Building a LegacY
In Shinzen's 73rd year, after decades of creating and teaching, he is now honing the finest iteration of his Unified Mindfulness system yet.
The long-term goal of Unified Mindfulness is to change human culture by sharing a universally accessible language for communicating contemplative-based psycho-spiritual growth evolving in concert with science.
That's quite a goal!
The Unified Mindfulness community needs many delivery systems and programs to accomplish that goal. Lots of wonderful work has been painstakingly created and rolled out. But we need to sustain and grow these efforts.
Who is 03 Life Practice?
The 03 Life Practice team is comprised of Shinzen Young, Todd Mertz, and Emily Barrett. In the last six years, this core team has been central to the constellation of organizations and businesses building Shinzen's legacy and spreading the impact of Shinzen's work.
With the organizational restructuring that occurred in 2016, we have been looking for a funding mechanism for each necessary piece. Without sufficient funding for each member of this team, the growth potential for Shinzen's system overall is significantly diminished.
Thus, we recently launched the Life Practice Program in order to:
- fill a gap in Shinzen's offerings focused on integrating mindfulness practice into daily life
- introduce community members to the community as a whole
- financially support the 03 team
We're doing really well with the first two of these objectives. But we're currently underfunded for Todd's position. So if you're interested in supporting Shinzen's work, please sign up if you haven't, or increase your subscription rate if you are able.
In the Trenches
While most people plainly see evidence of what Shinzen and Emily contribute, much of Todd's work has been behind the scenes. So we wanted to give you a taste of what Todd has been up to. In his work with Shinzen, he's held a few titles, including: organizational consultant, business manager, community manager, and executive director.
Todd has been central to many of the changes you may or may not have noticed:
- Established retirement fund for Shinzen
- Improved Shinzen's work satisfaction
- Orchestrated publication and promotion of The Science of Enlightenment
- Coordination of public appearances
- Expansion of relationships with new research partners
- Securing required research funds
- Recruited research participants
- Delivered successful research app to Carnegie Mellon
- Increasing program attendance
- Organized multiple fundraisers to increase retreat attendance and accessibility
- Launch of three new websites
- Development of the certified facilitator training program
- Increased network of business partners
- Institution of social media strategy
- Balancing business and community needs
- Beginning community development efforts
- Navigating relationships and culture change within and between organizations
- Aligning business structures and cultures with values
- Increasing the prominence, input, and influence of multiple facilitators
- Brand development and legacy-building
- Expanding international possibilities
- Launched Life Practice Program
In Shinzen's Words
From our Community, on working with Todd
Shinzen Young has been my teacher, guide, mentor, friend, and colleague for 19 years now. I've changed my life to be able to dedicate more time to the sharing of his teachings in the world. But it was not until Todd Mertz came aboard as Shinzen's business manager that I saw Shinzen and his teachings supported in a way that has resulted in a greater connectivity to the world.
Todd brings such important skills to this process -- the ability to organize, communicate, and take control when necessary -- to see that Shinzen's time is directed towards the most efficient ends (including self-care!), to see that Shinzen's teachings get out there in recorded and written form, and to see that the community that surrounds these teachings has guidance and support. (And that third one is not to be underestimated. The support that Todd supplies to facilitators is priceless.)
So much has happened since Todd came aboard: new websites, delivery of a research app for the Carnegie Mellon study (for which I worked with Todd), establishment of a retirement fund for Shinzen, development of the certified facilitator training program, and so much more. A perfect team is one where each player offers their skills and gifts for the whole, complementing the skills and gifts of others. Todd is, in my opinion, the key team player who was missing for so long, and I am filled with so much appreciation and respect for his dedication and hard work -- for the benefit of all.
As Shinzen gets older, I see his energy level to do things decrease. I worry that Shinzen may “retire” from his full range of teaching activities sooner without Todd assisting him in his many endeavors. Shinzen needs Todd as community and business manager to do the things that would otherwise take too much of his time and especially his energy. I feel that Shinzen has worked selflessly with all his many students throughout some 40 years and now he needs help. He needs the help of financially supporting his right-hand man. Again, without Todd, he may have to cut back on his many teaching activities, not because Shinzen would want to, but because he would have to without Todd’s help. I trust the community will rally together and support Shinzen’s staff needs by signing up to the Life Practice Program and paying more than the minimum if at all possible. Whether one has the time to take advantage of the LPP practice sessions or not: the LPP is the conduit to support Shinzen financially with what he most needs to continue, in the way we have all counted on.
