It is wonderful to be here. I love this space (DC Shambhala). I taught meditation to Congressman Tim Ryan and his staff earlier. Like being in the belly of the beast. Its’ such an interesting city- a distinct flavor – what people do here. I have a friend named Adam Smiley Poswolsky who wrote book called the Quarter-Life Breakthrough. He had a decent government job, and kept getting asked “what do you do?” He got tired of it and ran off to become a writer. I think I just gave away the ending of his book. (laughter)
Even in NYC, people ask, “where are you from? What train do you take?” but then start talking about work.
I was here for the tour for my first book, and went and got drinks with people afterwards. After writing a book called The Buddha walks into a bar…, people wanted to go to a bar with me a lot. (laughter) But when we got to the bar, everyone wanted to talk about work.
The publisher wanted to print this book later – this was 2nd book I wrote. I’m pleased it’s out. This is the 2 month anniversary of it being published. Such a joy – I’ve done book tour, indigogo, Pandora – a lot of tech companies – have a lot of time out. “Would it be weird to go into a private room and do this? “ “Not at all! You could even use the room called the Zen room!” There was a room called the “Zen Room” in this office, [which wasn’t being used for this purpose]. Some part of what I do is pointing out the obvious.
There are two elements to the book. The first is how to manifest these principles at work. We will meditate later, and I hope you will indulge me in an exercise. The process is staying with and showing up in the pleasurable and painful aspects of life, both falling in love and holding a friend’s hand in the hospital. We are being more present due to this thing called meditation practice. What a term, “meditation practice.” It denotes practicing for something. Being present with our breath is practicing to be present in the rest of the waking hours of life. Elements of showing up for work in way that is authentic, that we aren’t bullshitting ourselves. But also aspect of what we are trying to cultivate.
I went to speak at university for first book tour – this woman showed me around – what year are you – “senior” – I am always careful, don’t want to freak you out. I asked what she was planning to do in a few months after she was no longer living on that campus. She wants to be chief marketing officer of Starbucks. Talked for a while. Very specific. Then gave talk, then talked to another woman and asked her the same question. She responded, “I am not sure where I am going to go, going to do. I want to help people. It’s terrifying and that’s ok. These answers – so different.
1st– call her Jessica- she could rise thorugh ranks, pursuing dream of CMO of Starbucks. 1 of 2 things happens.
1) She doesn’t get it. There are billions of people in the world, so a lot of competition. Or:
2) She does get it. But maybe then she’s working so hard she feels like she is neglecting other aspects of life. Or maybe she finds she really wants to be something else, like the CEO, instead. There are so many ways that may not lead to contentment.
Looking at this age old question, “what do you want to do with your life?” Maybe that’s not the right question. Maybe we should instead be asking, “What do we want to be? What qualities do we want to cultivate?”
If we want to help others, Meditation practice is to help us become clear about intentions – where habitual patterns are and when. So, that’s my pitch for meditation.
Going to sit and then contemplate. [Pens and paper passed out for exercise] This is the first thing we do in the non-profit I started, the Institute for Compassionate Leadership.
It’s really 2 tracks. Our main track is for young people who want to help the
1/3 community org training
1/3 meditation training
community org training –
1/3 traditionally leadership skills – how to fundraise/organize – the things not taught in colleges, I’ve found.
The other track, which we are just starting [soon], is the Executive track. This is for people who are mid-career and say “I want to inject compassionate leadership into my role.”
This is the first exercise with both tracks: Draw a simple mandala [of your life]. “Mandala” is a Sanskrit term that, at its most simplistic, is a circle. For our purpose, it’s like an organizational chart.
You might have seen pictures of mandalas. There is usually a center circle, with a main meditation deity in the middle, and then circles outward with manifestations of that deity, or stories being played out, and another circle and another circle and another circle that tells a story till it encompasses all beings.
To draw our own personal mandala, first start with shamatha meditation. This is calm abiding, or peaceful abiding. I will give instruction for those who haven’t had it before. Even for those who have, it is always good to hear it fresh.
If you are sitting in a chair, you don’t want to be leaning back. You want to be able to put your feet firmly on the ground.
If you are sitting on a cushion, feel balanced on your seat, sitting on the center. Take a moment to physically be here. Take a deep breath, connecting with feeling of legs on ground, feeling of sit bones digging into cushion…(instruction continued; sitting for several minutes)
… Now, shift your focus to contemplation. Sit with the question: “what qualities do I want to cultivate in this life?” In same way we brought our attention to our breath, bring attention to this question, “what qualities do I want to cultivate in this life?” and see what arises.
