Gratitude and Mindfulness

Michael Tompkins is the visionary CEO of Miraval Resort & Spa. He is a 15-year veteran of the luxury hospitality industry and began his career at Tompkins--Michael-PhotoMiraval in 2007. During his time with the resort and spa, Tompkins has been instrumental in leading key projects including the newly built Miraval Life in Balance Spa with Clarins, the creation of the Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrated Wellness Center, and completing the development of The Villas at Miraval, one of the fastest selling luxury lifestyle real estate projects in the country.

Currently Vice Chairman of the International Spa Association (ISPA) board, Tompkins has spoken extensively as a spa and wellness expert. His leadership skills were documented in 2011 in the novel Kensho: A Modern Awakening, Instigating Change in an Era of Global Renewal by Susan Steinbrecker. Tompkins is also a contributing author to Mindful Eating (Hay House USA, May 2012).

We are excited to welcome Michael Tompkins back to Leadership Development News in this year-long series on Mindful Living to help you kick-start your start to a mindful lifestyle.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, I just want to say a couple of words before we bring Michael on, not only about Michael, but about why work today demands improved performance with fewer resources, tighter deadlines and stressed co-workers and clients. As we all know, this toxic combination can lead to burnout. It harms organizations. While you can’t control your stressors at work, you can learn how to manage your responses to them. I think that one of the things that I can truly say about Michael is that he really embodies that spirit of how mindfulness can help us to learn how to manage our responses in many different ways. We thought we would pick your brain about gratitude.

Michael Tompkins: You know, gratitude, for me is quite fitting because there are so many things that you had mentioned, Cathy, one of which is Time Magazine’s cover with Mindfulness on it. While that is out there and people have heard Mindfulness as a buzz word, one of the things that we try to do here at Miraval is to not just talk about mindfulness but figure out ways to implement it into your lives.

Certainly it is very difficult to implement something unless you are aware of whether or not you are practicing it or even aware of the things that are going on in your life. For me, when I think about the tools for mindfulness, it is clearly a mind-body-spirit approach, which is one of the things that I like about being the I-Spa chairman, it’s that we continually try to manifest that in the businesses that we do in Spa around the country.

Getting back to the Time Magazine article; it’s been coming for quite some time. There have been a lot of writers, particularly business writers, who are writing about the enlightened CEO and how companies are changing so that the emotional intelligence that Relly spoke of is now becoming mainstream because the generations that are following us and those who are graduating college now, expect that. Cathy, you know yourself, in having just written your Fearless Leaders book, that this is really at the forefront of business today, not just here in America but around the world.

Gratitude is a huge part of it and I’m really excited to talk about gratitude today with you both.

Dr. Relly Nadler: We were just saying how timely it is, what we are doing at the Miraval. We are going to have Michael talk about that for folks: the new Time Magazine: The Mindful Revolution. You are going to get a little more of an inside view on this so hopefully you read the article, but if not you can get some of the key tips about gratitude as we talk with Michael today.

So one of the things about mindfulness is gratitude is important. It’s been written about, Michael, in positive psychology and it is part of the mindfulness practice. Let’s start with a little bit about what gratitude is and why do you think it’s so important. Then we’ll talk about some of the how-tos.

Michael Tompkins: Gratitude is basically expressing and showing appreciation for someone or something in your life. It doesn’t necessarily often have to have an interactive form, although that is where most of the benefit has been seen in psychology today. It could also be a moment of reflective silence if you are by yourself and trying to show gratitude toward something.

For me, I like hands-on visuals that can spur me to feeling better about my life or feeling better about the company that I am representing or the things that I am doing every single day. There are a couple of helpful things that I have found on YouTube which can really help somebody be a little bit more reflective towards gratitude.

The first one that I want to talk about is from an on-line company called Soul Pancake. It’s at, the title of it is called, “The Science of Happiness: An Experiment in Gratitude.” During this little six-minute clip it talks about the scientific study that has come out that has proven that how much gratitude you have is a direct correlation to happiness in your life.

