely different depth for the knower. In such experiences we find the “Territory.” On the other hand, it is important to have context and structure learned through disciplined practice and study, which is the “Map.” Without a “Map” you cannot bring your experiences back to your community to share, teach and grow; indeed, you yourself lack a framework to explore and extend your evolving experiences. “Wisdom is the synthesis of knowledge through experience.”
I spent the last 6 years studying with Paul Chek, yet it is incorporating what he taught me into my daily life that is the real practice. Paul taught me to be mindful of how I eat, sleep, hydrate, breathe, think and move. Paul taught me “The last Four Doctor’s you’ll ever need.” They are “Dr. Diet, Quiet, Movement, and Happiness.” I use these “doctors” as my daily guides to stay balanced and aware of what I’m creating in my life.
I’ve practiced extensively with William C. C. Chen, Tai Chi Grandmaster in NYC. I love the ancient form we meticulously study, but I benefit most from incorporating the energy connections, stillness of mind, fluidity, and power of movement into my everyday life. Over the same period I’ve sat with a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) meditation teacher in NYC named Bernice Todres. I did not take those lessons to be a better meditator, but to learn to eat mindfully, drink mindfully, reflect on a conflict mindfully, walk my crying baby mindfully, or even take out the trash mindfully. The same is true with my dedication at the gym with Tomi Toles, Chek Faculty NYC, with whom I work on corrective exercise and form. The intention of this practice is to enhance my ability to live fully, play with my kids, play sports, dance, pick up heavy rocks, and age with ease. I believe to live fully one must be fully functional. When I study with Beret Arcaya for Alexander Technique learning how to stand with grace, it is not just the improved posture and openness I feel during the session, but learning to “walk in beauty” in all aspects of my life. With Patricia Jacqulin Winchester for energy work and healing, it is not only the vitality I feel in her presence, but the knowledge that “All healing is Self-healing” and that healing yourself is possible.
I have an intense passion for deep dives with some of the world’s greatest minds on mindfulness, health, and expanding consciousness, and yet the message is always the same. What I found is that none of this work makes an impact unless I honor the lessons of my great teachers in every action every day. It is the sacred intention and ritual in which I bring my heart to my daily actions that is essential. As Joseph Chilton Pearce says, “one must integrate the intellect of the mind with the intelligence of the heart.” Gary Zukav in “The Seat of the Soul” says “every experience reflects intention. An intention is not only a desire. It is the use of your will.” If you desire your relationship to be different, that desire alone will not change it. The change must emanate with the intent to change it. That is how a rattle may be a musical instrument for you, but in the hands of a Shaman with the right intention it is a tool for healing. In addition, the same techniques used by the Amazonian Shaman for healing could also be used by others to inflict suffering, it is all about the intention. A knife can be used to harm someone or to cut cloth. One’s intellect can create an atomic bomb or educate the world. As the Buddha said, “You cannot travel the path until you become the path itself.” It does not matter what path you chose, as long as you’re following your heart, and “become” the path. If you wait for the perfect opportunity to come along you may be waiting a long time. Choose something that is calling you to action and start now.
In the east mindfulness is translated as heart-fulness. No matter how thoroughly you dissect the brain, you will not find the mind. Osho said, “you can cut open the dance floor, but you won’t find the dance.” The dance is in your heart. My heart guides the way in which I honor our organic food with love, charge my family’s water on the roof of our NYC apartment with crystals to connect to the stars, and a daily practice of “sacred” or “visionary” art to allow my unconscious mind to “bubble up” gifts of healing to awareness. It is the way in which I interact with my wife, four beautiful children, brother, father, mother, business partner, and everyone I meet, even with the pain and the growth that can come from it! That is mindfulness.
There’s a great story about Mahatma Ghandi on a train pulling away from the station about to go into a very hostile territory deeply divided by Hindus and Muslims. Many thought that this was the last straw for Ghandi and that he might be killed. As the train is pulling away from the station a reporter threw Ghandi a piece of paper asking him for a message to deliver to the people of India. As the train pulled away Ghandi scribbled on the paper and threw it back to the reporter. The message read “My life is my message.” That is the most important lesson in my mindfulness journey. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I have also found the following questions from Dustin Diperna’s book “Streams of Wisdom” to be powerful tools to create mindfulness in my life. I would recommend these for anyone brave enough to embrace the truth of what they are creating in their own life and the lives of others, moment to moment.
