Saturday, February 23, 2013

Will Work For Vision

"I have been evolving a personal vision statement for some time. It’s expanding the world’s collective wisdom and compassion." -- Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn

Day two at the Wisdom 2.0 conference began with a session titled, "Mindfully Building a Company from the Ground Up" and ended with a session titled "The Art of Conscious Leadership" which featured a conversation with Jeff Weiner.  In between there were conversations with people from Google, Facebook, Twitter and companies with products so new that the average person, or at least me, hasn't heard of them...yet.  Jack Kornfield and Jon Kabat-Zinn, two meditation teachers whose books have informed and inspired my meditation practice the last 20 years, shared their wisdom so that we might have a glimpse into finding our own wisdom as well.  

I met some amazing people who are passionate about their work and making a difference in the world.  I took a walk in the San Francisco sunshine, sat in the meditation room for 30 minutes, strolled the exhibit hall admiring the art and wares for sale that were beyond my budget and enjoyed dinner with colleagues.  It was a good day.

The most inspiring part of the day was listening to Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn.  He talked about why managing compassionately is core to his principles and practice (read an article he wrote about the topic here) and he shared his dream for the world.  I am not a LinkedIn customer but after hearing Weiner speak about his vision to expand the world's compassion and wisdom and his commitment to his employees and his customers, that will probably change.   The man is a leader with a vision and dream to make the world a better place.  Sign me up to help him make it come true.

As I listened to Weiner I thought about what ministers and CEOs, school teachers and meditation teachers, any one who wishes to lead and make a difference in the world must be able to do.  Cast a vision, a vision that is compelling, inspiring and possible.   The importance of vision is something that business and religion agrees on.  The Bible, Proverbs 29:18, proclaims, "Where there is no vision the people perish." So do businesses - for profit or not - and religious and spiritual communities.

Jeff Weiner is an example of a CEO who understands the power of vision, especially a vision grounded in something larger than himself or making money.  He says:  "I draw a distinction between a vision and a mission.  The vision is your dream.  It's your true north.  It inspires you and keeps you going.  The mission is a realizable, achievable and measurable objective that's ideally inspirational.  Expanding the world's wisdom and compassion.  That's the vision.  That's the true north that leads me into opportunities like this, allows me to create opportunities for people to share highly relevant business intelligence and knowledge."

LinkedIn is one way Jeff Weiner plans to realize his vision which is to expand the world's wisdom and compassion.  He's worked on his vision for many, many years and he speaks about it in a way that not only makes it sound possible but invites and inspires people to help make it come true.  Most of us won't be CEOs of companies with thousands of people worth millions, soon to be billions, of dollars.  But each of us has a vision, a vision that we need others to help make come true.  The deeper we know it, the more passionately we articulate it, the more fully we embody it, the greater possibility it will come true.  Where there is no vision the people will perish.  Without the vision casters, us!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Wisdom of Discomfort

Buddha welcomes us to Wisdom 2.0

"Of all of the skills I have learned in the past 7 years of changing my life, one skill stands out: Learning to be comfortable with discomfort." -- Leo Babauta, zenhabits

Tonight was the opening session of Wisdom 2.0 at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.  The center is decorated with art, inspirational quotes and sacred images.  In addition to the large hall where the main programs will be held, there are special places for meditation, yoga and small group gatherings.  We learned at the opening session that almost 1700 people are attending the conference (compared with 600 last year) from places all over the globe.  Most people, including me, are here for the first time.

As I sat and listened to the conference founder and organizer Soren Gordhamer welcome us and  facilitate a conversation with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Congressman Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson, I thought of Leo Babauta's recent post at zenhabits titled "Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe."  I was feeling uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because I'm always uncomfortable around 1700 people I don't know in a setting that has symbols and practices that I'm not familiar with.  Uncomfortable because when I read through many of the profiles of the people in attendance I thought to myself, "I'm a technological kindergartener amongst a group of graduate students."

Since the speakers on the stage were encouraging us to be present and conscious this weekend, I did my best to breathe and feel my uncomfortableness.  It wasn't comfortable.  Which is why I thought of Leo's counsel:  "Master your fear of discomfort and you can master the universe."  I'm not all that interested in mastering the universe this weekend, or probably even this lifetime, but it would be nice to meet some new people, learn a few things and get a little more wisdom - or at least an insight or two on what might lead to wisdom.

Perhaps I got a little tonight.  One of the reasons I have the picture of the mural of St. Francis standing naked before God at the top of this blog is to remind me, and maybe even you, what it means to live a called life.  It is like being naked before our beloved for the first time, we feel both nervous and excited.   Maybe even uncomfortable.  But being uncomfortable isn't the worst thing we can feel.  Especially when it opens the door to doing and learning something new.  Becoming comfortable with discomfort.  A radical notion - perhaps - that can change a life, or at least a weekend.

One of the many quotes posted throughout the Exhibition Center at Wisdom 2.0

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waiting For Wisdom (2.0)

"How can we live with greater presence, meaning, and mindfulness in the technology age? -- Wisdom 2.0

Last week I was in Boston to begin working on an entrepreneurial program for ministers.   This week I'm in the city of my birth - San Francisco - to attend  Wisdom 2.0, a conference that promises to explore the challenge of our age:  To not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.   

