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Mindfulness in Business & Work Life

In this interview, Mirabai talks with Melli about the key principles and practices that create a more mindful workplace.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien and I'm just so delighted to be here right now with Mirabai Bush. Mirabai is the author of Working with Mindfulness. And she's been a key contributor to Google's mindfulness program called Search Inside Yourself. She's the co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. And she's really, it's really such a privilege to have Mirabai here with us because she's really one of the world's leading experts on integrating mindfulness into our work day, both on an organizational level and really on an individual level as well.

So Mirabai thank you so much for spending this time to share your wisdom and experience. It's great to be with you. I'm already enjoying it. Me too. I'm really curious about this niche that you find yourself in, you know, mindfulness in the workplace.

I'd love to hear a little bit of the story of how you came to be so interested in mindfulness and, and specifically mindfulness at work. Well, it's a long story. But sure. We have time. I, in 1970, I was in graduate school and studying for my PhD and it was a hard time on American campuses.

It was a time of civil rights and, and antiwar, work, and things began to be very confusing. And so I, with, with my then partner decided we'd take some time off and travel. And we went through Europe and through the Middle East and in, and to India. And I didn't actually even plan to go to India, but we were just kind of journeying and hoping that we would, by meeting different kinds of people, hoping that we would find other ways of being that made more sense to us. But I got to India and the first day I was there, I was in New Delhi and I met on the street someone who had been at my university, but I hadn't known her there.

It was Sharon Salzberg. And she, she had just heard about this retreat that was being offered by Goenka, Burmese meditation teacher, for the first time for Westerners. So she told me about that and I thought that sounds interesting. I hadn't come to learn meditation, but you know, we are in India, so might as well. So I went there and it was a 10 day course.

And it began at five in the morning and went till 10 at night and there were two meals and it was all in silence and we just meditated all day long. And my mind had been really busy until that time. Of course, as a graduate student in literature, I'd read everything. And I had never really thought about the possibility of looking within for wisdom. Even insight or understanding.

But through that first course, I got the tiniest glimpse that, oh, my God, there's a way to look at your own mind that I am not my thoughts or my emotions. I actually, there, there is awareness there. I can rest in awareness and, and discover the way my own mind was working. That was so amazing to me. So anyhow, I stayed, I, I was with this group of people, whom I met when I got there and we just loved the course.

And then we asked them to do more. And so we stayed for, I don't know, we did four or five, I think, and over a couple of months and, and then left there. And as I said, I was going to stay in India for two weeks, but I was so, I was so moved by this new way of understanding, which was at the same time, so familiar and intimate that, and I knew there were other good teachers there. And so I stayed in India for two years. I met my root major teacher Neem Karoli Baba there and spent a lot of time with him.

And then many other people who became the, the beginnings of meditation and mindfulness in this country were also part of that first group. Ram Dass was there and Joseph Goldstein and Sharon, of course and Wes Nisker and many, many other people. And, so. iT was an intensive time of learning, a new way of being. And then I came back to this country and most of the others, Danny Goleman was with us also there.

Most of the others, either started retreat centers. We were all like, totally committed to this. Oh. You know, we came back. So some started centers and others went back to school.

Dan Goleman and, and, but I, when I first came back, I had a baby. And then, and in those days, babies and meditation just were not ever spoken in the same sentence. So you couldn't possibly have a baby and be teaching meditation. So I, but I, I really wanted to find a way to integrate mindfulness into my life and, and share it with other people. So I, with my then husband, who I had traveled with, we started a business.

It started out as a small, funky business and it grew over time to, in those days, was a biggish small business. We had 65 people working and, and we were, we were making, we're making transparent decals of the, of mandalas representing all the spiritual and religious traditions around the world. We wanted to express that we had found this common core everywhere we went, in temples and mosques and churches and with all kinds of people. So we did that for awhile and, and, and then we, we were experimenting with things and we created a transparent rainbow and that became, that was like, like mindfulness now. It was like the leap from, you know, the sort of alternative marginal, esoteric to the mainstream.

And we were at some, one point we were in 10,000 stores. And so, so neither of us knew anything about business when we started. And we hired people we thought were cool, and none of them knew anything about business either. But we had to learn quickly because it was a lot of money going through and there, you know, there were lawyers and bankers and, you know, major players. So we did learn.

In the process. I, we wanted to integrate from the beginning some of this new awareness we had. And we would, we would begin our meetings always with silence. And we would, not everybody there wanted to learn to meditate, you know, so we, but we had yoga classes and we had kind of mindfulness classes. But, you know, we didn't require it, but the whole, it was integrated into whatever we did.

And based on, you know, basic moral and ethical principles that were in alignment with, with, with mindfulness, we, we, we created a set of guidelines for the business. And this was before, you know, in this country, there was a big movement after that, of, with people like Ben and Jerry's and the Body Shop and, and others. This was before any of that. We were really experimenting. But it was, we were so successful as a business and people loved working there.

The employees of Illuminations, many of them who now, I mean, we ended in the early eighties and they still have annual reunions. How lovely. People say it was the best job they ever had, you know, cause we were all learning together as we went along, but we did integrate these practices. So I had that as, as one of my like great experiences. And then...

So it sort of sounds like something that happened quite organically that you... It did. There wasn't a, we didn't have a like model of, you know, of being a social venture business or anything. We just were trying to do it. We were, you know, we had challenged a lot of American institutions before we left and we thought, well, this is you know, maybe business can be caring and loving and environmentally sustainable and all those things that just came out of what we had learned.

It was really fun. Then in the eighties, I helped with some of the, some of the people I was in India with, had... Some of them were medical people, doctors and epidemiologists, and became involved in the end of the small parts on planet. And when, when they came back and we came back, they wanted to do something. We all wanted to do something to give back to, to these countries, not just the teachers, but the countries that had taught us a different way of being.

So, we, so together a group of us who had been with Neem Karoli Baba, including Ram Dass and Larry Brilliant, who was, and his wife, Girija. He was, he'd worked on the end smallpox and now runs Jeff Scoll's Urgent Threats Fund. But anyhow, a group of us started Seva Foundation. So, seva means service in Sanskrit. And we, we focused on blindness, starting in Nepal and India spreading out through India.

And it was a great organiztion, still a great organization. And Seva has done, has restored sight to 3 million people without cost who would otherwise be blind. I mean, it's amazing. That is amazing. And we raised the money through rock and roll with the Grateful Dead as our house band.

