What a Buddhist Lama Can Teach You About Mindfulness in Business

Meghan French Dunbar July 4, 2015

The practice of mindfulness has been positively linked to better business. It has proven to enhance focus, foster better communication, lead to better decision-making, and relieve stress. Companies like Google, Target, and Twitter have included mindfulness training at their organizations, and luminaries like Richard Branson, Bill Clinton, and Eileen Fisher practice regular meditation. We had the unique opportunity to speak with the Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, Tibetan Buddhist monk and Personal Emissary for Peace for the Dalai Lama, about his views on the role of mindfulness in business.

What advice would you give to someone who is not fulfilled or happy in his or her work?

Ven. Lama Tenzin Dhonden: I would advise that they may want to look for the cause that makes them unhappy, although it may not be an easy thing to recognize. If it is for selfish reasons, then they need to find peace within.

Sometimes we don’t realize that the cause of our unhappiness can be our own perception of the circumstance we are in. When a person becomes aware of his or her own perception, then they can see if they are assessing their circumstance from a positive or negative perspective. And as they gain awareness, they can develop the skill to choose their perspective.

We all want to be happy. So, naturally, if one can distinguish between positive and negative, a person would most likely choose a more positive perspective.

This doesn’t mean that bad things will stop happening. Suffering is part of the human experience. But our perspective and our own appreciation of the value of our human life is key to developing a positive attitude, which can be extremely helpful in coping with negative experiences. You can easily see how this applies to any example, whether it is a bad experience at a restaurant or a very serious illness.

Many of the problems we face today require big ideas and big solutions, but many people are held back by fear of acting on their big ideas. How can we overcome this fear?

LTD: I would suggest first to identify your strengths. Once you identify your strengths, then go to work on small ideas that you are comfortable with, and take small steps. This will build up your self-confidence. As your confidence grows, then you will be ready to take on bigger ideas and manage bigger projects. Your sense of self-confidence can develop into action to execute on bigger and bigger ideas. A strong sense of confidence brings strength and readiness for big ideas and big actions. Confidence is not to be confused with lack of humility. While it can be a great challenge to exercise both simultaneously, a healthy sense of confidence coupled with humility can allow a person to learn and grow exponentially.

“Mindfulness at work is being kind and collaborative in our interactions, keeping mutual goals in mind, and also keeping in mind that everyone deserves to be happy.”

In what ways do you see mindfulness benefiting people in the workplace and businesses in general?

LTD: Generally, the practice of mindfulness brings awareness and presence to the workplace. Mindfulness can enhance communication, and with good communication one can develop a greater sense of trust in all interactions.

The proper use of mindfulness brings clarity of mind. Mindfulness helps motivate a person and it helps the person to become more conscientious about their work and the people around them. From a broader perspective, mindfulness helps a person develop an awareness that everyone deserves to breathe pure air, live well, and think compassionately. But this can only be achieved if mindfulness is applied with ethics. Mindfulness applied with pure living ethics has the potential to bring enormous and lasting benefits.

Specifically in the work environment, mindfulness can bring a sense of presence while we are at work. Mindfulness at work is being kind and collaborative in our interactions, keeping mutual goals in mind, and also keeping in mind that everyone deserves to be happy.

Meditating on being kind and gentle in your mind until the mind becomes more still – still without any influence – can be very helpful in developing everyday mindfulness. Also becoming kind and positive about yourself can have a positive effect on your attitude and outlook. Taking just a few minutes to remind yourself that every kind and gentle action you take is a meditation in itself can also benefit the way you approach your work.

What do you see as the greatest challenge in the business world? How can we overcome it?

LTD: Lack of spirituality and forgetting to apply ethics .

With “lack of spirituality” I’m not referring to a lack of religion. When I say spirituality, I mean the focus on what is truly important to you as a human being. Compassion is in the essence of spirituality. The pursuit of superficial ends leads to unhappiness. If there is no spirituality in the pursuit of any goal, a person becomes unfulfilled, empty, and feels disappointed, even after reaching the top in their field. In other words, an individual can work very hard to achieve a goal, even an altruistic goal, and feel unfulfilled. But when a person works with a sense of compassion for self and others, then no matter how big or small the efforts, he or she will start to feel fulfilled and morally obligated to do well, not just for the self but also for all of humanity. This moral obligation is the basis of ethics.

What role do you see business having in promoting peace?

LTD: I’m not a businessperson, but I don’t think that a business itself can promote peace if it is solely focused on making a profit. A wise business venture would focus not only on its own value but also on the value of others, recognizing that the value of others is equally important. This can be the foundation for a business that is managed with care and understanding. In my opinion, the process of applying this principle in itself is one way of promoting peace.

Ven. Lama Tenzin Dhonden is the founder of Friends of the Dalai Lama, which is presenting the Global Compassion Summit and official world celebration of the 14th Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. For tickets and information go to www.HHDL80.org. Photo: TS MEDIA INC./ J. VAN EVERS

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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