It was an extraordinary day...far from "just another talk." It was a meeting of minds from the communities of spirituality, science, and business, blessed with the openness and wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Now is a time of change -- mindful positive change -- and we'll see much more of it this year as people wake up to the possibilities of a better way to live and work, not only on an individual level but as a collaboration to make this world a better place for all of us. It's this fundamental spirit of togetherness that will lead us through the critical time ahead. This strong sense of community was demonstrated yet again at the most recent Wisdom 2.0 conference.
The event was hosted by Arthur C. Brooks, President of The American Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank, in collaboration with The Mind and Life Institute, and featured honoured guest, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Scholars, social and political leaders, doctors and scientists united to deliberate ways in which "moral markets" and ethical leadership can maximize human well-being. The event then interwove discussions on how the free enterprise system can include the element of human fulfillment and prosperity -- posing questions such as "is the free enterprise system the most moral?"
Above all else, the event was grounded by the idea that to support change, to move towards a more prosperous and fulfilled nation, we require ethical leadership that includes morality and compassion for others. We already know the traditional answers are not working. We need new solutions for our increasingly complex problems.
Here are a few pieces of inspiration that stood out for me.
It was refreshing to hear economists and scholars talk about what matters most versus the typical ego-based dialogue that usually drives any budget argument. Arthur Brooks led the panel with "the system we believe is most able is under question today" then went on to ask, "What matters most for human happiness?" As it turns out, money wasn't on the list. What matters most (to the vast majority of us) are four things: faith, family, community, and work.
The Dalai Lama expressed that happiness begins with the individual and every one of us has a role to play. He too feels that we're at a turning point where we're headed into the Century of Peace but that we must create it through right action and effort. Peace will not happen only through meditation, self-inquiry, and prayer. We must act upon our convictions for the greater humanity.
The Dalai Lama went on to share, "The very purpose is to derive to seek enlightenment. Happy community, happy family, happy nation. Then happy world. We are far from the world. Where do we start? From the government? No. From the UN? No. From individuals. Disasters, climate change due to global warming, population explosions. These are different days from ancient times. Reality is that we are multiracial. East needs West. South needs East. We must think in terms of the entire 7 billion human beings".
Dan Loeb, Founder of Third Point Capital spoke about his background in yoga and how he studied with Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Yoga) in India. He shared how he was warned against it. He said, everyone would think he was "a flake." He said, "back then there were no cell phones, but it set up my mind for contemplation and meditation. They aren't just for monks or hermits, they are important for business people and for all our lives." Why?
Loeb made reference to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (aphorisms that are the foundational text of yoga) and their importance in making business decisions. Brilliant.
We make poor decisions when our minds are distracted, busy and overwhelmed. Yoga teaches us to find stillness and clarity of mind, through a mastering of the waves of the mind, "yoga cittra vrtii nirodha".
We can apply this same philosophy and practice to making good business decisions. We make good decisions when we first eliminate the distractions and quiet the mind. When we practice yoga, meditation, or mindfulness, we may still find ourselves in challenging and difficult situations, but we learn to create good choices by accessing our intuition and higher self as our moral compass, realizing that we're all interconnected. As Loeb highlighted, "the very core foundational decisions are to be honest and to treat people well, and you have to trust people to make good decisions ".
The questions continued, what could we do to create mass prosperity, eliminate the gaps and create all-inclusive systems, not ones that exploit or leave people behind? There are no simple answers to these complex questions -- even the Dalai Lama doesn't know -- but what we can do is cultivate a culture of compassion. Prosperity isn't limited to financial wealth of course. True prosperity is in all areas of our lives, grounded in good decisions and choices.
Dr. Richard Davidson, neuroscientist, presented generosity (ethics of compassion) and conscientiousness (ethics of restraint) as fundamental in fostering wellbeing. He went on to say that when we teach our children these concepts at an early age, there is "a great return on investment (in the likes of 7:1)". When it comes to wellbeing, neuroscience has made great strides. It tells us that through training, wellbeing can be learned. For this, we need grounded leaders, leaders who consider compassion and global wellbeing as priorities.
Diana Chapman Walsh, former President of Wellesley College, suggested a true leader "can open our minds and hearts. We need leaders grounded in connection, love, compassion, people who can lead from within, understanding the responsibility to deal with their shadows, so that they can cast more light".
What I find enlightening about all of this is the willingness to come together with open minds and hearts, and a will to begin critical constructive dialogue. This is the starting point in fuelling mindful, positive change.
So I ask, where is Canada in all of this? What do our political leaders have to say on these topics? What about the academic world or our business leaders? Where is the collaboration, the dialogue, and the action? Why aren't we coming together for the wellbeing of our nation and our world?
I believe there is a call to action here. We need to bring peace to the politics on the Hill.
We need more light and love in this world.