Being True With Tami Simon
The road towards self-awareness and self-improvement is roughly challenging. But it is incumbent upon each one of us to do the inner work that it takes to get to where we want our lives to be. Katherine Twells sits down with the founder of Sounds True, Tami Simon, who discusses the benefits of meditation, mindfulness and self-management. Tami talks about how being cognizant of what our bodies are telling us helps build emotional intelligence and develops interpersonal skills, allowing you to become the best leader you can be in your field. This episode is a must for people looking to improve their inner values and unlock their fullest potential to be in service to the world.
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Being True With Tami Simon
Doing The Inner Work To Reflect A More Beautiful Outer World
I have the great honor of bringing the wisdom of Tami Simon to the show. Tami is the Founder of Sounds True, a multimedia publishing company dedicated to disseminating spiritual wisdom. Sounds True has published over 800 audio, video, music, and book titles along with courses and events. A two-time winner of the Inc. 500 award for the fastest-growing privately held companies, Sounds True is widely recognized as a pioneer in providing life-changing practical tools that accelerate personal growth and transformation. In addition to being the Publisher and CEO of Sounds True, Tami hosts a weekly podcast series called Insights at the Edge in which she interviews Sounds True authors about the growing edge of their life and work.
She is also the Lead Architect of the Inner MBA, a nine-month immersion program to train leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, and employees on how to grow themselves and their companies powerfully. You will know in our conversation that Tami is so passionate about doing our inner work to create changes in the outer world. Her story is one of following her own authentic path to a place where she models what it means to be in service to the whole. Her vision is to create shifts in consciousness that unlock our greatest human capacities to love and serve. Please enjoy the conversation with the amazing Tami Simon.
Tami, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I’m grateful.
It’s my absolute pleasure.
In every single show, I start with the beginning so that we understand the origin and how it all happened. I know from doing my homework on you that you were only 22, it was 1985, you had a dream, a tape recorder, and then the rest was history. We’re going to get into what happened after that. What was it about your experiences when you were young that created that dream within you?Businesses are powerful vehicles of service. Click To Tweet
My childhood was mostly characterized by me feeling alienated to be truthful and alone. I felt like I was somehow dropped out of the sky from another planet into my family. I looked around and said, “What’s going on around here? Who are these people? How did I get here? What’s happening?” It was when I started reading books, Demian and Siddhartha, those were books by Herman Hesse and then books by Alan Watts also. That was when it all started opening up for me that there was a homecoming that was possible for me in mystical literature. I was like, “I’ll put these books under my pillow at night.” I was like, “Somehow, I belong with the people who wrote these books. I don’t belong in this family.”
I decided I would go to college to become a Philosophy Major because I thought, “If I were a Philosophy Major, I would be studying the meaning of life.” Before you know it, I ended up in the Religious Studies Department. It’s a long story, but it all came from this hunger in me. I can think back to when I read Siddhartha for the first time and I heard that story of the river. He was sitting by a river and listening to a river. In the river, he heard all of life as one interconnected whole. I thought, “That’s what means the most to me. That’s what I want. I want to know that. I want to feel, and hear it in each moment.” That became the guiding principle in my life.
Tami, we talked about what you do in the world and how sometimes you feel like it’s crazy one is doing all these things in the world. It is interesting. Many years ago, I did a project and I was interviewing mission-based leaders similar to what you’re saying with their origin stories. What was very interesting was every single one of them came from a place where they either felt they did not belong or there was dysfunctional family dynamics. It’s something that created this very different fire in the belly. It’s a very different inner guidance to go in a different direction. We all seek to belong externally, but many of us might feel internally that we’re different. It’s fascinating how that does shape us. It’s almost like we come into the world with this disposition no matter what family we’re in. We’re going to do what we’re going to do.
For me, it was when I discovered the practice of meditation, which is what happened when I was in the Religious Studies Department. There was somebody teaching there, Gunapala Dharmasiri, who was on a one-year Fulbright Scholarship at Swarthmore. He taught us how to meditate. In learning that practice, that was when finally I felt like I belong to use the word that you used in my own skin. I was like, “I’m okay. I can breathe in and out. With the exhalation, I can touch that feeling of eternity. I belong here.” That was when I gave my life to introducing as many people as possible to practices like meditation and other contemplative practices that would give them their own inroad the way that meditation provided an inroad for me.
