Inspiration from a Living Sufi Master
While I am still in retreat, I share this glowing post from my friend and business mentor, Nathalie Molino Nino. (She is brilliant at what she does! Here’s the link to get her weekly love letter.) It is about me and my endeavors but also about following your dreams. Enjoy!
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a “business woman.”
The idea is loaded with vivid imagery and for many, with disdain too. It’s grey suits and cubicles, it’s misogyny and boxes, lots and lots of nasty, narrow-minded boxes that no one with any creativity would ever squeeze into. Boxes that tell you what you need to sound like, what you need to prioritize and how you need to live, or not live. Then there are the rules that keep you in those boxes! Rules about being small, rules about being assertive (but not as assertive as your male counterparts because the same traits in a woman are quickly quelled), rules on how to win, about choosing to be rich instead of right, about working hard, losing sleep and bludgeoning the competition!
(deep breath) Right?
There’s no denying, that is what business has looked like for a lot of us. And while there have always been exceptions, they don’t make the cover of magazines and they aren’t on anyone’s top “anything” list, they rarely get the funding and even less frequently get the credit. That is the story we’ve been told about what it means to be a business woman and it’s strikingly similar to the story of business men, but with longer hours, bigger risks and a smaller upside (about 77 cents to the dollar, last time I checked).
But it’s just one story, an old story and moreover, it’s a choice. Just like eating a meal can be drudgery or it can be a spiritual experience, the choice is yours. The process of growing food can be filled with unethical practices and greed, or it can be done with love. Again, a choice.
Business is a choice, you can be subjected to its injustices or you can flourish and create a new story, you choose.
But just like food, you can’t opt-out. Because you, my kind reader, are a business woman. That’s right, businesses come in all shapes and sizes and in the end are really just about transacting. And transacting is just another word for exchange. You, no matter if you’re a CEO or an acupuncturist, are in the business of making exchanges happen. We all are. And this is an invitation to own it and find the love.
I’ve always known this was true on some level, but it took a Sufi Master to really help me understand it. Her name is Dunya Dianne McPherson and I would bet anything she’s never been inside a grey suit. Oh and you know what else?
She’s a damn good business woman.
Dunya is a living Sufi master (in addition to author, teacher, artist, performer) and when I met her she had a loyal, global following and was widely recognized as a meditative leader. She’d participated in a neuroscience study of great meditators, lectured at places like Princeton, been called a “modern Isadora Duncan” by the New York Times and her Summer Movement Monastery (where I’m headed next week) was the largest it had ever been.
She was on top of the world, or at least that’s what it looked like.
But if you looked a little closer, you’d have seen that Dunya was struggling with her ‘business woman’ monsters. She had paid her dues (ten times over, I’d say), but like a sales person who keeps almostmaking the sale, she wasn’t closing the deal. Despite all her accolades and accomplishments, Dunya’s life was a life of subsistence, too often spent fretting about the event around the corner and rarely having time to visualize her organization’s future. She dreaded the “business” aspect of her life but grudgingly accepted it as a necessary evil.
Fast forward to today, three and a half short years later, and you’ll see something very different.
Dunya is still Dunya, but she’s just a little more present. The necessary evil has transformed into something that is, in her words, “engaging, purposeful, prosperous, often inspiring, even exhilarating.” And while I am honored to have had a part in the transformation, I can tell you with all confidence that this was Dunya’s doing. Advising Dunya has been a little like lighting a fire, all it took was a little spark and I’m amazed every day at how far and wide the fire has grown.
I’ll never forget the look in her eyes the first time I asked her what she saw herself doing in 10-15 years; when she shared what seemed then like an impossible dream of having a sanctuary somewhere in the high desert. She shrugged it off as the clichéd daydream of the typical Manhattan apartment dweller. Because who doesn’t dream of a big plot of land somewhere to stop and rest a while, away from civilization?
Like any advisor would do for their client, be it the CEO of a multinational or a spiritual leader, together we built a path to get Dunya where she dreamed of going. And every month I reminded her that thisbusiness was hers to do with what she wanted, her story to tell however she saw fit.
And holy ^%$# did she do it!
She didn’t just make nice with her inner business woman, she connected with her so deeply that she has surprised even her biggest believers, even me.
Look a little more closely now (at the photo above) and you’ll see Dunya sitting on the edge of a cliff in New Mexico, a cliff that sits in the middle of 160 acres of spectacular land that she purchased in 2011, not even two years after our work sessions began. Her cliff, her land, her 15 year plan made a reality in a matter of months!
This isn’t magic, it’s business (which you can of course choose to make magical). Whether you’re a meditation guru, the head of a non-profit changing the world (or your neighborhood), the proprietor of a yoga studio, a law firm or a multinational, you’re in the business of something.
It’s time to rethink your story, embrace your inner business woman and find the love.
This is the story of how Dunya did it:
“By uniting the bones of my business with, rather than dividing them from, the creative blood and guts of my work.”
How will you?
Thank you for joining this great adventure and for sharing this with friends.
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