The search is over

I was late to the game on this one. On second thought, when something is as useful and unique as this is, there is no “late,” only the moment of discovery. I discovered the book Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace), and it’s non-profit outgrowth, Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, (SIYLI, pronounced “Silly”) last year, devoured the book, attended a workshop, and spread the word far and wide.

In 2006, a Google engineer inspired to foster practices that could help fellow Googlers better manage stress and negativity gathered an all-star cast from the worlds of mindfulness, meditation, and emotional intelligence (EI) who wove together a remarkable program full of quirky humor, practices that fit into everyday life, plain-speaking secular language, and scientific evidence to satisfy skeptical scientists and engineers. It was an instant hit at Google and beyond. Five years after the program debuted, the book was published and SILYI was established.

A note before we go on. Just as I discovered this work last year, the SIYLI BOD announced regarding the book’s author: At the request of the board of directors, Chade-Meng Tan [was asked to step] down as chairman of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute and will no longer hold any operational role with the organization following an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior that occurred before the founding of the institute.

There’s a happiest man in the world?

Apparently there is, and his name is Matthieu Ricard. The book begins with the story of this scientist-turned-Tibetan Buddhist monk, or “bald French guy in Tibetan robes” with decades of classical meditation training. Studies on meditation and compassion in which Ricard participated showed evidence in his brain of an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity when he was meditating on compassion: ”He was, by far, the happiest person ever measured by science.” Ricard’s story and brain physiology (and many more studies throughout the book) are used to make the evidence-based case for “these contemplative practices,” and more importantly, that “the methods for developing such an extraordinarily capable mind are accessible to you and me.” The keyword is practice.

Mindfulness without a butt cushion

“The mind of calmness and clarity you experience while sitting in mindfulness meditation is very nice, but it only becomes life-changing when you can bring up that mind on demand, in day-to-day life.” Having such habits also allows the kind of trust that leads to great collaborations and relationships.

The pathway to building this mental muscle has three basic steps: attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and creating useful mental habits. Through the lens of the five elements of EI—self-knowledge, self-regulation, motivation (the three intrapersonal components), empathy, and social skills (the two interpersonal components)—the teachings and practices shine light on what’s happening in our brains when we’re having thoughts and feelings, and train us to replace reaction with reflection - to regulate emotions to think calmly and clearly, pause before reacting, and become a better listener.

In case you haven’t heard, EI has been shown to be the secret sauce for mastering life and work. Some studies indicate that EI is twice as important as pure intellect and expertise, and fortunately, these are not innate talents, we can learn them.

The search is spreading

Companies and communities have recognized the personal benefits of this program to people, which propels better performance for organizations. SIYLI counts among their clients the likes of SAP and Salesforce; a foundation bringing this program to the Flint, Michigan community; and educators and civil servants in Bhutan. Over 50,000 people have taken the Search Inside Yourself program in more than 150 cities and 50 countries.

Search your way

The book offers a step-by-step roadmap that you can put into practice on your own, with a buddy, or a group of friends or coworkers. It’s so turnkey that it can be broadly used in workplaces just by doing a book-club style chapter-by-chapter. SIYLI’s workshops are a great way to get professional instruction and experience the exercises with others, and SIYLI partners with all walks of organizations. There are many well-trained and passionate teacher-devotees out there ready to serve. And, you can become a teacher if you feel the calling.

Sunday Morning Reflection

Beginning to search inside yourself is easy: try Mindfulness in Two Minutes (pgs 25-27 in the book).
The Easy Way is to simply bring gentle and consistent attention to your breathing for two minutes. Every time your attention wanders away, gently bring it back.
The Easier Way is to sit without an agenda for two minutes. The idea here is to shift from “doing” to “being,” whatever that means to you, for just two minutes. Just be.

Sunday Morning: 110