Disseminate Spiritual Wisdom
You have definitely chosen a life of service to others. Your impact has been huge by all the ripple effect of what Sounds True is created. A lot of people reading this will be very familiar with Sounds True, but there may be some who aren’t. Can you take a moment and ground us on your company, the mission of your company, and what you’re doing in the world?
The gift the universe gave me when I was 21 years old was these three words, “Disseminate. Spiritual. Wisdom.” I say it’s a gift because I didn’t dream it up. I didn’t sit there writing things down on a list or something. It came to me. When I heard the words, I knew this was exactly what I was supposed to do. I started with audio because one, it was a very inexpensive medium to work with and two, I had a radio show. It was a volunteer show at KGNU Boulder County Community Radio. I was interviewing spiritual teachers to try to get the kind of education I didn’t feel I could get in an academic setting. People liked my interview show and they asked for copies. I would sell in my little dubbing deck cassette copies for $10. A good week would be four copies were sold.
I had this extremely little cottage business, this vision of disseminating spiritual wisdom, and a small amount of money I inherited when my father died, $50,000, which with the inflation now would be more like $200,000. I had this money to disseminate spiritual wisdom and I loved the radio. I started with audio. Over the years, Sounds True expanded. We developed a healing music library from all over the world that we distributed. Also, instructional videos because some of the spiritual practices like Qigong and African Healing Dance were best communicated in a video format. We expanded into books. We have 50 new books that we publish each year and we’ve published hundreds of books. We’re distributed by Macmillan. We also offer online learning programs and certification training programs. It’s a whole suite of disseminating spiritual wisdom through many different kinds of media formats.
Tami, back in the ’80s, you said people liked hearing the show and they wanted copies. You already started to see this interest. Now, you hear about mindfulness and meditation. It’s very mainstream. It used to be when you were a meditator. It was like, “What is that? That’s a weird thing.” How do you see the change in the general market as people are starting to understand the value of wisdom versus in the ’80s and how it was then?
It was a huge change. When I started, my parents were like, “Is she joining the Hare Krishna? Yoga, meditate, what’s going on? She’s chanting. What’s happening here?” It was that weird. The language that I used at the time was there’s outer religion and then the mystical dimension of all of the spiritual paths. We’re going to bring forward the mystical dimension. People don’t even resonate that much anymore with the notion of the traditional religions and their mystical paths. What they’re more interested in is the neuroscience of wellbeing, how meditation changes our chemistry in our brain. There’s been an adoption into the mainstream culture of what a lot of these contemplative practices were back in the ’80s embedded in spiritual traditions. Now, they’re part of our culture. They’re part of how we exist in order to have optimal wellbeing. That’s a huge shift.
There is a ton of science. We’re all wired differently. For some of us, we need science in order to be like, “I think there’s something there.” That has shifted the narrative further along as we’ve done so much neuroscience about what the impact is on our health and wellbeing, especially as the world has gotten crazier and faster.If you’re going to be true, it has to be an inner blossoming, not an external kind of mimicry. Click To Tweet
One of the trainers in Sounds True’s Inner MBA program, which is a new development. It’s a nine-month training program to help people learn the inner wisdom skills that help you in business and with outer success. Scott Shute is one of the core faculty members. He’s the Head of Mindfulness and Compassion Training at LinkedIn. One of the things Scott says that he uses as the metaphor for bringing in Mindfulness And Compassion Training into business is, “Look at where we were decades ago when it came to physical fitness. Science showed us that working out helps your brain function and helps you think more clearly and be in a better mood. Therefore, treat other people with more respect and receptivity.” Now, we have gyms. Businesses and people will say, “You need to go out for a run first before work. Please, go get your run.”
That is a perfect analogy for where we are with mindfulness now. Now, that there’s the science that says, “When you have a mindfulness practice, your brain is going to function differently. You’re going to be able to focus better. You’re going to be less reactive. You’re going to have more of a quality and spacious presence when you’re interacting with other people.” It’s like, “Now, we can use some of the space in these gyms that so many different companies built to have mindfulness training taking place in the gym because the science is there.” You don’t have to make some huge argument about human nature. It’s not a mystical argument. It’s a scientific argument.
