I’m quoting, almost in it’s entirety, from a post to Ken Pope’s listserv — by Ken Pope. He’s excerpted a story from Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng-Tan, Google employee 107. The author made it his mission to bring some kind of mindfulness practice to the engineers at Google in order to enhance their productivity and well being. As a company, Google is rather well known for treating their employees well. But bringing mindfulness to Google wasn’t an entirely easy thing. In one of his initial forays, Meng-Tan introduced Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (also known as MBSR), the practice created by Jon-Kabat Zinn and written about in his book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stess, Pain, and Illness.
But stress reduction never really captured the imagination of the type-A computer programmers at Google, who wear their stress as a kind of badge of honor — a token of their ambitiousness. Meng-Tan continued along other avenues. His book is highly recommended by Dr. Pope, who does not frequently extend such recommendations. At the end of the excerpt you’ll see a parenthetical comment, regarding Dr. Pope’s comfort with the word “goodness.” He’s a man of science, and it’s hard to let a word as vague as “goodness” just stand on its own.
One touching example of how goodness can change a man’s life was a personal story told to me by famous psychologist Paul Ekman.
Paul has had a very successful career as a psychologist.
In fact, he was named by the American Psychological Association as one of the 100 Most eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century.
Paul, however, suffered a very difficult childhood, so he grew up to be a very angry adult.
He told me that every single week of his life, he experienced at least two episodes of explosive anger that led him to do or say something he would later regret.
In 2000, Paul was invited to speak at a Mind and Life Conference held in India in the presence of the Dalai Lama.
Paul was reluctant to go because he did not take Buddhist monks seriously; he thought of them as a bunch of funny bald men in robes.
His daughter, Eve, had to convince him to attend.
On the third day of the five-day conference, something very important happened to Paul.
During a break between meetings, Eve and Paul went to sit with the Dalai Lama and spoke with him for about ten minutes.
For the duration of the conversation, the Dalai Lama held Paul’s hand.
Those ten minutes had a profound impact on Paul.
He said he experienced an abundance of “goodness” within his entire being.
He was transformed.
By the end of those ten minutes, he found his anger completely fading away.
For many weeks after that, he did not experience any trace of anger at all, which for him, was a huge life change.
Perhaps more importantly, it changed the direction of his life.
Paul was planning to retire, but after those ten minutes of holding the Dalai Lama’s hand, he rediscovered his deep aspiration to bring benefit to the world, which was the reason he entered psychology in the first place.
After some slight prodding from the Dalai Lama, Paul canceled his retirement plans and has since been giving his experience and wisdom to scientific research that may help people improve emotional balance, compassion, and altruism.
Goodness is so powerful that even experiencing it for just ten minutes can change a man’s life.
It does not even matter that the experience may be entirely subjective.
In Paul’s case, for example, the Dalai Lama claimed he did not do anything special, suggesting that the goodness Paul experienced came more from what Paul himself brought to the situation, with the Dalai Lama being merely a facilitator.
Either way, the lesson is unmistakable: if you want to influence people, there is no greater power than goodness.
(Confession: I am comfortable using the word “goodness” only because Paul uses the word himself. If the word “goodness” is good enough for Paul Ekman, it is good enough for me..)