A Meditative Approach to Leadership & Decision Making: In Conversation with Kamlesh D. Patel, Global Guide of the Heartfulness Movement

A Meditative Approach to Leadership & Decision Making: In Conversation with Kamlesh D. Patel, Global Guide of the Heartfulness Movement

We requested 50 leading founders and CEOs to fill up The Smart CEO Questionnaire last year. In there, we had one question that threw out a very surprising response; The question was – Gut vs. Data, which do you rely on more? Over 42 CEOs said “Data, without a doubt.” Yet, almost everyone on the list followed that up with a caveat. “Gut does play a key role after analyzing the data.” 

The reality is, whether you admit or not, any decision-maker does make decisions based on “what he or she feels.” It is impossible to make decisions today solely based on data – both past data and even projected future data (Your ‘predictive analytics engine’ will tell you whatever you feel is right!). 

At Smart CEO, we believe a business leader certainly has the opportunity to shape millions of lives. These could be the lives of your employees, your customers, your key stakeholders or even people who admire and follow you. It is absolutely critical that you make responsible decisions – ones that consider the many plausible scenarios your decisions may impact.

Through this cover story, the question we’d like you to answer is this:

What should be your state of mind when you are making this call?

The answer – according to us – should be this: You have to be in a meditative state of mind.

What does this mean?

As a leader you have to be emotionally and mentally calm. You must have the ability to focus and think clearly without any distractions. You are not only thinking about yourself and your company, but also about others.

Quite obviously, all this is easier said than done.

Through this cover story with Kamlesh D. Patel – widely known as Daaji, the fourth guru in the Heartfulness lineage – we aim to spread awareness about the Heartfulness meditation technique, how daily meditation and practice can deliver a calm state of mind and why this can be a game changer to the way you approach decision-making in your business and life.

“Meditation is the only way of developing your inner self. You awaken your consciousness and you’re in harmony with yourself and the external world. It is the best way to regulate your mind and bring it to a focused level.”

Stumbling upon a wonderful book!

I first read in detail about Heartfulness through a book I stumbled upon at Crossword. The book – titled The Heartfulness Way – gave me the first insight into the practice of meditation using the Heartfulness Approach. It was authored by Daaji and Joshua Pollock and as a reader I enjoyed the way it was written. It was presented as a conversation between a Master and a Student – which certainly helped dumb down fairly complex topics of the mind and spirituality.

At the time, I had been practicing Mindfulness fairly regularly using various apps like Calm.com and Headspace (By the way, for our valuation junkies – Calm.com hit a valuation of a USD 1 billion earlier this year!). These apps were mostly focused on breathing techniques and certainly helped with calming the mind. In fact, mindfulness as a concept has become mainstream in several business ecosystems, especially Silicon Valley.

The Heartfulness Way taught me a new technique – focusing on the heart while meditating. You sit in a comfortable posture, in silence and a relaxed frame of mind. You then start meditating by focusing on the heart, while imagining a source of light flowing through your heart. You meditate with the mindset of joy and happiness, with no expectations, for about thirty minutes. (I’d recommend that you read the book by Daaji or watch masterclasses on YouTube to get a more detailed, accurate explanation).

I toggled between Calm.com and Heartfulness meditation for a few weeks and, to say the least, it certainly was a joyful experience (whenever I had the discipline to do it!).

Meeting with Daaji

I discussed this experience of meditating (with the Heartfulness technique) with my brother and a dear friend in Dubai. This person – a leading global banker – had been practicing Heartfulness for a while and is also a Heartfulness Trainer. For several years now, he has experienced the benefits of meditation.

Meditation guided by Daaji at a Conference for CEOs and Business Leaders

He was kind enough to invite me to a meeting and conversation with Daaji at Kanha Shanti Vanam in the suburbs of Hyderabad. I told him about my brief stint with Heartfulness meditation and had a ton of questions.

In this article, I’ll share a few insights drawn from this conversation, more details about the Heartfulness technique and, most importantly, how leaders can potentially be more meditative and “heartful” in their approach to decision-making.

A 3-Step Daily Routine

The Practice of Heartfulness has 3-steps to it: Meditation, Cleaning and Prayer. I told Daaji about my tryst with Calm.com and requested him to explain the difference of the Heartfulness approach vis-a-vis mindfulness. There were two specific aspects he spoke about: One, the concept of transmission. By meditating on the heart, by feeling a connect with a divine source, we feel the positive energy being transmitted inward. The aspect of transmission makes a big difference to how we feel, explained Daaji.

Also, he spoke about the second aspect of Cleaning – which we practice every evening. “Cleaning is about our past impressions. We use a meditation technique to clean out our system of past impressions, biases, complexities and impurities.” And, then Prayer is something we do right before going to bed. It helps us sleep well; without the burden of any issues we may have picked up during the day. (Again, please view the Masterclass on Cleaning on YouTube).

