EP 62: Mind Training for Agency Leaders
Kelly: So happy new year everyone! Welcome back to Thrive. I literally could not think of a better way to start 2020 and a new decade than to talk about consciousness and mind training for agency leaders. So I'm really happy to have everyone with me today. My guest is this beautiful being, Anahita Moghaddam. She's the founder of Neural Beings. She's a consultant to organizations and individuals who are really purpose-driven, mission driven and she's also an international speaker, which is actually how we met. We met last year at the World Happiness Summit in Miami and instantly I knew that we had to work together. I was in the audience, she didn't know this on stage, but I knew and so she's been working with me as my mind training and Buddhist psychology coach for the last eight months and she's also one of the people that I've interviewed for the book that I'm writing. So excited to have you on the show with me today. I'm so grateful for you to be here. Thank you so much. Welcome.
Anahita: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Such a warm welcome, Kelly. And it's an honor to be here and to be able to say some things that may add some value.
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. So let's start out with sort of setting some context. What do we mean by consciousness and how does mind training actually help us to live happier, healthier lives?
Anahita: Well, I think when it comes to the question of consciousness, I'm probably not qualified to really explain what it is. I don't even know if there is any clear understanding of what really consciousness is.
Kelly: Fair enough. Fair enough.
Anahita: Pretty hard problem out there, but let's just call it awareness. Let's call it maybe even like deeper mind, right? So let's like borrow back with the term deep mind from the world of AI and robotics and computing and so forth, and just refer to that deeper mind, which is synonymous for awareness, for knowing that a lot of the contemplative traditions are pointing us towards, right? So with the practice of introspection and gradually sort of calming the mind, we may start to access states of awareness or states of mind perhaps that have the potential of revealing, let's say the true nature of reality, right?
So once you achieve that deep level of consciousness or awareness, you start to see things in a more, let's say clear manner, less distorted by your own filters and perhaps more congruent with the way that things really are. And coming back to your question about how does my training actually create a better life? Well, I think it's pretty simple. So let's just go back up to a more surface level understanding of the mind, which is what our current under scientific definition is of mind. So mind being sort of the cognitive processes that in let's say, reduction of scientific terms is considered a byproduct of the electric chemical processes that happen in the brain. Right? Let's just say mind is like all the thinking and that is produced by the brain, which I don't agree with that definition, but let's just hold that for a moment.
If that's the case, most of us are subject to a lot of negativity, a lot of habitual thinking. That actually doesn't make us really happy. In fact, it keeps us in these kind of ongoing inner dialogues that just make us more and more connected loops, disconnected from ourselves and let alone from other people. And so I think that the more we can have an understanding of the mechanics of mind and how mind works and mind is not separate from feelings and emotion. So the whole thing, the whole system, the more we can have an understanding of how it all works for oneself or ourselves individually, the more we can perhaps began to change it. And when we can change it, we can change it into something that is a bit more conducive to our wellbeing and our happiness, maybe even to our professional lives. Right?
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. And I know that as I said at the beginning of the show, you work with leaders of organizations, you work with individual leaders. We all know the responsibilities that come with leadership, right? But what does the responsibility to lead oneself really entail?
Anahita: I would say it begins with humility. I work with leaders and I think that you know with all love and respect to become a leader, a lot of the time, a pretty well-defined ego is required. A lot of people become leaders because of motivations that they may not even be conscious of or aware of. So when you're working with a leader, the first thing to do is to just really make them aware of their ego.
And by ego, I'm referring to their sense of self and maybe in some cases when you're dealing with people in leadership positions, the sense of self is really calcified because it's constantly been reified by their environment, by the people that work for them, by themselves, by how they see themselves in their positions. So to start to slowly decalcify the sense of self or this ego is a whole art form in and of itself, which really requires willingness on the part of the leader, humility to be able to actually say, maybe there is more to me or less to me than what I think there is.
And then of course the massive discipline, resolve and resilience that is required to actually change, to really change.
Kelly: Yeah, I was just going to say, and all of that obviously resonates with me. That's a great encapsulation because that's really, I think a boiled down version of the work that we've been doing together for the last eight months. It does require all of those things coming to the table to say, I had this, this sort of CEO egoic thing, this ego that I came with and now help me strip it down and unravel it. And I want to be willing to do that. I want to get down to the simplicity. Get down to that humility, be in service of others. And then, go through the disciplines, whether it's changing mind, changing action, all of those things. So that resonates really, really deeply.
