I became an ethics professional after decades of observing unethical behaviors by self-defined "spiritual" and personal growth organizations, practitioners and teachers. I was drawn to mindfulness in the mid-60s when I was nine years old, after hearing my grandmother saying grace at holiday meals that included the line, "Make us ever mindful of the needs of others," and I explored many religions, faiths and belief systems to learn how to do that. My curious nature led me to join what I realized were two probable cults in the 80s, during which time I was exposed to groupthink, power abuse and brainwashing techniques. I learned some priceless lessons on how not to behave, how not to lead as well as a deep reverence for the vulnerable psyches of those who place their trust in your guidance. I became certified in hypnotherapy to learn about the subconscious mind and behavioral habit upgrades, and took Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training in the '90s.
Beginning in 2000, I began writing columns about and teaching mindfulness courses for small and mid-sized businesses, police officers, first responders and the general public, and was a contracted mindfulness instructor/group meditation leader for companies that offered online mindfulness courses for corporate employees. During my time doing the latter, I observed a toxic workplace culture is a root cause of employee stress and job dissatisfaction, including uncivil and unethical behaviors by leadership, management - and fellow coworkers. Unfortunately, the ethical component of traditional mindfulness is de-emphasized in its modern application, and I wasn't permitted to openly address concerns that many students communicated to me privately - and that doesn't work for me.
My experience during this time has taught me that when mindfulness training is offered within an organization of any size or type, if it does not become part of their overall culture, and transparently reflected and continuously supported by leadership and managerial staff, it is less likely to be adopted on a lasting, sustainable basis. After witnessing corporate mindfulness trainings become competitive, commercialized and stripped of their universal ethical and spiritual components (and other baggage that it has acquired), I chose to disengage from what I refer to as "the modern mindfulness industry."
So I stepped back while recovering from two major surgeries and the simultaneous loss of two loved ones to decide what really mattered to me personally and professionally. I knew I was always going to teach what I refer to as the Life Skill of Mindful Awareness and bring in what I've learned and road tested for decades, always keeping in mind my responsibility regarding the vulnerable psyches of students and clients who I advise and educate, either in person or via my recorded talks and guided practices.
Then COVID hit.
In-person trainings became impossible, and budget cuts put contract workers like myself on the back burner. During this downtime I obtained my Leadership Professional in Ethics and Compliance (LPEC) certification though the Ethics and Compliance Initiative (ECI) and refocused my sights on guiding businesses to becoming Adaptive, Behaviorally Ethical and truly Mindful. To continue being professionally engaged during the COVID pandemic, I volunteered to be a contributor to two online Working Groups with ECI during this time:
Positioning Ethics and Compliance Professionals as Strategic Leaders in Times of Stress/Crisis:
My extensive work in proactive, holistic workplace stress management gave me the opportunity to share my knowledge and content for this project. This Working Group researched contributing internal and external factors; identifying specific risks which result from stress Impacts upon employees and overall organization; identifying the role E&C can take in addressing structural, process, and cultural measures; and identify interventions, skills trainings and best practices. Click here to be sent a copy of the White Paper.
Additionally, I co-created a corresponding online "Stress Readiness, Responsiveness and Resiliency Awareness + Actions Toolkit," addressing workplace stress at its Root Cause(s) including the "elephant in the room" of toxic leadership and cultural issues - or else multiple risks to the company will increase. Ignore at your peril! This will be an on-going project.
Racism, Discrimination and Abuse of Power.
I'm a team member of the subgroup addressing The Broader Context: The role that our organizations can/should play in addressing the larger systemic/social issues. We'll publish a White Paper with our findings and a Best Practices/interventions "Toolkit" at a date TBD.
Working Group Project Research Description From ECI:
"Definition: Racism is defined as the psychological process whereby persons categorize other groups as different and inferior, on the basis of physical appearance, characteristics or cultural markers, or national origin. This process also involves the use of economic, social or political power, with the purpose of legitimating exploitation or exclusion of the group so defined."
I now will only work with companies committed to honestly self-reflecting about the impact they have-no matter who/where they are and what they do, and promoting a transparent culture of integrity, trustworthiness and accountability framed by shared organizational values.
As a workplace behavioral ethics specialist, I am committed to serve people in upgrading what I call our "Internal Operating System" away from their old, unproductive, status-quo driven one that impedes actualizing their aspirations to become the best and most honorable versions of themselves possible - and to in turn lift up others through their contagiously positive example.
All that I offer is centered upon honoring the wholeness of human experience: holistically integrating our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs within the entire context of our lives; incorporating universal ethical principles - and inspiring others to lead by ethical, courageous and humble example in whatever field of influence they find themselves in at any given moment, personally and professionally.
Academic Education | Professional Training
❖ B.A. in Organizational Leadership, Summa Cum Laude, Arizona State University
❖ B.A. in Psychology, Summa Cum Laude, Arizona State University
❖ Leadership Professional in Ethics and Compliance Certification (LPEC), ECI/Ethics and Compliance Initiative
❖ Certificate in Psychological First Aid, Johns Hopkins University
❖ Certificate in Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
❖ Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training, Kaiser-Permanente, San Francisco Medical Center
❖ Mindful Eating for Health Care Professionals training created by Duke University's Integrative Medicine program
❖ Certificate in Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, University of California, San Francisco, CA
❖ Basic certification in Transformative Conflict Mediation from The Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, which is affiliated with the Maurice A. Dean School of Law at Hofstra University, Hempstead
❖ Diploma in Hypnotherapy from the nationally accredited college Hypnosis Motivation Institute, Los Angeles, California
❖ Certificate in Clinical Hypnotherapy, American Institute of Hypnotherapy (non-accredited), Irvine, California
❖ Certified Massage Therapist and professionally certified in Polarity Therapy, Touch for Health, reflexology, and Chinese acupressure
❖ Professional Member, ECI/Ethics and Compliance Initiative
❖ Becoming a Certified Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension and working for many years as an organic garden designer provided a visceral understanding about Systems Thinking, natural cycles and a reverent relationship with nature essential for human well being.
❖ Certification in Classical Feng Shui in 1998 (a traditional approach deeply rooted in Taoist principles that doesn't bring superstition, folklore, or other "new age" beliefs into the teaching) under Master Larry Sang at the American Feng Shui Institute in San Gabriel, California brought knowledge of the flow of energy ("chi") within built and natural environments - as well as within ourselves and with others - which, when unharmonious has a detrimental impact upon one's ability to be focused, present, attentive, creative, successful and at peace, no matter where they find themselves. Feng shui is the Taoist art and science of living in harmony with our environment - no matter whether it is in our workplaces and homes - or within ourselves. It also extends to the culture and social fabric of where we spend our lives, and if there is disharmony it is virtually impossible to have sustainable success, well-being and contentment.
About Suzanne Matthiessen, LPEC
Professional Snapshot | Academic Education | Professional Training