Hello,
I'm Neelu Jain

Summer Adventures

I had some fantastic adventures this summer that I wanted to share, where I could laugh, play, learn and let go of anything I felt like I had to be or do.

Burning Man
Most recently, I went to Burning Man for the first time. I loved the vast, expansive and unbounded atmosphere and landscape. I was invited into Crossroads, a camp who performed a professionally produced 4-hour live music show every evening.

Embrace on fire, Burning Man 2014

Embrace on fire, Burning Man 2014

It took me a couple of days to acclimate to being in the harsh desert landscape and to enjoy the circus of anything-goes activity. But, after watching Embrace burn at sunrise while dogpiled in the top of an art car in the deep playa while our camp band played below and parachutists flew in, I am undeniably hooked.

Something that also struck me was how people burned everything they built; how after putting so much effort into creating and building a vision, they watched it burn within minutes. I’ve hung onto past projects, business launches and failures, and awkward endings that I’ve invested my time into and the metaphor of watching creations burn up after they’ve had their moment felt very powerful to me.

Nature is clearly in charge on the playa with wo(man) a respectful partcipant. I liked feeling my humanness within the mass of other burners. I was also surprised how I could survive on such little sleep! I had no idea I could go to bed at 5am multiple mornings in a row and continue to be moderately functional. I would totally go back!!

Me at Burning Man 2014, photo by Anja Epkes


Camp Grounded
I went to adult summer camp in June — so much fun — pure and unadulterated with no substances except coffee and kombucha! I ran around and acted silly for 4 days at a Boyscout camp set amidst old growth redwoods in the Anderson Valley near Napa. Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 5.23.14 PMWe checked in our cell phones into an old bunker, called each other by made up nicknames and couldn’t talk at all about work. I was “Peace Eagle” for those days. I slept outside in a 3-sided bunk with other women, learned how to make candles, solar carved into wood, painted pet rocks, meditated in an outdoor liviScreen Shot 2014-09-27 at 5.23.40 PMng room, took an analog photography class, typed out a heartwarming note to a new friend, played Ultimate Frisbee and forgot about anything negative associated with my daily life outside of camp. If this sounds like fun, GO!

 

Jerry’s Retreat
In May I attended a 4-day invitation only retreat where I felt very honored to be asked to participate. Jerry Michalski has been gathering people once a year for the last 17 years to discuss huge, world-advancing ideas. A friend on the first day said, “big ears, small mouth” and that’s the approach I took. I listened a lot, contributed some, and soaked in sparring dialogue from experts in the fields of education, technology, music, and learning design – hours of intellectual stimulation, big ideas, and inspiration.

 

 

Reading List: Sources of Inspiration

I continue to be deeply interested in exploring emotional and psychological healing tools. I’ve also been looking for meaning in my day-to-day as I move within the corporate grind. A good resting place for me now and I am comfortable with it’s stability but I have been seeking some outside inspiration.

I oftentimes feel that people look to connect with something larger than themselves in their daily lives – perhaps latching onto an inspiration that keeps them motivated towards living life – which otherwise may seem haphazard and arbitrary.

I read these books over the summer. I loved all of them and each in their own way helped me feel more connected to my inner and true self.

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    Frankl, a neurologist and psychiatrist who survived one of humanity’s more horrific crimes, the concentration camps of Aushwitz, shares his experience and how he mentally survived. He eventually went on to develop logotherapy (the definition of “logos” is “meaning” in Greek), focusing on the meaning of human existence and man’s search for such a meaning.

Quotations that stood out for me:

The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. (Kindle edition, Loc. 528)

Love goes very far beyond the physical of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance. (Loc. 541)

 …but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. (Loc. 876)

 As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation. (Loc. 1716)

 There are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life. The first is by creating a work or by doing a deed. The second is by experiencing something or encountering someone; in other words, meaning can be found not only in work but also in love… Most important, however is the third avenue to meaning in life: even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by doing so change himself. (Loc. 1803)

  1. Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss
    Reading this book helped me form a more complete view of the human experience – where one can look past the bounded times of our birth and death and see how past life experiences carry over and influence our modern day outlook. Brian Weiss is a psychiatrist who found he could significantly help patients by applying psychotherapy techniques during past life regression. I loved this book – an account of looking beyond the current self into past lives to heal what one is ready for and the channeling of wisdom by beings that are around though we may not readily see them.