1) Is this action coming from my deepest realization?
2) Is this action serving the awakening of the other person with whom I’m engaging?
3) Does this action honor the past?
4) Could this action serve as the foundation for all future action to be built on?
5) Could this action be coming from a shadow within myself?
6) Could this action serve to catalyze a shadow in another person, locally or globally?
CSC: How does living a mindful life impact those around you?
JP: Every action has impact on a Universal level. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, and eat the same food. We are all interconnected beings, and thus our actions have a ripple effect. An earthquake in Japan pollutes our fish and water supply in California. Thich Nhat Hahn says “To Be is to Inter-Be.” It is impossible to be alone. You need other people in order to be. He says “you need your mother, father, and society, but also the sun, water and air.”
Every time you spend a dollar you are impacting those around you. Being mindful of how you spend your money is more impactful than your vote. Lao Tzu says “The Government reflects the people.” Instead of complaining about your elected leaders and their policies, first become responsible yourself. Then you will attract responsible leaders.
How do you treat people in your life, those closest to you? Are you a caretaker of Mother Earth? Do you make an effort to protect our air and water? Are you leaving the Earth a better place for future generations? The Native Americans practiced protecting the Earth to prepare it for their next 7 generations of descendants.
In every action, you have the opportunity to be mindful, to take responsibility for your own life, and for the lives of the people with whom you have relationships. When you are responsible at the “I” level, you can bring a stable, harmonized, and mindful “I” to your “We” relationships. You realize your only vehicle for bringing stability to a marriage or to any relationship is through the level of mindfulness you have stabilized at your “I” level. The same thing with “We” relationships affecting “All.” When you board an airplane they always say put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.
CSC: How would you say your mindfulness practice impacts your professional life?
JP: It’s the 4 doctors of trading!
Dr. Diet, I bring my own organic nutritious food and water to work so that my body is nourished, my cells hydrated and my mind stable. I utilize grounding mat technologies to protect myself from the negative effects of EMF (Electromagnetic Field) radiation from wireless and cell phones which creates a disharmonious environment. The more toxins the body has to process, the fewer resources it has to use for mental capacities.
Dr. Quiet, I maintain adequate rest and reflection time to generate new ideas. Creativity comes from discontinuous thought. If you are continuously thinking or over analyzing, you are only repeating ideas or concepts you already know, essentially old ideas. In order to access new ideas you must quiet your mind. Through stillness you create space for new thoughts to enter. In stillness you connect to something greater than yourself and gain access to all possibilities. You create an environment where new ideas, insights, and inspiration enter like flashes of light. There are non-traditional approaches for brainstorming like doing art on the weekend, or quieting your mind while immersed in nature to allow for a flash of inspiration to come in. Always carry a notebook to capture those moments of brilliance.
Dr. Movement, I utilize an ergonomic standing desk, standing with ease as I relax the muscles of my neck, back, and shoulders as I type. I view my monitors with “Open Focus,” extending my vision from just the monitors to include the entire room with all my senses. This has a remarkable calming effect on the mind. I pump my body through working out in the gym or “working in” through Tai Chi to give my body and mind vitality to stay alert without caffeine. My body is my temple, and I realize my mind and body reflect each other. “As above so below.” The better I take care of my entire being the more effective I am at work.
Dr. Happiness is focusing on living my dream every day, doing what I love to do with a sense of effortless purpose, and making sure to have plenty of play in my life. This can be the difference of work being labor vs. a labor of love. Dr. Happiness is about asking big questions such as “Who am I? What is my life myth (story) and is it serving me and those I love? What is breathing me when I’m not actively focusing on my breath?”
You can incorporate Carl Jung’s Consciousness Compass into trading or business as well. Jung’s compass consists of 4 inseparable functions for perceiving reality, not just thought which is most commonly used for rational analysis. Here rational thought is only one component, as the compass consists of “Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, and Intuiting.” The compass is a tool enabling you to be more confident and conscious in a decision making process, and to not rely solely on mind or the five senses to achieve a result.
