Warrior, Artist and Yogi – A Lesson in Balance

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Thich Nhat Hanh

While in France, I had the opportunity to meet and have a brief conversation with zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (nicknamed Thay by his sangha). After telling him about my hopes of affecting change and awareness with the environment and to a larger extent Zoetica, Thay said to me, “You must be part warrior, part artist, and part yogi.” Then he simply smiled at me.

Of course, like any novice, my unvoiced mental response to such a statement was, “Huh?”

But I think over the past weekend I finally understood the full impact of Thay’s words. The launch of Zoetica really drove it home.

Warrior: I got this part right off the bat. This is easy for me. Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a fighter. I get up no matter how hard life throws punches, and I know how to win.

Starting a company is an absolute war, even one with Zoetica’s mission of “providing superior communication consulting, training, and strategy to help mindful organizations affect social change.” You are pushing a big boulder up a massive mountain for years, literally. Last week we had a great start, and I am proud of our accomplishments, but it was just the beginning of what will be a very long journey, and I felt it by Friday (as I do this week, too!).

Going to “war” — even for good outcomes — drains your soul. Further, so many fighters for peace are unpeaceful inside. And what does that really mean? How can we give away what we don’t have? That’s where Thay’s other two suggestions come into play.

Artist: Art represents a human’s capture of that in life that fascinates their soul. In essence, art expresses a person’s interpretation of the beauty, in the moment. When we express beauty in life, we come to appreciate the joy of living, and that my friends is invaluable.

In that sense, to be balanced as an entrepreneur or someone trying to affect change, we cannot be all warrior. For then there will be no beauty and we become the fight itself: Anger, misery, outrage, and yes, hate. At that point, one must ask one’s self what they are fighting for? Is it to relieve the world of an ill, or to revisit a seed of the negative past and indirectly, replenish the seed transmitting its angst into others?

About 18 months ago, I engaged in painting and then photography in full. Also, at least one or two posts a week tends to be a creative experience. Beauty through art channels my soul back to the spiritual core of life, and reminds me why I am here, what I hope to achieve.

Yogi: OK, I think it’s important to define this word because there are many western misconceptions of it. A yogi practices yoga, which simply means, “any of the methods or disciplines prescribed, especially a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind, tranquillity, etc.”

I simply take this to mean one must engage in whatever spiritual activity it takes to become peaceful and loving in mind. Prayer, meditation, walking in nature, exercise, and even taking and editing photos. Whatever it takes to calm my mind.

The yogi part was the light bulb for me this weekend. Four years ago when I started Livingston Communications I fought and fought and fought until I dropped. Then when I recovered, I fought some more. This type of slog is the prescribed state of the American entrepreneur. Everything became about the company, and I had no balance in my life. It also made me pretty miserable after a while.

But to achieve my hopes with the environment, and on a larger scale our dreams with Zoetica, such behavior will not do. There must be balance. To help the world, to achieve the kind of result where we are truly benefitting others, I truly believe I must be a warrior for the beauty I appreciate in life everyday, and I must do so with peace in my heart and mind. For I cannot give away what I do not possess.

Warrior, Artist and Yogi really seems to be a prescription for spiritual balance. In that spirit, I spent much of last weekend practicing, and also editing photos. And hopefully as a result, my efforts this week yielded more peace with the effect of more positive change. Thanks, Thay.

16 Replies to “Warrior, Artist and Yogi – A Lesson in Balance”

  1. Ah yes, balance. Part of balance is also being okay with leaving some things undone, if only temporarily. I honestly see the difference in you – being I worked with you in both settings. Have a peaceful weekend.

  2. Beautiful and insightful post, Geoff. The “part artist” section reminded me of an interview I saw with Rainn Wilson – famous from The Office, but also the creator of a site called SoulPancake. Rainn said that within his faith (Baha’i), art is prayer. The way I see it, being in touch with your inner artist keeps you tapped into the source of all inspiration and creativity – which is crucial for business. This means not only producing, but also taking it in. Julia Cameron calls it “filling your well”. If all you do is produce art, content, ideas, whatever – you will eventually deplete yourself. You must also take the time to appreciate art, ideas, creativity, etc from the world around us (people and nature). The challenge is definitely how to balance those 3 elements on a daily/weekly basis. I hope you’ll write more about how you are able to achieve that balance as you grow Zoetica.

  3. I saw this link from Thay’s facebook fan page. I like your post very much. It was very well put and definitely gave a good me a good understanding of Thay’s comment to you. Thank you for posting this and I hope that this realization will help you and all those who read it and feel some inspiration. :)

  4. @flyinglady Yes, Thay means teacher. However a nickname is a name of affection for someone other than their real name. Thus you could call a doctor, Doc. In this sense it is both a nickname as well as a word meaning teacher.

  5. The description of Yoga you gave is for Hatha Yoga. Here is a more encompassing description:

    “The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means ‘to join’. Yoga is the science that teaches us the method of uniting the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, of merging the individual will in the Cosmic Will. To live in God, to commune with God is Yoga. Yoga is life in God, life in perfection, peace, lasting happiness and eternal Bliss. Life in God brings eternal Bliss. Yoga shows you the way, unites you with God, and makes you perfect and Immortal.”

    http://www.sivanandaonline.org/graphics/sadhana/YOGA/meaning.html

    Hatha Yoga is just one way of working towards accomplishing this union. There is also Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.

  6. With all due respect, Geoff, “Thay” means highly revered teacher. I don’t think anyone surrounding Thich Nhat Hanh would address him using a nickname. Unless it was his niece or someone very close to him, anyone else would view it as a sign of disrespect.

    In peace.

  7. Namaste! Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. While visiting South Florida, I had the chance to visit Temple Arts Finess in Davie, FL. They are absolutely fabulous and I had a wonderful experience. The members and teachers were absolutely welcoming. I wish I lived in the area so I could attend regularly. If you are in the area, definitely give them a call and take a class. They have wonderful energy to share and have alot to offer.

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