While attending a holiday party last week I met a guy who raised the subject of applying spiritual practices to his business. He said that he had read many books and had even attended a couple of seminars on the best way to apply these principles to business, but up to that point he had not been successful. So his question to a small group of us was how best to do this — to run a business with spiritual principles in mind.
The spiritual business is booming. Books, recordings, retreats, etc., range from $5 for books to thousands of dollars for soul-searching retreats and tours. I even once heard a radio interview of a woman who teaches how to eat your meals spiritually.
Some of these spiritual tools are aimed at entrepreneurs and corporate executives. I recall a friend telling me about an executive retreat that she took designed for corporate executives. She said that she spent the weekend sitting in a circle with others listening to African drumming and chanting. Imagine that for getting “in touch” with yourself , and to help you to open your heart to compassion for your customers and co-workers. She said that her company paid thousands of dollars to send her and two others to the retreat. Although she said that she did purchase the drumming and chanting CDs, she was unsuccessful in being able to transfer her retreat experience to her work world.
There are spiritual supports for leadership, time management and business management, and relationships with your kids. The list is endless.
Whatever you are looking for, there is a spiritual experience waiting to happen for you, or so the spiritual pundits tell us.
It’s nice to live in a time when it appears the masses are ready and willing to plop down a few dollars to get in touch with their spiritual side. You might even think that at long last the various forms of discrimination, violence and world hunger will soon be coming to an end.
Meanwhile, though, let’s take a look at another way to reach enlightenment that is less costly.
I remember one morning while walking in the park, I met Artie, a regular jogger there. That morning he joined me in a walk after his jog.
As we walked, Artie told me how the park’s peaceful environment helped to clear his mind.
“In my line of work I have to regularly take time out for mental breaks,” he said. “I counsel recovering drug and alcohol victims. Most of them are between the ages of 16 and 25. It’s a tough job seeing so many young people in this condition.”
As we approached the turn marking mile three, I had listened intently to Artie talk about many of the techniques he uses in his counseling sessions and how it was very much like being an entrepreneur. He was determined to be successful at keeping young people drug- and alcohol-free.
He said that many times after his normal work hours had ended, he would get a call from someone in recovery who was thinking about going back to drinking or drugs. He would immediately stop what he was doing or get out of bed to dash to that person’s side to stress the importance of staying clean for another day.
As our pace slowed, I asked him what kept him motivated to be so diligent about his work.
“I believe it’s our responsibility as human beings to be committed to our mission and to serve our customers with sincerity and compassion,” he said. “These young people are my customers, and my work is like owning my own business. Each day that I am able to go to my job and give service to my customers from my heart is a day I feel that I have fully and completely lived. So you see, in a way we are helping each other.”
My guess is that what Artie described was true spiritual practice in business and the workplace.
We constantly must face the different personalities and behaviors of our clients, customers, employees, co-workers and business associates. Each day we have the chance to practice service, compassion and commitment, all while making a living. I would call this bringing spiritual practice to the workplace.
We don’t have to buy spirituality, bargain for it or look for ways to apply it. It’s always right in front of us waiting to be acknowledged and applied.
Gladys Edmunds, founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh, is an author and coach/consultant in business development. Her column appears Wednesdays. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of her columns is here. Her website is gladysedmunds.com.