Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend almost 2 months as a visiting scholar at the Mind & Life Visiting Scholar house in Amherst, Massachusetts. In this house, scientists come from all places in the world to work on projects related to contemplative science. I was there to work on a computational model of meditation practice. The aim of such a model is to build a bridge between western psychological theory and Buddhist psychological theory, and to derive testable predictions of the effects of meditation on cognition.
On the last day of the conference, Monique de Knop shared her experience in being a top manager in the Belgian government. She dissected what wisdom in the workplace really means. Being wise it not necessarily always being gentle. Actually, it is most importantly being solid and stable. She explained how she developed her wisdom by first listening to spiritual teachings, using her meditation as a laboratory to get to know her mind, finding mental calm, contemplating actions, and the finally acting from that ethic. This personal ethic is really important in bringing wisdom in an organization, but in addition you can manifest it in your actions. When you see your workers as a potential to be developed, rather than a resource to be used, then work can be a place where you develop yourself.
With economic crises and various corporate scandals under our belt you may wonder whether meditation and human values actually exist in the workplace. Right now a group of people is investigating this question in Lerab Ling. I am participating as one of the speakers in the conference on Meditation and Human Values in the Workplace, and the first day I already learned a lot.
Many meditation retreats, such as the well-known 10-day vipassana retreats consist not only of sitting meditation but also include frequent periods of walking meditation. To the bystander these walking meditations look something like zombie apocalypse--making them not immediately suitable for practising them in daily life. But you can adapt these methods to make the times you are getting from one place to the other be moments of sanity in your otherwise busy day.
A busy life can be experienced as an addictive video game, comprising the twisty route from a morning coffee to the time we return home and close the door on the world and its demands. The circuit is strewn with pleasant opportunities—friendly conversations—which we navigate toward, and unpleasant roadblocks—impossible characters with impractical deadlines—which we try to avoid. Caught up in the game, our frustrations and disappointments are stifled so we can keep moving. We lose track of how these blocked emotions translate into stress carried in the body; our external fixation and continual thoughts relegate the body to the corners of awareness; the tension that lies beneath our attention spans often remains unnoticed.
There are three common myths or misconceptions about meditation that can block us from realizing the power and benefit of practice. Yet, if we take a moment to expose them, we can easily figure out how to overcome them.
I have had the privilege of working with many experienced meditators on their personal food issues. It’s always a real pleasure when a long-time practitioner walks into my office. As they tell me about what’s troubling them I often hear the phrase “how could I have missed this?”. Total confusion, sometimes even desperation, is in their eyes.
It’s often a relief for people to hear that so many of us “miss this”.
Something as basic as eating - is a big deal. How do we really look at something this primal without judgment? How do we change our reactions to these ideas and patterns that have formed before birth?
Why do we always recommend meditating with our eyes open? So, asked my stepfather the other day. He learned to meditate in the What Meditation Really Is classes held in New York City. And now, he goes to a different meditation group on Sundays, sometimes attended by 100 or so people, and everyone else meditates with their eyes closed.