The Inner MBA
We get into Cognitive Behavioral Science with some of this. As you mentioned LinkedIn, the tech companies, I think about Google and some of the others have been on the front end of this talking about the power of this within their companies. I would love to go a little deeper into the Inner MBA. First of all, I love the name because everyone knows what an MBA is and then you automatically say, “It’s the inner work.” I believe that if you train to be a life coach or business coach, one of the first things they’re going to do is have you do your own inner work. In order to guide others, you have to be aware. You have to have an awareness of your own beliefs, patterns, triggers, and all things that will come into play. Share more about the Inner MBA. How did that idea after all the years of Sounds True come together? Share more about the structure of it.
Part of the beginnings of the Inner MBA came from a friendship that I have with Soren Gordhamer, who’s the Founder of Wisdom 2.0, which is a conversation that takes place at the nexus of technology, culture change, and wisdom. He and I were talking about how Sounds True and Wisdom 2.0 could partner together to make an impact within businesses. What I knew was that if Sounds True was going to bring forth anything that would be of value, it would have to be on the deep, personal change front. At the end of these nine months of training, you yourself are a different person than you were when you started. It’s not just that you’ve learned certain techniques or you’re doing something differently, but the platform of awareness and how you operate is different.
First of all, you’re no longer identified with your thinking mind as who you are. For a lot of people, that is a huge first step. We think where that narrative inside our head. We are so identified with it. When you can step away for a moment and become the witness of your thinking mind and emotions that come and go like wave patterns and you can start to live as that awareness, things start to change. We’ve created the curriculum as three trimesters. The first one is all about this first step of coming into a place of awareness and then learning how to manage yourself. Often, we’re so busy managing other people, situations, our business deals, and all these other things. We’re outside managing something.
If you start to say, “I’m going to spend a big part of my attention on self-management. What’s going on for me right now? Why am I being so aggressive in this meeting? What’s going on here? Why am I zoned out? Where am I?” This is all still in the first trimester. There’s a segment on emotional intelligence and starting to understand how this deciding difference once we share skillsets. What makes the true superior team player is their emotional intelligence and a commitment to developing that. The whole second trimester is on our interpersonal skills. How do we listen? How do we learn to come forward and share vulnerably? Part of what I saw in the Inner MBA program was a lot of people had said, “I have a tendency to hold back. I’m not going to have that brave conversation. I’m not going to say that thing.”
Starting to explore within the program, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to have the courage to do it. I have the skills now. I know how to say something in a way that’s not going to be a grenade in the room. It’s also something important to me. That part of tuning in to my deepest values and living them at work is being someone who’s self-expressed at work, not hidden and holding back.” The whole second trimester is about this development of our interpersonal capacities and also learning to honor how unique we each are and starting to learn, “Who’s this person I’m talking to? They’re different than me. They think differently. They have a whole different approach. What if their approach was equally valid to mine? We need both of our approaches and the other people in the room too in order for us to accomplish great work.”
The final trimester has to do with, “Once we know what our inner values are, making sure they’re baked into our organizations, so our organizations become living expressions of who we are on the inside so that we in our organizations fit.” As a result, I believe we’ll start to see businesses making different kinds of impacts in the world. My deep goal is that business becomes a healing force. A force that is helping to evolve the culture, not one that is taking from others in the environment. You mentioned this deep service mission inside me. Businesses are powerful vehicles of service and so making sure that our organizations function that way.
There’s so much that you said that is powerful. There are a few roads I want to go down from that. One is a comment on the business. The term conscious capitalism came out years ago. I think about our own journey within The Coca-Cola Company. When I think about the things that we do across the globe around the community in creating unity and giving back, there’s a narrative there that we don’t often speak about but so much is about accountability to be a global force for good. Whether it is around driving the plastic conversation and the recycle conversation to how we bring communities together or entrepreneurship for women. All of that is critical. In some of the early days of interviewing these mission-based entrepreneurs, there was this feeling of us and them. The small startups that are going to change the world and then there are the big companies. There’s a role for everybody in transforming who we are and what we do. It’s a super powerful narrative.
That’s an important point. I want to add something to that, which is part of my inspiration around the Inner MBA. I met certain people who would espouse the values of conscious capitalism, but I didn’t have the sense that they were working on themselves and with their emotional makeup. You could be in a meeting and feel like, “That conscious capitalist person dominated the entire meeting. He wasn’t interested in me. He didn’t care about what my feelings were. He was in love with their global change agenda.” What’s going on here? Why aren’t people willing to look inside as much as outside? That’s a little bit of my little Tami soapbox thing because here’s what I believe. How we treat each other is the singular most important thing to the kinds of changes that we’ll be able to create.
