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I'm Neelu Jain

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” »

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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” »

Six Tenets of Innovation

Six Tenets of Innovation:

  • One conversation at a time
  • Go for quality
  • Be visual
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Stay focused on topic
  • Defer judgment

These statements are found written across white board walls in the Clark Center’s Brainstorming Room at Stanford University.Talking about an innovative bio-design course, this article further describes the room:

“All four walls double as floor-to-ceiling white boards where team members can jot down notes and diagram ideas gleaned from their research. A cabinet contains low-tech items that can be used to make rough product mock-ups, unexpected things including sparkly purple pipe cleaners, Play Dough, and even life-sized plastic replicas of a human spinal cord and a leg. For more advanced prototypes they can move next door to the Prototyping Studio to work with glass beakers, drills, cutting forceps, a furnace, and microscopes.”

I love the description of this room; encouraging collaboration, the use of bodies and hands to play with materials, and helping thoughts evolve into visceral experience. Let’s all think with our hands and bodies! Let’s find the opportunity in the un-said, but in the felt; in the electricity of interaction and engagement.

Work as Art

Is art work? Or, is work art?

At times, I think it’s one and at other times, the other.

I came across SEED Media Group’s logo and the description of its creation:

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 10.03.23 PM

Designed by Stefan Sagmeister, our logo reflects society through the lens of science. The logo takes its inspiration from nature’s phyllotaxis structure, a Fibonacci-derived algorithm present in a multitude of settings, from the face of a sunflower to the alternating leaves on a plant to the architecture of highways. Depending on its context, the logo adapts and changes color to reflect its cultural surroundings. Our logo brings “Science is Culture” to life.

This logo, and the inspiration behind it, represent to me several things (1) art in the form of logo design (2) a corporate identity that is infused with meaning (3) the consideration of work as art by intertwining corporate purpose with artful expression.

May we all consider our work, whether in a business, philanthropic, or political context, as art.

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