Meditation has kept me sane.
Relatively speaking. I needed that long before the COVID took hold. Almost every day for almost 2 years, I’ve tapped into Simple Habit each morning to breathe and be. So many wonderful teachers have meditations there.
One stood out as a transformative figure for me: Dorsey Standish.
Dorsey’s messages resonated with me. I reached out, and we became friends. I wanted her to become a keynote at my last employers’ conferences, but that didn’t work out. I wanted everyone to hear her message.
Today, I’ll get the chance to share her story with you.
Please give a warm CD welcome to Dorsey. She’s the D in the #AtoZChallenge but grade A in every way. Especially now, I’ve found meditation to be an integral part of my peace, and I’m eternally grateful for the role Dorsey has played in mine.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Dorsey: When I was 2-3 years old, I was obsessed with exhaust pipes. I spent a ton of time noticing and counting the exhaust pipes on each car, and asking a lot of questions about them. My (very patient) parents let me spend hours walking around parking lots exploring, joking that I would turn out to be an auto mechanic or an engineer.
Their recollection jives with my personal experience — ever since I can remember I’ve been obsessed with science. I went to an all-girls school where being smart was cool, and science and math were for everyone. I designed and launched a rocket ship in sixth grade, and won a popsicle stick bridge contest in eighth grade. In high school I started taking two science classes per year and loving all of it, especially Physics and Engineering. That was when I decided I was going to be a mechanical engineer.
Eli: Can you reflect on what your parents’ patience and support meant to you?
Dorsey: On my parents’ patience and support:
I will always be grateful to my parents for their unconditional love and support. Growing up, they always emphasized investing in great education for my sister and me. Because of their support, I was able to attend the aforementioned top-notch all-girls school from 3rd-12th grade. They cheered me on as I studied mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to work at Texas Instruments as a design engineer and program manager.
They have also been patient with me as I have found my way in the world. It was understandably shocking for them when their successful, mechanical engineer daughter announced she was quitting the corporate world to teach yoga. It took them a little while to come around. A major turning point was when I visited them for a month shortly after leaving Texas Instruments. When I got to teach them yoga and mindfulness, they saw and felt my passion for helping others.
They have been my biggest fans over the past 3 years as I have gone from teaching a few yoga classes a week to running a mindfulness startup in Dallas, speaking about brain health all over Texas, and reaching thousands of meditators through the Simple Habit App.
Eli: Take us back to Texas Instruments. When did you begin to see that there was something else for you to do in this world?
Dorsey: First of all, I have to say that I absolutely loved my time at Texas Instruments. It was my first experience in taking complex technical content and breaking it down into understandable bites for others. (I still do this today with mindfulness and neuroscience!) I had so much fun at TI and learned so much, especially when I transitioned from design engineer to program manager in my second year. I got to manage engineers and suppliers around the globe! I traveled to India, China, Taiwan, London and many domestic destinations with TI.
It was a dream come true.
Things started to shift for me in 2015 when I was pushing hard for a TI product launch. I was teaching yoga at the time, so I knew the importance of self-care, but I wasn’t practicing it. In the spring of that year, I had an experience of complete and total burnout, and I had to take two months off of work to recover.
During those months of recuperation, I committed to a daily mindfulness meditation practice. I wanted to protect my brain against the effects of stress and promote mind-body resilience.
I always tell my mindfulness students today how I started with 1-2 minute meditations. For me, it wasn’t about being the best meditator, but rather doing something for my mental health every day; taking a few moments to ground into the present moment so that I could come back to that place of peace throughout any other chaos that happened later.
When I came back to TI after the break, things felt different. I had actually become more productive and intentional in my work, and my priorities had shifted to include my own self-care. Because I was already in the practice teaching weekly yoga classes to TI women, I started to include more mindfulness and meditation in these offerings. I even did a presentation for the Women’s Initiative on science-based mindfulness techniques.
In the summer of 2016, after a year of daily personal practice and sharing with others, I gave notice to TI. It was an easy, amicable parting. I still keep in touch with my former boss and I see my TI friends a few times a month. When I left TI, I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life (much to my parents’ trepidation). I did know that I was called to share yoga, mindfulness, and wellness with people who were stressed out and unhealthy, just like I had been in 2015.
Eli: Life dovetails into itself, doesn’t it? Can you talk about the element of not knowing exactly what lies in the direction we head in, but knowing we must go that way anyway?
Dorsey: That’s a good question. All of the professional mindfulness training programs I’ve participated in strongly advise against leaving your day job until you have a firmly established source of income from teaching. It just so happens I did exactly the opposite.
What it came down to is that during my last year at TI, my body, mind, and heart were giving me strong (and painful) signals every day that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, that my energies were needed elsewhere. I was getting debilitating migraines almost daily. Something had to change.
I had this vague dream of bringing my passion for wellness to the corporate world, and I think that the loving support of my family and my strong upbringing helped me trust in my ability to forge a path ahead if I kept following my instincts.
My sister recently gave me a plaque that says, “Courage is taking those first steps to your dream even if you can’t see the path ahead.”
Eli: That plaque captures your journey perfectly, doesn’t it? What is next for you?
Dorsey: Yes, it does! I am so excited to see what the universe has in store for me next. Right now I’m focused on leading my first mindfulness teacher training in Dallas next year, and I’m working on a book about mental health through mindfulness. When I got your LinkedIn message, Eli, sharing gratitude for my meditation on the Simple Habit app, it hit me that technology can truly be a force for good, bringing people together across the globe.
In that vein, I am excited about continuing to produce digital content (articles, meditations, courses, and e-books) so that I can share science-based mindfulness with people from all over the world.
Eli: I can’t wait to see what you’ll produce! Any advice to young women when it comes to mindful living?
Dorsey: What a great question — I often wish that I had been exposed to mindful living at a younger age. I would encourage young women to use mindfulness to stay aware of who they are and what they truly want. It’s so easy in today’s world to be pulled off-course by “weapons of mass distraction.” Having a regular centering practice like mindfulness increases self-confidence improves overall well-being and boosts resilience to stressors.
Also, don’t be intimidated by the term “mindfulness” or the misconception that doing meditation “right” means you don’t have any thoughts. Mindfulness is simply a secular, science-based practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. When we practice mindfulness, we get to be open, curious, and aware of what’s happening inside us and around us. This means that there are many ways to practice mindfulness — sitting, walking, eating, talking, and more. To get started, try a lot of different things — explore mindfulness apps like Simple Habit and Calm, search for a local community mindfulness class, and start following uplifting and mindful social media accounts like @mastermindmeditate, @mindfulmagazine, and @mndflmeditation.
If you’d like to ask me more questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via Instagram (@dorseystandish) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). May your mindfulness journey be engaging and illuminating!