Right now my life is one learning
Experience after another, by the
End of the week
I should be a genius.
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"Don't be a board-carrying fellow." This expression, sometimes used in Zen, refers to a carpenter carrying a long, wide wooden board on his shoulder, blocking his view in one direction. It is an admonition about seeing the world and ourselves as ordinary and mundane without also considering the sacred, mysterious, and unfathomable aspect of our hearts, minds, and surroundings. This expression can also help us understand that our work is not separate from our lives. One side, an important and vital side of work, involves goals, achievements, money, ambition, and developing your career. Understanding and implementing the technical and strategic aspects of your work are critical for your organization or business to fulfill its mission.
What about the other side? We are all human beings. We all bring a vast set of rich and complex experiences, skills, patterns, needs, aspirations, and emotions to our work. The other side, often more difficult to see, is the sacred aspect of your work, the way in which your work can expose and transform habits and patterns in your life while uncovering your authentic, compassionate, inner wisdom.
When you remove the board from your shoulder, a new world opens, a new way of understanding yourself, of seeing others and the true meaning of your work. Removing the board doesn't mean turning your work into a self-help workshop. As a business owner with an M.B.A., I understand the importance of results, hiring and motivating talented people, sales and marketing, strategic planning, and cash flow management, as well as the many skills required to start, manage, and grow a business. As a human being and a Zen priest, I also understand we all bring our full selves to work: our wishes, dreams, desires, anger, and frustration, as well as a deep yearning to find real inner peace, freedom, and happiness
In these pages I offer many of my experiences, mistakes, lessons I've learned, things to try, ways I have laughed at myself and sometimes cried, and many, many questions. I feel honored and humbled to present my experiences and offer some basic and not-so-basic practices. Honored, because I am passionate about the importance of integrating business practice and spiritual practice, the delight I feel in sharing my journey, and the potential I see for conscious, awakened business people to transform our world. Humbled, because the skills and abilities required to run successful organizations and businesses, while at the same time opening our hearts to being fully authentic human beings, are immensely challenging.
One of the most famous pieces in Zen literature, read or chanted every day in Zen practice centers, is called the Heart Sutra, which in a few paragraphs describes the heart, the essential path of Zen practice. A phrase from the Heart Sutra says "without any hindrances, no fears exist." These "hindrances" are the ways that we protect ourselves, shield our hearts, and keep ourselves closed and separate. Zen practice provides a method and discipline for identifying and loosening how we get in our own way and for helping us to move from living and acting from fear, to living and acting with fearlessness. By searching for safety and control, and from responding out of fear, without realizing it, we sacrifice the freedom, flexibility and connections that we deeply want and are our birthright.
Business practice could also be described as the method and discipline of removing hindrances. The challenge of business is to identify and remove what gets in the way of manifesting and implementing a wide and creative vision, to remove the obstacles to putting people and resources where they are needed, and to remove the obstacles to actually meeting the needs of all people in our communities and our planet. What would a world without hindrances, without fear, look like?
Though this task of integrating our full selves with our work may at times appear daunting, the challenge and the effort are not separate from the path. This book provides some tools, ideas, and insights and may give you the courage and confidence to make the effort to see yourself, your work, and the world as they truly are. Integrating Zen practice and business practice allows us to find our work and ourselves, beyond our ideas, and to experience both the ordinariness and the immensity of our lives.