Zen In The Corporate World: Part One

A Practice Story
Submitted by a Zen Student at Kannon Do

As a Silicon Valley veteran, I experienced how my heart pulse intertwines with the pulse of the birth place of many internationally renowned high-tech brand names. It is a pulse of speed and passion whereas new ideas, new companies and new faces pop up and fade out constantly. The only thing that does not change is that there are always changes at macro and personal levels. Having been through several twisters in the corporate world, I have encountered situations where every month or so for quite some time, there are changes either to my management, my role, my project or the priority of my project; sometimes, a combination of these.

Early on when changes happened, I reacted with a typical question “why”? There is always this need to rationalize, trying to make sense of the environment around me. My education and professional experience teach me how to arrive at an in-depth and comprehensive analysis about the situation – the underlying causes, the triggers, the pros and cons of options, the rationale and risks of the decisions. At times the analysis can lend to a dissertation, and yet it does not quench the underlying thirst for what-I-consider-as-justice. It took a few more big changes before I understand the thirst cannot be quenched by rationalization, but by acceptance. The expectation of things taking a particular course, the emotional need of such, the shock of life taking a different turn gradually lesson. One day I found myself not having to ask “why” anymore to meet an emotional need. When I let go of expectations, it opens me up to acceptance. A sense of stability arises within that is unshaken by the changing environment.

On developments that I viewed as unfavorable, there is the question of “why me”? At times, there was a sense of doubt – the what-ifs. More often, there was a sense of injustice because I have done nothing to contribute to the outcome. It dawned on me one day that indeed it was not about me. My upbringing has taught me to rely on personal attributes – knowledge, skills, competence, diligence – to steer the direction of my life. Success or failure depends on these personal qualities. There is nothing wrong with cultivating desirable attributes, but I was wrong in over-estimating my influence upon the world. I had viewed the world from a fisheye lens – the world seen with me as the center. When I take a bird’s eye view, I see myself being a small piece of the big puzzle. Suddenly it all makes sense. I had relied primarily on independence, thinking it will give me control and hence security. When the sense of inter-dependence starts to sink in, I don’t have as much a need to have control and there is greater appreciation in relationships. Ironically without the need for control, it lends to deeper sense of security and quiet confidence. Without too much emphasis on the self, there is a stronger foundation for the self stemming from a feeling of connectedness and care for the people and environment around me.

After the twisters, there is a phase of rebuilding – an exploration that will take me to new places. I used to have a long list of requirements for my ideal job – from job function, location and size of the company down to the taste of coffee in the cafeteria. Over the years, the list is getting shorter and shorter. Now what remains on the list are what truly matter. It is about why I do what I do. The answer to which can only be satisfactory with an understanding on how I inter-relate to the world, on how I can completely express myself by fully occupying my space. I have faith that no matter what I choose, things will end up fine. They always do.