Eileen Fisher has always said that she began designing comfortable clothes because she was an uncomfortable person. The clothes were a beginning.
Because her discomfort was not limited to what she was wearing, Eileen sought ways to address her inner discomfort. As she did, she came to realize that while she wasn’t able to control the challenges that life presented — at home or at work — she always had choice about how she responded to them. She understood that we are not one person in our living room and another in our office; our consciousness and how we experience life are one and the same wherever we are.
That is why Eileen decided to call this initiative and the programs we offer LifeWork.
Our choice of LifeWork programs is based on workshops and processes that have personally transformed Eileen and employees in her company. They are based in the understanding that it takes more than knowledge to create the changes we seek in our lives; it takes practice — ongoing practice through which we learn and adjust and practice again.
Eileen wakes up every morning and meditates for 15 minutes and then gets into her body through various yoga and movement practices she has learned. She does these daily practices because they make a difference in her daily life. It is not uncommon for her to say that she has more energy today than she had in her twenties.
The role of mindfulness
Mindfulness is by definition how we become more conscious. Mindfulness is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It takes a lot of practice to make this happen in our everyday lives.
More and more organizations are introducing mindfulness practices into the workplace because they are benefitting from the outcomes: fewer employees take sick leave; there are measurable improvements in concentration and focus amongst the staff; greater creativity and kindness are evident throughout the organization; an obvious increase occurs in kindness with self and others; and employees demonstrate healthier responses to stress.
The interesting thing is that even with these benefits, most businesses keep the practices separate from actual work — offering stand-alone classes that employees can opt into. Eileen’s approach is to bring the practices right into the work life, right into the meetings.
Most meetings at EILEEN FISHER Inc. will start with the ringing of a small bell that invites those present to come into silence. The purpose of the silence is to allow for a transition from the last thing you were doing before you came to the meeting, into the present moment — noting and becoming aware of where you are, why you are in this meeting, and what might be keeping you from being present (such as thinking about a meeting you just had or a conversation that morning or a concern at home — or any number of other things!).
Eileen likens mindfulness to our ability to slow life down just enough to become aware of self-defeating behaviors so we can do something different, something more conscious.
All LifeWork programs and workshops are essentially mindfulness explorations — a wide range of opportunities and approaches that can be used to develop the capacity for self-awareness that leads to more empowered choices.
As we turn our attention inward, it is not unusual for questions to arise. A frequent question that people encounter is that of purpose: What am I here for? When we pause long enough, it is only natural to seek a life that is coherent, meaningful, and purposeful.
Each of us needs to find our own answer to the question of purpose. Eileen has been offering her employees a workshop on connecting with their personal purpose and how their purpose connects with and is expressed through their work. She has witnessed her employees becoming happier as they engage with their personal mission and purpose.
For this reason, LifeWork has offered — and will continue to offer — a life purpose workshop every season. We want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to find answers to this critical life question.
Other core LifeWork programs
In order to share more of the approaches and practices that are woven into the Eileen Fisher ecosystem (including the Eileen Fisher clothing company, Eileen Fisher LifeWork, and Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute, which provides leadership programs for young people), we recently developed the Eileen Fisher Lifework Signature Workshop. Designed especially for people who are new to this work, the Signature Workshop provides an experiential immersion in the kinds of listening, sharing, reflection, body-awareness, and personal inquiry that awaken authenticity and create that comfort that eluded Eileen for so long. Many of the practices can be easily and immediately used in daily life to sustain and expand what is discovered.
We will also continue to offer workshops in what is called “shadow work.” At some point in each of our journeys, we encounter places we are stuck, ways in which our intentions do not yield the results we are seeking. Shadow work is about shining a light into the areas and patterns that we are blind to. Shadow work offers the chance to become more conscious about those thoughts and behaviors that are self-destructive — so we can choose to do something different. We can also claim the incredibly amazing aspects of ourselves that we have, over time, learned to tone down or tuck away in order to fit in and not outshine others.
Winter/Spring 2018 — it’s body time
As choreographer Martha Graham famously said, “The body never lies.”
Our bodies are constantly communicating with us, and as Martha Graham tells us, they are the best source of wisdom for they tell us the truth. We all know the physical experience of gut-wrenching anxiety, sweat-producing fear, the heart-opening joy of watching a beautiful sunset, or the bubbliness of anticipation.
In recent years, Eileen’s personal journey led her into somatics, bodywork, and movement approaches that emphasize internal physical perception and experience — the body perceived from within. Body-based mindfulness practices, such as wiggling her toes or shaking her hands, are among the most freeing and empowering practices she has been using to bring her into the present moment.
This season, we are bringing in teachers who will help us learn to listen to what our bodies are communicating to us. They will lead experiences that will demystify the body’s language and deepen our experience with embodiment as well as share cutting-edge understandings from recent scientific research — and how we can apply them to improve our own lives.
Who’s coming …
We begin the season in late February with Taking Power Out of the Closet, a workshop taught by Wendy Palmer, a world-renowned pioneer in the field of leadership and embodiment who has been bringing her expertise to corporations for more than 30 years. Modeling ease and confidence, Wendy teaches simple yet potent practices that activate people’s most natural selves. It is a beautiful approach to automatically accessing less fear and more optimism — directly from the body.
Late in March, we are hosting Gina Barnett, a world-famous coach to TED Talk presenters who works with the newly formed Obama Foundation. Her workshop will explore how to use your voice in the most effective way to communicate what you want to say — and includes body-based explorations of movement, postures, and breath.
In April, Toni Bergins, the creator of JourneyDance™, will lead an energizing workshop in this powerful movement practice. Described as a ritual journey of physical and emotional transformation, you will move, breathe, sweat, and experience yourself as pure powerful energy. Mark your calendar!
Also in April, we are planning a daylong workshop with Michaela Boehm, an international expert in intimacy, who will be leading a women-only workshop to help balance both female and male aspects through embodiment practices. She is passionate about teaching skills that enhance deep intimacy, lasting attraction, and give each participant the tools for full-body presence and empowerment. Stay tuned!
We will close our spring season in June with an embodied self-compassion workshop led by Bo Forbes, a clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and integrative yoga therapist. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, describes her as “a remarkable yoga teacher who is also a deep mindfulness practitioner and who knows the embodiment interface from the inside out.”
Eileen and the LifeWork team look forward to a workshop season rich in inquiry and exploration, and we hope to welcome many of you to the beautiful Eileen Fisher Learning Lab space in Irvington, New York, for one or more of these programs.
Take a look at our Calendar of Workshops — listings will continue to be added.
Greg Zelonka, a member of the LifeWork team, focuses on programming.