-Bill Koratos, CEO and Co-Founder (with Shinzen), 01 Expert Systems and Home Practice Program
Shinzen often stays with me when he’s in California. Since Todd has been available to build the infrastructure, Shinzen has so often been able to turn to Todd with confidence that he KNOWS the way things are working and will keep TRACK of structures so Shinzen is just FREE to do his work. This is a huge difference.
-Ann Buck, Senior Facilitator of Unified Mindfulness
When I tell people I work for a mindfulness teacher, I most often get the response “that must be so relaxing!” Anyone who knows Shinzen might get a quick chuckle from that assumption; it’s tough to keep up with Shinzen’s endless ideas!
The business side of spreading mindfulness teachings also comes with its challenges: navigating relationships and divergent (and sometimes conflicting) expectations, managing limited resources, and finding life balance while pursuing the high aspiration of helping heal the world.
Hands down, Todd is the reason I’m still here supporting Shinzen and our community. In the past six years, he has:
Counseled me countless times to see the Big Picture and how my contributions make an impact in our community.
Fostered a growth mindset and facilitated better communications among our team and the larger constellation of Shinzen's community.
Encouraged me to create professional development goals and paved the path to access and engagement with those goals.
Relieved me of the most challenging tasks that I had little or no capacity to deal with and then handled them with incomparable finesse and skill.
This list merely scratches the surface of what Todd has done. The phrase "in the trenches" mentioned above is truly indicative of Todd's work here. He faces head on the most challenging, messy, and ugly work that no one else has done. He's rolled with the hits consistently, and in a way that the outcome tends to benefit others while putting himself last in line.
In short, Todd is indispensable to our community. With him on our team, I am certain more people in our world will have access to and benefit from quality Unified Mindfulness programs and research. He makes me excited to come to work each day, and for what the future will bring.
-Emily Barrett, Administrator, Life Practice Program and Assistant to Shinzen Young
My life's work, Conscious Care and Support (CCS) has culminated in a mindfulness-based service that is on track to significantly enrich the health and wellbeing of children, youth and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder across Ontario and probably Canada.
Todd's insights and outstanding organizational and planning skills, together with his highly effective ability to listen and lead people in his role as executive director, have significantly impacted the growth and development of Unified Mindfulness -- without which CCS could not have been this successful.
His broad and deep approach to facilitating practical organizational outcomes is unique and rare. He demonstrates this as a motivational visionary on one hand, and as a practical and effective hands-on implementer of policy and professional community development best practices on the other. His leadership with the Unified Mindfulness organizations has clearly measurably accelerated their current capacity to relieve suffering on an international scale.
-Peter Marks, CEO, Centre for Conscious Care
Todd's unique ability to connect, unite and focus the energies of the incredibly diverse UM community has been instrumental in establishing an infrastructure and framework for real growth and opportunity. His leadership and guidance have certainly been critical to the success of UnifiedMindfulness.com.
As a relative newcomer to the community, Todd's help, encouragement and occasional not-so-gentle-kick-in-the-pants over the past couple of years provided the support I needed while we were finding our footing and sharpening our vision for our role in the community. I doubt I would have made it through to the other side without it.
Todd is a rare talent in a difficult and often thankless role. He has earned my respect and my gratitude for his tireless efforts to expand the reach of Shinzen' teachings.
-Dave Dennis, Co-Founder and Marketing Director, Unified Mindfulness
Todd and I first met at the Center for Mindful Learning’s Johnson, VT campus in 2015, and have had on-going conversations around the practical application of entrepreneurship and innovation theory to the dissemination of Mindfulness Meditation as taught by Shinzen Young. Our discussions have been lively, focusing not only on direct applications of Shinzen’s work into communities, retreats, and technology platforms, but also touched upon broader implications such as global ecosystems of Mindfulness, through Shinzen’s students, as well as other teachers in other lineages. Frameworks we have used in our discussions include Effectual Entrepreneurship (Sarasvathy from UVA-Darden), Disruptive Innovation (Christensen at Harvard), and Design Thinking (from Stanford D.School). Todd has shown a keen interest in learning and applying these and other frameworks towards the spread of Mindfulness and its positive impact upon peoples' lives in communities of practice and other settings. He has also shown a great capacity to balance these ideas with practical aspects of business management, as well as his own professional training in psychological counseling.