So it was really great. But as part and Seva enlarged it's view for some years. And for 10 years I worked in, I worked in Guatemala with Mayan people in the highlands doing sustainable integrated development. And there, they had just been through this terrible, terrible violence and there I really learned that the way in which the mindful practices, mindfulness, compassion, loving kindness are really, really useful and critical for sustaining oneself in difficult situations. I, I, I knew that before, but Illuminations was not like a really, it did not put us in the presence of a lot of suffering.

Right. Whereas there was, it was relentless, endless suffering in Guatemala. A lot of people were amazing and they did extraordinary things to rebuild their communities, but it really required, you know, required patience, compassion, and just energy. We'd go home at the end of each day, not home but wherever we were staying and just cry and cry and cry because it was just like unrelieved sadness. And, but we had to come up with like creative ideas about how to help rebuild without getting in the way and, and with very few resources.

And I saw then that these practices are just, I couldn't have done it without it. And so now, I think even in, certainly in all kinds of organizations, but you know, now in business, I really see that, you know, a lot of people are under a lot of stress. And you know, it may not be that they, you know, their village was burned down and they have to flee to the jungle for two years, but feeling a lot of stress. And I really know how those practices can help sustain us individually. So.

And then after, um, sometime in '96 with, with the heads of two foundations, Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York and Fletcher Institute in Michigan, their, their directors were presidents, were friends and together and with a group of other people, we kind of were brainstorming what... They had just funded a Bill Moyer series on healing in the mind. And we're looking at the way in which these practices are being used in health and healing. Jon Kabat-Zinn was part of it and many others. And we started asking whether these practices, they started asking whether these practices could be beneficial in other areas of American life.

I was convinced that they could. But we, so we talked for a couple of years, you know, we tossed that around and brought in anybody we could think of who was a quote "expert." There weren't very many. And then we started exploring and we worked in a lots of different areas. We worked in higher education and in journalism and in social justice activism and in, I forgot. But one area, oh, we eventually worked with the army.

But one area was business. And... Right. And were you involved in, in rolling out those programs in higher education in the army? And or did you specialize in, in one of those? Or... No, I was, I was the executive director, so I had to oversee them all and look at to them.

And now you're really getting into like the, at this point, it sounds like you're really getting into mapping out, so to speak. You know, using your previous experience to really map out how you would roll out mindfulness into an organization and really having to think out how that looks and feels. Exactly. What works and what doesn't. And all these different sectors, you know, they just all had different ways of viewing the world and, and different, vocabularies and different concerns.

And so I imagine you would have to frame it very differently for higher education than you would for the army, what kinds of things they would be interested in and how they would all the language around it. And. Yeah, exactly. Interesting. The army was interested in resilience and higher education was interested in contemplative epistemology, you know.

How we can know and then knew in a different way, how we can balance critical thinking with contemplative knowing, you know. So yeah, it's different in every place, but it's also basically the same. So at the same time. So and at that time also, I knew, and I was close to a lot of the major teachers. So we could bring in the best people.

So when we start, cause these were like high risk situations people, we, one time did a retreat for what's called the Green Group. They're the CEOs of the national environmental organizations like Sierra Club and NRDC and the Wilderness Society. And they were pretty skeptical about, most of them are scientifically educated lawyers and they were really pretty skeptical about this. But they also were stressed and they needed, you know, creative ways to, to look at this immense job in front of them. And so they just decided to give it a try, you know, and they were pretty amazed at the end.

They all said, well, yes, but when we go back to work, we can't tell anybody we've been here. We can't use the M word. Right. See, that's not so much of a problem today. I may, I think it's still is but not as much.

It's not as much. But that was still in the nineties, you know, and the word. And the word, even then the word, not then, but yeah, even now, to some extent, the word meditation is not as acceptable as the word mindfulness. This is why we use contemplative mind as a way to. People weren't really sure what it meant.

But, but it didn't immediately evoke, you know, weirdos, you know. So but now, of course, the word mindfulness in such short time has become very unthreatening to people. Right. Yeah. And so how did you end up becoming involved in, with Google, with their Search Inside Yourself program? I worked with a few other corporations from the beginning and we, we were nonprofit.

We weren't like being consultants or anything. We, we simply had the goal to encourage contemplative practice and awareness in American life in order to create a more just, sustainable, and compassionate society that was there. So but I found that what in the first corporation had worked in, when the CEO was replaced, the new person coming in got rid of the whole program. And that's, you know, it's common in business, no matter what the program, the new guy wants his own thing, you know? And we had worked a long time developing this program and it was, and it needed more time, you know, for for people to get really grounded in it. So and then, then I did a short thing for Hurst publications and, the, for one of their magazines and the publisher was replaced just before we did .This was like an eight week, one, two hours a week kind of course in New York.

And it's so amazing that, I mean, people get just as stressed over fashion as a thing, you know, as they do over any, any kind of business. Yeah. So they were stressed and they loved the course and, but the publisher was replaced just before the last, the last being most important class, right, in which you learn how to take it out into the world. And she canceled it. She wouldn't even let us do the last class and she didn't want anything to do with it.

So then I began to think, well, maybe we should work in business schools. And we did a little work at Stanford Business School. And, but then one day the phone rang and it was Meng who's my partner out there. And he, we had a friend in common who had encouraged him to call me, cause he said MIrabai's had experience in business and not many people had that. Yeah.

And so this is 2007 maybe. And so Meng had tried to, he wanted to bring, or, you know, when, when, when Google went public, you can appreciate this, when Google went public, they, none of those young engineers had ever had to work again. But they were young engineers and they loved what they were doing and they didn't want to stop working. So Google told them that they could do anything they wanted, as long as it, it, in some way, furthered the mission of Google. So Meng decided he wanted to bring meditation into Google because it had really helped him through something in his life.

So he, he found an MBSR, mindfulness-based stress reduction person in Mountain View. And of course that had been the course that it was so successful in so many organizations. He was sure it would work and he posted it. These are all these opportunities at Google. He posted it and nobody signed up and he was shocked.

I was shocked. So he didn't know what to do. So he, that's when he called me and I went out there and we started thinking together. Me, never having been there before with fresh eyes and Meng knowing everybody there. We started looking around and we, together, figured out, but it didn't take much, everybody there is really young, really smart and competitive and has been in front of their screens most of their lives.

Cause, cause they are young and, and, and so the place where they were at least well-developed was the emotional intelligence, was a self-awareness and awareness of others. So, and they need that because they work in teams. They tried to build Google plus. And so we decided that the thing to do would be to offer the same practices that you wanted to offer before, but to emphasize their, their capacity for cultivating the factors of emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, so on. Yeah.

