This seems like the perfect timing of sharing the take-aways of “A Mindful Leader Forum”that I attended last week. The President Elect for the U.S. is officially Donald Trump. I genuinely thought it was an impossibility. My faith in humanity was so strong that I disengaged from paying attention to the campaign weeks ago. I held strong in my perspective that there was no way in a million years that the American people would make that choice for their future – our future. I realize now that I failed to pay attention to how out of balance the world really is at such a crucial time of needed social change. A man who is in a state of ignorance has been placed in one of the World’s most powerful positions. And I believe he was elected by a population who are equally suffering from a state of ignorance. I don’t mean ignorance in a condescending way. I mean ignorance in the true sense of misapprehension, not-knowing, being blind to the truth of the interconnection of everything and everyone. For people to come to a point of thinking that Trump is the answer to helping them overcome their suffering means they have been too long focused on a narrow view of themselves; too long focused on blame vs. responsibility, on power vs. respect, and on their own advancement vs. that of humankind. I am still confused and trying to make sense of how this happened and what the way forward is.
I had the fortune last week of listening to a conversation among leaders of important corporations, government, and academia from across North America as well as the UK. The event was held at The Canadian Museum of Nature in a beautiful space for an inspiring evening. These leaders were people with a unified commitment to authentic mindfulness as a way of being – committed to people’s health and happiness. Companies like Google, Dell, and WestJet, were represented by the very people who brought the concepts of mindfulness into the cultures, decision-making, and human resource management and training within these companies. A Mindful Society, The Mindfulness Initiative in the UK, University of Toronto, The Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic, Health Canada, Mindful – a print and digital magazine, and other individual practitioners, were all a part of the conversation about bringing the practice of mindfulness into private and public sectors in Canada, specifically. The part of the conversation that captivated me the most was a discussion among these leaders about the challenges we face, as mindful leaders, when trying to bring mindfulness into the cultures of government, institutions, corporations, and not-for-profit sectors, including education, criminal justice, and health services. Sher Van Aarle, an economist and senior advisor for the Government of Canada, said: “We want our public servants to be happy people, to be excited, engaged. If we had that, we would have a more balanced society, a more balanced world.” She encouraged us to think about what mindfulness could do in our schools, and in our communities, especially those that can’t afford to pay for trainings.
Here are the notes I took from the reflections, questions, and contemplations that this group of leaders raised in the discussions of the challenges they have faced in their journey of leading from a state of mindfulness:
- How do we have power without being mean, without having aggression? With power comes responsibility and therefore, leaders have a responsibility to be mindful of the way they exercise that power – to do it with kindness, compassion, wisdom, and in a state of awareness of what is going on within and all around themselves.
- Mindfulness is an opportunity to think creatively about the kind of change we want and need.
- With mindfulness as a part of our culture, conflicts would still occur, but when they arise, they would be resolved productively.
- Compassionate Wisdom: A well trained mind is a powerful mind when you bring those two virtuous characteristics together.
- By our own actions, by our own role-modeming, we can really change the world.
- Imagine what would happen if you had people at every level of organization and in our political systems bringing consciousness to everything they did and were living their purpose.
- Part of the problem is that people don’t see themselves as leaders, so the first step is to work with people in identifying with their own leadership capacity.
- We also need to become skilled in de-mystifying and communicating what mindfulness really is.
- The champions (the people trying to effect the change) within organizations are often isolated from the power structures and the decision-making.
- Now, there is a bigger interest among the public and individuals in all sectors of our society, but the question then becomes: do we have enough mindfulness practitioners who are experienced enough and skilled enough to meet the demand with really authentic teachings and trainings?
- People are beginning to understand how mindfulness can be helpful for individuals, but there is still a challenge in translating these benefits on a organizational level so that the people in power see and understand the value of how a mindful culture within their organization could help them achieve their organizational outcomes.
- And lastly… it’s important to take religion out of it. Barry Boyce pointed out that while Buddhism founded the concepts of mindfulness, Buddhism shouldn’t “get a free ride”. He pointed out that we would never try to push Judaism or Catholicism onto people and into the culture of our government or our public services, so we need to be mindful of how to make mindfulness its own practice that is inclusive of and relevant for everyone and separate from religious beliefs and practices.
After Trump’s success in winning the presidency, I had to take a step back, and wonder how mindful leaders in the U.S. especially will become even more isolated than they already are. I can only hang on to the fact that we, in our human capacity, are limited in our view. We can’t see how things will play out, we can’t see what break-downs and break-throughs will arise. We can only focus on what is within our control, accept what is. We always have our practice to come back to – an awareness of what is happening inside and around us in each moment of every day will guide our actions from a place of clear-knowing. Keep doing things that are important in this world, and keep living from your heart.