I remember quite a few years ago having the wonderful opportunity as a young student to listen to an Anishinaabeg Elder speak about Midewiwin epistemology and the concept of Bimaadiziwin. This idea of “the Good Life” really resonated with me. The Elder presented Bimaadiziwin as not only a fundamental principle that governed human social relations, but a principle that guided the relationship between human beings and the natural order. She also stressed that these principles were not merely a medium for moral teachings but an important tool for self-development, for being and doing good to yourself. Without this fundamental heart-centered approach to living and being, it was impossible to live “a good life”; a life that balanced the needs of the community, with the needs of the self; a life that focused on raising the vibrations of all your relations through good actions influenced by your own personal good thoughts.
I was reminded of Bimaadiziwin this week listening to Dr. Pema Dorjee discuss Tibetan concepts of mental health. Mel and I were honored to have the opportunity to work with the Ottawa Friends of Tibet to bring Dr. Dorjee to Ottawa and Wakefield for the first time to share his extensive knowledge of Tibetan medical practices. What struck me the second time I heard his lecture, was the simple and clear impact good health has on the rest of your life. While I won’t get into the detailed and very interesting science behind the Tibetan tree of health, Dr. Dorjee illustrated the benefits of a healthy life plainly through an image of the two flowers and three fruits of the tree.
One of the flowers represents no-disease, “because disease is always present.” The other is long-life, because we all strive to live our life to its fullest and greatest. The three fruits of the two flowers were: dharma, worldly and spiritual; happiness; and wealth. Happiness and wealth seemed pretty straightforward. This notion of dharma, however, intrigued me. Practicing Buddhists spend a lot of time developing their spiritual dharma and working towards integrating the eight worldly dharmas into their practice. This includes overcoming:
- hope for happiness and fear of suffering;
- hope for fame and fear of insignificance;
- hope for praise and fear of blame; and
- hope for gain and fear of loss.
This seems to me like a perfect model from which to develop a strong business plan and vision for success. You just need to maintain a balanced and realistic understanding that cultivating worldly dharma is more than contributing to a charity once a year, or giving a client a deal on the cost of a project deliverable. It’s connected to living a healthy and good life. Which to me means a life that isn’t flat-lined, but one that maintains perspective on the connection between the ebb and flow of our emotions and the roller coaster which really, truly defines life. Ultimately what I’m exploring is how this translates into business practice.
A couple of weeks ago Mel and I had a great conversation over a wonderful, candle-lit meal together at home-something that, unfortunately, doesn’t happen nearly as much now that our new baby, La Foret, has be born.
“There’s three things I hope to get out of being self-employed.” I’m not sure how we got into talking about my three principles of business, maybe it was the wine, maybe the candles, most likely it was that look Mel gets in her eyes that always seems to inspire me.
“Oh yea? Sounds kind of flaky if you ask me.” I love Mel’s honesty. Her insight is laser-guided and she delivers it so gently and thoughtfully. “Like you’re trying to hustle some product or service.”
“No seriously. No hustling!” I insisted. “Its really simple. The three principles are: have fun; make money; and do good. ”
Mel took a sip of wine. I could see she was thinking about this. Really thinking about this.
“I get the first two.” She finally said. “But I really don’t believe that a business has any responsibility to do good. If you set that intention you’ll just end up plugging into channels that will manifest jobs and clients that will cast you in the role of rescuer. Doing good just happens.”
Of course she was right. At the time, though, I just thought she didn’t get me. Typical response of a misplaced misfit academic.
After listening to Dr. Dorjee this week, I now understand what Mel was trying to say: doing good is a state of mind that you cultivate through a healthy lifestyle. A healthy business is an extension of that lifestyle and the material root of our consciousness really is Bimaadiziwin.
This straight and narrow isn’t so bad after all. Especially when you remember to smile at least three times a day.