Finding Mindfulness At Work And BeyondBack to blog
Pandit Dasa is a former monk who is teaching corporate America how to accomplish a work-life balance and live a healthier, more stress-free life. Living as a monk for 15 years gave Pandit a unique perspective on mindfulness. With over 16,000 hours of personal mindfulness practice, Pandit knows how to inspire others in creating a mindset that places an emphasis on self-development and improvement. Pandit transfers the idea of mindfulness into the corporate sphere by encouraging employers and employees in taking steps to achieve a healthier working atmosphere to achieve higher success and productivity.
I had the opportunity to interview Pandit Dasa recently. Here are some of the highlights of that interview:
Jill Griffin: So Pandit, tell me a little bit about your background.
Pandit Dasa: So, I spent 15 years living as a monk in the small cozy city of New York City. I grew up in Southern California, in Los Angeles, where my parents went from having literally nothing to becoming multimillionaires within a seven-to-eight-year period. They were working seven days a week–it was insane. So, everything was good for a while, but in the early 1990s, my parents’ jewelry factory caught on fire, and we lost everything. We actually went bankrupt. The home that my parents had built from the ground up was lost along with our other properties and cars. Then my dad decides to explore new business opportunities in post-communist Bulgaria in 1993. I don’t know why he did what he did and what the reason was, but maybe the ultimate reason was so I could tell this story.
Griffin: That’s quite interesting. So, you go into these corporations and talk about mindfulness. The corporations that I’ve been in, and maybe it’s changed a little bit since post pandemic, but mindfulness would be a little bit of an outlier in regard to topics. So, what are they looking for when they invite you in?
Dasa: When I started seven years ago, it wasn’t a prominent topic. It was what yoga was 20 years ago. So, people weren’t sure what it meant. Is it something that belongs in an organization? Is it appropriate? Is it religiously affiliated? And then there’s me coming in with a background of being a monk, so there was even more caution. Over the years, I’ve seen a massive change, even just in the last year. I’ve spoken at NASA multiple times, London Stock Exchange, IBM, Google, Citibank, and a series of about 30 talks for Kellogg for their worldwide offices.
Griffin: When you do those presentations, how long are they, and what is the ultimate message? What do they get from what you share with them?
Dasa: There’s a variety of messages, but I think I’ll share with you what I’ve been prominently focusing on for the last two years during the pandemic. The main reason they’re calling me is because people are undergoing lots of stress, anxiety because of the uncertainty, and high levels of fatigue. And of course, we are in this era of the Great Resignation. People are leaving work.
Leadership is trying to figure out how to keep their employees happy. And so, they’re bringing me in, and I’m speaking to them on mindfulness, resilience, work life balance, and how you can help your employees achieve these things.
Griffin: Are these talks directed at management or the employees and associates?
Dasa: Actually, am talking to everyone. It depends on whoever shows up. I’m speaking to a variety of people and giving them tips on how they can really take care of their own health, and that self-care is not selfish–that it’s a priority. It must be if you need to take care of your mental and emotional health, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed to take care of it. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. Because if you don’t take care of it, who else will, right? If you have a toothache, you’re not embarrassed to go to a dentist. So, why are we embarrassed to seek professional help if we’re having some mental health issues?
Griffin: And are you finding that people have been afraid to ask for help? And through your message are they asking more for help now?
Dasa: I think it’s happening for sure. The reason I think so is because companies, after I do a series of workshops, want me to do another 10 or so sessions which means more people are probably asking. But I think topics around mental health are becoming more prominent. People are feeling courageous enough to talk about it and realizing that “I need a mental health day” and “I need to take some time off for my own mental health.” When I am speaking to them, I talk about the nature of our mind, and how our mind is like a smart device. A smart device functions optimally when you close out the apps. If we can close out the apps in our mind, the ones we don’t need, we can function in an ideal, productive, and focused manner. Then I give a variety of tips on how the organization, the management, and the employees can implement different aspects. They just implement different sort of habits and practices into their own life, to improve their work life balance. For example, making sure they’re getting enough sleep because of what the research says happens to us if we don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. And then I provide a variety of tips on how they can improve the quality of their sleep. How, during this time when we’re not in person and where we can’t stop by each other’s cubicles or office and go for a coffee break or a lunch break together, it’s important that we continue to check in with each other, even if it’s over a video call and just have a personal conversation with our colleagues. Continue to work on developing that positive relationship because without a positive relationship, trust just breaks apart and then collaboration ceases to exist.
