Category Archives: culture

How Can I Help You? Listening With an Open Heart…

I haven’t written much here lately because I’ve been busy with a number of great clients, and also because I’m taking some time to step back and re-think how I offer my services.

The people I most enjoy working with are doing amazing things… some of you are leading social profits (aka nonprofits) that are doing much-needed work; some of you are writers and artists; some of you are therapists and healers.

For many of us, these are challenging economic times. I’ve heard from a number of people who would like to work with me (or other consultants who offer similar services) but that money is limited right now. I really want to find a way to support you—so I’m researching some new ways to work together that will be more affordable.

Some of these new forms might be group learning and coaching events, as well as tools that you can download and work with at your own pace (articles, e-books, etc.)

Here’s where you come in: The Survey

I’d like to invite you to help me in this process. I’ve created a short survey to help me better understand the kinds of tools I could create that might serve you. You can find the survey here.

Thank you for your interest in Five Directions and this blog — I look forward to continuing to connect with you!


And a p.s.

By the way, one resource that I’ve found incredibly helpful as I re-think my own business is a course called the Empire Building Kit, developed by writer and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. (Chris is a pretty unique guy. His mission is to live his own life to the fullest—his goal is to travel to every country in the world by the time he’s 35—and to help others do so as well.)

Chris has put together a collection of detailed case studies (in video as well as on print) and 365 daily lessons designed to help people build successful online businesses. If this is something you’re interested in doing, I can’t recommend the Empire Building Kit highly enough – I’m learning so much from it. (Full disclosure: I am in Chris’ affiliate program so if you do end up purchasing the EBK or any of the other excellent products on that website, I’ll receive a portion of the sale.)


Timeline: Socio-historical Events + Contemplative Events

I just finished a white paper for the Fetzer Institute titled “Assessing the Current State of Contemplative Practices in the U.S.” This is a research area that I’ve been developing for the past eight years — the application of contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation in non-religious settings, like business.

I thought you might be interested in this timeline that I created for the paper. It occurred to me that, over the past decade, there have been a number of programs, initiatives, and events involving meditation (or some other kind of practice) that have been designed in response to current events, such as the war in Iraq.

When I plotted them out on this timeline and color-coded like events (e.g. politics, science, technology), the relationship between historical events and “contemplative events” became more obvious.

Interesting, eh? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

By the way, the graphics may look a little fuzzy… just click on them and they should open in another window with better resolution. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to convert a drawing that I create in Word into a good graphic file for uploading to blogs. If you have any tips on how to do this, please let me know.

Wisdom 2.0: Technology and Mindfulness

After two rich days at Wisdom 2.0 in Mountain View, CA, I have piles of notes as well as hundreds of thoughts, experiences, and interactions to digest. I feel like I need some mental Pepto Bismol… I guess that’s kind of what meditation is.

Usually I’m the kind of writer who needs to agonize over a subject for days, weeks even, and keeps revising and revising until the words and flow are just right. This time, I’m going to jettison that instinct and give ya what I got right now… a series of impressions coming out of this conference. After all, a few of my brother/sister W 2.0 attendees have already put out their posts (namely One City, MindDeep, Samantha Bell, Beth Kanter), so my ego tells me “Let’s go!” Otherwise it might be months before you see something.

♥ To my knowledge, this is the first major event to ever bring together these two seemingly different strands: technology (in particular social networking) and mindfulness. So right off the bat, this felt like history in the making.

And the kind of people drawn to W 2.0 were the same sorts of folks who would have shown up at that cornfield-turned-into-a-baseball-field in Iowa. You know, if you build it they will come. Many of us looked around the room in awe that there could be so many kindred souls in the same space… people who get a rush out of both tweeting and following our breaths. This doesn’t seem to happen often in our ‘real’ lives.

Huge gratitude goes to Soren Gordhamer who had the vision to see this intersection and create this event to manifest it.

♥ One big theme of the conference: Happiness is good business. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is the lead singer of this movement, but he’s not the only one. I was impressed to hear how not only Zappos but Twitter, Google, Facebook, Whole Foods, and Samovar (a group of tea houses in San Francisco) place the physical and emotional wellbeing of their employees as a top priority, and are going about it in creative ways. Meng Tan, Google’s Jolly Good Fellow (that’s really his job title!), started up Google’s School of Personal Growth, and also told us about the free, local, organic food served in Google’s cafeteria.

