Michael Miller, co-founder and co-director of the London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center

In our regular series, industry big wigs take us back to their first jobs


Hi Michael! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Michael Miller and I’m co-founder and co-director of the London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center. I spend my time teaching people how to close their eyes, step beyond thought and experience a state of deep physiological rest, which makes them emotionally balanced, intellectually sharper, physically energised and healthy.

What was your first McJob?

Working for a landscaping firm that installed underground irrigation systems, for two summers while at high school in Iowa.

How did you get that job?

A family friend who worked there suggested they might need some people for the summer season and connected me. There was almost no vetting. I just showed up!

What did you have to do?

A lot of digging ditches in the 35-degree heat of the Midwestern summer, which was actually fantastic, because it got me out of the headspace of my studies. There’s something very satisfying about spending a couple of weeks digging holes, connecting pipes, running wires, pushing a button, little things popping out of the ground and water spraying everywhere.

Did anything funny happen?

One of my managers was the first vegetarian I’d ever met. For lunch, he would eat a piece of bread that looked like meatloaf: thick, dark, chunky and full of seeds, not at all like the white floppy squishy bread you’d usually eat in Midwest of America. He’d take an avocado — the first avocado I’d ever seen! — cut it in half, and smash it over this crazy bread he’d cooked. It was most bizarre thing: very peaceful, very together, until the machine that cut into the ground and pulled the pipe through jammed. With the same calm, serene expression, he beat the machine with a hammer until it finally submitted to his will.

What did you spend your first paycheque on?

I was very sensible as a young adult, so I expect I put it directly into the bank — very much more responsibly than I might have later in my life!

What skills did you learn that you still use today?

Really more of a work ethic than a skill. I worked really hard at something that I wasn’t particularly interested in. I saw people around me working hard, so I did too. As a small business owner, there are always things I have to do that I’m not that interested in, but I have the ability to get down to. Also, my hole-digging skills came in useful when I was on holiday in Cornwall recently. I’m not sure why you guys are so obsessed with digging holes on the beach, but I was happy to join in!

We Brits love a good hole! Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?

No, if I I tell people I’m from Iowa, they think that’s strange enough already!

Why is alumni important to you personally?

My life has changed so many different times, taking me to a different work place or putting me in a completely different world. Staying in contact provides a historical and personal through-line that I really appreciate. I really appreciate having those social connections as a touch point in my life, even if it’s people I might not connect with for months at a time.

Why is alumni important generally?

Human relationships and connections are the real content of life. Whatever tasks you do in a job, the paycheques and the status — you transcend all that stuff pretty quickly. Ultimately, all that really matters is human connection. If you can go leave a workplace having made a few lasting connections, then that’s been an experience worth having.

What would happen if you went back and did your old job today?

At the time I was immersed in studies, now I’m immersed in running a small business, so I’m constantly in front of the computer. As a meditation teacher, I’m constantly talking. So I can imagine there would be a very simple pleasure of being given a shovel to do some physical tasks, and seeing a very tangible outcome — for a bit a least!

Has your attitude to posh bread and avocados changed?

Today I would be the guy eating the weird stuff!

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?

Everything you’re doing is eventually going to make sense. The pathway is not going to be clear, it’s not going to seem sequential and there will be times when it won’t even seem progressive. But the point will come where it all makes sense.

Do many people often point out that you look at sound a lot like Doogie Howser MD aka Neil Patrick Harris?

I do get that sometimes. I’ll take that as a high compliment!




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