This post offers an example of a business person who incorporates stillness in his professional life. The example sheds light on the discipline of stillness and how the development of a contemplative mind can serve the professional and the organization.
Peter Ng Kok Song is an example of a business person who incorporates stillness in his professional life. Song was Chief Investment Officer of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation from 2007 until his retirement in 2013. Now he is a member of the board of several public and private companies and a respected speaker about the power of meditation. Song describes the discipline of stillness and how the development of a contemplative mind serves professionals and organizations. He has practiced stillness for over thirty years and reports that over time he has benefitted by becoming less distracted, more calm, focused and peaceful. Describing his radically simple practice, he adds that it is demanding and not easy to follow the discipline. Each morning and evening he sets aside twenty-five minutes to sit still, spine upright and repeat a word or mantra (Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University (2011). Song’s practice is grounded in the Christian contemplative tradition, drawing in particular from the teaching of the Benedictine monk John Main. He adds: “Meditation is a universal spiritual practice to be found in all the major world religions, and many people actually practice meditation in a secular context outside institutional religion” (Meditatio, 2012, p.3).
Song attributes to his practice of meditation and stillness to helping direct his focus away from self to the other. To incorporate stillness in professional life is not to focus solely on one’s individual life or role in the organization but to reclaim a greater sense of meaning and connection with the whole. Two consequences of excessive individualism during times of stillness are a skewed sense of reality and a disproportionate emphasis on self-fulfillment to the detriment of the common good. Freeman (2015) warns against mistaking excessive self-analysis for true interiority. This assertion is supported by contemporary Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor on the limits of individualism: “to shut out demands emanating beyond the self is precisely to suppress the conditions of significance, and hence to court trivialization” (1991, p. 40). In contrast, Song experiences greater ‘otherness’ and a path to significance and meaning through the practice of stillness.
In addition to having a renewed focus on the significant and connection with the whole or common good, Song attributes to his practice of stillness the benefit of cultivating increased clarity of mind and objectivity. He says he has better judgment due to increased emotional awareness and focus. This benefit of more clarity enables him to simplify the complicated to essentials while recognizing uncertainty. It also helps him powerfully during conflict since he is better able to disagree thoughtfully without getting anxious. Song asserts that practicing stillness has helped his overall wellness by harmonizing his emotions, intellect, body, personal and professional life. He concludes: “If you want to be a leader, this is an essential skill that you have to learn – meditation” (Freeman, 2019). Furthermore, the experience that stillness increases personal and professional wellness, particularly emotional awareness and clarity is supported by research (DeWees, 2019; Freeman, 2015, 2019; Holiday, 2019; Meditatio, 2012; Ying Gao, 2018).
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University (2011). The Business of Spirit: A Conversation on Meditation and Leadership. [online] berkleycenter.georgetown.edu. Available at: https://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/events/the-business-of-spirit-a-conversation-on-meditation-and-leadership [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].
DeWees, B.R. (2019). Essays on Judgment and Decision Making. [PhD Dissertation] pp.1–178. Available at: https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/42029732 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].
Freeman, L. (2015). The Selfless Self: Meditation and the Opening of the Heart. Norwich: Canterbury Press.
Freeman, L. (2019). Good Work: Meditation for Personal and Organisational Transformation. Singapore: Meditatio.
Holiday, R. (2019). Stillness is the key : an ancient strategy for modern life. London: Profile Books.
Meditatio (2012). The Business of Spirit. London: World Community for Christian Meditation.
Taylor, C. (1991). The malaise of modernity. Toronto, On: House Of Anansi Press.
Ying Gao, C. (2018). A Narrative Inquiry into Contemplative Leadership: Concepts, Characteristics, Challenges, Opportunities. [online] pp.1–269. Available at: https://scholar.google.ca/scholar?cluster=5419158117977677381&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&as_vis=1 [Accessed 20 Sep. 2020].