If we go for the macro and we miss the micro, we miss not only the most important thing but something each one of us has the ability to impact every day in our interactions. It’s every day. It’s holding the door open for somebody. It’s thanking somebody. It’s the power of listening to the people you work with. That is huge, hearing their real needs. Within a large company, you have the advantage of having thousands of people who can become these living expressions of human goodness towards each other. When we do that, then all the people we touch and get our products feel some of that. It’s embedded in our brand. It’s who we are. It gets baked into everything. It becomes this love mark of your business that is unstoppable and touches everyone. That’s a big part of what I’m trying to do, not just some kind of corporate policy thing for sustainability. I don’t know how else to put it, heart revolution, that then is unstoppable in everything we do.
You articulated that beautifully and passionately. I could not agree more. I know in one of the other conversations I had with a leader, he said, “You can only take your team as far as you’ve gone.” This platform of awareness that you’re talking about is powerful because we’ve all been in the conversation or the meeting where we got triggered and upset. After it, it was like, “What happened?” We all know there are things driving us that we’re not aware of. Here’s the other thing. There are all kinds of people that will read this conversation. There are employees of The Coca-Cola Company. There are people outside the company, our partners, and someone who finds this conversation. Whether you’re a leader in business or not, the world is changing.
As I think about the conversations I’m having now within my team, a lot is about social justice and everyone’s personal experiences, “How do they feel seeking to understand and create bridges?” We’ve got so much divide in our world, “It’s this group and there’s that group.” Only through our inner work can we start to build bridges. I’ve quoted this before, “If we all sweep our own porch, the whole world would be clean and that is being close to home.” If you talk about emotional intelligence, it’s so critical now. Talk more about how we have to navigate in order to build bridges.
I’ll share a story with you that’s occurring to me. I was interviewing Daniel Goleman, who wrote the book Emotional Intelligence and teaches that module in the Inner MBA. I said, “Give me an example of a terrific, emotionally intelligent leader that you know. I want to know how does this person operate.” He proceeded to tell me the story about a New York City bus driver. I was surprised. This bus driver greeted every single person who walked on his bus and said things like, “How are you doing? It’s a little bit hot out there, isn’t it? What do you get going on?” Daniel remarked that he was in a snarky mood himself that it was such a hot sweaty August, New York City day. Suddenly, with the kindness of this gentleman, he looked up. He’s greeting every single person who comes onto the bus.
That was the person that Daniel Goleman identified as an emotionally intelligent leader. I say that because whatever role we have in an organization, we have the capacity to be that emotionally intelligent leader. We have no idea the kind of impact that it makes on other people. We think it’s little and it’s that, “This other person is doing some big thing. They’re writing the thing that 10,000 people read.” We don’t know how the way that we reached out to that person will have a ripple effect in the world. It’s powerful and completely under our control. I agree with you about sweeping our own porch, but I would take it further and say, “Go sweep your neighbor’s porch, too. It only takes a few seconds. Your porch is cleaned first. Do that first. That’s good. Go sweep a neighbor’s porch and then sit back, enjoy the day and feel it. Feel your connection with other people.”
I love your passion because it’s coming through in everything that you do. This is such a critical conversation for everyone to read. We’ve all heard those stories of a teenager who was contemplating ending their life. They were having a terrible time. Someone walks home with them that day and says something that changes everything. The person who said that may never know that the other person was thinking that and they changed the entire trajectory of their lives. I talk a lot about the fact that we’re in an ecosystem.
All organizations and companies are an ecosystem. We’ve had a huge reorganization at Coke to become more networked, far less hierarchy, and more about how we all co-create things together. When you know you’re in an ecosystem like in nature, the smallest organism has an impact on the entire thing. When we realize that it does not matter to your point what our role is, whether we are a leader of a great team or an individual who is trying to do our best day in and day out, we can have a giant impact on the people who we work with.
I love the ecosystem model. Part of the reason so many people in the Inner MBA came to this point where they said, “I’m going to have to speak up more. I’m going to have to bring myself forward more.” It’s because they saw that they were in the ecosystem and somehow, their natural light wasn’t shining and impacting the ecosystem as much as it could. It was as simple as, “I think I’m going to, as a volunteer, offer to do a meditation program over here to see who shows up. Maybe only three people will show up but we’ll do a seven-day meditation challenge every Friday for seven weeks and see who shows up.” People started coming forward and bringing their gifts forward to their ecosystem. That’s what makes the ecosystem vibrant and healthy. If there’s only a small part of the web that’s lit up and other people are disengaged. It’s not a very vibrant web. It takes all of us.