Thinking is utilizing the intellect and power of the rational mind. Your mind is a powerful tool when you are conscious of how you’re using it. The mind can be a “loyal servant” but a “lousy master.” Deeply analyze if your process is working for you, and how to improve it. Deeply analyze if your line of thinking is serving you or ensuring you resist new methods.
Feeling is utilizing the power of your heart. Feeling connects to your deep values and morals. For example, understanding what your values are regarding risk reward and your client’s capital, or access to information. This is essentially your code of conduct for engaging in a trade or business activity.
Sensing is using your five senses to decode all of the external information that floods your inbox, screens, social media outlets, market changes, research reports, news stream etc. You must become sensitive to the influx of information coming into your field in order to develop a process of streamlining the most important data points.
Intuition is one’s non-physical sensory perception. How do I get in touch with that “gut” feeling, how do I connect all of the invisible “dots?” This is the part of you that knows the basketball is going to go in when it leaves your hand, or how you know the light will turn red before it changes. Getting in touch with the subtle energies of your intuition can be very powerful.
When you align the rational Thinking Mind with the Feeling Heart and five sensory perceptions with your nonphysical intuition, you are the most balanced and informed. You can make effective business decisions while being conscious that your actions are ethical and compliant.
CSC: What are some of the best ways people can start incorporating mindfulness into their lives?
JP: Play More! Paul Chek says “the purpose of life is to live.” To live is to create, to be is to create. It is really doing the same things you are already doing but viewing them with a different lens, with “reverence for life.” Mindfulness is fun! There is so much beauty and play in the world when you slow down and enjoy the richness of an experience.
Three practical ways that work for me are art, tai chi, and mindful eating. I create art almost every day and I’m amazed how time disappears as I immerse myself in this ancient healing experience. My intention is to create healing art for myself and for anyone who sees it. I recommend that whatever skill you have or don't have, allow yourself to just play with art. Try not to be overly connected to the outcome or critical of yourself. Be in awe of what you have created, it is yours, unique and sacred.
I find it easier for beginners to do active meditation like Tai Chi vs. seated meditation. While it would be helpful to find a good teacher, it is not necessary; it is just coordinating breath with movement. Awareness in Tai Chi is about being aware of what’s happening inside of yourself. Focus on your feelings not thoughts, and witness what arises inside. You can try right now.
Stand in a relaxed posture, inhale through your nose filling your belly with air, as you raise your arms over your head or as high as you can comfortably raise them. Imagine you are looking up at the sun as you raise your arms and say “The Sun rises in my being”. You imagine yourself basking in the unconditional love, energy, and warmth of the sun. Then exhale, lower your arms back to the resting position and say “The moon sets in my being.” Feel the rejuvenating and harmonizing rhythm of the moon.
After you feel comfortable with this, you can coordinate watching your breath move up the front of your body as you inhale and raise your arms. Watch the breath start at the groin, move to the abdomen, chest, throat, face, ending at the crown of your head, as you repeat “the Sun rises in my being.” Then as you exhale, watch your breath go from you crown down your back along the spine to the base of your groin as you lower your arms and say “the Moon sets in my being,” completing a circle. This is powerful and stimulates energy flow in your body. Ideally this is done in nature without distractions from electronics, but it can be done anywhere. Have fun, smile, be cool,pretend as if you’re swimming in air and let go.
Finally, I recommend eating mindfully. Next time you have a meal, eat in silence without distraction. Say a prayer, something such as, “Thank you food for your love. It is with great love and respect that I put you into my body. Thank you for giving me energy to assist in my healing and the healing of the Mother Earth.” Think about where your food came from and slow down the pace of eating and chewing. Think about the soil, the sun, moon, stars, rain, wind, the farmer, symbiotic organisms, how the food was harvested, packaged and driven on a truck possibly cross country, the person who stocked the shelf, buying the groceries, the cook, how the food looks visually, smells, tastes, feels, the nutritional properties and health benefits. Think about how the food tastes differently in your mouth as you being to break it down and mix with your saliva, and the point just before and just after you know you’re swallowing, the “point of no return.” Witness your food’s descent into your stomach and be mindful of the space in between bites as you put your fork down and rest.