At 28, Barb Schmidt thought she had found happiness. She was married and had risen through the chain of command to own six McDonald’s franchises. Schmidt had certainly achieved external success—but her internal life needed some improvement.
Thirty years later, she’s found peace through what she calls “The Practice,” a ritual that uses activities such as meditation and inspirational reading to obtain peace and enlightenment. Ahead of Schmidt’s talk Wednesday about her book (The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace, and Uncovering Happiness, $8.72 on Amazon) at Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, we sat down with her to discuss her journey, religion, and why she thinks her tools are perfect for Coloradans.
5280: How did you find your way to meditation?
Barb Schmidt: I grew up in an alcoholic family as the oldest of five children, and I lived the early days of my childhood as a pretty unhappy, unsettled young girl. I always felt like I was on the outside of life looking in. In my early 20s, I developed an eating disorder—bulimia—and after six years, I checked into a treatment center for six weeks. They taught us how to meditate, and the whole treatment launched me on my journey for meditation and finding holiness within.
Do you consider yourself a follower of any particular religion?
I was raised Catholic, and I didn’t know anything else back then. What happened in treatment was that it opened me up to all religions; I developed a hunger for wanting to know everything deeply. I don’t follow any particular religion—I love all the religions. At the deep root of what they represent, they’re all coming form the same place and going to the same place. To quote the Dalai Lama, “Our religion is kindness.” My religion is being the kindest, most peaceful, confident person I can be.
What’s the biggest hurdle to accomplishing “The Practice”?
For me, the biggest hurdle is getting my ego out of the way and keeping my desire and my enthusiasm high so that I can exercise my discipline and will to do what it is I want to do every single day. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and my ego will say, “You know, you’ve been meditating for 30 years. You can take a break today.” If you don’t have a good practice in place to not listen to what it’s telling you, you can succumb to that.
Why do you continue the Practice every day?
For me, it’s the consistency. I like to call it checking in with myself or connecting with myself. (Meditation can feel a bit onerous so I try to rephrase it in my teachings.) Without the connection to the inner source of strength, you tend to get knocked aside by all the crazy stuff in the world—heartache, trauma, chaos, anger, all this stuff floating around. But I encourage people to miss a few days so they have the experience of knowing how it feels.
Any tips for diet and exercise to go along with your steps?
The greatest tip I have for dieting or exercise is practicing focused attention. I used to eat my food standing up and running all over the place: I never focused specifically on eating or exercise. Actually being there with your food, eating a little bit more slowly, being there in the exercise, putting more attention on the body part that you’re working on, that makes your health a priority. If you’re not giving it your full attention, why do it?
Why is it so important to slow down?
When I talk about slowing down, it’s not the pace of the feet because emergency room doctors have to work fast—many occupations have to be able to work fast. It’s not the actions, it’s the mind. How many times have we said, “I wish I hadn’t said that, done that”? If we can slow the mind down just a little bit, we’re able to catch that if I do this in the moment, this is the outcome, and that’s not the kind of person I need to be.
How do you think this specifically relates to Coloradans?
Well, let me tell you, it [Colorado] is probably my favorite state. I spent the most time in my adult life there. My husband taught me how to ski there back in 1989, and now we have a small place around Vail. I think “The Practice” is perfect for Coloradans because they are so laid back and the people are so grounded and connected to the earth already. This can only enhance and really bring even more clarity to their lives. One of the things people say quite often to me is, “Barb, I practice Christianity or I practice Buddhism, but because I’m now doing this Practice on a consistent basis, I find my own religion more rich.” If you’re already connected, you might find yourself even more enriched in your life.
Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.