Michelle Maldonado – Leading Awake: Bringing Mindful Equity, Compassion & Wise Work to Action

By Garrison Institute

“Our way of being informs our way of leading.”

In this interactive webinar, mindfulness teacher Michelle Maldonado discusses how we can use emotional awareness practices, not only to find peace in ourselves, but also to cultivate spaces of safety and belonging in the workplace – a task of particular urgency in our current moment of paradox and transformation.

Maldonado begins by deconstructing metaphors for inequity and inequality that are often used as the basis for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy. She argues that equality is not a sufficient goal because it does not take into account people’s preexisting advantages or disadvantages. Equity is a better goal, but it essentially only provides people the resources to navigate inherently flawed systems. In contrast, she presents a radical alternative approach to leadership, which goes beyond either equality or equity, and emphasizes what she calls “belonging”.

“The system was designed intentionally to work as it does, and so what we’re really called to do to create belonging, is to remove that system.”

This way of thinking about dismantling systemic inequity can be used as a lens, she explains, to better understand the value of compassionate and mindful leadership.

Maldonado then turns to the central focus of the webinar – mindfulness as a powerful but underutilized tool for enriching personal and professional relationships. Her work helps us to reconnect with our bodies and tap into the vast stores of subconscious perceptual data which are always at our fingertips. In this session, she explores the fascinating psychological research behind the physiological experience of emotion, and guides us through a brief “body mapping” practice. Our nervous systems, she explains, process information from our environment much more quickly than our conscious minds do. She teaches that we can use the breath to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, building our capacity for resilience. Increasing bodily mindfulness in our professional lives can help us:

“to be the flagpole instead of the flag in the storm, to be the eye of the hurricane where there is the most calm, as opposed to all the winds and clouds and rain whipping around it.”

Once we become aware of the physical sensation of emotion, we can identify the corresponding cognitive narrative, Maldonado says. Since the brain is a “predicting organ” – calibrating expectations based on past experience – we often end up “living the future we expect.” But by understanding the interconnectivity of mind and body, we can learn from our lived experience without being limited by preconceptions.

“Context matters. So when we come into the workplace awake, our perceptions, those filters of the body, and then of the brain are starting to inform and influence and impact our decisions as leaders, our behavior as leaders, and how we speak to others, how we perceive them and their value and place in that ecosystem.”

Maldonado also details strategies for practical applications of this principle in mindful leadership on a day-to day basis. She discusses the importance of trust in the workplace, how workplace cultures develop, and how leaders can create psychological safety within their organization, maximizing both team performance and satisfaction. Her teachings illuminate the value of our own inner work to facilitate growth in our families, communities, and workplaces.

This session concludes with a guided mindfulness practice, followed by an insightful Q&A segment. Maldonado leads the audience in a G.R.A.C.E. practice (Gathering, Recalling, Attuning, Considering, Ethical Enactment), giving listeners the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned, and visualize how we can apply these teachings to our own lives.

Visit the Lucenscia website to learn more about creating transformative change in your own organization using Michelle Maldonado’s teachings.

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Michelle Maldonado is the Founder of Lucenscia (pronounced loo-SENSE-see-ah), a firm dedicated to human flourishing and mindful business transformation. She is a former attorney turned business leader and is an internationally certified mindfulness and emotional intelligence teacher and practitioner. Michelle’s work focuses on leadership development at the pivotal intersection of mindfulness, unconscious bias, emotional intelligence, authenticity, and compassion, nestled on a foundation of neuroscience and research. She serves as senior faculty for 1440 Multiversity’s Leadership Center, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification program and Bill George’s True North Leadership program. Michelle has been recognized as one of the “12 Powerful Women in the Mindfulness Movement,” “Woman of The Year,” and a “Top Corporate Leader,” with her work featured in the Mindful Leader, the DQ Institute in association with the World Economic Forum, Mindful Magazine and Thrive Global. She is a graduate of Barnard College and The George Washington University School of Law.

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