Quotations that stood out for me:

In my questions, as we scanned lifetimes, I was looking for the patterns of these insults, patterns such as chronic emotional or physical abuse, poverty, and starvation, illness and handicaps, persistent persecution and prejudice, repeated failures and so on. I also kept an eye out for those more piercing tragedies, such as a traumatic death experience, rape, mass catastrophe, or any other horrifying event that might leave a permanent imprint. The technique was similar to reviewing a childhood in conventional therapy, except the timeframe was several thousand years, rather than the usual ten or fifteen years. (p. 105)

The fear of death, that hidden, constant fear that no amount of money or power can neutralize—this is the core. (p. 122)

I understood why these highly trained professionals remained in the closet. I was one of them. We could not deny our own experiences and senses. Yet our training was in many ways diametrically opposite to the information, experiences, and beliefs we had accumulated. So we remained quiet. (p. 129)

It is all growth and learning…continuous growth. Our body is just a vehicle for us while we’re here. It is our soul and our spirit that last forever. (p. 140)

  1. Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber
    Ken Wilber has been an important spiritual teacher and author for a number of my male friends however I had trouble finding interest in his work. Something about it was off-putting– perhaps I felt he was too heady and verbose; he describes spirituality and mysticism through a very systematic and structured lens. – perhaps a too masculine perspective. Despite being turned off, I felt I should give one of his books a try given his influence; a friend recommended Grace and Grit as a soft introduction to his work. I’m glad I read it as I picked up some nuggets of wisdom.

Quotations that stood out for me:

As the mystics everywhere have repeatedly told us, it is only in accepting death that real life is found. (p. 79)

So your recommendation is that, what, people use psychotherapy and meditation in a complementary fashion, letting each do its respective job? Yes, that’s exactly right. They are both powerful and effective techniques that fundamentally aim at different levels of the spectrum of consciousness. This is not to say that they don’t overlap, or that they don’t share some things in common, because they do. Even psychoanalysis, for example, trains to some degree the capacity for witnessing… (p. 196)

Meditation does not necessarily cure the shadow. I had, too often, simply used meditation to bypass the emotional work I needed to complete. I had used zazen to bypass neurosis, and that it will not do. And that I was now in the process of redressing… (p. 197)

  1. The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist
    Lynne Twist is such an inspiration and teacher. Her book has been a must read in fundraising circles. She really helped me see in a very tangible way how our outer world is really an expression of our inner world. She also gave me a perspective on thinking of money as an “instrument” which can be used for conscious purpose – so rather than a disparate and incongruent mechanism, more life a fluid, soluble entity that can be imbued with positive vibration and intention as it flows from one person/organization to another.

Quotations that stood out for me:

When we bring the practice of collaboration and reciprocity into conscious view in everyday life, a kind of alchemy and prosperity await discovery all around us. (p. 145)

I used to think that the words we say simply represent our inner thoughts expressed. Experience has taught me that it is also true that the words we say create our thoughts and our experience, and even our world. The conversation we have with ourselves and with others—the thoughts that grip our attention—has enormous power over how we feel, what we experience, and how we see the world in that moment. (p. 208)

Then Bucky said something that changed my life and my relationship with my children forever. He said to Bill and me, “Remember, your children are your elders in universe time. They have come into a more complete, more evolved universe than you or I can know. We can only see that universe through their eyes.” (p. 237)

Money can affirm life or it can be used to demean, diminish, or destroy it. It is neither evil nor good; it is an instrument. We invented it, and it belongs squarely in the human experience, but it can be used by and merged with the longings and passions of our soul. (p. 247-8)

  1. The Magic of Findhorn by Paul Hawken
    This journalistic account shares the remarkable story of a spritual community in Scotland in the 1960s and 1970s where the founders developed a renowned and incredibly prolific garden by listening to the guidance of nature spirits. There were many anecdotal stories that captured my attention that I wanted to share. So rather than copy entire passages of the book in the form of quotations, I encourage anyone to read this book with an interest in how we can relate and interact with the nature around us for mutual benefit and enjoyment.
  1. Wired for Joy by Laurel Mellin
    This book gave me a practical tool-kit on how to re-wire the emotional survival patterns laid down in my brain from an early age. Implementing the technique takes some work and discipline but so do most significant practices. Repeatedly addressing the pre-set emotional patterns in my brain to shift them from fear and negativity to lightness and joy seems just as important and complementary a practice as regular exercise and meditation.

