A guided meditation for nonprofit professionals

[Image description: A stone bench on a beach overlooking the ocean. The bench is facing our left. It has two supporting beams and looks worn, with the paint uneven patches of white and grey/tan. The bench is casting a shadow, so it appears to be noon. There is a large boulder a few feet in front of the bench. The ocean is blue, under a clear sky that is slightly lighter blue. The beach has tufts of uneven green grass.]

Hi everyone, it seems that many of us are stressed out. This includes me. I’ve been trying to find a guided meditation program that I like, but they haven’t really responded to the unique challenges we in this sector face. So here’s a guided #nonprofitmeditation to help you all relax:

Find a comfortable position, whether sitting on your favorite donated chair, lying down on a cushy donated sofa, or huddled up in the fetal position beside a milk crate filled with 300 copies of your gala program booklets that you refused to recycle for some reason.

Let’s take several deep breaths. With each breath, feel your body relax and your worries drifting away.

Breathe in…and out…your 1700 unread emails are gone.

In…and out…the 175 items on your to-do list have faded away.

Breathe in…and slowly exhale…F that annual event.

Now imagine you are at your office, but it’s better. Breathe in. And exhale. Your office is clean. The sink has no dishes in it. Look at your reflection on the spotless microwave. You see a radiant, restful face staring back. Your left eye no longer has an involuntary twitch. You don’t look like someone on the verge of stabbing the next person who says you look tired. Because you don’t. You don’t look tired at all. The wrinkles and grey hair actually make you look distinguished and regal.

Breathe in and out. There’s a new chair. Someone bought you an ergonomic chair. And an adjustable desk that can convert to sitting or standing. And it’s completely organized. Your desk is completely clutter-free and not a coffee-stained dumpster fire of chaos and broken promises. On your desk you have dual-monitors. And next to it is a printer that works. It prints double-sided and perfectly every time.

Pull out one of drawers in your desk. All the files are organized and neatly labeled. The folders are new. Smell their newness. They smell like success and fair-trade chocolate. Run your fingers over the labels. They each only have one label on them, not five layers of labels and crossed out names. Look inside the folders. All the documents you need are there. Forms and surveys and receipts. You don’t have to chase anyone down to sign anything.  

Your computer screen starts glowing. Look at your email inbox. You have only 12 emails. Three of them are from board members confirming their attendance at your next event. The rest are from community members thanking you for being awesome.

You see a door. You slowly open it. You are on a beach. That’s right, your office is on a beautiful white-sand beach next to the ocean. Feel the cool soft sand beneath your toes. Hear the waves. You are serene. You are relaxed. Nothing is on fire. Your hair is great.

Turn your gaze to the sea. It is emerald green and tranquil. Breathe in deeply. Breathe out. Wait. Look closer. The ocean is green because it’s a giant sea of cash. Enough cash to fund your organization’s work forever. A seagull flies by, squawking cheerfully. Listen closer. The seagull seems to be saying something. “Unrestricted, squawk…” says the seagull, “Unrestricted. And you are so smart, and people really like you, squawk.”

Breathe in the scent of the sea of unrestricted funds. You are relaxed AF. You can implement everything in your strategic plan and serve everyone who needs help. And all the staff at your organization get a raise and professional development funds. See their happy faces. They are smiling. Except the incompetent people; they get fired.

A winged unicorn with a saddle suddenly lands beside you. “My name is Equity,” says the unicorn, “Get on. Don’t worry. This ocean of cash will be here waiting for you.” You hop on to the unicorn. It smells like fresh-baked blueberry scones. It takes off. As you fly through the sky, feel the cool breeze on your skin, as gentle and comforting and effective as multi-year general operating funds.

The unicorn flies up high and lands on a plateau surrounded by fluffy white clouds. “Welcome to the Land of Sustainability,” says the unicorn. At that moment, a giant rainbow appears in the sky.

Equity leads you to a beautiful place, one full of life and laughter. Diverse kids are playing outside, watched by smiling seniors. “It is peaceful here,” says the unicorn, “There’s no war or violence or hunger or any of the isms. Everyone has plenty to eat, and we all get along. There’s no trash here, because everything is compostable. We use the compost to grow vegetables in our community garden. And everyone who is eligible to vote does so on time.”

A butterfly flutters past your ear, whispering, “You are brilliant and people really like you.”  

“As you can imagine,” continues the unicorn, “there are no nonprofits here. Nonprofits are not needed. Community members take care of one another. No one is left out; everyone belongs. Because the world is perfect and we are not needed, all of us can pursue our hobbies, creating art and music, and snuggling. Some of us make craft beer for the monthly community potlucks and 90’s-Hip-Hop-themed Karaoke parties. Plus, the wifi here is amazing, so we can watch all our favorite shows all day.”

