The recipe for success for any great movement includes solid ideas, clear vision, fearless leadership, and a healthy dose of magic. All of those things were present in my experience of the Conscious Capitalism conference in San Francisco this weekend. A little Internet research will furnish you with most of what you need to know about this clarion call to Corporate America, so I'll elaborate here on the magic that could only be experienced firsthand.
Walking up the steps to the Masonic Center on California Street, I was first struck by the electric charge of the crowd within. Healthy-looking men and women wearing lavalieres and carrying laptops, stood alert and poised under the massive Masonic eye. I smiled as I noticed the address in giant golden figures above the door: 1111. Eleven eleven is the number of enlightenment. I guessed this detail had not been lost on Mssrs Mackey and Sisodia.
Man On a Mission
John Mackey exuded the kind of timeless, placeless enormity of a man on a mission. When he was called to speak he commanded the stage. When others spoke he listened without moving a muscle. He has the kind of singularity of presence I've noticed in certain extraordinary people; at once utterly familiar and totally strange in their carriage and appearance. Think of any great rock star, politician, or iconic figure in history. These people don't get lost in a crowd. They seem to be hewn from the sands of time. I noticed as he walked across the stage that he had the same build and physicality of my own grandfather, a lifelong farmer. But his message was delivered with the certainty of Aristotle. A man who can conjure two such disparate impressions at once is not a man at all, but a channel for wisdom.
One of the limitations the movement will have to overcome is one of lexicon. Many business people are still shackled to the linear, masculine language of commercial exchange. They talk about opening the heart, but in the language of the head. Roy Spence reminded us (by demonstrating it) how critical it is to connect through words that strike the heart, sensual words. Humor, music and poetry formed the backbone of a talk that elicited a standing ovation. People were literally moved to their feet. Day Two provided more assurance that the leaders of this movement really understand the heart. Casey Sheahan and his remarkable wife, Tara, founder of the Conscious Global Leadership Institute, taught a group of executives gentle mindfulness practices, but the real magic was in Tara's presence. A fully-embodied woman, her laughter was evidence of the possibility of real, transcendent happiness, beyond what words can convey.
Everybody's an Entrepreneur:
I had a real "aha moment" during Raj Sisodia's gorgeous and precise opening presentation. He talked about the need for America to get back to its original promise, its reason for being: entrepreneurship. And suddenly I saw that this Conscious Capitalism movement is about making every employee at every level feel like an entrepreneur. That is a very empowering proposition and one that seems doable.
There was just a deep hope that came from hearing several business leaders use the word Love in full knowledge of its meaning.
High Vibrations: Casey Sheahan, CEO of Patagonia, took the stage and said, "I'm going to do something somewhat risky," and then led the entire group in a guided meditation in which we envisioned and then expressed gratitude to our community, our family, and each other. The room was literally vibrating. When we finished he quipped, "And that is the extent of what I have to teach about conscious leadership." I thought, "No wonder you are who you are and Patagonia is what it is."
The day ended with a video and talk by some young guns including one of the founders of the Unreasonable Institute, Teju Ravilochan The phrase "productive collisions" was used to describe what happens when entrepreneurs are brought together physically with mentors, funders, and advisors and I was heartened to hear that there is still a belief in the power of face-to-face, energetic exchange and the kind of geometric proximities that make magic when human beings allow themselves to be moved physically on God's chessboard into actual contact. It was happening all day long.
My own most potent "productive collision" happened at lunch. Seeking sunshine, I stepped out onto the terrace and saw that the only beams of light were falling high on a precarious ledge. A beautiful young woman in black was sitting there basking and I decided to join her. Within moments we were perched there, engaged in the kind of soulful exchange that happens when kindred spirits meet. We could talk without talking and yet we had so much to say. I was astounded by her wisdom. When she told me she was 21 we both laughed in acknowledgment of her glorious precociousness. Twice her age, I felt myself firmly in the middle of life and in awe of the next generation. That conversation gave me more clarity about the future, more hope for where we're going. (Hint: We're in such good hands.) I said to her, "I can see the whole... evolution of consciousness in you and me, in our generations. And it's awesome. Someday you are going to be sitting with a woman half your age and you will be blown away by her like I am by you because this growth is just going to continue on and on." She smiled a knowing smile and we both felt our prayers for this conference had been answered. We'd made a significant connection and come to understand why we were there... on that ledge for lunch, but also in general.