Quotations that stood out for me:

The more moments you spend in well-being, the more you turn around stress-related increase in allostatic load, and the myriad of stress symptoms tend to improve. The strategy is to rewire self-regulation, the fundamental way we process daily life. (p. 3-4)

And a point arrives when a switch finally flips and joy becomes the brain’s set point. The brain begins to feel safe in joy and will work to get back to it—just as it once fought to return to stress. At this point, life becomes organized around experiencing joy in the moment rather than revolving around identifying and fixing problems. (p. 10)

These stress circuits were laid down in both of them before the age of three and even though the flight was not pleasant, arousing those old circuits can be quite comforting. They are so familiar, so old, that revisiting them is oddly satisfying. (p. 95)

In balance, the brain cannot open up the circuits that cause stress. So you must be willing to be upset to heal upsets. And you must stay in the cycle until you pop. (p. 144)

The way you survive is to pay attention to those emotional messages, but when you are in stress, you need to be aware that these messages about your emotions are imposters. Instead of following along with them or shutting them off, you need to learn to switch your brain back to the state in which those messages are accurate. (p. 150)

If the emotions don’t come from your body, the cycle will not break that circuit. They can’t come from your thoughts. (p. 172)

Moreover, you start to see that stress and joy really are bedfellows. It’s just that one kicks the other out. (p. 195)

The unconscious drives fueled by the quiet pursuit of sanctuary, authenticity, vibrancy, integrity, intimacy, and spirituality make mincemeat of stress. It doesn’t have a chance! (p. 196)

Linking Business + Spirituality

It’s been awhile since my last blog post so here’s one to catch up. I’ve been speaking out with regards to the intersection of business and spirituality. There continue to be multiple ways to introduce the topic – from wisdom traditions to mindfulness, conscious business, presence work, and moral code.

What if companies had a Chief Wisdom Officer reporting to the CEO? This person would be paid to hold the timeless truth that we are all sisters and brothers sharing a common home on earth. S/he could be responsible for the following: sustainable sourcing of raw materials, healthy work environments, male/female ratio balance in staff and on the Board of Directors, and regular expressions of compassion and gratitude among managers and employees.

In the last few months, I attended Wisdom 2.0, saw the Dalai Lama, participated in a holotropic breathwork retreat, meditated at a 5-day a silent vipassana, heard various dharma talks around San Francisco and worked with angel healers Ann and Peter Selby. Personally, I continue to focus on patterning positive reality into my psyche and being and self-love. I’m also a proponent of psychology as I consider that an important forum to ground mystical experiences and awakenings into our 3D everyday, mundane reality.

Wisdom 2.0
In February, I attended Wisdom 2.0 – now in its 5th year.  I heard a number of speakers and more importantly, connected with many like-minded individuals. I felt that I could be “out of the closet” with my interests in connecting business and spirituality. I met several people who have had successful business careers and are now executive coaches. I liked speaking with these “trailblazers” – people who were later in career, oftentimes having had a successful, more traditional business life and now were bringing conscious elements into their work through coaching. The word “mindfulness” is quite present in business vernacular today – open dialogue about concepts like compassion, empathy, deep listening, gratitude, and graciousness have found their way into modern day business practice.

For example, we heard Karen May, Vice President of learning at Google, describe executive meetings regularly launched with a two-minute meditation or a gratitude exercise; she also described a philosophy of adopting a posture of respect towards others.

What impressed me the most was what Jonathan Rosenfeld, Head of Change Strategy at Medium, shared about the practices incorporated at the company. Medium is Twitter co-founder Evan Williams’ latest adventure. Their organizational practices around building a mindful company are groundbreaking when applied to a rapidly scaling technology company.

Here is what I gleaned from Jonathan’s talk:

  • Three times a week, Medium invites a meditation teacher to the office to lead an opt-in teaching plus meditation session.
  • The company has an annual Medium mindfulness and meditation retreat.
  • There is a meditation benefit where the company will cover each employee + 1 for one retreat annually; the leadership team recently used this benefit to attend a meditation retreat together.
  • Medium has introduced holacracy which is defined as “a social technology or system of organizational governance in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a fractal holacracy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested at the top of a hierarchy.” One of the principles of holacracy is around processing tension; people are encouraged to bring stuff up and make the implicit explicit so that the company can take advantage of everyone’s perspective and ideas; friction is mitigated when people are seen and heard.
  • Jonathan talks about introducing “change elements” — structures inserted into an existing organization so it evolves to a higher level of functioning; they are a form of productive disruption.
    1. Identification – if something did not go well, one could comment only if they had experienced a similar difficulty; so, the dialogue becomes an act of compassion.
    2. Appreciation – if one thought a colleague did something really great, they could give an appreciation, which is seen as an act of  generosity.
  • They are developing a shared vocabulary to support a mindful organization; they regularly use “tension,” “energize” and “objection” which are holacracy terms; they also integrate language from mindfulness teachings like “pause,” “being present,” “clinging” and “aware” into day to day communications.

