To be in perfect harmony with the universe, spiritual institutions must be in harmony with their creditors.
Yoga schools preach a strict, non-material type of spiritualism. They strive to abide by the life they preach. However, the school we chose for its magnificent campus, carried a large administrative staff payroll, utility bills, and facilities maintenance costs. They had an unforgiving budgetary component lurking just below their non-material message. It was the yin-yang of yoga.
To address their financial needs, Heather had been hired as the Marketing and Outreach Director. She was tasked with the assignment of attracting a more balanced clientele. Our group of guys, who were presidents of companies, potentially offered the gender/financial balance the school was seeking.
The levitator meets the suits.
We call our business group “Discovery Forum”. Nine of us guys started our own businesses in our twenties and met to discuss marketing and finance. Decades later we were still meeting monthly but more for companionship and to talk about the business of life. We chose to meet in a venue outside our comfort zone, a lakeside yoga campus.
There was ample warning.
We were in for a weekend of vegan stew, wrenching yoga exercises and shaman philosophy. It was uncertain if all of us could survive meditation and tofu boot camp.
Heather, with her enthusiastic bright eyes, was dressed in beads, feathers, big fluffy hair and a winning personality. Hence, she was a damn good hire for the school.
“You boys are going to feel a bit out of your element here,” Heather began. “All the weird yoga people preaching Hindi lessons and painful poses will be a challenge. But please work with me, promise you’ll hold off judgment and suspend your disbelief till the end of the program. Allow me to guide you through an unfamiliar experience”
As suckers for big hair and feathers we were smitten with Heather.
We pressed on stoically to the last day. At one point I tried to explain: “Heather, your school thinks all we suits need is breathing skills, Zen elevation and organic tofu. You must come over to my side. Step into my shoes. I own ten burger restaurants. Each store grill man can only make 72 sandwiches per hour. But each day I have 100 hungry customers with 30 minutes for lunch. When my customers are hungry and steaming angry at me, there’s no time for The Great ‘Om’. There is simply no damn space in my life to communicate with the dead or chanting shaman mythology. If you are not talking food cost or reducing service times, then I’ve nothing to say to you.”
I felt I had the upper hand and was on a roll. But Heather cared nothing about fast food or responsibilities- she was into Indian “herbology”, and the Kosha sheath of bliss. Sandwich making times were not part of her vocabulary. But neither did she get to where she was based on her outrageous wardrobe and big hair.
Heather’s life was nothing if not a monument to the innovation of the Human Potential Movement. After a peripatetic life in the spiritual wilderness, she had found a community of fellow searchers sharing her alternative lifestyle. She was not about to back down or concede anything to a group of old suits. She defended her beliefs well.
Heather reached out to us in an authentic and vulnerable way to reveal her own difficult history. She reminded us that even conventional careers can also leave scars on your humanity. She had a heartfelt way of talking that disarms business guys like me and my friends.
Lest you think we returned home empty-handed, before we departed, Heather coaxed out of each of us a few gems with take home value:
1.) SATISFACTION equals achievement divided by expectations. To be satisfied in life, you must ultimately lower your expectations, but you must never lower your standards or vision.
2.) Things do not change; people do. Things are not as they are but as WE are. What you dwell upon, you create to be true. Your thoughts can be either constructive or destructive, it all depends on whichever way you chose to respond. To know what you think, see what you are doing. To control your future, create it.
3.) To be mature is to know that your own fulfillment is inextricably linked to serving the needs of others. Happiness is paying the price of caring for others.
In the end, Heather’s institution should have received the contributions to their capital campaign that they deserved. Then we returned to our dissolute lives of beer and donuts, making burgers or whatever. We will long remember and have the highest respect for the New Age Princess adorned in her beads and feathers.
If you liked this story, check out this post which reiterates how life unfolds by how we respond to it.
Forum retreats are like a box of chocolates.