By Gabriela De Golia
“Hi. My name is Peter, and I’m a recovering jerk.”
When Peter, Copper Beech Institute’s Leadership & Engagement Director and founder of Fresh Perspectives, introduces himself in this manner, he’s not joking. He spent much of his youth compensating for his unhappiness by building an armor around himself that left him disconnected and unable to empathize.
“I realized I was so disconnected, but I didn’t know why,” Peter said. “I finally admitted I didn’t like the way I was and that I wanted to change and connect with others.”
It was this desire for connection that launched him on a path of transformation. He’d seen loved ones undergo introspective journeys and change for the better, including his mother through her work with the 12 Steps of Al-Anon, a fellowship of families and friends of alcoholics. This planted the seed for Peter’s own contemplative work, which eventually led him to Copper Beech Institute.
“I learned of Copper Beech when I met Brandon and Susan Nappi through my wife, Mackenzie. My first retreat was with them at the Couples’ Retreat. Brandon and Susan are like family now.”
When asked what he appreciates most about Copper Beech Institute, Peter is quick to point out the authenticity and compassion inherent to the community.
“The people who work and visit Copper Beech practice what they preach,” Peter said. “When you’re here, you’re treated like a whole person, not a number. And because the size is manageable and we’re continuing to blossom, everyone can be a part of the Institute’s growth.”
In addition to his role of furthering Copper Beech’s work, Peter has partaken in the Institute’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course to further deepen his meditation practice and is pursuing MBSR teacher certification.
“I meditate every day now,” he said. “MBSR has especially helped me hear and understand my body’s signals more clearly and take better care of myself.”
For Peter, though, meditation isn’t just about himself – it’s about how he engages with the world.
“It’s great if you can sit on a mat and meditate for hours, but what if someone cuts you off in traffic? I used to have so much road rage. I would scream, flip other drivers off, tailgate them, you name it. After years of daily meditation practice and all I’ve learned at Copper Beech, when I have those urges, I now have the space to notice them, accept them, and choose how I respond to them.”
Instead of living with armor that leaves him feeling alone, Peter is now focused on leading a compassionate and purposeful life. “I just want to create as many positive ripples as I can,” he shared with a smile.
He is doing just that. Thanks to the Angell Foundation’s generous support and Peter’s initiative, Copper Beech Institute has launched a new Transformative Leadership program for professionals. This program helps employers and employees do their work better thanks to the help of mindfulness practices. Through workshops, online courses, keynotes, and more, Copper Beech Institute is helping to transform workplaces and create a healing shift in how individuals and organizations do the work they do.
“It has been a gift to collaborate and be a resource for organizations and professionals from so many different industries,” said Peter. “Seeing the real results people are experiencing, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving focus and self-care, is truly inspiring. The return on investment of taking a few minutes a day to slow down is incredible.”
“Since our founding, local businesses, Fortune 500 companies, schools, and regional nonprofits have been calling to ask if we would support their teams who were overwhelmed by stress,” shared Copper Beech Institute’s Executive Director, Brandon Nappi. “The Transformative Leadership Program formalizes the way we have been serving workplaces around the country informally over the past five years in our work with over one hundred organizations. Bringing mindfulness to work is a natural extension of our mission to alleviate suffering. We feel so honored to be of service in this way.”