Meditation and GetYourGuide
Today we hear from Alex Shen, former Business Development Manager who was recently appointed as our Chief of Staff, on how she brought together her two different worlds; meditation and GetYourGuide in the art of staying calm.
I joined GetYourGuide three years ago as a Business Development Manager. At that time, I had just called an end to my own travel startup. Having failed in the same space, I was keen to learn what GetYourGuide was doing differently to be successful. In my first months, I was happy to find myself in such a dynamic environment where I was given a lot of trust and ownership to drive projects forward.
Within this fast-growing tech start-up, I was encouraged to proactively seek learning, to act on opportunities, and to continually evolve.
It was in my first year at GetYourGuide when I also attended my first Vipassana silent retreat.
Vipassana is a meditation technique that aims to eradicate suffering through self-observation. One of the more extreme ways to practice Vipassana is through a 10-day silent retreat where one remains silent throughout the entire retreat, meditating for over 10 hours a day. I first heard about the retreat from two friends, who I always respected for their success and the balance they exuded.
I was fortunate to spend 10 days in a center suited in the beautiful Sierra de Gredos mountains near Madrid. In these long retreats, where all external stimulants and distractions are cut out, one can become extremely focused and aware. This allowed me to enter different physical and mental states.
During the retreat, I was taught to observe without interference, to accept the reality of the moment, and to break down the illusion of ego. As I continued to progress both in GetYourGuide and in my meditation practice, I became more confused and conflicted.
The world I was presented with at GetYourGuide and the world of Vipassana seemed to run contradictory to each other.
In one world, I needed to look forward to the future and be results-driven. In the other, I was slowly grasping the concept that the future does not exist and that all one truly has is the present. I found it difficult to conduct my life when two things that were so important to me were speaking opposing truths that each made sense within their own arena.
It was not until my third, most recent, Vipassana retreat when I realized both truths are necessary to spur my personal and professional growth.
During my first two Vipassana retreats, I always tried to go deeper and deeper into these meditative states. I perceived this depth as a sign of spiritual progress.
However, in my third retreat, I finally understood through both self-realization and the teacher’s guidance that spiritual progress is not about reaching momentary states of blissful, but rather whether you can remain equanimous - calm and composed - and present while experiencing all of these different states. Similarly, in life, experiences come in all shapes and sizes. I have and will continue to go through the cycle of personal highs and the lows, and it’s important to observe and accept the reality I’m presented with and recognize that these various experiences are exactly what I need to train my equanimity.
Now, upon my return from the retreat, I am once again immersed in the world of GetYourGuide, and I am no longer conflicted. I am excited about all the learnings and I am fully committed to experiencing all the highs and lows it cares to offer. I know, however, it is not about where these experiences will take me, but rather about doing great work with great people in the present and remaining calm and composed throughout the journey. This is the real progress and I must not forget it.