A meditative leader will have the energy to look inward and not worry about the “outside”.

At the time I met Daaji, I hadn’t practiced Heartfulness as much. I will admit I am still a novice, but I have had the benefit of regular practice over the last month and a half. It is a very personal experience – one that cannot be easily explained. But, as a founder, as an entrepreneur, as a person – I’ve become way more calm, empathetic and relaxed!

Daaji says, “Meditation is the only way of developing your inner self. You awaken your consciousness and you’re in harmony with yourself and the external world. It is the best way to regulate your mind and bring it to a focused level.”

The Meditative Leader

Recently, Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in a four-hour fifty-seven-minute, nail biting Wimbledon final. In fact, Federer had a championship point yet Djokovic came back from behind to win the title. A few days later, Djokovic spoke about how his daily meditation practice had helped him immensely through the years. “It puts me in an optimal state of mind with peace and calm,” he said, in an interview with Vice Media a few days after the finals.

In the world of sports, meditation has gone mainstream. Chicago Bulls has been using meditation and related techniques for several years now. In fact, reports suggest that they meditate as a team before games. PV Sinthu spoke about her experience with Heartfulness meditation after winning gold at the BWF World Championships recently.

Of course, the world of sports is different. Loss of focus, even for a moment, can cost a championship. Imagine if Djokovic had lost concentration when Federer had that championship point.

In the world of entrepreneurship and business, we have the luxury of time. At least, we don’t have to worry about split second decision-making. But, by being meditative, by being contemplative, quality of decision-making goes up several notches. You approach to working with your people, how you communicate, your view of the world at large – everything changes for the better.


After A Conference On Heartfulness Meditation Co-Hosted By Heartfulness Institute And IIM Bangalore  

Daaji, in his inimitable style, explains the benefit very directly. “Imagine, you’ve a smartphone with a ton of apps open. And, you’ve another one with only one app running. Which phone will drain faster? Obviously, the one with multiple apps open. Your mind is no different.”

“When we have a goal, restrain yourself within the resources available. Don’t go here and there and waste your energy,” he explains. A heartful, meditative leader is also more receptive to feedback. Being in a contemplative state of mind allows one to become easy to work with.

Daaji is also convinced that the most successful managers will be ones who work alongside their colleagues, rather than a command and control approach. “In this case, you’ll learn what they need, you will have no ego, you’ll inspire them, and you’ll be able to converse with them in a friendly way.”

‘It is lonely at the top’ has become a phrase we all take for granted. CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders openly showcase their successes and strengths. They hide their fears and worries. Anxiety and depression have become epidemics. They read about “successes” of their peers and feel underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. The issue at hand – at the risk of possibly simplifying it too much – is this: stress levels have become unmanageable and expectations unrealistic. A meditative leader will have the energy to look inward and not worry about the “outside”. The key to happiness is to think of your “to do list” as a “duty” – something you must do – rather than as a “desire” – something you want. Additionally, a meditative leader will also be calm after big wins and successes.

The core goal of a Meditative Leader revolves around the concept of happiness. “We all want happiness, right. At a physical level, we call it pleasure. At a mental level, we say happiness. And at a spiritual level, we call it bliss. It is possible to have all three when the mind is in harmony. And that is possible when we are meditative, and we look inward,” explains Daaji.

Personally, with the Heartfulness meditation technique I’ve found two distinct advantages. One, meditating on the heart, takes away the focus from the mind. It makes it easier to focus inwards. Two, the process of cleaning is supremely useful – it literally cleans your mind – just the way you wash your hands after touching dirt.

At the end of the day, meditation is a very personal experience. At the risk of sounding preachy – let me just say this: daily practice is the key to feeling its benefits. Do give Heartfulness Meditation a shot. A recession is a good time to start!

Prem Sivakumaran is co-founder & CEO of Growth Mechanics, a leadership and entrepreneurship-focused business content company in India. Growth Mechanics publishes The Smart CEO, a publication focused on enabling peer-to-peer knowledge exchange among C-level executives and board members. The platform reaches over 1.2 lakh CXOs across its website, app, print publication & CEO Round Tables, and has featured on the cover India’s leading business leaders/founders from Infosys, Mindtree, Tata Sons, ICICI Bank, Biocon, Yes Bank and several others. In addition of Smart CEO, Growth Mechanics also organises the Startup50 Conference & Awards, an annual event to recognize India’s top 50 startups every year. Startup50 Alumni include Freshdesk, Oyo Rooms, Urban Ladder, Capital Float, Paperboat Beverages, among others. Growth Mechanics’ primary business model revolves around linking CXOs and Brands around engaging content and has worked with India’s leading companies including Mahindra Group, Godrej & Boyce, BASF, Airtel, Tata Docomo, Fiat, IDA Ireland, Yes Bank, Prestige Estates, Frederique Constant, Indian Terrain