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.


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!