-Christopher Zobrist, Mindful Innovator, Entrepreneurial Educator, and Ecosystem Builder
I want to send Todd a bouquet of appreciations and thank-yous. He is always there to clarify conceptual, content, or administrative questions. I always feel welcome, and it’s so obvious that his interest is to support all of us who are spread over the whole world. Amazing and rare to find. And that is only the personal level of his support.
I can't even imagine the time and energy that he has spent over the last years to actually build an infrastructure supporting Shinzen’s teachings. Without that infrastructure, a lot of people worldwide wouldn't get the chance to actually use and benefit from Unified Mindfulness. I know this is a hell of a lot of work. I can sense and actually see that the whole endeavor is growing and reaching out more and more -- finally! I am so happy to see this and to be a part of it. Thank you so much!!!
-Sabine Heggemann, CEO of Fokus Achtsamkeit, a Unified Mindfulness organization in Germany
Todd has served as a life-coach and mentor for me for the last three years. Through difficult and revelatory times alike, he has supported my growth with a graceful and humorous approach personalized to my own needs and intentions. I am ever grateful for his insight, wit, and wisdom, which ultimately challenge me to be more mindful, loving, and self-sufficient in my daily life.
Todd played a pivotal role in building the team for Shinzen’s commercial app, Brightmind. When I needed advice on key hires, he quickly grasped the vision for the product and put me in touch with Toby & Julianna, who have been great partners for bringing the product to life.
When the research application for Carnegie Mellon was in need of a Project Manager, Todd assumed that role, and managed the various stakeholders of the project to deliver a successful mobile app on time and on budget.
Todd fills many roles. One of the most important is that he ensures all of the different business ventures and charitable projects related to Shinzen work together in harmony and with minimal friction.
-Christian Stiller, CEO, Brightmind
Todd Mertz has consistently demonstrated strong leadership skills with Shinzen Young’s organizations. He has identified many areas of growth for these wonderful organizations and has fostered them to fruition by creatively and successfully tackling complex issues. Todd is a wonderful asset to Unified Mindfulness and with his talented business acumen, I am sure he will continue to help the organizations grow and thrive.
-Beverly Freedman, Investor, Unified Mindfulness
Todd Mertz has been instrumental in creating the conditions for the success of Shinzen Young's business ventures. His ability to organize the people and systems around Shinzen, as well as to conceptualize and implement a strategic vision, has played a truly vital role in the recent uptick in Shinzen's fortunes. For example, The Science of Enlightenment book had been stuck for a decade. There were various issues keeping it from completion. When Todd came in, however, he was able to break up the log jam and get everything moving again. The book literally would not have happened without him. His tireless efforts have made everything possible and will continue to do so in the future.
Helping a spiritual community appreciate the value of business -- let alone shift their perception to recognize business as an agent of world benefit expanding the contributions of their cherished teacher -- can feel like a job akin to herding cats. Years ago, I felt alone in the wild attempting to offer Shinzen's teachings in a way that would also be self sustaining. When Todd came along, he created real world opportunities that put the wind in my sails just when I needed that support. Those opportunities have continued to evolve in wonderful ways, freeing me to take on an even greater leadership role. Beyond the personal impact, Todd has held a vision for a healthy financial ecosystem that would function to preserve the legacy of Shinzen Young and his Unified Mindfulness system while vastly expanding the reach of his unique teachings and approach to contemplative practice. With painstaking devotion, Todd continues to see that vision through. GO TODD!
Todd served to facilitate an incredibly successful research collaboration with Shinzen. At each step of the way, Todd dedicated resources to deliver us an original mindfulness app of the highest quality to use in our research. He managed Shinzen's time dedicated to writing meticulous training scripts, supported the development of a functioning app, and connected us with private funding foundations that enabled us to conduct a larger and more comprehensive investigation of our research questions than we had envisioned. I look forward to working with Todd for many years!
-Emily Lindsay, PhD, and David Creswell, PhD, Director, Health and Human Performance Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University
For as long as I can remember, all my study and work with Shinzen has been flawlessly and seamlessly facilitated by Todd Mertz, and I cannot praise him enough for all he's done (among other things) for the development of Shinzen's teaching in Russia and Russian-speaking countries. Among the big things we've done together are the translation and publication of Natural Pain Relief and two big online teachings from Shinzen for the Russian-speaking audience. He has also helped me personally many times to feel included into a larger Shinhead community (which he invests much time into building) and provided opportunities to study with Shinzen from abroad.