The list of speakers and workshops is impressive and I can't wait for the conference to start tomorrow evening.  I discovered Wisdom 2.0 by the most modern of ways, searching for business and spirituality on the internet.  Several of the people I interviewed in Silicon Valley mentioned the conference favorably so I signed up.  There are people who are wisdompreneurs, who are some of the leaders in the fields of consciousness and meditation and who are the movers and shakers of many of the leading technology companies in the world.  I suspect everyone will be a calltrepreneur (and probably doesn't even know it yet!)

My plan is to write something about the conference as many days as I can.  If you are interested in catching some of the speakers go to the Wisdom 2.0 website where almost everything will be live-streamed.  I look forward to getting some new and old wisdom and sharing it as best I can.  These are amazing times we live in full of challenges, opportunities and new possibilities and problems every day.  May we find ways to live with more presence, meaning and mindfulness in this age and every age that follows.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Embracing Our Marshmallow Buddha

My laughing Buddha & Marshmallow Buddha stole

"Laughter is the language of the soul." - Pablo Neruda

It was my first day of seminary and I was wondering what in the world I had done with my life.  I had traded in my suit and briefcase from the corporate world for the blue jeans and backpacks of the Berkeley world. I had uprooted my family, jeopardized our financial well-being, and we were living at my mother-in-law’s while we looked for a place to live.  Why had I done all this?  Because I had been called to a new life. On that first day of school I wondered if the call had been to a wrong number.

In a fog of doubt and uncertainty I walked into my first class, “Minister, Ministry and Identity.” The class appealed to me because I figured it would help me figure out what kind of minister I might become.  My anxiety level increased when I saw that almost everyone in the class was in his or her third year of school.

The professor asked us to close our eyes and settle in for a guided meditation.  As I relaxed into my breathing, he invited us to imagine ourselves as ministers and picture what we would be doing.  At first no image came to me but soon a very clear picture became fixed in my mind.  It was not a picture I liked at all.  The picture I had of myself as a minister was that of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.

For those of you who may not remember the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, he is a 35- foot tall marshmallow monster who terrorizes New York City in the movie Ghostbusters.  If you cannot picture what the Stay Puff Marshmallow man looks like, imagine the Pillsbury Dough Boy on steroids.  It is not a pretty picture, especially if it is the picture of a minister.

I began to sweat and tried hard to change the picture in my mind.  The harder I tried to change the image, the more pronounced each rippled marshmallow muscle became.  With all my psychic will and energy, I watched the Stay Puff man slowly transform into the rough image of a 35-foot marshmallow Buddha.  Before I could transform the picture into something more respectable, the professor brought us out of our meditation and asked us to share what we  had envisioned with the rest of the class.  

I frantically wondered what I could say about my image that wouldn’t have me kicked out of school for being a fraud.  I sat on my hands when he asked for volunteers.  My sense of embarrassment and stress grew as I heard my classmates eloquently describe visions of people like Jesus, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr.  People saw themselves serving food to the hungry, fighting social injustices, and offering love and healing to those in need.  The thought flashed in my mind that I should excuse myself and admit that I had made a big mistake about this ministry thing.

When it was my turn to share I decided to tell the truth and live with the consequences.  I recounted my meditative tale and said that I thought a marshmallow Buddha was actually a great image for my ministry because I was someone who believed humor was as important to the spiritual journey as any other spiritual practice.  And, I added, one of the main questions I brought with me to seminary was how, if at all, humor and laughter could be incorporated into religion and the serious profession of ministry.  My new colleagues were gentle, even supportive of my vision, and I learned an important lesson about ministry - and life - which I try to remember every day.  

Honesty and authenticity count.  A lot.  So do laughter and joy.  I keep the laughing Buddha on my altar and occasionally wear my marshmallow Buddha stole when I preach.  I often practice a laughing meditation which helps as well. All of these remind me of that first day in seminary and the most important thing we bring to ministry and calltrepreneurship - our whole selves.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Reaching for Different Stars

"The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal.  The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.  It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream...It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.  Not failure, but low aim is the sin. -- Dr. Benjamin E. Mays 

Today is Super Bowl Sunday (go Niners!) and we can look forward to funny, ridiculous, maybe even historic, commercials between the plays.  During Super Bowl XIX, the day Joe Montana beat Dan Marino for the Forty Niners' second Super Bowl win in January 1985, Apple's famous 1984 commercial was shown.  The world of computers would never be the same again.  The commercial above, Think Different, was first shown in September 1997 after Steve Jobs returned to Apple.  The world of computers, telephones, and music - to name a few - would never be the same again.

Today's musings are not intended to extoll the wonders of Apple's marketing genius (and it has been mighty) but to remind myself and all who care, what and who changes the world.  People with vision.  Courage. Creativity.  High aim.   The men and women in the commercial above dreamed big and aimed high.  They changed the world and inspire us to do the same.

On this pseudo national holiday when millions of people will sit in front of a television screen screaming and cheering for men to score touchdowns and realize their childhood dreams, I encourage you to take a moment to check in with your dreams as well.  How high are you aiming?  How different are you thinking?  What stars are you reaching for?  May we find the courage and creativity to reach a little higher, stretch a little further and get as close as we can to a goal line that won't just win a game but will change the world.  And, of course, our ourselves along the way.