And so you had to do a bit of a rebrand. Yes. It was a rebrand. We changed it, we changed it a little bit, but not that much. This is, I remembered that when we got finished and we designed the whole curriculum and everything, and Meng said, "And when we get this completely finished, I'm going to, we're going to make it, open source cause we're Google, you know," And I said, Meng, these practices have been open source for 25 years.

Of course it's we actually did create a curriculum and wrapped it around with framing that was particularly good for, for young engineers. And, but, and then we asked Danny Goleman to, if he would come out and give a talk. And he said yes, because we're all friends. So he came out to Google and he gave, he gave a talk for the first time linking these practices with emotional intelligence. He, you know, his book is I think still the best selling book in the history of social science publishing, but he was very careful when he did it.

He didn't, he didn't in the book or later say, you know, mindfulness and meditation are, are a direct way to cultivate these capacities because he didn't want it to be marginalized. And when he published the book it would have been. So this was the first time he could really talk about the connection and he did it beautifully. And I don't know, four hours later, we had 140 people signed up, you know, and ever since then. Now over 3000 Googlers have taken this course.

And, and now, you know, they have an institute that takes it into other organizations and trains teachers and so on. Yeah, because here, here in Australia, we just had the, this wonderful friend of mine, Jono Fisher just brought out. I saw that, yeah. And so we, we just had, you know, anyone could just go and get the Search Inside Yourself training. So it's become really, really, really popular.

I know it. That's right. Okay. Well Meng wrote the book about it. So that really helped.

And, and it's just, you know, these practices are, you know, they're deeply human practices. They're about us waking up to our own minds and hearts. And anybody who, you know, who received them from a reasonably good teacher, you know, understands that they're so helpful and that so much of the way that we're all educated doesn't allow for that. And, and that they really, they help us in all these ways, all the ways that the research is now showing. So, So I'd love to what, what do you, what do you see as the components of the Search Inside Yourself program that are really powerful, that, that have really made this program so successful? Are there, are there little components that you could share with us if people want to kind of use them to integrate into their work day or into the organization? Well, I would say one thing about the process that made it so successful.

They are, as you know, data-driven. One doesn't think about mindfulness and data-driven. This is just too much or didn't use to. But what that's really meant for the course is that, you know, we taught it over and over and over and got feedback and refined it and worked it in different ways until it really worked for that community. And I mean, I've, I've actually never seen any organization, like work that thoroughly.

And with of course, the people who were, who had helped to develop that, you know, great people. And so there was a lot of enthusiasm about it, but a lot of, a lot of loving effort went into it. So that's one thing and it was effort to design it so that it worked for Google, you know, cause they have a culture and so it's very aligned with their culture. And I think that that is the one of the most important things about bringing it into your workplace, not so much individually, but if people are become interested in introducing it to their workplace, it really needs to be framed and adjusted so that aligns with, with that workplace. And they were the first really to frame it also with the neuroscience of mindfulness and Chris McKenna right there with Stanford and we had some really wonderful people helping with that.

And that made it, in that community, that made it very, you know acceptable and not, not just acceptable, but it was the great motivator because once they heard that, you know. Once they could see the brain on, you know on an fMRI, then it was like, Oh, I want that too. Yeah. It becomes a, it just becomes a really intelligent thing to do. Doesn't it? It's, that's how it really, yeah.

So they more, no, no, no. I've found that not every group is that enthusiastic about the science. Some people are just like, let's get past this and start meditating, but yeah, but that there, that was really great. And, and then I think the emphasis on, you know, on, on loving kindness and compassion. Really people started getting more loving and kind and compassionate.

And that started a, a change in relationships in, in that workplace. Actually, I was going to bring that up, actually, that, that specific topic, because it's, it strikes me as being one of the, I mean, rolling mindfulness out in an organizatio, you know, relationships have to be a pivotal part of that program, bringing mindfulness to the way that you interact with other people in the workplace. So is there specific things that, that you can do, exercises or tips on how to work with that specific aspect of mindfulness in the workplace? Yeah, I think mindful, well, communication, mindful listening is very powerful. We do, in Search Inside Yourself, but also in lots of other places, we do an exercise called some people call it deep listening or calle it mindful listening, wherein you sit with a partner. And as that partner speaks you listen,you listen fully for what is being said.

You're silent and you're, and then as... It's the same process as when you're sitting by yourself with your eyes closed, watching your breath and letting go of your thoughts. As you notice thoughts coming into your head about thoughts about this person and their story, or about how you could fix it or about how the very same thing happened to me or, or thoughts about when I finish here I'm going to go do something else or, you know, the whole range. You just notice those thoughts as they arise, and then you let them go and you bring your attention back to the other person. And now when we're in a conversation, usually you don't, you don't want to be kind of so strict about that like, because many things that arise in me are helpful in terms of our conversation.

But in this, you, you learn that in letting go, you can fully listen to the other person. And you realize how little, you know, you often are listening. So many people, especially in the workplace, you're busy thinking about what you're going to say when that person finishes talking. And it's almost always a big awakener for people. So, so I think cultivating good listening skills are really important.

And then of course, good speaking skills being, being able to be truthful and truthful in, in Buddhism, they call it right speech, you know. Be truthful, be kind, to be timely. So you might have something to say to me, but this might not be the time at all. And I might not be able to hear it, you know? And the way in which you say it, if it's not compassionate, I also may not be able to hear it. So, so those two things go a long way.

And are those things that you integrate into at, in Search Inside Yourself, is that something that you do, you teach as a formal practice where you kind of, you actually sit down and you get to practice mindful listening and you get to practice mindful speaking. So that the idea then is that you, you have this practice time and then you would go out and just be natural in your natural environment. You don't have to kind of like sit there in silence while somebody speaks. But the idea is just, don't bring your attention to these relating that you do and sort of trying to infuse that with more mindfulness. Exactly.

That's true of all these practices. I mean, when you, you, when you sit and watch your breath and look at your thoughts and realize you are not your thoughts, you know, Yeah. When you, then when you open your eyes and go back into the rest of your life, you're not self-consciously doing that, but the awareness, I mean, mindfulness is both a practice, but it's also an awareness that you bring into everything that you do, you know? Yeah. I had, I was teaching the incoming students at Amherst College last fall. And I had them, they were having a hard time just really paying attention to their breath.

It's pretty subtle actually, when you've been living a really kind of wild life. And I had them look at a leaf. And so they all had a leaf and, you know, they just would bring their awareness back to their leaf over and over. And just when they thought, it's a leaf, I saw it. Then you bring it, bring it back again, and then there's always more to say.