Dalai Lama
Also, in February, the Dalai Lama came to visit the San Francisco Bay Area; he gave a talk at the Berkeley Community Theater called, “How to Achieve Happiness”. What struck me immediately was the Dalai Lama’s presence. He speaks with a voice beyond a cultural and religious leader, but that of a world figure with wisdom on how all humans can be with one another. He is one of a handful of true world leaders where he easily transcends cultural and national boundary to be a living teacher for all people in our world.Dalai Lama, Berkeley, 2014
Some of the stories and teachings he shared are what follows: The Dalai Lama described his friend who is a billionaire, has social status and education but is very unhappy. Then, he described another man who is a monk who lived as a hermit in the hills behind a monastery in Spain, meditating for 5 years. The Dalai Lama met him and saw he was radiating and very happy. The Dalai Lama asked him what he did all that time and his response was that he meditated on infinite love.

After this, the Dalai Lama shared the idea of sincerity. A fellow monk would feed a parrot nuts and the monk and parrot became friends; the parrot would playfully hop onto the monk’s finger. The Dalai Lama wanted that same type of friendship with the parrot too. So, he started feeding the parrot nuts; however, a similar type of relationship did not develop and the parrot would not hop onto his finger. He got frustrated so at that point the relationship was never going to develop as his actions were insincere.

The Dalai Lama talked about how religion is a practice to promote love and a method to promote love. He brought up the notion of secular ethics and that no religious person would go astray if they have strong conviction to moral ethics.

Someone asked him about death; his response was “Death is like changing old clothes;” changing the body but not the self.

Another person asked what he does all day – he responded that he “dedicates his body, speech and mind to the well-being of others.”

Personally, I loved that he mentioned Jainism a few times as he was talking about other religious traditions as it is my namesake and heritage and holds close ties to Buddhism.

Brooks’ Memorial
A teacher with whom I worked with for many years recently passed away; I learned much from him and worked very closely with him for a handful of years. I miss him dearly and am grateful for the intuition and wisdom he helped me tap into. Brooks Green-Barton was a grand shaman.  I was honored to attend his memorial on February 1, 2014 in Ojai, CA and be surrounded by spiritual family. Being there was a healing experience itself; to be with one another again; opening up into our intimate space to take responsibility for who we are in this world and beyond. Brooks, I love and miss you and am happy to have been your student and privy to your gifts.

Brooks

Holotropic Breathwork
A good friend suggested I check out Holotropic Breathwork as I’ve been catalyzing forward momentum in my life. The word “holotropic” means moving towards wholeness. She told me about the work of Sonia Telle and Matthew Stelzner who were facilitating a weekend retreat. It was held about two weeks ago at Orr Hot Springs, nestled amongst old growth Redwoods near Ukiah, CA. (Highly suggest going to Orr, if you’ve never been!)

Holotropic Breathwork is based on the work of Stan Grof and his wife Cristina. A little history follows: Dr. Grof was initially trained as a psychiatrist and started exploring the therapeutic potential of LSD, eventually as Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. When the use of LSD for research purposes was banned in the late sixties, the Grofs developed Holotropic Breathwork as a drug-free way to access non-ordinary states of consciousness; they developed this methodology while living at Esalen in Big Sur, California – where Stan Grof spent 14 years as a scholar-in residence.

Each session is approximately 3 hours and they are intense! You wear an eye mask to block out light and lay on a comfortable futon. The sessions are set to powerful instrumental music—think tribal world beats. The first hour of music is most intense, the second hour less intense and the last thirty minutes are gentle. You breathe throughout the session to engage the holotropic state without pausing between the inhale and exhale. The breathing can slow down during the session and you can pick it back up again.

I experienced a lot of somatic release. Many people have visions; I had a few. After my session, I feel like I walk through the world differently as my body released years of built us stresses and tensions. I’ve noticed positive changes in my closest personal relationships as I’m relating with more levity in all of them.