Anahita: Exactly as you say. And I think that the more you are able to do that, the more, let's say the weight, the baggage, the armor, the identification is removed. So what happens naturally is there's a sense of lightness and a sense of ease and flexibility that comes sort of as a byproduct of this work. With that, inevitably you're going to be more pleasant to be around when you're more committed.
Kelly: I hope so.
Anahita: Yes, of course. There's Apple research that's been done on how happy individuals are more likely to have better relationships when a leader is more, let's say, calm and kind and generous and friendly, they're going to invoke a deeper sense of trust and reliability and loyalty from their employees. They're going to be much more motivated to work for a leader that's kind, versus perhaps a leader who is perhaps not as, is a bit more rigid and little bit more unnecessarily firm or closed off or lacking empathy. So you're just going to benefit from it in every way.
Kelly: Yeah. And I think also I would add to that or build on that with the aspect of vulnerability. I know we've talked to her, I've talked about Brené Brown on the show before, but I think that aspect of vulnerability sort of builds nicely on everything that you just said because the more vulnerable we are, the less rigid, the less closed off, the more I can say, you know what, I need help from my team to help lead this organization. Or hey, this is something that I'm struggling with. Like, remember, I'm human, not just the leader, right. And I don't have all of the answers and I have to rely on you as my team. That's why I built this team of people who are really talented and some of them smarter than me and you have to just let that go. And really, again, that goes into the trust that you're talking about. So I think vulnerability is definitely something I would add to that.
Anahita: Absolutely. And that's really what my understanding is of a leader, someone who helps other people be their best rather than they are doing all the work and others are following. They actually are creating and inspiring others to become leaders.
Kelly: Yeah. It's all about empowering other people. Absolutely. So in your own coaching and consulting practice, how do you actually help leaders to gain this clear understanding of how their minds work and then how that leads to taking the right actions in their lives? Like give me like a little bit more about the nuts and bolts so I can share that with everyone.
Anahita: Okay. Well, I guess when they sign up with me, my role is to be that really uncomfortable instance in their life and they first show who they are and how they are. Right? So maybe, just acting as a mirror of sorts. And for that, going, referencing the Buddhist teachings, we have to become really comfortable with the reality of our suffering, with the reality of our dysfunction. So in order for us to actually go from being perhaps unhappy to happy, we have to first really look at what is making us unhappy. We have to understand the causes for that unhappiness or that dysfunction or that suffering, whatever you want to call it.
By understanding the causes we can then slowly begin to tweak them and change them, right? Because everything is subject to change. So that's beautiful. Nothing is fixed in any sense, right? We can begin to work at it. So it begins the process. The work that I do begins with really kind of shutting a realistic light on the condition and the circumstances and the inner reality of a person. And not everybody wants to do that. Not everyone wants to be…
Kelly: Why not? That sounds like so much fun.
Anahita: Yeah, exactly. Not everyone wants to do that. It's an uncomfortable process. Not many people want to look at themselves in that light, in that unfavorable light perhaps. But once we begin to do that, we start to then create sort of a map of where we want to go. Most of us want to be happy. I think if probably all of us want to be happy, nobody wants to be unhappy, nobody wants to suffer. So we all agree that we want to be happy, but then we can get further into the definition of what happiness is for each person. Happiness would be achieving a certain level of success work-wise, achieving a certain reality in regards to interpersonal relationships, romantic or love relationships, whatever, health. So we define what that sort of goal is and then we go back to our present moment, right?
So again, referencing the Buddhist teachings, everything happens in this moment, so, right? So it's in this present moment that we can't even look like there's no, we can't even hold onto the present cause it's constantly fleeting, right? We can attempt to work with this present moment and it's our actions, right? Our actions, which actually then become our future experience.
It's the ways that I think, the ways that I speak, the ways in which I act or for a time, this will weave my reality. So we have to become clear on where we want to go and make sure that our actions in the present are congruent with the results that we want. Most of us want a certain reality in the future, but our actions are so incongruent with that reality that we're striving towards and we keep falling into this hole of dissatisfaction and unhappiness and we're able to, whether it's to conjure forth the discipline or the awareness or the resilience, whatever resources are needed to actually make sure that our actions are congruent with the results we want.
Kelly: Right. So in Buddhism, it is called pervasive dissatisfaction, right? That recurring loop. I've been doing my homework by the way. So like that recurring loop of like, this is how I want to act in integrity or how I want to feel or how I want to live, but then my actions are not in alignment with that. And so that's really, that's where the work is.
Anahita: Absolutely. But the sad thing is that my actions are not in alignment with that and I'm not even aware of it. So what happens is I'm constantly feeling this like underlying nagging feeling of things being off. It's almost like no matter what, there's always something that's not right. Whether it's my own experience of myself subjectively or my world, or my work or my relationships, something always needs to change in some future instance for me to finally arrive at that moment of happiness. The reality is it's like the carrot that's standing in front of the horse. You are never going to reach it unless you do what? Testing.