And that, and so they were not then going to go out and look at everything for 10 minutes, you know. But, but then, you know, you bring up, at least when you look at something, you may not give it the attention, it might not be important enough to you to see everything about it. But at least, you know, you're only seeing the most surface part of that thing, whatever it is. Yeah. So that can in the same way as the mindful communication, it, it affords an opportunity to have a formal practice where you can look in a different way than you usually look and to experience relating to this visual object, a leaf or whatever in a different way.

And then that could afford you the opportunity when you walk out the door to see things afresh, so to speak. Yeah. So that kind of infuses, I think there was a, there's a, a story that I've heard over and over again about, you know, having a bowl of water that has some gold paint in it. And then, you know, every time you practice mindfulness, you put a little white rag in and a little bit comes off and then you practice again a little bit more. And then eventually the, the, the white rag is, becomes golden.

And it's that kind of idea of formal practice doing that. Yeah, exactly. Another thing that, I heard you do an interview with my, the lovely Shamash. Alidinana my friend. It was a pleasure listening to it.

And one of the things that I really loved is that you spoke about how at Google you were training people to, before they hit the send button on their email, to stop and take a couple of deep, slow, conscious breaths before they hit the send button. And I love the practicality and the simplicity of that. It's just something that can become peppered through your day, these little moments of mindfulness. And I was wondering if there was any other really simple, practical things like that, that you might offer from not just from Google, but just from your years of experience that people could take away. That one's good because you not only take the three breaths, but then you reread the email from the perspective of the person who's going to receive it.

So it's really practical. And then you either change it or not. But you know, reminders during the day are helpful. So some people will do the thing like they'll take an object, like the doorknob. Every time they go through the door, they'll take one deep breath or three to remember to remember to kind of settle into their bodies, be aware of their bodies walking through space, you know.

Or when the phone rings, use that as as an awakening bell, you know, So reminders are helpful. Yeah. And then I think, yeah, just having a little silence at the beginning of a meeting. You can do it at the beginning of a conference call even, that turns out to be radical. That's what we did at the beginning of this call.

Yes. And do you know a moment or a minute, you know, a lot happens. You remember. The thing is we, we want to do the right thing. We want to remember, but things are moving so fast and there's so much input now that it's, we forget.

So just taking those moments really helps and particularly helps in connection with, you know, doing more formal practices and, and, and being in community with other people who are also trying to do the same thing. That's really important. Yeah. And I think mindful walking is a great practice for the workplace. First of all, we're supposed to be walking more than we do.

You know, they say sitting is the new smoking. Yes. So, but even if you're not, self-consciously trying to get up every hour, that most everybody has to walk from one place to another, a few times a day. And so if you bring your awareness to, to your body, to your legs and your feet, as you're moving through space, That's a great one, because usually you're not doing anything very important while you're walking anyhow. And Except for ruminating about your whole life.

Exactly. And then trying to get there instead of being where you are. So, yeah, I think that's an important one for the workplace. I'm curious to know Mirabai, with all of your experiencing this area, how, what are the things that you personally do everyday? What works for you? I know we're all different, but what are the little habits that you do ever day? And do you have a formal practice that you do generally speaking? And then what are the other informal kind of little tidbits that work for you? I, you know, one thing I think is important for people to know, I found that over time, over like 45 years that it changes. So my basic practices are still vipassana meditation, mindfulness, loving, kindness, compassion meditations, insight.

And then I also, because I also have thisconnection to my original teacher, Neem Karoli Baba, I, yoga and chanting also. And he, he gave me a couple. But like one main instruction which was, love everyone and serve everyone. So I keep that in, in my mind and come back to it all the time to just sort of see if, what I'm doing, is in some way fulfilling that. So that's like, so I think mindfulness of intention is, is important, and, and all the others.

I mean, at one time in my life, I just, I've been doing sitting practice and walking practice for 10 years or something. And I was in a very stressful time in my life and I just couldn't sit quietly. I just, my mind was racing. And even though the instruction is just return to your breath, I was inside. I hated it.

So I started doing aikido and it was so perfect for me at that time. And, and it was utterly different, you know? So I, I just think that that's important for people to know. People may start by just simply learning a basic mindfulness practice. Yeah. But you know, there are so many that work in different ways for people to cultivate those same, you know, qualities.

Yeah. And I'm really, I think one of the things that I really appreciate about, you know, the work that you do and the different ways that you, you see that one audience may need mindfulness framed in this way and another audience may need, as you said, you know, the, the, the one audience needs the research and they need practical sort of, you know, very tangible exercises. Another sort of audience may, you could almost literally say, you know, go into your body and they're such sensing people that they might not need as much instruction or they don't need, they, they're not as inclined to need it framed in that way. You can just kind of present it. And then there might be a really active person who could do aikido and cultivate the same quality of being more awake in their lives and more kind and compassionate and connected.

And I think that's a really important message that, that, that this summit is getting across and many teachers are saying the same thing that, you know, there isn't really a right and perfect way for everybody. And it's fine to explore different ways. Yeah. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

That's a great word, explore. Yeah. Well, I just have one, one more question that I'd like to ask you. And it's the same question that I've been asking everybody who's been taking part in this summit. And you know, they say, it's said around, you know, in the media and stuff like that, that, that mindfulness has now gone mainstream.

What I think is that it's entering mainstream culture. It's certainly been de-stigmatized a lot. I'm wondering what would happen when it hits critical mass. I'm talking sort of like 50% of the world's population or thereabouts. So my question to you is if mindfulness would a truly go mainstream, what kind of a world do you think that would create? I think it would be a world in which we recognize more deeply our interconnection and with that, our responsibility to each other and not out of a sense of responsibility, but out of an inner knowing that we are connected.

And so just as, I don't want to suffer, you don't want to suffer. So what can I do to prevent that for you? And I think we'd understand more about how everything is changing all the time and not try to hold on so much. We'd be, I think, you know, less materialistic in the sense that we think. We might not even own less stuff, although I think we would. But, but that we would understand that, that happiness and awakening doesn't happen through owning stuff.

That, that would be a big difference. And I've thought a lot about all the different, what parts of society that would change and how that would, you know, how would architecture change. But, but I think that they would all come out of that understanding particularly of interconnection. Yeah. Is there anything else you'd like to share before we close? Only that I really loved talking to you for this hour.

It was really fun. Me too. Yeah. You know, I kind of thought, Oh, I'll do it, you know, but cause I always say yes. That's a problem, but it's really been nice.

I feel really good. Aww, me too. It's a great way to spend an hour. Yeah, I couldn't agree more.