I just listed above some of the things I was directly affected by, and there is much more to what Todd does. All in all, during the last few years Shinzen has become much more visible and his teachings are more accessible for the wider audience -- through websites, online and offline programs, podcasts, books and research publications. Indeed, I cannot praise Todd enough for all he has done and all he continues to do.
-Victor Shiryaev, Senior Facilitator of Unified Mindfulness, Co-Founder and Director of Mind.Space, and Russian translator
I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to watch Todd Mertz in action and to work with him in developing and handling Shinzen's social media. His caring for the community of Shinzen's students is very obvious in everything he does. Moreover, his commitment to preserving the integrity of Shinzen's overall message throughout this journey of bringing mindfulness and meditation to others is overwhelmingly apparent. I trust him implicitly. In today's climate of shoddy content and fake news, it's refreshing to see someone is driven by a simple desire to share something beautiful and terribly useful with the world at large.
-Sarah Kelley, Social Media Pro and Principal at Kelley Creative
Two years ago, Todd was instrumental in organizing a much needed self-care plan for Shinzen. He encouraged Shinzen to take a month-long sabbatical and hired a wonderful health-oriented gourmet cook for him. Todd also helped Shinzen to reduce his travel schedule so that he could have more downtime and relaxation. Shinzen has reported feeling so much better as a result of Todd's efforts and success in making these changes happen.
-Shelly Young, MA, LPCC, LADAC at Present Solutions for You
In joining Shinzen’s team, Todd brings daily enthusiasm, commitment, encouragement and much insight to all facets of his work, often going beyond what is asked or needed. Shinzen’s latest book, his new website incorporating the Store, the launching of Unified Mindfulness offerings and this Life Practice Program, to name just a few of the visible new developments, were all facilitated by Todd. Not so visible accomplishments include an increase in younger people attending retreats managed by VSI and helping with the transition of managers within the Home Practice Program – again, just to name a few. I personally have come to rely on, value, appreciate and benefit from his communication and business expertise in the day to day operation of VSI. We’re blessed to have him as a member of the Team.
-Choshin, Director, Vipassana Support International
Todd has worked tirelessly over the years in supporting Shinzen’s core mission in the meditation community and his various endeavors in the academic community, as well as the various spinoffs in the wider Shinzen ecosphere. For example, Todd was instrumental in making connections among the founders of Unified Mindfulness LLC at its beginnings. In short, Todd plays a key role in the Shinzen community.
-Harold Abilock, Co-Founder and Business Manager, Unified Mindfulness
Over the past few years, Shinzen's community has experienced several exciting developments. Research opportunities, facilitator training, and a book launch to name a few. Todd has worked skillfully to connect those who need to be connected and to make all this happen. He's also a fine fellow and dedicated practitioner.
-Toby Sola, Chief Performance Officer, Brightmind
Todd Mertz is the glue that holds Shinzen’s community together. Part of this is what he does to help Shinzen and part of it is what he does to help us. All sense of equanimity rushes away from me in a big whoosh whenever I think that Todd may have to leave because there isn’t enough money to pay him a living wage. The efficiency of Shinzen and the Unified Mindfulness community around him has increased dramatically because of Todd’s efforts.
Let me be more specific about some of the ways Todd helps Shinzen and the community. Although, I should say that it is clear to me that the ratio of the specific things I've seen Todd accomplish to the things he has accomplished that are invisible is similar to the ratio between the tip of an iceberg and the iceberg as a whole.
Todd got some financial advisors to work with Shinzen and as a result, his financial future is increasingly secure.
Another specific. Shinzen worked on a chapter for the scholarly book The Handbook of Mindfulness in Education. Todd arranged for me to see a draft of the chapter and, as a retired professor, I noticed that it had no citations of other publications. This is a really big problem for an academic publication. I mentioned this to Todd and he got me working with Shinzen. I found relevant citations that were interspersed throughout the chapter, which Shinzen incorporated. The chapter was published in what we all agreed was an improved form with citations.
