Leadership Tips From a Mindful Former Monk

Communication is key to fostering a conducive workspace and culture.

Yes, I really did live as a monk for 15 years.

After what was supposed to be a month-long journey of self discovery at a monastery in India, I fell in love the serene lifestyle. That experience evolved into me spending the next decade and a half living as a monk. However, my abode wasn’t surrounded by mountains, rice fields and trees. The area I lived in was rich with bars, nightclubs and subway stations. My serenity was situated in the heart of New York City's East Village.

Now, post-monk life, I speak and share wisdom at meetings, conventions and conferences on the ideals of mindful leadership and the benefits fostering a conscious workplace culture.


While you can consistently flex your planning strategies to optimize the process, making thoughtful decisions is a skill of its own that needs to be developed, practiced and refined. One of the many essential qualities for mindful leadership is cognizance about our method of communication. Following are some key tips for more observant interactions that you can start implementing immediately.

1. Don’t Respond When You’re Angry

We're most likely to immediately respond to critical or negative emails. Our ego gets the best of us and we feel the need to defend our point of view. Oftentimes, though, we forget to consider the possible consequences of emotion-ridden responses.  

Rushed communication can lead to workplace conflicts. Even more, once the message has been sent, there’s no “undo” option. Instead of quickly defending your ground, try actively riding out the impulse to respond instantaneously. Let intense emotions sink in and subside (no matter how attacked you might feel).

2. Take a Moment (or Two or Three)

The best thing is to wait until we have attempted to understand the perspective of the colleague, attendee, supplier or cohort who sent the message. This can only be done after some time has passed and our anger has subsided to some degree. 

It helps to take a few deep breaths and if possible, go for a walk around the block to clear your head before responding. And remember, if a written response could be misunderstood and potentially escalate the situation, it might help to pick up the phone and calmly ask for clarification. You've probably heard of these methods before. The difference will be actually putting these practices in motion. 

3. The Two Ears, One Mouth Theory

Nature designed us with two ears and one mouth (and not the other way around). If we use these faculties in their designated proportions, our interactions could be greatly improved.

Instead of actively listening when others are sharing ideas, our minds are usually busy formulating responses before the other party has even finished talking. With active listening, we not only better understand their perspective, but also build trust and improve relationships for our own benefit.

Keep in mind that nature also arranged it so that our ears remain naturally open and our mouths naturally closed. Nature is definitely trying to tell us something.

4. Appreciate

There is no better way to build trust and strengthen camaraderie than by expressing appreciation for others' qualities and contributions. Small gestures of appreciation on a regular basis can go a long way in keeping vital employees and partners loyal to an organization. It makes them feel valued and creates positive engagement.

Aim to create a workplace culture where people are appreciating each other and are celebrating successes.

5. Breathe

Simple deep breathing exercises lower stress and anxiety and improve mood, focus and productivity. 

Before or after a meeting, take 10 deep breaths, feel grateful for something that’s happening in your life and try to appreciate two of your colleagues -- one that you get along with and one that you don’t. This will help shift your mindset from negative thinking to a more serene outlook.

You don’t need to become a monk to be mindful. Simply learning to manage our emotions, listening with attention, appreciating other’s success and regularly engaging in a few minutes of mindful meditation can gradually improve our mindset and foster positive workplace relationships for the long-term. 

About the author: Pandit Dasa is a mindful leadership expert, motivational keynote speaker and author who helps organizations improve employee engagement, retention and workplace happiness. He does this by inspiring his audiences to lead by example, appreciate the contributions of their colleagues, communicate mindfully and manage one’s emotions. He helps individuals develop positive leadership qualities, lower stress and anxiety, increase focus and productivity and boost emotional intelligence.

Dasa is represented by Marc Reede, president, Rave Reviews Speakers & Entertainment. To book Pandit Dasa and a number of other noteworthy speakers for your next event, visit the Rave Speakers website.