Talk

4.3

Mindfulness in Business & Work Life

In this interview, Mirabai talks with Melli about the key principles and practices that create a more mindful workplace.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien and I'm just so delighted to be here right now with Mirabai Bush. Mirabai is the author of Working with Mindfulness. And she's been a key contributor to Google's mindfulness program called Search Inside Yourself. She's the co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. And she's really, it's really such a privilege to have Mirabai here with us because she's really one of the world's leading experts on integrating mindfulness into our work day, both on an organizational level and really on an individual level as well.

So Mirabai thank you so much for spending this time to share your wisdom and experience. It's great to be with you. I'm already enjoying it. Me too. I'm really curious about this niche that you find yourself in, you know, mindfulness in the workplace.

I'd love to hear a little bit of the story of how you came to be so interested in mindfulness and, and specifically mindfulness at work. Well, it's a long story. But sure. We have time. I, in 1970, I was in graduate school and studying for my PhD and it was a hard time on American campuses.

It was a time of civil rights and, and antiwar, work, and things began to be very confusing. And so I, with, with my then partner decided we'd take some time off and travel. And we went through Europe and through the Middle East and in, and to India. And I didn't actually even plan to go to India, but we were just kind of journeying and hoping that we would, by meeting different kinds of people, hoping that we would find other ways of being that made more sense to us. But I got to India and the first day I was there, I was in New Delhi and I met on the street someone who had been at my university, but I hadn't known her there.

It was Sharon Salzberg. And she, she had just heard about this retreat that was being offered by Goenka, Burmese meditation teacher, for the first time for Westerners. So she told me about that and I thought that sounds interesting. I hadn't come to learn meditation, but you know, we are in India, so might as well. So I went there and it was a 10 day course.

And it began at five in the morning and went till 10 at night and there were two meals and it was all in silence and we just meditated all day long. And my mind had been really busy until that time. Of course, as a graduate student in literature, I'd read everything. And I had never really thought about the possibility of looking within for wisdom. Even insight or understanding.

But through that first course, I got the tiniest glimpse that, oh, my God, there's a way to look at your own mind that I am not my thoughts or my emotions. I actually, there, there is awareness there. I can rest in awareness and, and discover the way my own mind was working. That was so amazing to me. So anyhow, I stayed, I, I was with this group of people, whom I met when I got there and we just loved the course.

And then we asked them to do more. And so we stayed for, I don't know, we did four or five, I think, and over a couple of months and, and then left there. And as I said, I was going to stay in India for two weeks, but I was so, I was so moved by this new way of understanding, which was at the same time, so familiar and intimate that, and I knew there were other good teachers there. And so I stayed in India for two years. I met my root major teacher Neem Karoli Baba there and spent a lot of time with him.

And then many other people who became the, the beginnings of meditation and mindfulness in this country were also part of that first group. Ram Dass was there and Joseph Goldstein and Sharon, of course and Wes Nisker and many, many other people. And, so. iT was an intensive time of learning, a new way of being. And then I came back to this country and most of the others, Danny Goleman was with us also there.

Most of the others, either started retreat centers. We were all like, totally committed to this. Oh. You know, we came back. So some started centers and others went back to school.

Dan Goleman and, and, but I, when I first came back, I had a baby. And then, and in those days, babies and meditation just were not ever spoken in the same sentence. So you couldn't possibly have a baby and be teaching meditation. So I, but I, I really wanted to find a way to integrate mindfulness into my life and, and share it with other people. So I, with my then husband, who I had traveled with, we started a business.

It started out as a small, funky business and it grew over time to, in those days, was a biggish small business. We had 65 people working and, and we were, we were making, we're making transparent decals of the, of mandalas representing all the spiritual and religious traditions around the world. We wanted to express that we had found this common core everywhere we went, in temples and mosques and churches and with all kinds of people. So we did that for awhile and, and, and then we, we were experimenting with things and we created a transparent rainbow and that became, that was like, like mindfulness now. It was like the leap from, you know, the sort of alternative marginal, esoteric to the mainstream.

And we were at some, one point we were in 10,000 stores. And so, so neither of us knew anything about business when we started. And we hired people we thought were cool, and none of them knew anything about business either. But we had to learn quickly because it was a lot of money going through and there, you know, there were lawyers and bankers and, you know, major players. So we did learn.

In the process. I, we wanted to integrate from the beginning some of this new awareness we had. And we would, we would begin our meetings always with silence. And we would, not everybody there wanted to learn to meditate, you know, so we, but we had yoga classes and we had kind of mindfulness classes. But, you know, we didn't require it, but the whole, it was integrated into whatever we did.

And based on, you know, basic moral and ethical principles that were in alignment with, with, with mindfulness, we, we, we created a set of guidelines for the business. And this was before, you know, in this country, there was a big movement after that, of, with people like Ben and Jerry's and the Body Shop and, and others. This was before any of that. We were really experimenting. But it was, we were so successful as a business and people loved working there.

The employees of Illuminations, many of them who now, I mean, we ended in the early eighties and they still have annual reunions. How lovely. People say it was the best job they ever had, you know, cause we were all learning together as we went along, but we did integrate these practices. So I had that as, as one of my like great experiences. And then...

So it sort of sounds like something that happened quite organically that you... It did. There wasn't a, we didn't have a like model of, you know, of being a social venture business or anything. We just were trying to do it. We were, you know, we had challenged a lot of American institutions before we left and we thought, well, this is you know, maybe business can be caring and loving and environmentally sustainable and all those things that just came out of what we had learned.

It was really fun. Then in the eighties, I helped with some of the, some of the people I was in India with, had... Some of them were medical people, doctors and epidemiologists, and became involved in the end of the small parts on planet. And when, when they came back and we came back, they wanted to do something. We all wanted to do something to give back to, to these countries, not just the teachers, but the countries that had taught us a different way of being.

So, we, so together a group of us who had been with Neem Karoli Baba, including Ram Dass and Larry Brilliant, who was, and his wife, Girija. He was, he'd worked on the end smallpox and now runs Jeff Scoll's Urgent Threats Fund. But anyhow, a group of us started Seva Foundation. So, seva means service in Sanskrit. And we, we focused on blindness, starting in Nepal and India spreading out through India.

And it was a great organiztion, still a great organization. And Seva has done, has restored sight to 3 million people without cost who would otherwise be blind. I mean, it's amazing. That is amazing. And we raised the money through rock and roll with the Grateful Dead as our house band.

