We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Prather and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance had always been an interesting idea that seemed to elude me. That is, until I found meditation, and became an entrepreneur discovering work that fills me up with purpose while allowing me to help others. As a young, ambitious, college graduate, I was ready to work hard for the leadership goals that I had set for myself. Yet, as the years went by and I was awarded promotion after promotion, I began to notice that I was always working. Even when at home, I might be strategizing on a current project or thinking about a difficult client or employee interaction I was going to have tomorrow. The idea of work-life balance was as elusive as a good night’s sleep. Neither were at the top of the ‘to do’ list. Eventually this inability to take care of myself and separate work from the rest of my life took its toll, leading to burnout, and feelings of a deep lack of meaning and unhappiness. I then embarked on a quest to find purpose that would motivate me, and the happiness that I knew was possible. I spent years in India, becoming deeply immersed in meditation and Buddhist philosophy. I found work that aligned with my interest and became an international tour director, leading tours throughout Europe, India, and other parts of Asia. When not working, I spent quality time with family and friends in addition to engaging in meditation retreats on a regular basis. How did I balance work and ‘life’? First, it is no exaggeration to say that meditation changed my life. With meditation, I came to understand my own mind, and to embrace the many facets of life as each being important to my balance – and happiness. Then, I pushed back against the puritanical work ethic that is deeply ingrained in our society. I began to let go of thinking that one must work hard to be successful. I began redefining success to include feeling happy, calm, joyful, even playful. And, when I did that, I felt more balanced, and surprisingly (or maybe not) I was more productive! I began to reframe the idea of work-life balance into one of work-life integration. Seeing it as a state of mind – instead of a set of rules or activities that are going to bring me to some sense of balance. Instead, I began looking at balance as dynamic, instead of static. Because, whether we like it or not, things are always changing. Through meditation and mindfulness practices, I’ve learned to find a flow that allows me to create the balance between work and my personal life that feels positive and sustainable. I find that when I see my life like that of a kayaker going down a river, I am able to make necessary corrections along the way to keep my balance and direction. Important to me is limiting social media use, which I find gives me back so much time and energy in a day. And, I make sure to find time for daily runs, long hikes in nature, hot baths, and good, sweaty dance sessions in my living room. I started my own company, The Prather Group, to mentor stressed and burned out professional women, and to bring mindfulness into organizations. One of the main issues that clients are struggling with is this concept of work life balance. I am a true advocate for intentionally creating a work-life integration framework that makes you feel happy and successful. Meditation has helped me to see it as a state of mind that I have the power to affect – thus allowing me to navigate my days and life with more ease and joy.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When I look back on my journey from corporate Vice-President to Mindfulness Consultant and Mentor, I am reminded of the challenges I had to overcome, as well as the successes I experienced along the way. It was the burnout that I suffered in my corporate job which was the catalyst to stepping away from that career, and embarking on a life-changing journey to Asia, particularly India and Nepal. It was there that I found meditation, wisdom teachings, and time to really look at my life and what I wanted for my future. I found that my main interest was in meditation, Buddhist philosophy, and how to integrate mindful strategies and wisdom teachings into our lives. I began to understand the power of the mind and learned to better manage my emotions and cope with difficulties and conflicts with more grace and ease. I learned that compassion for myself was not selfish, but an integral part of being human. And, I found a happiness that is not dependent on outer conditions, but on my own inner contentment and peace of mind. I embarked on a career as a Tour Director, allowing me to travel the world (which I’d always wanted to do), while spending a few months of every year in group or solo meditation retreats. In 2010, I took a deep dive and embarked on a three-year silent meditation retreat in the high desert of Arizona. I had my 50th birthday in that retreat. During that time, it became clear that I was to guide others in developing their inner wisdom through mindfulness and meditation when I finished the retreat. Thus, in 2013 I started The Prather Group and since then have been facilitating mindfulness programs within organizations to improve performance and well-being. In addition, I mentor stressed and burned out professional women as they search for calm, focus, joy, resilience, and purpose. I offer one-on-one and group programs, and lead retreats. I look forward to offering in-person retreats when this is possible. My background as a corporate executive coupled with deep meditation training and experience sets me apart from others teaching mindfulness in companies, or with individuals. With my results-driven focus, clients see the real-world application of these mindset practices. And, my experience with burnout helps me understand the challenges of leaders. I am also a bit of a science ‘geek’, and incorporate neuroscience and positive psychology principles into my offerings. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the positive results and inner transformation clients achieve.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh what fun, let’s get started. No visit is complete without going to the beach, so we’ll start in Hermosa Beach, which is my favorite and where I lived for a few years. The boardwalk is a perfect place to walk and people watch, and we’ll be sure to have brunch at the long-time favorite restaurant, Martha’s on 22nd Street. On another day, we’ll get up early to visit a farmer’s market – there are so many and they are a wonderful, local experience. Then, we’ll visit Griffith Park Observatory, making sure we get tickets for one of the highlighted shows about the cosmos in the planetarium. From there, we might take an architecture tour, which will have to include one of my favorites, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Hollyhock House, in addition to the art deco delights around the city. And, we could finish up the evening with music at the Hollywood Bowl! On another day, we continue with the arts and visit the Broad Museum of contemporary art in the morning, and the Getty Museum in the afternoon. Lunch would be at the Getty – the food was excellent, last time I was there. Another day at the beach, but this time taking in Venice with its very cool vibe and eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. For a little more upscale atmosphere, I enjoy the ocean-view restaurant in Shutters on the Beach which you can get to by walking the boardwalk from Venice towards Santa Monica. As avid hikers, we would take a day hiking Red Rock Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains off of Old Topanga Road. On our way home, we would stop at the spectacular Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple and Retreat, a 10 acre park that is a haven of serenity, peace and beauty in the midst of the Los Angeles – truly not to be missed. And, since we are now tired of driving, I would show my guest the beauty of the foothills and hiking trails above my home near Pasadena with a hike on the Gabriellino Trail or near beautiful Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge. Of course, a visit to Descanso is a must and we’d take an opportunity to walk around the magnificent gardens, sharing memories of the time we spent together.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My deep gratitude goes to my spiritual teachers who shine so brightly and share their wisdom with love and compassion for all beings, especially His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche. In addition, my utmost appreciation goes out to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his inspiration and example of love and compassion in action. I am also deeply thankful for the love and support of my family, especially my mother, whose courage through her many life challenges, inspires me always. And, to my best friends, who see and accept me for who I am. And, for my clients and their dedication to their inner work, which they then bring out to world as their powerful, loving selves.
Other: Facebook group, Mindfulness for Professional Women: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2498956830348834