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June 17, 2013

Buddhism and Business

The evening light streamed through the two-story windows. I sat on my meditation blanket on the floor of my mum’s living room with four other people. Eyes closed, I tried to focus on my breath. The light and the tree branches made shadows behind my eyelids. A robin called outside. A fly buzzed in the air above my head. Someone swallowed. A stomach rumbled. I was aware that somewhere in the room there was a timer counting down the seconds—slowly—for 20 minutes.

I felt the pads of my finger and thumb press lightly together. My toe rings dug into my foot uncomfortably. I shifted my seat. My shoulders ached. I brought my awareness to them and tried to accept the sensation. My mind wandered. How much time had passed? My mind focused on my breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale… And somewhere a harp chimed. The 20 minutes were up.

I opened my eyes. Just off to the right sat David, a man with a buzz cut of white hair and very clear blue eyes. In the chair beside him sat his wife. On the floor next to me sat my mum and to her left was her friend. We were gathered to share a meditation space and to hear David’s story of Eastern philosophy and Western success.

In 1994, David sold all his worldly possessions and moved to a Buddhist monastery to live a life of poverty. He traded in a life of creature comforts for meditation, a bed of wooden pallets, celibacy and one meal a day. For three years he lived with monks and nuns. He helped them construct a new meditation center. He ate gruel. He meditated. For three years he worked on himself—I can only imagine how well he must have gotten to know his own mind.  

On his return to Canada in 1997, David was broke. He had no credit and nothing but an old Chevy to his name, but had the idea that he would build a window-washing business from the ground up. Through coincidence or luck or fate, David met with my mum the day he went in to apply for a business loan. Seeing a power within him or peace, perhaps, she provided him with a small business loan to fuel his vision.

Driving through upscale Victoria in his truck with rust up to the door handles he met a man who would become his first client but not without some resistance.  As David approached the man on his property, the fellow responded in a way that seemed rude. He informed David that soliciting in that area of town was not allowed and to get off his property. However, as luck would have it, David found out the homeowner was a very successful businessman, allowing David to appeal to a kindred spirit. He asked the fellow how his salesmen found new business. The homeowner responded that he would have them make cold calls. David answered that was exactly what he was doing. The homeowner became his first client, which quickly turned into a recurring contract to clean the windows of all his storefront locations.

As David’s company grew he began to hire employees and was able to replace his rust-mobile with a fleet of new trucks. He had one important condition that his employees had to observe—they had to recognize and follow the Buddhist teaching of Ahimsa—to do no harm. This was to be adhered in their own lives right down to the lives of the insects that lived on the windows that they washed. Each spider that they encountered was removed from the window and placed out of harm’s way.

This astounded me. That a man would base his company on the foundation of the Buddhist eightfold path. In a world where spiritual beliefs can be construed as flaky, cult-like or dogmatic, David followed his path and lived his truth.

It worked. David kept his employees for more than 10 years, which is unheard of in a window-washing company, and just recently sold his business to his manager.


As I sat on the floor across from a man who exuded a calmness and peace that I rarely see, I became
inspired. My faith in my own practice grew. The work I have been doing for the past five years has not been in vain. This last year and a half of an intense practice of yoga and meditation where I have felt like my entire soul has been ripped out and put in front of me to witness. These last six months where I learn daily how I cope, how I communicate, how I express my viewpoints. As I step into my new role as an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, a yogi, these are lessons I carry with me.

I looked across the room at David, as the sun dipped behind the oak trees and felt refreshed to have been privileged to meet someone who lives a life of humility and authenticity while being a successful entrepreneur.



5 comments:

L.A. Webb said...

Nice post, miss.

Mum said...

When I met David, and was able, in a small way, to help him get started, his story left me profoundly touched, although I had no time or inclination to explore further. I did not foresee that 17 years later, I would be sharing his experience, and meditating with him and my daughter. The universe unfolds, and we play our part. But I never imagined that the very job that often kept me too busy to be a good parent to my teenager would provide a catalyst for the beautiful spiritual connection that we now share. How we have grown!

Laura said...

I love how the universe works! Such beauty and simplicity in every moment.

anna said...

Love this crossing of business and pleasure - working on the mind. It's not always easy, but it is a pleasure to be able to care for ourselves this way.

Raghav Singh said...

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