Todd helps Shinzen prioritize his time. He helps Shinzen say no to projects that he might otherwise be tempted to take on—projects that would distract Shinzen from things that are more important. Some of these projects are ones that I thought up. I have had a few ideas about things that I wanted to do with Shinzen or that I wanted him to do. Sometimes Todd says, “Great! Go for it!” and other times Todd brings a welcome note of reality to my ideas. “OK. You are saying you’d like Shinzen to do (fill in the blank here). Right now, he is working on (fill in this part with a project that is obviously more important than what I’m suggesting). Are you sure you want to suggest this new project be added to his already big workload?” I appreciate this feedback a lot.
An example of how Todd connects people is the way that he put me in touch with a small consortium of Shinzen’s students across Europe. We created and submitted a proposal to the European Union to fund a program for training pre-service public school teachers to manage their stress through mindfulness.
Another example is the time Todd put me in touch with a number of Shinzen’s students working on a proposal to teach mindfulness at Patagonia.
Todd sees the big-picture of relationships and what people bring to the table. He helps people share their ideas with Shinzen, and he proactively draws on their expertise when the opportunity or need presents itself.
Todd brings a lot of needed business, sales, psychological, and entrepreneurial expertise to many different Unified Mindfulness projects. He’s always on the outlook for building relationships with other potential allies in the field.
He is an invaluable encyclopedic repository of knowledge about Shinzen’s network. For myself, when I wanted to know who some accomplished facilitators were in Britain, I asked Todd and he had the answer right away.
Todd acknowledges the power of community and has been working on more effective channels for incorporating feedback and increasing transparency.
-Don McCormick, PhD, Director of Education at Unified Mindfulness
For the past five years I've had many occasions to connect with Todd, who I see as the Unified Mindfulness Dungeon Master, casting spells and weaving magic behind the scenes to make any number of Shinzen's projects bear fruit. He helped me organize several fundraisers in Toronto so the younger folks in our community could afford to go to Shinzen's retreats. He organized much of the support around Shinzen's book -- from transcripts to endorsements to scheduling and more; he worked hard on moving the facilitator training program forward; and he has been a driving force behind various practice manuals and their continuous process innovation. And so much more. There isn't a Shinzen project or networking partnership I can think of that hasn't had Todd's support and behind-the-scenes involvement, the endless and often unsung logistical negotiations that come from supporting a teacher with a large community of many moving parts. Todd is worth his weight in gold. Plus, he is a stellar nerd and practitioner who lives inside and understands the Shinzen-ian deep end.
Todd Mertz has been instrumental in structuring the processes and platforms underlying Shinzen’s Unified Mindfulness. This has led to enhanced reach and impact globally. I am grateful for his support, both for my own work and for the positive benefits for the larger mindfulness community.
-Meg Salter, author of Mind Your Life: How Mindfulness Can Build Resilience and Reveal Your Extraordinary
It was a true pleasure working with Todd on the publication of The Science of Enlightenment. As a book production editor, I usually work directly with the author, but I could tell from the beginning that all would go smoothly in Todd’s capable hands. I really appreciated how responsive he was with email communication, as well as the clarity of communication between us, both questions and answers. Having him as the point person ensured that deadlines were met. He paid close attention to the many details and decisions and wrangled all the players on the Unified Mindfulness end of things when that was called for. He knows Shinzen well and how best to work with him on the many aspects of book publication, and I'm sure that carried forward into the marketing and publicity phases after it was out of my hands. The book has been a success all the way around, and much of that can be attributed to Todd’s management skills. Working with him made my job easier and helped ensure that the book was as perfect as possible. Thank you again!
-Leslie Brown, Book Production Editor, Sounds True
Recently I came across this quote about people who work behind the scenes - “They are the ones who are willing to not participate in the main event just to ensure that others get to.” I immediately thought of Todd when I read this. Given the nature of his role, it is likely that many, if not most, of our community members have not had any personal experience with him and thus are unaware of his contributions. Since my first phone conversation with Todd in 2013, when he came aboard as Shinzen’s business manager, I knew that he was committed to making good things happen. And, in my opinion, that’s exactly what he does! His knack for translating Shinzen’s genius into relevant, deliverable programs, his commitment to strengthening our connectivity as a community and his generosity in freely giving his time and talent are all things that inspire me greatly. Todd, thanks for who you are and all you do for so many!
-Chris Trani, Senior Facilitator of Unified Mindfulness and owner of When Mindfulness Matters
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