Kelly: What's that?
Anahita: I was just testing you.
Kelly: Oh I didn’t hear.
Anahita: Do you think Kelly? In the future. Okay. No, sorry. I put you on the spot on your own podcast.
Kelly: That's okay. Hey, it's all about vulnerability, right?
Anahita: Okay, fine. Yeah.
Kelly: It's okay. It's okay. This is the e beauty of an organic conversation. Right?
Anahita: Right. No, I was going to say, unless we really, we become really aware, whatever, forget about it. But anyway, moving on.
Kelly: Yeah. So as we start to sort of like wrap up the conversation a little bit, I think it would be really helpful for agency leaders who I don't, I don't know exactly how many of the people who watch or listen are into meditation or have a meditation practice, but I know that that is certainly part of the work that you do. Part of the work that we do together. So I think it might be helpful if you're open to it to do some kind of guided meditation that we can invite everyone to kind of do this together with us. I think that would be a beautiful way to start the year.
Anahita: Yeah, sure. Yeah. Gladly. So I would say let's find a comfortable seat. And by comfort I'm referring to a sense of stability in the body, but also a sense of ease. So make sure that you can relax your body, but your body is also sort of upright and stable. And if you're comfortable, you can close your eyes. If you prefer, you can leave them open. Try to not fix your gaze upon anything if your eyes are open, and let's just take three deep breaths. Inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth.
This way we begin to sort of down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system, activating the parasympathetic nervous system and inviting the body into state of relaxing. So inhaling deeply through the nose, exhaling through the mouth, and as you exhale the air out, allow the weight of your body to drop and allow the weight of your body to be supported by whatever you're sitting on. Inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth.
And one more time. I know you may have done more than three rounds. That's okay. Make sure the exhalations are long and as you exhale, the abdomen is pulled in words and then just closing the mouth, breathing naturally through the nose and begin to lose interest in the world of the external and begin to become curious about the world of the internal. Curious to know what is happening in this inner realm that a lot of these contemplative traditions are inviting us to explore.
What is my feeling in this moment? How am I feeling? And see if you can refrain from grabbing onto language and labels and just allow yourself to feel what you're feeling and trying to refrain from judging the feelings as good or bad or wrong or right. It's just feeling.
Notice if there's any change in the quality of your mind as you keep going inwards and inquiring, inquiring into the nature of your subjective experience. Let's go a little further and ask ourselves, what is the quality of my mind in this moment and listening for the answer. So in order for the answer to become audible in a non-audible sense, you got to become quiet.
What is the quality of my mind? And allowing all sounds and activity in your external environment to be there without losing any attention on it. What does the quality of my mind, and it's almost like a tuning in or a sensing or listening quality that is required. And just mere active listening or tuning or sensing into is enough to calm the mind as an entry point into meditation.
And just take a moment to let that go and just rest. Allow your mind to rest and in that sort of state if it wants to run around, if it wants to go into the future, into the past, just let it, but see if you're going to watch how your mind behaves right now when you let it go. It's like a wild horse that you just let go and it starts doing what it does and you just observe it.
Without any judgment, of course, just taking note. And then letting that go and slowly having the intention to come out. Take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you did a meditation for a few minutes. So give yourself that credit. I just meditated. Maybe you allow yourself to feel a little sense of joy or happiness or contentment. And then slowly beginning to bring a little bit of movement into the body. And whenever you're ready, you can open your eyes.
Kelly: That was beautiful. Thank you.
Anahita: You're welcome.
Kelly: Well, I feel a lot calmer now. Good thing we didn't do this at the beginning of the show. I would have been like monotone the whole time. And it is amazing when you do come out of meditation, your whole affect really does change. So if you don't think it's “working” it's always working.
Kelly: It’s always working.
Anahita: Yeah. I heard that Sharon Salzberg say that the other day actually.
Anahita: Yeah. Is it a quote by her?
Kelly: No, I just said it.
Anahita: Oh, it's fantastic. Yes. When you think it’s not working, it's actually working.
Kelly: Oh, that's funny. Yeah. Maybe I'm channeling my inner Sharon.
Anahita: You are.
Kelly: Well, Anahita thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for guiding us through that meditation. Thank you for everything that you're doing in the world and really, really grateful for you to be here.
Anahita: Thank you so much for having me, Kelly, and thank you to everyone that's been listening and I hope you are happier, tiny bits maybe.