Suddenly, a giant high-definition TV appeared on a wall. “What show would you like to watch?” asks the unicorn, “Firefly? Arrested Development? Here, your favorite shows were never cancelled, and the Walking Dead’s Season 7 is actually good.” You look around the village and feel a single tear trickling down your face.

“We love you,” says Equity the unicorn, its eyes tearing up too, “you are so amazing and talented and good-looking and humble and witty and so stylish–“

“And you have impeccable dental hygiene,” says a bunny that hops by.

“But you are needed in your world,” says the unicorn.

You don’t want to leave this world. You hug Equity tight.

“Go on, get out of here,” says the unicorn, pushing you away. Equity starts picking up rocks and throwing them at you. “Get out! Forget all those nice things I said about you! No one wants you here! I don’t need you!”

“Yeah, beat it!” says the bunny, “and floss more often.” But you know the unicorn and bunny are only being mean to make it easier for you to leave. You start to walk away. 

“Wait,” says Equity, “come back. We do need you. But your world needs you more. I’ll take you back to your home.”  

Breathe in the sights and sounds of the Land of Sustainability as you hop on to the unicorn.  See the laughing children and smiling elders and assorted woodland creatures wave at you as you take off into the sky. You fly over the green ocean of cash and the white sand. Equity drops you off at your office. When I count to three, you will wake up feeling refreshed and alert and ready for the week.

One.

Two.

Three.

Wake up.

You are sooooooo relaxed and refreshed. Now go tackle your five billion emails and to-do items.

Update on NWB name change: I announced in the Nonprofit Serenity Prayer post that NWB is changing its name. However, this is taking longer than I expected…mainly because everyone hates all the alternative names I come up with. If you have a suggestion, please email me at nonprofitwithballs@gmail.com. I hope to complete the rebranding by end of 2017. Thanks for your patience.

Make Mondays suck a little less. Get a notice each Monday morning when a new post arrives. Subscribe to NWB by scrolling to the top right of this page (maybe scroll down a little) and enter in your email address (If you’re on the phone, it may be at the bottom). Also, join the NWB Facebook community for daily hilarity.

Also, join Nonprofit Happy Hour, a peer support group on Facebook, and if you are an ED/CEO, join ED Happy Hour. These are great forums for when you have a problem and want to get advice from colleagues, or you just want to share pictures of unicorns. Check them out.

Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organizationRainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.

Oh, and support the maintenance of this website by buying NWB t-shirts and mugs and other stuff.

  • Zlauzia

    I laughed so hard…yes at 3:20 a.m. because I just finished working on a grant due in less than 24 hours — way ahead of schedule so I “gave” myself the luxury of reading this week’s contribution to my sanity! Priceless!

    • Ophelia Hu

      Love it. Less than 24 hours away = way ahead of schedule. Oh, I know that well. You deserve the treat!

  • Zlauzia

    I laughed so hard…yes at 3:20 a.m.- and woke up the dogs and everyone outside of the “home office” (the living-room couch after 11:30 p.m.) and probably some neighbors. I just finished working on a grant due in less than 24 hours — way, way, way ahead of schedule…so I gave myself the luxury of reading this week’s contribution to my sanity! Priceless!

  • amyeisenstein

    Amazing post! In the unlikely event that this guided meditation doesn’t do the trick, check out Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman’s new book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit. I did a review of the book here: http://www.amyeisenstein.com/adopting-better-fundraising-habits-happy-healthy-nonprofit/

  • Ier

    Hahahahahahaha! Teeheehee!! I am still laughing… even if one did not do the meditation, this certainly does the trick! Thanks!

  • Carol Clarke

    Vu. You never disappoint. My boss is not so pleased with you, however, because every Monday my donated refurbished keyboard is compromised by my many spit-takes while reading your posts. She is imploring me to maybe make my guffaw noises and moistures over your blog at lunch time, away from cultured folk who may be potential donors.

  • House0fTheBlueLights

    I cried. I admit it. I’m not proud.

  • GeorgeintheGorge

    I was acting very professional until the part about the file folder labels. Non-profit life hack: If you turn folders inside out you can get at least another year or two out of them.

  • Victoria Carter

    A colleague from my GPA Chapter in Nashville, TN introduced me to this site and I have never laughed so much about different elements in the grant/non-profit profession! You are literally reading some of our minds. The folders…the smell of success and fair trade chocolate. That was a scream for me! I can’t decide which post was funnier, this one or the responses to the sustainability questions. Thank you Vu!!

  • Sherrie Smith

    I was laughing so hard I got a stuffy nose.
    The desk is a dumpster fire of broken promises… my god…
    My staff got a real kick out of you basically describing my office. And with daylight savings time my hair is a hot mess.
    Perfect.