I was so excited again to go to this years Wisdom 2.0 conference, which is all about "how to live with greater wisdom, purpose, and meaning, while using technology in ways that create a more open and healthy culture.”
And oh yes, a lot of wisdom was spoken from leaders in the tech industry such as Gopi Kallayil, Chief Evangelist, Brand Marketing at Google, Russel Simmons the grandfather of hip-hop currently running Rush Communications,Tim Ryan, US Congressman, or Fred Koffman, previous Vice President of LinkedIn, just to name a few, as well as leaders in the Mindfulness field such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the groundbreaking Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Training (MBSR), Chade Meng Tan, Founder of Google’s Search Inside Yourself Emotional Intelligence Program, or Jack Kornfield, a super well known mindfulness teacher.
The combination of industry leaders and mindfulness experts at one conference is an exciting mixture to push forward the fields of conscious business and work-life-well-being in important ways. The 3 day conferences entailed many wonderful sessions but I want to share my top 3 here.
Number 1: Death As An Advisor To Life
I know, the title sounds pretty intense, but sometimes this is exactly what we need to “wake up” and become aware of our conditioning in life and to understand what really matters because the truth is, we all die. There is nothing more certain in life than this. There were 4 wonderful speakers at this panel and I was particularly excited to see Ram Dass, who was skyped in from Hawaii.
Ram Dass is a spiritual teacher with an extraordinary story. Known as Richard Alpert, he was a professor in psychology at Harvard in the 60’s and experimented together with Timothy Leary with LSD. He soon realized that taking drugs can not be the solution to be in a constant higher state of consciousness, so he went on a quest to India to find out more about states of consciousness and the reasons for our suffering in the world. He came back transformed, changed his name into a spiritual one, aka Ram Dass, and wrote one of the most sold books in time: Be Here Now. This is his background in a nutshell.
Now, he is over 84 years old, suffered a stroke a while back, but still works remotely (using the wonderful tools of technology) in supporting people around the world in their last days on earth. The panelist at wisdom asked him what death is and he, after taking a couple of deep breath, inviting us all to be very present, said: “Death is a moment. How you spend your life in each moment is the rehearsal for death”. WOW!
To the question: “What is it like to come closer to death?”, he answered: ”It is comforting. You meet your soul pod. They are all friendly, it’s all souls, - souls love one another-it’s just like air for us. Death is safe. It is like taking you out for Thai food. We have to be a living rock for people that die. So that people can push on you and you stay constant and that comes from your mindfulness practice in life. When you have identified with your soul than there is no fear. “
Ram Dass did not say much, but what he said was very profound and moving. As a human species we push death aside, thinking it will not get us or we have the ability to trick it somehow. That is because it is so far away, most of the time, and so we live as if it would never happen to us. Only in those scary moments when a loved one is getting seriously sick or even dies do we become present of this fact. But this state of realization usually only stays with us for a short time before the superficial pleasure of life pulls us in again.
As I mentioned in a previous post on "What is Positive Psychology", there is more than hedonic, pleasurable happiness in life. As research shows, living a life of meaning is much more gratifying in the long run and that includes self-exploration, sometimes delaying short term gratifications (such as eating that delicious ice cream), and not relying on external validation for our self-esteem, such as the amount of likes on our pictures on Facebook. Thinking about death does not have to be sad or anxiety provoking. It actually can be quite liberating. Ram Dass certainly made it feel that way.
Number 2: Practicing Mindfulness in Real Life.
Another really cool talk was a conversation that Jon Kabat-Zinn and Byron Katie, two well known mindfulness practitioners, had on what it means to be “mindful” in our daily lives. Byron gave a really cool example that captured a lot of what we are doing in our daily lives that leads us into trouble. She was asked, how she handles a difficult situation such as her husband is again not washing the dishes and she has to do it herself. She said: (paraphrased) ”Well, first of all, my husband is perfect. It may be my past or future husband that I think about in that moment that I am mad at, and so it is my thought that is the problem, not my husband. If we could just approach people like that, that they are perfect and that our perception of them are biased or skewed, we would live in a whole different world. That means, we, our true nature, is perfect. Therefore, the universe, which is a match to our true nature, is perfect too, and it is friendly. Thus, why should we be scared about the future, if we know the universe is friendly, only good things will come from it. If there is something off, it is me, my thought, my perception, not the nature or thing or being that I encounter. “
Again, I thought this was very profound since it provided a view for us on how to look at the world. Society is skewing our perception of the world being a mean, violent, and dangerous place, which impacts our perception of what we see on a given day and it also shapes the way we react in this world.
If there is litter in the woods we perceive it as a normal thing and think it is ok to litter too. But if we shift our perception towards the good, we end up seeing more of that and act accordingly too. In such a sate, we are more able to become the change we want to see.
Number 3: Transforming Ourselves, Transforming The World
In this talk PrinceEA an activist and youtube “star” was interviewed on his work which puts a new spin on rap music, really. One of his viral videos is “I am not a label” (see below) and you should check it out here if you have not seen it.
This young man is only 27 years old but he had some really profound things to say: (paraphrased) “It is all about balance. Technology is good, but we have to be careful not to be consumed by technology. The pixels in the real world are amazing.” In his video Man vs. Earth (see below) he talks about how badly we treat the planet and nature and he was asked to elaborate on his stands to environmentalism and well-being. He said: “It is not about saving the earth, it is about saving us. We have a disconnect between the environment and us, but when we realize we are part of the world and not just living in the world we understand that we have to save the environment to save us. “
“True knowledge means being transformed by knowledge. Looking at the root of a culture is looking at the heart and if we want to change culture we need to change the heart. “
“ Most people want relief, not truth. It all comes down to knowing what we are not. When you know what you are, which is love, without filter and judgment, just as the child sees the world without filter, we can see the world and us clearly and operate from a standpoint of truth, which is love. “
He finishes of by saying: “One of my biggest motivations for my work is death. I put my whole heart into everything I do. You have to have the proper motives, not only being motivated. The world is perfect as it is, so is my desire to change it, because it is coming from a place of love. “
In all of these 3 highlights of Wisdom 2.0, the theme of our true nature of love and perfection emerges. Our task is then to dig through the clutter and our conditioning from our consumerist society to see that perfect core of ourselves again, reconnect with that space of goodness and authenticity, and operate from that standpoint in order to change society into what we want it to look like; which is a place of compassion, love and perfection.
That is, how we can flourish in a digital age.