So it was really great. But as part and Seva enlarged it's view for some years. And for 10 years I worked in, I worked in Guatemala with Mayan people in the highlands doing sustainable integrated development. And there, they had just been through this terrible, terrible violence and there I really learned that the way in which the mindful practices, mindfulness, compassion, loving kindness are really, really useful and critical for sustaining oneself in difficult situations. I, I, I knew that before, but Illuminations was not like a really, it did not put us in the presence of a lot of suffering.

Right. Whereas there was, it was relentless, endless suffering in Guatemala. A lot of people were amazing and they did extraordinary things to rebuild their communities, but it really required, you know, required patience, compassion, and just energy. We'd go home at the end of each day, not home but wherever we were staying and just cry and cry and cry because it was just like unrelieved sadness. And, but we had to come up with like creative ideas about how to help rebuild without getting in the way and, and with very few resources.

And I saw then that these practices are just, I couldn't have done it without it. And so now, I think even in, certainly in all kinds of organizations, but you know, now in business, I really see that, you know, a lot of people are under a lot of stress. And you know, it may not be that they, you know, their village was burned down and they have to flee to the jungle for two years, but feeling a lot of stress. And I really know how those practices can help sustain us individually. So.

And then after, um, sometime in '96 with, with the heads of two foundations, Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York and Fletcher Institute in Michigan, their, their directors were presidents, were friends and together and with a group of other people, we kind of were brainstorming what... They had just funded a Bill Moyer series on healing in the mind. And we're looking at the way in which these practices are being used in health and healing. Jon Kabat-Zinn was part of it and many others. And we started asking whether these practices, they started asking whether these practices could be beneficial in other areas of American life.

I was convinced that they could. But we, so we talked for a couple of years, you know, we tossed that around and brought in anybody we could think of who was a quote "expert." There weren't very many. And then we started exploring and we worked in a lots of different areas. We worked in higher education and in journalism and in social justice activism and in, I forgot. But one area, oh, we eventually worked with the army.

But one area was business. And... Right. And were you involved in, in rolling out those programs in higher education in the army? And or did you specialize in, in one of those? Or... No, I was, I was the executive director, so I had to oversee them all and look at to them.

And now you're really getting into like the, at this point, it sounds like you're really getting into mapping out, so to speak. You know, using your previous experience to really map out how you would roll out mindfulness into an organization and really having to think out how that looks and feels. Exactly. What works and what doesn't. And all these different sectors, you know, they just all had different ways of viewing the world and, and different, vocabularies and different concerns.

And so I imagine you would have to frame it very differently for higher education than you would for the army, what kinds of things they would be interested in and how they would all the language around it. And. Yeah, exactly. Interesting. The army was interested in resilience and higher education was interested in contemplative epistemology, you know.

How we can know and then knew in a different way, how we can balance critical thinking with contemplative knowing, you know. So yeah, it's different in every place, but it's also basically the same. So at the same time. So and at that time also, I knew, and I was close to a lot of the major teachers. So we could bring in the best people.

So when we start, cause these were like high risk situations people, we, one time did a retreat for what's called the Green Group. They're the CEOs of the national environmental organizations like Sierra Club and NRDC and the Wilderness Society. And they were pretty skeptical about, most of them are scientifically educated lawyers and they were really pretty skeptical about this. But they also were stressed and they needed, you know, creative ways to, to look at this immense job in front of them. And so they just decided to give it a try, you know, and they were pretty amazed at the end.

They all said, well, yes, but when we go back to work, we can't tell anybody we've been here. We can't use the M word. Right. See, that's not so much of a problem today. I may, I think it's still is but not as much.

It's not as much. But that was still in the nineties, you know, and the word. And the word, even then the word, not then, but yeah, even now, to some extent, the word meditation is not as acceptable as the word mindfulness. This is why we use contemplative mind as a way to. People weren't really sure what it meant.

But, but it didn't immediately evoke, you know, weirdos, you know. So but now, of course, the word mindfulness in such short time has become very unthreatening to people. Right. Yeah. And so how did you end up becoming involved in, with Google, with their Search Inside Yourself program? I worked with a few other corporations from the beginning and we, we were nonprofit.

We weren't like being consultants or anything. We, we simply had the goal to encourage contemplative practice and awareness in American life in order to create a more just, sustainable, and compassionate society that was there. So but I found that what in the first corporation had worked in, when the CEO was replaced, the new person coming in got rid of the whole program. And that's, you know, it's common in business, no matter what the program, the new guy wants his own thing, you know? And we had worked a long time developing this program and it was, and it needed more time, you know, for for people to get really grounded in it. So and then, then I did a short thing for Hurst publications and, the, for one of their magazines and the publisher was replaced just before we did .This was like an eight week, one, two hours a week kind of course in New York.

And it's so amazing that, I mean, people get just as stressed over fashion as a thing, you know, as they do over any, any kind of business. Yeah. So they were stressed and they loved the course and, but the publisher was replaced just before the last, the last being most important class, right, in which you learn how to take it out into the world. And she canceled it. She wouldn't even let us do the last class and she didn't want anything to do with it.

So then I began to think, well, maybe we should work in business schools. And we did a little work at Stanford Business School. And, but then one day the phone rang and it was Meng who's my partner out there. And he, we had a friend in common who had encouraged him to call me, cause he said MIrabai's had experience in business and not many people had that. Yeah.

And so this is 2007 maybe. And so Meng had tried to, he wanted to bring, or, you know, when, when, when Google went public, you can appreciate this, when Google went public, they, none of those young engineers had ever had to work again. But they were young engineers and they loved what they were doing and they didn't want to stop working. So Google told them that they could do anything they wanted, as long as it, it, in some way, furthered the mission of Google. So Meng decided he wanted to bring meditation into Google because it had really helped him through something in his life.

So he, he found an MBSR, mindfulness-based stress reduction person in Mountain View. And of course that had been the course that it was so successful in so many organizations. He was sure it would work and he posted it. These are all these opportunities at Google. He posted it and nobody signed up and he was shocked.

I was shocked. So he didn't know what to do. So he, that's when he called me and I went out there and we started thinking together. Me, never having been there before with fresh eyes and Meng knowing everybody there. We started looking around and we, together, figured out, but it didn't take much, everybody there is really young, really smart and competitive and has been in front of their screens most of their lives.

Cause, cause they are young and, and, and so the place where they were at least well-developed was the emotional intelligence, was a self-awareness and awareness of others. So, and they need that because they work in teams. They tried to build Google plus. And so we decided that the thing to do would be to offer the same practices that you wanted to offer before, but to emphasize their, their capacity for cultivating the factors of emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, so on. Yeah.