Griffin: Can you give my readers any more tips?
Dasa: One key message that I think people will like is “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.” That is really key. And when the airline industry does that, they’re not telling us to be selfish–they’re being practical. Because if we’re knocked out, we can’t help anyone.
Griffin: I believe that is a life application. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you’re no good to anybody else. But I have seen people that think they just need to give and give and give, and then they just burn out.
Dasa: Exactly. And that’s the hard way to learn that lesson for those individuals, and some people will only learn it that way. I think a lot of us have to learn some lessons the hard way. We get to an extreme and realize we shouldn’t have gone that far, but some people need that practical experience before we make that change. At least what I can do is promote the message and encourage them by saying, “look, you’re not mentally in a good space. How are you going to be there for your kids? What’s your interaction going to be like with your kids? How do you think you’re going to interact with your colleagues? What if you have an important client meeting and you haven’t taken care of your mental and emotional health? Do you think you’re really focused on your client? Do you think your client’s going to feel like they trust you at the end of it, especially if they’re trusting you with their to invest thousands of their dollars?”
Griffin: Exactly. So, I think I would believe that your credibility is extremely high because of your time in monasteries. Am I right about that?
Dasa: Well, it does help a lot. People know that if they’re going to learn about mindfulness and work life balance, it might as well be from somebody who lived as a monk because this person obviously has some insight into this, especially the topic of resilience, because I went through plenty of hardships in my life and had a lot of changes. And so, there is a little bit more of a credibility factor there, when it comes to these topics of mindfulness, resilience, and work life balance because I was a monk.
Griffin: What do you teach about resilience? What are some tips there?
Dasa: There’s a really nice quote from Steve Jobs that I like to mention. He had said that you can only connect the dots when you look back at your life; you can’t connect the dots looking forward. We’ve all been through some difficult moments in our life. And when we look back at them, we see that they’ve all helped us grow. We can choose to leave a negative thing as a negative and traumatic thing. However, we can also choose to transform that negative and difficult thing into a life lesson that will help us grow. Think of it as a steppingstone. Resilience means being able to learn and grow from the difficult things that have happened and treating them as blessings because that is when the greatest growth takes place. When it comes to resilience, I really encourage people to look back at their life. Think about the difficult moments, but now transform them into steppingstones. What did you learn? How did you grow? How did you mature? What wisdom did you acquire through that difficulty? And when you remember that you’re not just remembering the pain. You’re remembering all the growth that took place.
Griffin: And when do you suggest they process? Are you recommending they practice mindfulness in the evening or the early morning?
Dasa: There’s two things: one is the mindfulness practice and then the processing. I think processing requires taking time out for yourself, separately, and that could be different for everyone. It’s hard to just set a time for everyone whether to do that in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Not everyone’s a morning person. Some people do better at night. So that’s up to them to figure out how to do it. In terms of the specific mindfulness practice, I encourage them to not do it for 10 to 15 minutes because that seems overwhelming for a lot of people every day. It’s a new practice for a lot of people. I say to do it for one to two minutes a couple of times a day. And that can be after you wake up, before you reach for your phone. Why not take 10 or 15 deep breaths and just take a moment to feel grateful for something in your life. And that’s your one minute of mindfulness. And before you go into a meeting with your colleagues or a client, why not take 60 seconds, and take 10 deep breaths, and then go into that meeting? Now you’ve sort of cleared out some apps, you’re more able and focused to go into that meeting. I give them a variety of times and suggestions on how they can practice mindfulness. This way, they don’t feel overwhelmed, and almost no one has an objection.
Griffin: I love that. I think that’s great. And as we close, is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to share?
Dasa: My main goal is just to make mindfulness seem relevant, easy, and accessible for everyone, and that it’s something that they can do. Because once they do it enough times, then what will happen is that any time they’re in a difficult situation–whether it’s a traffic jam, an intense meeting, or something difficult happening in their life–they’ll remember that they can just take 10 or 15 deep breaths. It doesn’t make the problem go away, but it helps them cope with it.
Author: Jill Griffin
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