I feel like I healed deep seeded wounding in my psyche. The stories I saw were familiar, but I feel like I accessed underneath them in a new way; and that I could explore these intimate, subtle places apart from the mind with adult wisdom. One important theme that that came up for me was the interplay between the masculine and feminine. I re-touched and felt the purity and radiant brilliance of a masculine being (which for me as a feminist in the 21st century had been tarnished). I also heard the message to “be ordinary” rather than seeking or striving to be more than what I am, as my ordinary is extraordinary enough.

Doing this deep psychological and somatic work at Orr Hot Spring was magical as I felt perfectly held by the old growth redwoods and raw forest.

That’s it for now!

2013 Update

I’ve had a number of noteworthy experiences over the last months. Many updates to share!

  • Launch of my new blog design this month! Thanks to Ian Armstrong for blog design and programming, Pausha Foley for graphic design, and Anja Epkes for photography.
  • Recruiting for marketing and design is BOOMing. I switched over to the direct hire team at The Creative Group in January of 2013 (from the contract team) and since then have successfully placed people in the following roles: senior level UX, creative direction, multimedia design, graphic design, web design, account management, brand management, online marketing and others. I’m really excited to work at the intersection of design, strategy, product development and talent.
  • I went on a 5-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat at Spirit Rock at the end of last year during the December 2012 Winter Solstice. I had a fantastic experience to sit with such an established meditation center in Northern California. Continue reading “2013 Update” »

Speaking on Mentors and Apprentices Panel at FIDM

I had the opportunity to speak about my entrepreneurial and personal journey and how it’s led me to creative recruiting at a panel called Mentors and Apprentices for FASHION+TECHSF several months ago; the event was held at FIDM. Thanks to Owen Geronimo for his excellent organization and for capturing the film clip below. One key point is that while pursuing passions, vision, innovation and dreams, remember to create something of VALUE that people will want to pay money for; something where a person is willing to pay for your particular good or service over the next best option. Continue reading “Speaking on Mentors and Apprentices Panel at FIDM” »

User Experience + Entrepreneurship

I started a new job as an creative recruiter about five months ago. It’s been a STEEP learning curve but with an awesome team also really enjoyable. I’m focused on the interactive space which means in today’s world, I’m knee-deep in user experience designers, interaction designers, visual web designers, and email producers.

I recently saw this slideshow from the founder of Foodspotting, Alexa Andrzejewski, and thought it combined nicely user experience design and entrepreneurship–two topics very dear to me. Continue reading “User Experience + Entrepreneurship” »

An Honest Day’s Work?

When executive leadership at the most reputable companies in the world are under fire for poor business practice and lying, I shake my head in disbelief. It’s no longer new news, but I continue to be astonished–primarily because I bought into the lie for so long. How can we as a society have let this continue? Is it simply the way the world works?

With money such a part of our survival experience in modern society, how can we change the control it has on our behavior –so people make decisions that are optimal for humanity as a whole? Continue reading “An Honest Day’s Work?” »

TEDWomen Conference Contest

TEDWomen and its sponsors (AOL and Blackberry) are running a contest where they will select 4 people to attend the conference based on submissions of their BIG IDEAS in 500 characters or less.

Here is my submission:

Approach business with unconditional love. Many business decisions are acts of selfishness. Conducting business that looks past the self happens when one heals personal trauma and feels positive vibration in the body; life choices become bigger than one’s pocketbook and how decisions affect the greater world is critical. Imagine financial reform guided by love or a criteria to lead national initiatives a combination of motherhood and financial savvy. I am a strategy consultant and yoga teacher.

Musings on Social Capital, SoCap 2010 and Panahpur

I recently read The Razor’s Edge by M. Somerset Maugham. I loved it. This book was written in the 1940s and touches on many themes that we deal with today in the 2010s — the life journey we embark on, the search for what we feel will fulfill us, our most pressing need — for some the answer is social status, others financial security, others self-destruction and for others simply happiness through finding peace.

We work within the human condition. Our basic instincts and desires while living in society do not change that much from generation to generation — how we express them certainly does and the tools and technologies we have available advance.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the social capital markets conference, SoCap 2010, in San Francisco, CA. Pretty exciting meeting — a lot of people really committed to putting their efforts behind projects/companies/organizations focused on helping humanity. Continue reading “Musings on Social Capital, SoCap 2010 and Panahpur” »

Contact Neelu

Connect with me through the following networks:

x