And so you had to do a bit of a rebrand. Yes. It was a rebrand. We changed it, we changed it a little bit, but not that much. This is, I remembered that when we got finished and we designed the whole curriculum and everything, and Meng said, "And when we get this completely finished, I'm going to, we're going to make it, open source cause we're Google, you know," And I said, Meng, these practices have been open source for 25 years.

Of course it's we actually did create a curriculum and wrapped it around with framing that was particularly good for, for young engineers. And, but, and then we asked Danny Goleman to, if he would come out and give a talk. And he said yes, because we're all friends. So he came out to Google and he gave, he gave a talk for the first time linking these practices with emotional intelligence. He, you know, his book is I think still the best selling book in the history of social science publishing, but he was very careful when he did it.

He didn't, he didn't in the book or later say, you know, mindfulness and meditation are, are a direct way to cultivate these capacities because he didn't want it to be marginalized. And when he published the book it would have been. So this was the first time he could really talk about the connection and he did it beautifully. And I don't know, four hours later, we had 140 people signed up, you know, and ever since then. Now over 3000 Googlers have taken this course.

And, and now, you know, they have an institute that takes it into other organizations and trains teachers and so on. Yeah, because here, here in Australia, we just had the, this wonderful friend of mine, Jono Fisher just brought out. I saw that, yeah. And so we, we just had, you know, anyone could just go and get the Search Inside Yourself training. So it's become really, really, really popular.

I know it. That's right. Okay. Well Meng wrote the book about it. So that really helped.

And, and it's just, you know, these practices are, you know, they're deeply human practices. They're about us waking up to our own minds and hearts. And anybody who, you know, who received them from a reasonably good teacher, you know, understands that they're so helpful and that so much of the way that we're all educated doesn't allow for that. And, and that they really, they help us in all these ways, all the ways that the research is now showing. So, So I'd love to what, what do you, what do you see as the components of the Search Inside Yourself program that are really powerful, that, that have really made this program so successful? Are there, are there little components that you could share with us if people want to kind of use them to integrate into their work day or into the organization? Well, I would say one thing about the process that made it so successful.

They are, as you know, data-driven. One doesn't think about mindfulness and data-driven. This is just too much or didn't use to. But what that's really meant for the course is that, you know, we taught it over and over and over and got feedback and refined it and worked it in different ways until it really worked for that community. And I mean, I've, I've actually never seen any organization, like work that thoroughly.

And with of course, the people who were, who had helped to develop that, you know, great people. And so there was a lot of enthusiasm about it, but a lot of, a lot of loving effort went into it. So that's one thing and it was effort to design it so that it worked for Google, you know, cause they have a culture and so it's very aligned with their culture. And I think that that is the one of the most important things about bringing it into your workplace, not so much individually, but if people are become interested in introducing it to their workplace, it really needs to be framed and adjusted so that aligns with, with that workplace. And they were the first really to frame it also with the neuroscience of mindfulness and Chris McKenna right there with Stanford and we had some really wonderful people helping with that.

And that made it, in that community, that made it very, you know acceptable and not, not just acceptable, but it was the great motivator because once they heard that, you know. Once they could see the brain on, you know on an fMRI, then it was like, Oh, I want that too. Yeah. It becomes a, it just becomes a really intelligent thing to do. Doesn't it? It's, that's how it really, yeah.

So they more, no, no, no. I've found that not every group is that enthusiastic about the science. Some people are just like, let's get past this and start meditating, but yeah, but that there, that was really great. And, and then I think the emphasis on, you know, on, on loving kindness and compassion. Really people started getting more loving and kind and compassionate.

And that started a, a change in relationships in, in that workplace. Actually, I was going to bring that up, actually, that, that specific topic, because it's, it strikes me as being one of the, I mean, rolling mindfulness out in an organizatio, you know, relationships have to be a pivotal part of that program, bringing mindfulness to the way that you interact with other people in the workplace. So is there specific things that, that you can do, exercises or tips on how to work with that specific aspect of mindfulness in the workplace? Yeah, I think mindful, well, communication, mindful listening is very powerful. We do, in Search Inside Yourself, but also in lots of other places, we do an exercise called some people call it deep listening or calle it mindful listening, wherein you sit with a partner. And as that partner speaks you listen,you listen fully for what is being said.

You're silent and you're, and then as... It's the same process as when you're sitting by yourself with your eyes closed, watching your breath and letting go of your thoughts. As you notice thoughts coming into your head about thoughts about this person and their story, or about how you could fix it or about how the very same thing happened to me or, or thoughts about when I finish here I'm going to go do something else or, you know, the whole range. You just notice those thoughts as they arise, and then you let them go and you bring your attention back to the other person. And now when we're in a conversation, usually you don't, you don't want to be kind of so strict about that like, because many things that arise in me are helpful in terms of our conversation.

But in this, you, you learn that in letting go, you can fully listen to the other person. And you realize how little, you know, you often are listening. So many people, especially in the workplace, you're busy thinking about what you're going to say when that person finishes talking. And it's almost always a big awakener for people. So, so I think cultivating good listening skills are really important.

And then of course, good speaking skills being, being able to be truthful and truthful in, in Buddhism, they call it right speech, you know. Be truthful, be kind, to be timely. So you might have something to say to me, but this might not be the time at all. And I might not be able to hear it, you know? And the way in which you say it, if it's not compassionate, I also may not be able to hear it. So, so those two things go a long way.

And are those things that you integrate into at, in Search Inside Yourself, is that something that you do, you teach as a formal practice where you kind of, you actually sit down and you get to practice mindful listening and you get to practice mindful speaking. So that the idea then is that you, you have this practice time and then you would go out and just be natural in your natural environment. You don't have to kind of like sit there in silence while somebody speaks. But the idea is just, don't bring your attention to these relating that you do and sort of trying to infuse that with more mindfulness. Exactly.

That's true of all these practices. I mean, when you, you, when you sit and watch your breath and look at your thoughts and realize you are not your thoughts, you know, Yeah. When you, then when you open your eyes and go back into the rest of your life, you're not self-consciously doing that, but the awareness, I mean, mindfulness is both a practice, but it's also an awareness that you bring into everything that you do, you know? Yeah. I had, I was teaching the incoming students at Amherst College last fall. And I had them, they were having a hard time just really paying attention to their breath.

It's pretty subtle actually, when you've been living a really kind of wild life. And I had them look at a leaf. And so they all had a leaf and, you know, they just would bring their awareness back to their leaf over and over. And just when they thought, it's a leaf, I saw it. Then you bring it, bring it back again, and then there's always more to say.