When I was research director at the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in 2003/2004, we started playing around with the idea of “Contemplative Organizations,” a concept that emerged out of the qualitative data we were analyzing at the time. These were organizations that used values often cultivated by contemplative practice as their guiding principles (e.g. reflection, interconnection), and they created ways to support this in the workplace, like meditation rooms. One of the companies we studied back then was Sounds True, whose founder Tami Simon was part of this conference.

But what’s happening now is that the scope of that idea has amplified greatly. Google, for example, has 10,000 employees. I had a real sense that a new paradigm of work and leadership is finally busting through, one based more in altruism than greed, leaving the old CEO image of Donald Trump in the dust. Some of that may be generational… I wonder if the 20- to 40-ish year-old generations have an easier time with integrating work and spirituality so that these don’t feel like two separate parts of life.

♥ Something I totally didn’t expect – learning how Twitter can actually support mindfulness and awareness. Greg Pass, Twitter’s Chief Technical Officer, gave a fascinating talk about the aesthetics of Twitter, as he experiences them. He related the art of writing and reading 140-character tweets to the points in a painting… individually they may not say or mean much, but if you follow the stream of tweets over time, you begin to see patterns and themes emerge, which evoke something more so than describe something. In essence, it activates and appeals to a different part of our brain than more ‘objective’ or descriptive essays might (my words, not his).

Greg also spoke poetically about Twitter as an invitation to experience a moment in time more deeply, to give “extraordinary attention” to something in our lives that might otherwise pass us by. Wow… never thought of it that way.

Chris Sacca, a smart-as-a-whip strategic advisor to a number of tech companies, talked about how he saw his email box as “a logjam” that interrupts his “flow and yet for him Twitter “just keeps flowing by…it’s ephemeral.” That quality of Twitter allowed him to dip into the stream of tweets when he could, to be more discerning about how he chose to spend his time and attention, and who he chooses to respond to.

♥ A number of people spoke about the usual divide between these two camps… spiritual folks often have an aversive reaction to social networking tools and technology in general. Roshi Joan Halifax broke that stereotype, talking about her appreciation of Facebook and her Blackberry. She also spoke of the “two ends of the stick” – and these are now my words again: Technology is neither inherently good nor bad. It has great capacity to connect us, to give us new modes of expression, to give us access to a wealth of information and resources, to mobilize us to action from compassion. And it can also lead to dissociation, to isolation.

This theme, too, came up repeatedly during the two days of W 2.0. Lots of people emphasized the importance of skillful means, of bringing the same quality of attention and thoughtful consideration to our decisions regarding how and when we use the social networking tools as we do to other parts of our life.

♥ Finally, one of the big takeaways for me:  I felt very grateful and inspired that at least some of the leaders at major companies like Twitter aspire to support awareness and engagement, in both their employees and the users of these technologies. And I had never thought of information and system design as a way to do this… but these guys are really thinking this through. This obviously doesn’t mean it’s always going to be used that way, but the aspiration is there.

There’s more, lots more, but that’s enough for now. History has been made.

What Matters Now?

Wow, it’s hard to believe we’re coming to the end of the first season of 2010. Here in northern New Mexico, we’ve been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with lots and lots of snow this winter, which promises a gorgeous, green spring.

Spring is a time for new beginnings, and to help you dive into it in the most expansive, creative way, we want to share with you a wonderful free e-book called “What Matters Now” that came out at the end of last year. It’s a collection of insights and inspirations from some of the most interesting thinkers around… Seth Godin, Elizabeth Gilbert, Tom Peters, Martha Beck, Tony Hsieh, and many more.

All of them share what they’re thinking about and doing this year. Here’s something to whet your appetite:

Generosity (from Seth Godin)

When the economy tanks, it’s natural to think of yourself first. You have a family to feed a mortgage to pay. Getting more appears to be the order of business.

It turns out that the connected economy doesn’t respect this natural instinct. Instead, we’re rewarded for being generous. Generous with our time and money but most important generous with our art.

If you make a difference, people will gravitate to you. They want to engage, to interact and to get you more involved.

In a digital world, the gift I give you almost always benefits me more than it costs.

If you make a difference, you also make a connection. You interact with people who want to be interacted with and you make changes that people respect and yearn for.

Art can’t happen without someone who seeks to make a difference. This is your art, it’s what you do. You touch people or projects and change them for the better.

This year, you’ll certainly find that the more you give the more you get.