“Remember your Buddha nature, and also your Social Security number.” –Jack Kornfield
Three years ago, at a Self-Growth event, I spoke on spirituality. I was introduced as an entrepreneur, which was and still is a big part of my life.
At the end of the event, a woman with a cynical smile approached me and said, “I enjoyed what you said about spirituality. But you’re hypocritical by being a businessman who drove into this place with that nice car and claiming you’re spiritual.” She wagged her finger at me, did not give me a chance to respond and walked away.
Over the years, I have been attacked, judged and dismissed by many who still believe that you cannot seek a Buddha-like nature and be an entrepreneur. This is usually from both sides of the aisle, whether they are hard-nosed businessmen or yoga enthusiasts/spiritual seekers of our world.
The truth is that most people get confused when they cannot put you in a box. When they cannot label you as one thing or another, if they cannot figure it out, they resort to putting you down.
Unfortunately, the world has never been more polarized than today. Fueled by the ease and cowardice at which one can criticize on social media, embittered people love nothing better than to bring someone down.
There is no opportunity for accepting divergent viewpoints and often not enough time for someone to explain before a hoard of people jump on the bandwagon and start attacking.
For example, not everyone who meditates has found Nirvana and is no longer capable of anger and impatience. Not every animal lover must refrain from eating meat. Not everyone who dislikes Trump is automatically a Democrat or Liberal.
Most of us have not reached a final viewpoint as regards what our cohesive philosophy of life truly is. We are constantly creating and walking our paths at the same time. We are self-adjusting as we move towards it.
Whether we are entrepreneurs, soldiers, poets, engineers or nurses, we are also human beings. Whether we are religious, atheist or agnostic, we are all struggling to make sense of our worlds.
In one way or another, we are trying to connect to something bigger than ourselves, to some universal divine matrix in which we are all connected in some way. It is like we are seeking a cosmic pat on the shoulder — some kind of validation.
The word ‘spirituality’ has become weighed down with different definitions. It has become a catch-all phrase that lacks a clear intention.
Traditionally, spirituality describes people practicing their religion, meditating, or otherwise trying to reach higher consciousness levels. More recently, it has become very much in vogue to say, “I’m spiritual,” to explain one’s non-materialistic or non-superficial worldview.
However, the origin of the word ‘spiritual’ is Latin. It comes from the word ‘spiritus,’ meaning “breath.” Other words that share this root include inspire, aspire and conspire, which suggests togetherness. It is when we connect to our souls and the souls around us that we feel inspired — or in spirit.
We come to earth in a human body to have a physical experience, but we quickly forget that there is another unseen, and often forgotten, part of us — our soul. We remember and access that forgotten side of ourselves through spiritual practice. Spirituality refers to the process of building a bridge to our souls, making sure that this bridge is passable in both directions.
I believe we are born spiritual but somehow lose our innocent connection to our souls as we grow up and conform to social norms. This lost connection is hard to explain. It’s often fleeting, but we all know it and have felt it before. It’s a combination of joy and inner peace. It is a feeling of complete love where we feel safe, worthy and abundant. Most of all, we feel whole; our highest priority is love. We become if you will allow the term, part of God.
Why do many people find it difficult to accept that someone can be spiritual (the way I have explained it above) and successful?
For me, you can do whatever you want, live well, be successful and seek the ineffable, as long as you are acting with good faith and not harming yourself or others.
In a podcast with Tim Ferriss, Elizabeth Lesser, the founder of the well-renowned ‘Omega Institute,’ echoed what Kornfield said above.
“Keep your heart wide, wide open; that is the path of the sacred seeker. But if you don’t have a strong backbone — and that’s why you see in meditation the posture of a strong back. If you do not have that strong backbone and that ability to say, ‘No, I have boundaries. I know who I am. I am valid. I belong here.’ If you don’t work with those two things together, you either become too hard — that stop can just make you so rigid and hard and kind of like an asshole — or if you’re too open and too sensitive and too soft, you just get run over because that’s what happens. So that is to me, like a noble meditation. Do no harm and take no shit.”
Yes, entrepreneurship means you often must take tough decisions. Yes, business is a zero-sum game in that the company’s viability is what matters most. And sometimes, people who can’t keep pace with that must fall by the wayside. But like everything else, doing business has evolved just like we are no longer hunter-gatherers.
Why can’t we be both kind but practical? Why can’t we be grounded while believing in the mystery of life? Why can’t we work hard, enjoy some fruits of our labor, and follow the principles of doing good to ourselves and others?
I will run my company striving to be kind to my employees, going the extra mile for our customers and trying to impact our community with the value of both our products and services.
I am an entrepreneur. But I’m also aware of my biology. In that, there is an undeniable mystery to life that is constantly tugging silently away at me.
I will not stop investigating that mystery, no matter how I am perceived while practicing what I love.
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