It’s the power of that one person doing that. Certainly, in the corporate domain, we are trying to overcome old patterns of conforming to a group thing versus expressing your individuality and bringing those gifts into that. What I would love to talk and go deeper about now is integrity. This connects to the integrity of showing up to be in our truth and service to the ecosystem that we’re a part of. You said something, “Over time, I learned that the best books and teachers pointed us inward to our own experience. This is where we can find our greatest sense of aliveness and purpose.” You’ve articulated that in a lot of your comments. In addition to all the things, you wrote several books. One of the books that you wrote was Being True. You talked about five keys for living in integrity and how important it is that we’re in integrity as we talk about sweeping our porch and being true. Can you dive a little deeper into the importance and the power of being in our integrity?
First of all, we’re each wired however we’re wired. One of the weird things about me that I discovered early on is that the single most important thing to me is to feel at home in myself and not feel that I’m at odds with myself. That is a form of being in integrity. I call it being true to myself. What’s interesting is people will tell you they’ve done a lot of studies of people at the end of their life who are facing a terminal illness. They’re in hospice and they’ll say things like, “I wish I had followed my true promptings more or listened to my heart more.” I don’t know. Maybe it was because, quite honestly, from a very young age, I was attracted to people of the same sex, as well as people of the opposite sex.
From a very young age, I was like, “In order to be true to myself, I’m not going to fit the conventional norms.” Back in the ’70s when this was becoming alive for me, it was scary and risky. I was like, “You can’t deny when you’re attracted. You can’t push that kind of thing down and be a full person.” There was that and then there was the fact that I didn’t think like academics taught, even though I loved learning. That was a huge thing. I was like, “I love learning more than anything else.” All Sounds True is about is learning and sharing our learning with other people. I don’t think academically. I don’t think in terms of dissecting things into analytical frameworks. I’m looking more for inner revelation and inspiration. I was like, “I’m not an academic, but I love learning. I’m a lesbian. What am I going to do with myself?” I have to be me. That’s it. I have to be true.
When I made this little series of an audiobook called Being True, I thought to myself, “What’s my method for being true?” I thought, “The first thing is accepting the fact that there’s only one of me.” This is a huge idea for all of us that there’s only one of you. You can look outside for examples and role models, but at a certain point, you got to drop it because nobody else was born to your parents at your time with your specific starlight shining on you and inheritance from gosh knows what before it came into your birth. That’s it. You’re unprecedented as you are. You have to take your cues from the inside. You can get all these great ideas from the outside, but eventually, it has to be an inner blossoming, not an external kind of mimicry if you’re going to be true.Being kind and compassionate to ourselves is non-negotiable. Click To Tweet
The second thing is a willingness to let go of all your reference points because as long as you keep your reference points going, “So-and-so said it’s supposed to be like this. I read in this great book it was supposed to be like that,” then you’re not able to be informed by a vast unknown possibility of unlimited potential. You’ve limited your potential as soon as you attach yourself to a reference point. You let go of your reference points. One of the ways I think about that is going into the darkness. It’s utterly dark. You don’t turn on any lights. There’s only one of you. You’re going inside. You’re going into a place where you’re going to drop all the known. It’s completely unknown now.
The third part of this, and this is what’s so interesting, is that something will emerge. I guarantee it. You may have to wait a little while. Who knows? If you do that and sit in that space, rest in that space, dream in that space, walk in that space, talk to rocks in that space and then listen to rocks in that space, if you stay in that world, something will emerge as a kind of directionality for you that’s unique to you that’s your soul’s calling. It will happen. Fourthly, you have to listen to it. Often, when you listen to it, it requires courage. It requires you not to go with the conventional norm. Who knows what it is? You have to have the courage to follow it.
Finally, be in a living dialogue with your life because as we follow these directions that come from inside, we get immediate feedback, “Yes. No. That’s great. I don’t think so. Do that again.” You understand that everything is alive. The moment is fomenting with information that will come back to you in some form. You’re listening. You’re not like, “I’m going to do this thing.” You’re in this very creative process with life. You rinse and repeat and do this again and again. Before you know it, you’re living a very unique one of a kind life for you that feels true.