What they did was they had test cases where they brought in people and had them take a test on happiness. They had them close their eyes and think about someone in their life that they had gratitude for and appreciation of and what specific instance and why. Once they had relayed that and written it all down, they actually decided to have some of the respondents pick up the phone and call that person and tell that person why they had gratitude for them in their life and read what they had written about them.

After the survey was over, for the people who were unable to connect on the call, they showed a direct increase to happiness of about 2 to 4%. But those who were able to pick up the phone and call the person that they had written about and tell them why they had gratitude and were appreciative of having them in their life, their happiness increased as much as 19%. So, almost five times that of those who weren’t able to connect with the person on the other line.

However, the biggest surprise was that the biggest jump was in the least happy person who had taken the test. So the original scores – the most unhappy person that connected and shared his gratitude became the happiest person on the list. For me, I need visuals that are reminders that make me think, “what am I grateful for? What am I grateful for every single day?” Stop and reflect on that in the moment.

Dr. Relly Nadler: The other thing, Michael and Cathy, we have been talking about is that so much is around focus. As we talk about the Miraval Mindfulness Mastermind, it’s really around focus. The little bit of time to focus on people that you love, people that you care about, not only would let them feel better, like you were saying Michael, if you tell them, and you feel better. It really changes the brain chemistry.

Michael Tompkins: It actually is, Relly, and that’s a great point. With the Miraval Mindfulness Mastermind program that we have put together with you guys, one of our presenters is Coach Leigh Weinraub who has coached professional athletes here at Miraval as well as CEO’s and CFO’s of major companies in order to get them to either inspire courage or become emotionally aware and overcome their obstacles in ways that they haven’t been able to do in the past.

I’m going to bring Leigh on next month and have her talk about a program that she does here at Miraval called, “Carry Your Mental Couch to the Curb.” When you talk about the physical needs to actually change your mindset, that is one of the things that Leigh does here in the “walk n’ talk,” it is one of her therapy sessions that she does with business leaders. It is get the body moving because when you get the body moving the brain starts moving and then the mouth starts moving, and therefore you are communicating clearly what is on your mind in the moment. It does have physical changes when you start moving your body.

Another YouTube clip that I think is just amazing is by Louie Schwartzberg, he is a film maker in LA and he’s done a piece called “Moving Art.” He spoke at a TEDx conference in San Francisco on gratitude. He has done a visual experimentation on YouTube with a 9 minute video clip that happens to be the most watched video in YouTube history. The fact that people are actually seeking out ways to find gratitude and incorporate it in their life; I would challenge anyone whether it’s someone listening at home, whether it’s an overworked mom, or a stressed out CEO, to watch that nine-minute video and not be able to find something in there that makes you a little bit more appreciate of our life and in turn will make you a happier leader.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I want to transition us to what we are going to be doing at the Miraval Mindfulness Mastermind. I know that we have been working on the program together. Maybe you could say a few words about how your involved in this as our leader and our mindful coach.

Michael Tompkins: I’m really excited about this program, Cathy, because I think it’s one of the best programs that I have seen for business leaders in being able to actually deliver on something rather than just an educational foundation from which to spring from. It’s an experiential experience where you are learning through experience. You are going to be able to take something home with you into the companies that you work with and have an immediate change and impact right off the bat before you leave here.

Dr. Relly Nadler: We want to highlight this Miraval Mindfulness Mastermind that we are going to be doing July 23-27th. Just to highlight where you can really have an opportunity to practice some of these great things we are talking about, some of the programs that we have. Everybody who comes to the program will have an opportunity to indulge in some of the great activities that we are talking about at Miraval. You can get more information about the program at

To hear more about what is included in the Miraval Mindful Mastermind program and to learn more about gratitude and other mindfulness practices, as well as get tips and tools to tune-up your performance, listen to the complete recording above, without commercials.



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