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Inward Bound: For mindfulness as an executive capability


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DFT-13

 

By Smarth Bali

A mutual friend introduced Deepal as a professional. All I knew about him was his immensely successful corporate career. In the course of a ‘business’ conversation – he in Sri Lanka and I, in India – we detoured toward spirituality in what seemed like a social conversation. 10 minutes later, we were discussing meditation and its practice with more passion than I could ever invest in a girlfriend! The end of the close to an hour’s conversation convinced us that business was the last thing on our minds. Deepal promised to courier his book to me the next day and I waited in anticipation.

As the book peeped out of its packaging, I was disappointed by its looks – it was so plain Jane and utterly book-next-door that I put it away for another day. Thankfully, Deepal got caught in a flurry of activities so we neither spoke nor chatted for at least eight weeks. As I returned home one winter evening after a draining workshop tour, I saw my father walking out of my bedroom with Deepal’s book. “You reading this?” I asked him casually. “No, but I intend to …was looking through your library to find something to read and I found this …just impulse …lemme see what it’s like …” 

Five days later my father caught me at the dining table and insisted we discuss mindfulness. I had attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat some months back and considered myself qualified to do so. I do not remember much except that my father’s understanding of the meditative act piqued my interest in the book. It seemed he had understood better what I had thought I had learned.

I took the book and rifled through it till it struck me that I should not. Could not. 

Here was a precious gift that I had disregarded because I had judged the book by its cover. Literally. The book redeemed itself and probably even grinned at me after I finished. I was more humbled than contrite. 

I can count more people who discuss meditation over a Martini than those who actually practice it. I can also count more people who have a terrific intellectual grasp of meditation than those who meditate. The beauty of Deepal’s book is – it is written by a practitioner who makes absolutely no intellectual claims. If the test of a pudding is in the taste then the test of a book on meditation is in the author’s practice of it. Talk is cheap. Practice is of the essence. 

I am certain Deepal’s insights are not due to his reading, perhaps, a large corpus of literature on ‘mindfulness’ but of real, realised and living experiences. He takes on an odious and seemingly irresolvable issue: the practice of management and the practice of mindfulness (read meditation). If we were to draw comparative columns, we will see, clearly, the incongruity of such an enterprise: avarice versus contentment, competitiveness versus equanimity, ambition versus satisfaction, aggression versus empathy … Can they blend? If not blend, can they at least complement each other? Is not mindfulness an immediate and pressing contradiction to the skills (demanded) of business? 

Deepal stands straddling both worlds just as any other professional does. Sample this, “In this highly demanding (business) environment, to be effective you need to be in control. To be in control you need to know what goes on here and now. To know what goes on you need to be aware. To be aware you need to be mindful. When you are mindful you have a state of mind that is alert.” Italics mine.

It is with this premise that Deepal holds forth on what could be the most important attribute that should be nurtured by professionals today. Business, today, is sustained by military descriptions – ‘war room’ ‘penetrate’ ‘take over’ ‘obliterate’ – that has led to the absence of spiritual attributes in the business environment. Deepal’s book is timely and critical if we have to work and maintain equilibrium in our world. Perhaps, he is the harbinger of ‘return to basics’ in a business world that is way too mercenary. 

The flowering of the individual is a direct outcome of ‘a thought about slowing down’ and being completely aware of the ‘present moment’, indeed, being in the present moment. So, Deepal takes simple, everyday routine tasks – driving, brushing, walking, etc. – and converts them to mindfulness activities. Reading the book makes one wonder, ‘is that it?’. We are so conditioned to regarding meditation as a highly esoteric practice that we are almost stumped incredulous by simplicity. But, really, this is the secret of being mindful. Alert. In the moment. It all percolates to simplicity. 

My only disagreement with Deepal remains with the sub-title of the book – ‘Mindfulness as an Executive Capability’. Why Executive? Why not managerial too? Better yet, why not universal? Mindfulness is for all.

(The writer is a Global Communication Specialist in India and can be reached at smarthology@gmail.com).

Inward Bound was first published in the UK in 2012.The second print now titled ‘Inward Bound for Mindful Living’ will be launched as a Sarasavi Publication on 16 February at 5:30 at JAIC Hilton at a corporate event titled ‘Mindfulness for Corporate Success and Happiness’ where Dr. Tara De Mel will speak on ‘A scientific approach to Mindfulness’, Prof. Ajantha Dharmasiriwill speak on ‘A business case for Mindfulness’ and the book will be reviewed by President’s Council Prasantha Lal de Alwis. Deepal himself will make a presentation on ‘How to integrate mindfulness to corporate life’.  

Passes for the event can be obtained by contacting Deepal through deepalsmiles@gmail.com.


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