Tami, I think you’ve given everyone this beautiful blueprint to do this. Here are a couple of things that came up for me as you were talking. One is, I have twin boys who are fifteen. They’re emerging into, “Who am I? What do I want to be?” We went to a soccer game and took one of their friends. I was meeting this new friend of theirs for the first time. This young man was, “I’m going to go to Stanford. I’m going to do this. I’m very clear about what I want to do.” I talked to my boys. I was like, “What are you interested in?” They were like, “We don’t know.” I could feel the pressure as their counselors at school and the teachers are starting to say, “You need to know who you’re going to be.” They don’t know.
I think about what you said about going into the darkness and being able to listen. I’m sure there are people who are listening to our conversation who are maybe 50 years old and they’re saying, “I still don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” You meet those people in your life who said, “No, this is who I am.” I think there’s a lot in our world that blocks the process. We want to go numb out and binge-watch Netflix. We’re going to do what we’re going to do because we don’t want to think about it. What would you say to those people reading our conversation who don’t know?
First of all, it’s a never-ending process. It’s not like, “I started Sounds True. It’s over and done. Great. Now, it’s a cakewalk.” This idea of being true, it’s daily. We’re always emerging into a new form of life. The first thing is, it’s ongoing. I remember this very successful CEO who I spoke to. I won’t even mention her name for the sake of this example. She said, “I’m looking for my purpose.” I was like, “You’re looking for your purpose. You have a $500,000 million company that you started. How could you be looking for your purpose?” She was like, “It’s not alive anymore for me, Tami. That doesn’t feel vibrant. That’s not moving me. I need to know what’s my next purpose.” That’s the first thing.
Also, I heard something in your question like, “Look at those people out there.” That’s part of the problem. The problem is that we’re looking out there and comparing ourselves to other people. Cut that out. It’s not useful. You don’t know what’s going on with those people anyway. You don’t know what struggles they’re going through and how potentially meaningless they think their lives are at 2:00 in the morning. Drop that and instead put your energy inside and see what you want to when you wait in that space. What comes forward that feels yummy? It’s like, “I want that. That’s good.” You can feel, in it some way, that it connects to the lives of other people and benefits other people as well. It’s something about that yummy feeling.
It doesn’t have to benefit a lot of people. It could benefit your partner, kids, or neighborhood. It could benefit the cleanliness of your house. It feels good and right inside you. There’s some way that it also is touching and bringing value and service. You keep doing that and don’t measure it. I think our problem is we have these weird measuring tools like, “Is it going to make me a lot of money? Is it going to make me famous? Is it going to make other people think I’m cool?” Skip all that. It doesn’t matter. First of all, you become contented, which is so rare in our culture and the thing of ultimate value. You also become a light in the world. You become a kind of light by following your yummy. I’ve never used that word before. It’s occurring to me maybe because I had an extra delicious breakfast. Anyway, follow the yummy.
I already see t-shirts, “Following the yummy. Follow your yummy.” That is perfect because we do overcomplicate it. As we talk about an ecosystem and comparing all this to nature, it’s like, “What makes you feel alive?” The nature of expansion is feeling alive. To that story of the CEO, she wasn’t feeling that sense of aliveness. Whatever that is, that’s what we follow. Joseph Campbell says, “Follow your bliss.” It’s that yummy, bliss state because so often we grow up thinking, “Work needs to feel hard. It needs to be difficult because then I’m trudging through.” Be joyful. There can be so much joy.
There’s this interesting thing because it’s an interesting balance to me. In a way, it’s a little paradoxical. On the one hand, there’s your bliss and personal yummy. Whatever you want to call it, what makes you feel most alive? There are the things in the world that you care a lot about, the things that break your heart open that you want to give your life to change. For example, when I shared with you how painful it was for me to meet various people who were espousing the conscious capitalist thing but weren’t looking inward to their own behavior, consciousness, and ways of relating, it made me angry. That’s another thing. It either breaks your heart or makes you angry. I often get angry before I discover that my heart is broken underneath. It doesn’t matter. You connect to that. You become part of solving that as well as bringing your vital expression to it. That connection is so important because then we’re using our gifts and talents to solve social problems. That’s what we’re meant to do as human beings, to lift everyone up with us.
I think what you’re saying is we’ve got this individual work of our porch and we’re looking inside but never to a point of not realizing we’re connected to the whole because that inner work is what is fueling the whole. If we think about the pandemic, dramatic emotion around social justice, and all that is still remaining. We’re still working our way out of this. The world is trying to figure out how to open up. We’re trying to figure out how to understand the divide or expand our consciousness. How do you feel that this time has changed us? I know you and your company have personally taken a lot of actions and the Inner MBA was born from this time. What else can you share about how you think we’re moving as a collective?
