Twenty Minutes at Two: A Capitol Experiment

Remember back in December, when I wrote that life in the capitol was stressful and recommended meditation as a tool? Never could I have imagined that a few short months later lobbying—and life—would drastically change, with the vast majority now working from our kitchens, bedroom offices, or backyards while caring for children, fur babies, older relatives, or partners. With conference calls and web-based meetings now the norm, we are more tied to, but also only able to connect through, our technology. Moreover, the line between work and life has blurred beyond recognition. Because my meditation practice has been slacking, I would like to try something new with you all—an experiment in a new way of connecting in an era of web-based policy-making, something I’m calling Twenty Minutes at Two. In essence, a short daily dose of mindfulness. Read why below, and click at the end to join me.

For me, and I’m sure for many of you, this shift has been challenging. The strong sense of community has always made working in California’s Capitol a special environment. Running into legislators, staffers, and colleagues on K Street, taking meetings over coffee or walking the approximately one-mile track around the Capitol building. (I am not great at sitting still!) Interacting with hundreds of smart, diverse professionals seeking to do their best to express the ideals and interests of the California citizens, organizations, and businesses they represent broadens my perspective and helps us all to find common ground, practical solutions to policy issues. Because of the easy nature of these interactions, we were also able to connect on a deeper level, discussing how our life and career journeys brought us to Sacramento, finding common interests, and sharing our thoughts on the bigger picture issues facing our daily lives.

Unfortunately, lobbying from a distance just takes much more time and is less organic. This is understandable, as Legislators and staff have more on their plates—addressing COVID, racial justice, and the myriad issues in their districts—all while figuring out how to legislate from a distance. Gone are the days of running into folks in the hallway, or at Ambrosia (they are open for takeout—support local restaurants!). Most days I am now sitting, tied to my video, or if on my cell phone, pacing my house driving my dog crazy. On busy days, I and my fellow Chamber advocates have back to back web/phone calls from the early morning through the evening hours. Catching up on news of the day bleeds into the late evening hours, leaving very little room for self-care, exercise, or time with family and friends. Getting to connect about anything other than the task that needs to be done that day is very hard.

I have been putting off self-care. Despite my suggestions to you that meditation and mindfulness helps make everything easier, I have barely kept up with it. It is very hard to squeeze in exercise, laundry, cooking (so much cooking), supporting friends and family that live across the country, or simply making sure I find time to finish a book when work takes up so much more of the day than before. On top of this, add concerns regarding COVID and figuring out how to respond to issues of systemic racism, sexism, and ableism. This is why it is so important to take even just a few minutes a day for self-care so that we can deal with work and still take the time to tackle these big, important issues as they inform our policy making and make us better humans.

So, here is the experiment. Every Monday through Thursday, starting July 27, I have blocked off twenty minutes at 2 pm (PDT)  for a short session of mindfulness meditation. I want to reconnect with the Capitol community in a more natural, organic way, adapted to this now web-based world. I invite you to join me. We’ll start with 5-10 minutes of an introduction to mindfulness meditation, then we’ll try 5 minutes of guided meditation, followed by 10 minutes of feedback and additional resources should you want to continue your practice on your own. I will have my camera on (most days!), but I encourage you to join at your own pace, video or no video, audio or no audio. There is no “right” way to meditate, and there is no “good or bad” at it. I hope that through this experiment, simply taking time to connect with ourselves will allow us more mental space to connect with each other, solve big problems, and move a little easier through life. I hope you join me, or if you cannot, that this can be a starting point for a mindfulness practice of your own. Click here to email for a link.

Leah Silverthorn, Policy Advocate