I spent a portion of this past week in San Francisco attending the Wisdom 2.0 Conference. The event is in its 7th year, and has grown from approximately 300 attendees to over 3,000. That number clearly speaks to the increasing amount of individuals and businesses interested in creating a more conscious workplace and a more aware planet.
For those of you who consider yourself in this category I highly recommend attending it next year.
There were many luminaries, engaging speakers, and fascinating panel discussions, but none as moving to me as the presentation given by Yingzhao Liu, who’s title is Design Director at Linkedin.
My initial exposure to her was in a panel discussion moderated by Fred Kofman, author of “Conscious Business, How to Build Value Through Values”, and a facilitator of the mindfulness movement at Linkedin. The panel consisted of Fred and four participants from the company. Each spoke about their personal experiences developing, and in turn bringing as managers a mindful awareness to their particular teams at Linkedin.
In the course of that discussion I naturally had each of them pegged. The sales guy, the designer, the consultant, etc. So that was cool, I had no idea how progressive Linkedin actually was in this area. OK, great context, I learned something.
But the next day, Yingzhao had the stage to herself, and gave a presentation entitled ”Buddhist Alchemy: Transforming Everything Into Wisdom”.
Being a practitioner I was intrigued, so my preconception and I decided to attend.
The thing that struck me about this conference in general was the honesty of the participants. There was a genuine sincerity that permeated the entire three days that made it different and special for me.
Yingzhao however, took that observation to a whole different place.
Her presentation was personal and deeply meaningful.
She began by speaking of her upbringing in rural China, and the difficulties that she had in establishing an emotional connection with those around her throughout her childhood. And how those difficulties led her to create a more insular existence for herself, while at the same time taking great comfort in the beauty of the natural environment around her. For example, as a six year old, observing that a water droplet residing on a lotus leaf actually reflects the whole world around it in an almost perfect sphere, or the beauty in the majestic swaying gateways created by the deciduous trees lining the streets of her hometown.
As she made her way through life, an education in the States, various jobs and responsibilities, and eventually a management position in Silicon Valley at Linkedin, she also found a meditative practice (she actually resides at Jikoji, a Soto Zen Center located in the Santa Clara mountains). And that practice reconnected her to the purity of her relationship with the natural world as a child. But this time with a deeper meaning.
In her words what she had come to realize was that “beauty is synonymous with meaning”.
And that, to me, gives beauty a wide latitude. It can exist in anything. A natural element, a piece of music or visual art, and certainly a relationship with another human being. As long as we are are giving it our attention, our focus, our love, it will be meaningful.
I could attempt to share the entire talk, but I wouldn’t do it justice. What I would like to say is simply this. It provided further context, for me anyway, about how one’s ability to impact others in a positive way is exponentially increased when it comes from deep meditative practice and the resulting awareness.
Her practice reconnected her with the simple yet deeply important observations of a child, and applied them to a more complicated adult existence. It stripped away the false realities that come with a modern life, and got back to the straightforward vitality of innocent observation. And perhaps most importantly, it has transformed the trappings of the conventional into the potential of the ultimate.
As she quoted Georgia O’Keefe somewhere in the middle of her talk…“Seeing a flower takes time”, it occurred to me that most likely many of the team members that work with Yingzhao have already drawn that conclusion.