On a wintry New England day, I walked into a yoga studio in Stamford, Connecticut. I was part of a special meditation session led by Bhante Wimala, a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk. The studio smelled of incense and was well lit and intimate; it could hold no more than two dozen people. Bhante was sitting with his legs crossed in the lotus position and perched slightly above us on an elevated seating area. Walking in, it felt like I was in the presence of Siddhartha Gautama--the Buddha--himself. All walks of life--fathers, mothers, yogis, businesspeople--were in attendance.
The Dalai Lama has praised Bhante, who has been traveling around the world and teaching, for his peace efforts. Bhante authored Lessons of the Lotus, his reflections on leading a wakeful and heartfelt life. Over the course of two hours, Bhante walked us through the principles of living mindfully. He then led us through a 30-minute session of mindfulness meditation, which focuses on the sensations of breathing inward and outward, helping you abide in the moment.
After the sitting session, Bhante answered questions about life, death, purpose, authenticity, and one's journey and one's path. I was struck by how these deep inquiries correspond so much to the questions we have about career and business, this endless asking of What is the point? Who am I? and What am I here to do? Upon reflecting, I can see that this internal work of knowing one's motivations and habits--you don't have to call it spirituality or philosophy--inform and are informed by the work we share with the world. It becomes obvious that we need to lead our lives with authenticity--springing from a deep understanding of who we are--and mindfulness--a deep understanding of what is happening. We need to know the biases and habits that we bring to each day; otherwise we'll never be aware of the blind spots that prevent us from connecting with the oomph of meaning.
And this connection with thyself comes from:
Understanding is the foundation. The better we understand the nature of the world, the better we can move in the world. The better we understand the nature of ourselves, the better we can move within ourselves. This is why generations of thinkers and doers have told us in a multitude of ways to know ourselves--an intrapersonal intimacy that is the fruit of a long process.
Understanding leads to authenticity. When you know yourself, you can act with a confidence that is your own. This implies a rawness and vulnerability to the people around you, which is a very good thing, as that vulnerability is the foundation of the relationships that define us.
Devotion is mindfulness, mindfulness is devotion. You do not become strong by lifting one gigantic weight. You do not understand yourself by reading one book or attending one workshop. It is a daily practice of devotion. Devotion is our sustainable resource. With it we can day by day improve ourselves, and our world.
Life is a process of ongoing transformation spurred by the interlinked qualities of curiosity, purpose, and courage. Whether or not we ask it to, the journey of life can make us strong, teach us to contribute to the best of our abilities, and allow us to pursue a personal legend on our own terms. Authenticity, mindfulness, and devotion help us to embrace the careful balance between making it happen and letting it happen.
Excerpted with permission from Everything Connects: How To Transform And Lead In The Age Of Creativity, Innovation And Sustainability (McGraw Hill, 2014) by Faisal Hoque with Drake Baer. Copyright (c) 2014 by Faisal Hoque. All rights reserved.