I met Dina Kaplan at one of her many meditation and yoga classes in New York. I immediately fell in love with her teaching methods and approach to mindfulness.
That’s why I support this woman’s work.
Kaplan is the CEO of The Path, which teaches meditation for the modern mind. The Path runs weekly meditations at The Standard in New York, monthly social events, a teacher training program and retreats.
Randi Zuckerberg: You went from a high-paced career in TV to launching The Path — designed to help people do better in life with a simple and serious meditation practice. What is missing in the current workplace that begs the need for slowing down?
Dina Kaplan: I think we are quite good in America at making decisions and living at a fast pace, but I’m not sure we’re making mindful decisions or even heading in the right direction. My best friend jokes, “I don’t know where I’m going most of the time, but I’m getting there really quickly.”
In Italy, where I work from each July, there is a slow food movement, which invites you to savor each bite of the wonderful food you eat. I’m increasingly becoming an advocate of something I’ll call the “slow work movement.” If we slowed down our pace and looked less frequently at incoming messages on our phones and emails and computers, I believe we would make better, smarter decisions and be much more successful in our work.
I also think people become unhappy if they’re too inundated with data. Our brains are not meant to process this much information at all hours of the day. When I go on retreat and off all digital products, by the third day, I notice I can think. I start having insights about things in my personal and professional life.
On one retreat, on day four, I noticed there were butterflies everywhere as I walked to the meditation hall. I’m sure they were always there; my mind had just been too cluttered to notice them.
RZ: Is a meditation practice different for those in different careers?
DK: It’s interesting that a lot of people who work in finance do mantra meditation. I’m not sure if that’s because it spreads by word of mouth or if it’s because this style of meditation is well-suited for people working in the markets. I think deciding on what type of meditation you’d like to do has more to do with your personal goals than your industry.
If you want to be more focused, mindfulness is great. If you want to tap into your creativity, mantra meditation is wonderful. If you want to feel more compassion, loving-kindness is terrific. So I recommend choosing the type of meditation that helps you accomplish your goals and that feels charming to you.
RZ: What’s the simplest way to meditate from behind an office desk?
DK: If you’re in a common area, it might be tough. When I was at my first startup, I would sneak off to the bathroom, close the door, close the lid to the toilet and meditate for 20 minutes each day. I don’t know if anyone ever noticed my disappearing like this.
If you have your own office or can head to a private room, you can really do any type of meditation you’d like. Or perhaps someday we can all put sunglasses on (or not) and just meditate with pride at a desk in the middle of an office. We might be a few years away from that being commonplace.
RZ: You recently penned a piece about the intersection of authenticity and empathy. What is it about today’s authenticity that’s not working?
DK: Authenticity has become such a popular term and concept that I believe it’s being overused. It can be a veil for meanness — or giving people advice they didn’t request. I am now a fan of being the lighthouse. Shine. Be kind. Meditate and glow. Act smartly, decisively and with compassion.
If people have questions about how you got to where you are or where your glow comes from, they’ll ask. None of us has the obligation to walk around all day giving people unsolicited advice. That’s not a way to live if you want to make and keep friends.
The great Vedic teacher Thom Knoles says to only give spiritual advice when there is “worthy inquiry.” I agree with this. And I think it’s more important than ever to live with kindness and compassion. May that be the new cool.
RZ: How can meditation help curate empathy, especially in work situations?
DK: In work, a lot of times people are stressed. So they may act badly. This may be directed to you. Instead of reacting to tough language or bad actions, think perhaps this person had a tough morning. Maybe a relative is sick. Maybe they’re concerned about their role within the company. You can then operate from a place of compassion.
I believe people are good by nature. When they act badly, it almost never has anything to do with you. It’s pain in their own lives.
So try not to take things personally, and try to remember a time when you had a bad morning or day or week and perhaps didn’t say the right thing to someone or act in a way you’re proud of. We’ve all been there. With this, you can be more compassionate and kind.
— Randi Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, a best-selling author and the host of a SiriusXM weekly tech business show, Randi Zuckerberg Means Business. Follow her on Twitter: @randizuckerberg or connect with her on Facebook. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.