Don’t think good/bad answer, just notice, let them wash over. When ready, pick up pen and jot down a few words in a corner- draw a simple mandala of 3-5 circles outward. A word – kindness, gentleness, whatever – What word most jumped out at you. Then in the other circles, write down other [things in your life]: Hobbies, things we do, places we go, people, in circles from center.
When you ready, draw a line from that word to those people. On that line, can jot on that line very tiny (laughter) – how does that core motivation, that quality – if it was at the center of your life, how would it affect those other aspects of your life? If you were using, say, kindness, how would your relationships shift, your actions shift? Picking up calls? See them more socially? Whatever else? When done, place to side, and return to shamatha, turning attention to breath.
So, obviously, it’s up to us in terms of what we want to do in this life. May not become CMO of Starbucks, then it is not a great way to build relationship with mother, boss, etc. If a quality, can build our life-
I recall many years ago, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche talked about prayer. I thought, “What are we talking about here? I thought it was a meditation place!? “But he was saying there is a real power in making an aspiration and voicing it: “this is a quality I want to cultivate.”
So, do it in a forma l way, Shambhala style- bow, and then say 2-3 minutes. That quality if you want to cultivate. The other person has to listen- not miming listening, but really be present- really be present, not trying to formulate your responses, Not body language leaning in – holding space for other person to express self – then you switch when I ring gong. Then the talker listens.
It’s all in the book. I’ve been focusing [tonight] on the question of “who do I want to be?” rather than [the second main topic of the book], the “how do I manifest authentically when my coworkers are jerks?”
Q and A
- So how do you do manifest authentically when my coworkers are jerks? (Not that my coworkers are jerks) (laughter)
- what did I say in this book? (laughter) some stuff specifically about why you should stop being a jerk. First articulation of karma. You can’t steer how others act, can only manifest in ways…
Mindy Kaling, in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , she talks about her time working on “The Office” with Steve Carell. Steve Carell doesn’t complain. She tried to rope him in to slander, gossip, etc., and he wouldn’t do it. This inspired her to be the kind of person Steve would want to hang out with.
It’s fun story, but illustrates if we manifest from point of view of awake, being present, they are inspired.
‘Not making a big deal of it: “I don’t slander, I don’t gossip.”
It’s said when Buddha attained Enlightenment, he walked to the nearby river, and threw his begging bowl in. It’s said the bowl went upstream. I have idea Buddha was like uh-oh. It implied he would be teaching against stream of society. And 2600 years, we are counter-culture. It’s subtle but powerful. Its’ revolutionary.
- wisdom. I’ve been intelligent and smart but not always wise. I’m going to be in charge. What is the best habit, best way to me? How does one accrue, encounter wisdom? My previous thinking is wisdom tied to experience. I could read a lot of books, etc., but can wisdom be learned in that way or ultimately through experience.
- that’s wonderful qualities.
2 qualities- accrue or step into, step into is well put. From traditionally Buddhist view, one can discover prajna- superior seeing – superior knowledge- interesting phrase- prajna- not intellect, not reading- it’s superior because it’s based on what is going on right now. And you can go into leadership experience, and you may not be most experienced, but may be most there, and most present.
Prajna is removing me – my lens, my ideas, and my opinions- stepping out of “me.” Stepping away from what I want to happen, and being with what is actually happening. When we are actually just there, we actually know what is going on. Then can actually be wise. Because we know what people are doing- good bad, habitual shticks and brilliant ideas. Removing “me me me,” can see what it being called for. That makes sense?
It sounds counter intuitive- the quickest way to figure out is to not be with fixed ideas.
Trungpa Rinpoche gave a beautiful talk, said “just do it.” There is a common saying in Shambhala: “simple can understand complicated, but complicated can’t understand simple. “
Someone with a set opinionated mind …. Be simple. It’s not dumb. Its’ opposite of dumb. Being present enough to see the …in the situation.
Trungpa Rinpoche said something that people in Shambhala often quote:
“You have an inclination: In the flash of one second, you feel what needs to be done. It is not a product of your education; it is not scientific or logical; you simply pick up on the message. And then you just act: You just do it.“ There not a question of how to do it, you just do it. That phrase has been coopted by Nike, but here, it’s actually need to slow down.
The Sakyong said something in his fantastic book, the Shambhala Principle (which applies): “Every moment has its energy; either it will ride us, or we can ride it.”