by Puja Dhyan Parsons
A few years ago I was privileged to be on a panel of CEOs at our annual SW Colorado Women’s Business Conference and asked “How do women do business differently than men.” Although the moment called a response from the three of us that invited us all to recognize that we all possess masculine and feminine qualities, the question haunted me. My husband and I are both motivated to change the conversation in business in order to reflect more feminine values of connection and caring. There is such an urgency in our time to transform our economic assumptions that I am now feeling that we must speak our truth on these issues.
The challenge of creating a “Caring Economy” (the expressions coined by Riane Eisler, author of “The Chalice and the Blade”) is evident in many places. My heroines have demonstrated this in business for decades. Lynne Twist, Anita Roddick, and Nina Simons all inspired my business mind decades ago. That inspiration was extended by men as well. Paul Hawken, Johnathan Schell, Jamie Oliver, Yvonne Chouinard, Kenny Ausubel, Woody Tasch and many others have changed the conversation, by demonstrating that business success can still nurture life.
Thinking about a New Economy creates a sense of possibility for me and demands new criterion for measuring success. (See http://criterioninstitute.org) We must learn to lean in to discussions about this and continue to re-frame the assumptions of modern commerce which invite imagination. The conversation has to include the fact that we live interdependently with nature and with each other. Ignoring the consequences of big business on the eco-sphere is endangering life itself as our planet burns. The toxic myth that “more is better” is strangling the life force out of our web of life, and the denial that humans are responsible for bringing death is leaving a legacy of difficulty for our children and grandchildren. The ontological space of current reality needs to be admitted and faced. My husband Udgar and I have been a part of this discussion since before the inception of our business in 1989.I have learned in becoming a business person that a real discipline is needed and that the “competitive advantage” is only gained through constant learning. Implementing our values-driven company in a way that it succeeds while maintaining core principles hasn’t been easy. One has to learn to live inside a culture of “sufficiency” to use Lynne Twist’s definition, rather than “abundance” as the New Age culture affirms. Sometimes we are running lean or dealing with challenges. The hardest thing in the world as a business owner is to lay off people you love who you know have young families or whom have been your loyal employees for many years.
But the true grit of a life lived in “sufficiency” is the trust in that life for everyone. I have learned to count blessings daily, in order to see and feel that the “cup is half full” not empty. If one can face the death of an era, the new beginnings instantly emerge. Again the realm of possibility is a ground of being for me, and I have to trust that it is so for everyone. Like the cycles of the seasons, life is always fertilizing the next phase.
As Baby Boomers, many have realized that our expectation of retirement is no longer an option. We have to manage our energy and health now in order to persist in making a living, while including the rest and sanctuary that can help us to keep going. An inner shift is required and new habit patterns are needed. This is our challenge and our opportunity. I am motivated by the changes needed to do this gracefully and to help empower the new young leaders that are growing in our common concern for the planet. Our company’s focus now is training, so that those folk and the people who represent our product can feel the aliveness and well- being we promote while living it well.
The difficulty in this is that we all have old habitual stories to change. This is an inner process and one that takes a willingness to self-reflect. If we change our perception, however, the world alters around us. So again, on a microscopic level we get to facilitate the same change we hope to affect in the world. Teaching an ability to change in the work place requires fair and consistent guidelines, and the processes that inspire willingness and a sense of safety even while existing in the unknown.
Innovation is a new theme in our business world and the collaboration between business, education and government in Colorado is the challenge for our creation of a new economy. I am devoted to the task of creating a team that can be innovative at the same time as it is grounded in the systems and values that cause longevity. For me the first principle is that “in order the change the world, my world, I have to change myself” (quoted from Gandhi). That process involves a “pause”, a stop, and a stillness in action, the art of which will forever be my life’s task.
My husband, our dear friend Dr. Michael Abdo, and I are unfolding the disciplines we have practiced for many years around this theme in a retreat titled “Accessing Our Inner Wisdom” in Buena Vista, Colorado on Oct. 18-20. Our aim is to offer people of influence (even if it is small) to “Cleanse the Doors of Perception” and find practices that will help in each moment to come from wisdom, rather than habitual survival patterns. We can learn to live in harmony with change in the moment by connecting with our ground of being. If we learn to allow the voice of life to come through us and the greater potential of the divine to inform us, we can indeed live a life of possibility and potential to the fullest. For the sake of all forms of health, it is urgent that we renew our perception of the web of life and assist in creating new forms of business and a new story that underlies the way we do it.