A Huge Time Of Transformation
I believe we have the opportunity to be in a huge time of transformation and that we need to have this time be a huge time of transformation. Many people think we have a limited number of years before the climate crisis will create such damage to the human species. Some people believe we won’t even continue and that we’ll face a potential sixth extinction here on earth. It’s a critical time for us to uplevel who we are. It’s not business as usual on planet earth. Business as usual, meaning this is about shareholder return and me making sure I’m getting what’s mine. It’s over. We’re at the beginning of this new emergent that says, “Businesses are here for social good. That’s why we are here.” We are here to solve problems, meet human needs, and in the course of our day, have our business be a crucible for our own growth and development.
Why is it a crucible for our own growth and development? Because our life is a crucible for our growth and development and we’re spending our life with these other people. We are agreeing to help each other. We help each other by giving each other good love, encouragement, support for our self-care, wellbeing, sharing our wisdom, and giving each other difficult feedback saying the stuff to this person, “It’s time that you wake up and smell the coffee. Everybody has been talking about it. Now, we’re going to talk to you about it.” When we devote ourselves to this growth, development, and our businesses to bringing real value to the world, then we’re part of this time of transformation. We’re out of business as usual, which is what this time is about.
Tami, you said about walking into the darkness and listening. In so many ways, I feel like this time has been dark. It is requiring us to listen very deeply to what is being asked of us on the planet here as a part of this whole connected ecosystem that we are. I think your words are very powerful and true that we are accountable. We are accountable for our part in all of this. Going back to the integrity conversation, how will we show up in our full integrity to shape what’s going to happen in the future because we’re all going to do it together?Stop identifying with the thinker inside your head. Pay attention to the feeling of your inner body. Click To Tweet
When it comes to something like integrity, it’s about you looking in the mirror, looking at you and saying, “How are you doing? Where am I off? What do I need to change? Do I have the guts to change it? Why not? Why don’t I do a little thing? Why don’t I do one step?” The interesting thing is you start doing a little step. The little step could be like, “I’m going to do something good for my body. I’m going to stretch for ten minutes. I’m going to do some deep breathing.” It doesn’t have to be big. The thing that’s so cool is that one step leads to another step. Before you know it, you are somewhere new.
I know Kaizen talks about that little by little. I think the journey we’ve talked about a lot in our conversation that this is all a practice. It’s not, “I’ve arrived. I just went to this training class and now I have it all figured out.” It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 55. You’re emerging. You’re constantly learning and growing. There’s a compassion for the path because I also know people where their inner critic is so loud. “I’m not doing enough. That’s not good enough. I have to do better.” If your intentions are about this growth and awareness, then you can be gentle with yourself. Have the grace for what you need and what others need because we’re all trying to walk this path into the right places.
Being kind and compassionate to ourselves is non-negotiable in a certain kind of way because if you want not to add negativity on top of negativity. We all have these patterns of this or that or, “This is when I’m hard on myself.” When you see that happen, that’s a choice point for you like the thing just happened. “I wished I had done this thing differently. I wished I had said it differently,” but then you have a choice point, “How do you act next?” In Buddhism, they call it the second arrow. The first arrow is this arrow of suffering that happened, but then the question is, “Do you take another arrow and shove it in?” It’s like, “Now, I’m going to put a second arrow in myself because I’m so upset that I’m suffering,” or do you say, “I’m not going to put a second arrow. In fact, this is my time to be kind towards myself like I would to any of my dear friends, the way I would listen to them and say, ‘it’s going to be okay.'” You start talking to yourself that way.
It’s a new habit that we can get into. I had to learn it. I’m a super high achiever. I had a vicious inner critic. If it wasn’t an A++, it might as well have been an F. This is not something that I came to naturally. I came to it through committing to the practice of it because I saw that I was stewing in what I’ll call unnecessary suffering. There’s a certain amount of suffering in our life that we can’t get around and avoid. It just happens. Loss of people we love and things like that. There’s unnecessary suffering. It was clear to me that I was adding unnecessary suffering to my life by throwing in that second arrow. I made a commitment to practice some basic self-kindness instead. This is one of the things I learned from Kristin Neff, who developed a whole training program on Mindful Self-Compassion.