And that, and so they were not then going to go out and look at everything for 10 minutes, you know. But, but then, you know, you bring up, at least when you look at something, you may not give it the attention, it might not be important enough to you to see everything about it. But at least, you know, you're only seeing the most surface part of that thing, whatever it is. Yeah. So that can in the same way as the mindful communication, it, it affords an opportunity to have a formal practice where you can look in a different way than you usually look and to experience relating to this visual object, a leaf or whatever in a different way.

And then that could afford you the opportunity when you walk out the door to see things afresh, so to speak. Yeah. So that kind of infuses, I think there was a, there's a, a story that I've heard over and over again about, you know, having a bowl of water that has some gold paint in it. And then, you know, every time you practice mindfulness, you put a little white rag in and a little bit comes off and then you practice again a little bit more. And then eventually the, the, the white rag is, becomes golden.

And it's that kind of idea of formal practice doing that. Yeah, exactly. Another thing that, I heard you do an interview with my, the lovely Shamash. Alidinana my friend. It was a pleasure listening to it.

And one of the things that I really loved is that you spoke about how at Google you were training people to, before they hit the send button on their email, to stop and take a couple of deep, slow, conscious breaths before they hit the send button. And I love the practicality and the simplicity of that. It's just something that can become peppered through your day, these little moments of mindfulness. And I was wondering if there was any other really simple, practical things like that, that you might offer from not just from Google, but just from your years of experience that people could take away. That one's good because you not only take the three breaths, but then you reread the email from the perspective of the person who's going to receive it.

So it's really practical. And then you either change it or not. But you know, reminders during the day are helpful. So some people will do the thing like they'll take an object, like the doorknob. Every time they go through the door, they'll take one deep breath or three to remember to remember to kind of settle into their bodies, be aware of their bodies walking through space, you know.

Or when the phone rings, use that as as an awakening bell, you know, So reminders are helpful. Yeah. And then I think, yeah, just having a little silence at the beginning of a meeting. You can do it at the beginning of a conference call even, that turns out to be radical. That's what we did at the beginning of this call.

Yes. And do you know a moment or a minute, you know, a lot happens. You remember. The thing is we, we want to do the right thing. We want to remember, but things are moving so fast and there's so much input now that it's, we forget.

So just taking those moments really helps and particularly helps in connection with, you know, doing more formal practices and, and, and being in community with other people who are also trying to do the same thing. That's really important. Yeah. And I think mindful walking is a great practice for the workplace. First of all, we're supposed to be walking more than we do.

You know, they say sitting is the new smoking. Yes. So, but even if you're not, self-consciously trying to get up every hour, that most everybody has to walk from one place to another, a few times a day. And so if you bring your awareness to, to your body, to your legs and your feet, as you're moving through space, That's a great one, because usually you're not doing anything very important while you're walking anyhow. And Except for ruminating about your whole life.

Exactly. And then trying to get there instead of being where you are. So, yeah, I think that's an important one for the workplace. I'm curious to know Mirabai, with all of your experiencing this area, how, what are the things that you personally do everyday? What works for you? I know we're all different, but what are the little habits that you do ever day? And do you have a formal practice that you do generally speaking? And then what are the other informal kind of little tidbits that work for you? I, you know, one thing I think is important for people to know, I found that over time, over like 45 years that it changes. So my basic practices are still vipassana meditation, mindfulness, loving, kindness, compassion meditations, insight.

And then I also, because I also have thisconnection to my original teacher, Neem Karoli Baba, I, yoga and chanting also. And he, he gave me a couple. But like one main instruction which was, love everyone and serve everyone. So I keep that in, in my mind and come back to it all the time to just sort of see if, what I'm doing, is in some way fulfilling that. So that's like, so I think mindfulness of intention is, is important, and, and all the others.

I mean, at one time in my life, I just, I've been doing sitting practice and walking practice for 10 years or something. And I was in a very stressful time in my life and I just couldn't sit quietly. I just, my mind was racing. And even though the instruction is just return to your breath, I was inside. I hated it.

So I started doing aikido and it was so perfect for me at that time. And, and it was utterly different, you know? So I, I just think that that's important for people to know. People may start by just simply learning a basic mindfulness practice. Yeah. But you know, there are so many that work in different ways for people to cultivate those same, you know, qualities.

Yeah. And I'm really, I think one of the things that I really appreciate about, you know, the work that you do and the different ways that you, you see that one audience may need mindfulness framed in this way and another audience may need, as you said, you know, the, the, the one audience needs the research and they need practical sort of, you know, very tangible exercises. Another sort of audience may, you could almost literally say, you know, go into your body and they're such sensing people that they might not need as much instruction or they don't need, they, they're not as inclined to need it framed in that way. You can just kind of present it. And then there might be a really active person who could do aikido and cultivate the same quality of being more awake in their lives and more kind and compassionate and connected.

And I think that's a really important message that, that, that this summit is getting across and many teachers are saying the same thing that, you know, there isn't really a right and perfect way for everybody. And it's fine to explore different ways. Yeah. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

That's a great word, explore. Yeah. Well, I just have one, one more question that I'd like to ask you. And it's the same question that I've been asking everybody who's been taking part in this summit. And you know, they say, it's said around, you know, in the media and stuff like that, that, that mindfulness has now gone mainstream.

What I think is that it's entering mainstream culture. It's certainly been de-stigmatized a lot. I'm wondering what would happen when it hits critical mass. I'm talking sort of like 50% of the world's population or thereabouts. So my question to you is if mindfulness would a truly go mainstream, what kind of a world do you think that would create? I think it would be a world in which we recognize more deeply our interconnection and with that, our responsibility to each other and not out of a sense of responsibility, but out of an inner knowing that we are connected.

And so just as, I don't want to suffer, you don't want to suffer. So what can I do to prevent that for you? And I think we'd understand more about how everything is changing all the time and not try to hold on so much. We'd be, I think, you know, less materialistic in the sense that we think. We might not even own less stuff, although I think we would. But, but that we would understand that, that happiness and awakening doesn't happen through owning stuff.

That, that would be a big difference. And I've thought a lot about all the different, what parts of society that would change and how that would, you know, how would architecture change. But, but I think that they would all come out of that understanding particularly of interconnection. Yeah. Is there anything else you'd like to share before we close? Only that I really loved talking to you for this hour.

It was really fun. Me too. Yeah. You know, I kind of thought, Oh, I'll do it, you know, but cause I always say yes. That's a problem, but it's really been nice.

I feel really good. Aww, me too. It's a great way to spend an hour. Yeah, I couldn't agree more.

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