If you can become aware of it, that’s the mindfulness part. The self-compassion part is you can put your hand on yourself if you want or on your face, even on your skin. It’s so powerful. It releases oxytocin throughout the whole body and you immediately move into a tend-and-befriend mode. You move into this mammalian caregiving system of tending and befriending yourself. You say kind words. You’re shifting your biology with oxytocin. You remember that this is a universal human experience that everybody goes through it. That’s it. Once you get into it, it’s not that hard, which is the cool thing. People can do it. You can do it.
I think we’ve learned through neuroplasticity we can shift and change. It’s powerful. I love what you’re talking about because I know so many people and I’ve been there myself that has that tough inner critic. One of my dear friends, Boyd Varty, talks about it. Very similar to the second arrow is clean pain and dirty pain. The clean pain is, “I stub my toe. It hurts.” The dirty pain is, “Why did I walk that way? Why did I do it that way?” You pile and add insult to injury. To your point, you’re adding negativity. What we need the most is to shine our light and not try to dim it out by self-deprecation.
You’ve been generous with your time. Everything you’re sharing is important and powerful for people to know. Your podcast, Insights at the Edge, which I have been a longtime listener and love it. You have interviewed amazing people from all different domains who have much wisdom to share. There’s a lot here. Is there some transformational wisdom that you’ve gained and already shared a lot but that you would want to leave everyone with like, “Here’s something I would like to tell my younger self or this is something that had a huge impact on all these conversations I’ve had?”
There are two things that occur to me. One is to share something about how I’ve learned to listen and I wonder if it’s helpful to people. When I’m done with an hour-long podcast hosting it, there are often lots of great insights, pieces of wisdom, and possibilities. I try to remember one thing that’s actionable that I’m going to do because I realized if I learn all these other things, they stay at the surface. I don’t make them real. If you’ve read one thing in this blog that is meaningful to you, focus on that and make it real in your life.
The second thing that occurs to me is I mentioned how we make a big step in our development when we stop identifying with the thinker inside our head as being who we are. People may be like, “Okay, but how do I do that?” I have this voice box inside my head that’s talking all the time. I’m not drawn to meditation or maybe I’ve done some meditation but I still identify with the thinker. What do I do? How do I enter this “platform of awareness” as a person? My suggestion is simple. It’s to pay attention to the feeling of your inner body.
This is what Eckhart Tolle teaches. It’s not hard and you can start to sense it. It’s simply that buzzing aliveness that’s inside the frame of who you are. Maybe you feel that buzz in your hands, inside your torso or legs, or it’s not quite like a buzz but you feel that. Drop your thinking self. Drop into your belly, body, hands, and feet. Be with that feeling without thinking. Spend as much time as you can like that because the more we do that, the more we know ourselves as cosmic beings informed all the time by this unlimited potential of life that wants to move through us and serve others.
Tami, I cannot think of a better place to leave this conversation. I want to thank you for taking the time to share this, all the work that you and your company does in the world, and for sharing so much rich conversation. It’s wise to try to remember one. I’m not sure which one I would even choose from this because there’s so much. From my heart, thank you for everything you’ve done.
Thank you. Thanks for your good work.
- Sounds True
- Insights at the Edge
- Inner MBA
- Tami Simon – LinkedIn
- Scott Shute – LinkedIn
- Soren Gordhamer – LinkedIn
- Daniel Goleman – Previous episode on Insights at the Edge
- Emotional Intelligence
- Being True
- Mindful Self-Compassion
About Tami Simon
At age 22, Tami Simon started Sounds True, now a multimedia publisher, with a dream, a tape recorder, and a guiding mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom.
Over its 35-year history, Sounds True has produced over 3,000 titles, been nominated twice for the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing companies, and is North America’s leading publisher of spoken-word spiritual teachings.
One of the world’s very first organizations to focus on multiple bottom lines as part of its founding mandate, Sounds True has expanded steadily over the years while staying true to its original mission. Partnering with the leading spiritual teachers of our time, Sounds True now has a successful book publishing program (distributed by Macmillan), and has grown to produce events, certification programs, and transformational online learning experiences.
Tami hosts the popular Sounds True podcast, Insights at the Edge, which has now been downloaded more than 15 million times. She is also the founder of the new Sounds True Foundation, which is dedicated to bringing spiritual education to people who would otherwise not have access. She lives in Boulder, Colorado and in British Columbia with her wife, Julie Kramer, and their two spoodles, Raspberry and Bula.
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