Not everyone has been delighted with the arrival of âspiritual consultantsâ in the modern workplace.
This trend has been spearheaded by American organizations such as Ritualist and the Sacred Design Lab, which promise to bring “ancient wisdom”, “spiritual innovation” and “ritual audits” into the office.
A 2020 New York Times article describing these companies, praising their efforts to “soften cruel capitalism,” met a swift and overwhelming reaction in the media at large.
The keeper slammed these companies to “make places of work places of religious devotion of the cult type”, while the popular left Chapo Trap House podcast describes the trend as the next “evil and terrifying” chase of “vampire sucking employers.”
So are European workplaces following suit? And should they?
The adapted monk
One man who thinks they should be doing it is Raf Adams, a Barcelona-based spiritual consultant and business coach who works under the brand name The Suited Monk.
Adams is a committed spiritualist trained in Qigong (an ancient energy-based practice found in Buddhist and Taoist traditions), but says when speaking to European businesses he has to compose the message. metaphysical.
âThey are rational, logical, they want tangible results. As soon as you get into metaphysics, it’s difficult for them to understand, âhe explains. “In the United States, the market is much more open than in Europe.”
Adams says that rather than focusing his coaching sessions on connecting to a higher power or the divine, the message is more geared towards connecting to the internal self.
âWith my concept for The Suited Monk, I basically do two things: I help people understand – what’s the costume? It’s about job titles, about the money people have, about their egos. While the monk is your inner self, your purpose in life, your values, your intuition, âhe tells Sifted.
âWhat most people focus on in their lives and careers is costumeâ¦ but they’re out of touch with who they are.â
“What most people focus on in their life and career is the costume, they try to be successful in business, they work really hard, they have a lot of responsibilities, but they are out of touch with who they are. . So fundamentally, I’m helping management teams bridge that gap, âhe adds.
“Money is spiritual”
So, does he see a contradiction in trying to turn sacred or spiritual ideas into a business consulting firm?
“Oh no no. For me, money is also spiritual. Everything is spiritual, it just depends on how you look at it. If you focus only on the spiritual side, without thinking about reality, it won’t work. .You have to monetize and that’s how we operate, âAdams says.
Adams’ approach certainly offers a softer spiritual touch than his US-based counterparts, who blatantly denounce the “ancient wisdoms” of Methodism, Judaism, Buddhism, Quakerism and Christianity. as part of their advisory services.
This seems to be appreciated by one of The Suited Monk’s clients, Jordi Cebrian, managing director of Barcelona-based pharmaceutical distribution company DSINCO.
âHe (Adams) brought in ideas that were useful. Practical ideas that you can use, not theoretical things, âCebrian tells Sifted.
Cebrian ran into Adams while watching him speak at a conference and decided that his methods could be useful in solving problems he was having with difficult members of his team.
“IIt is very difficult to differentiate a person in the office from the person you are in your personal life. “
âI have a few employees who are good interpreters, but they are very aggressive people in terms of sales. They were burning everyone around them, âhe recalls. “He [Adams] had this idea that it is very difficult to differentiate a person in the office and the person that you are in your personal life. And then this idea that these two have to be at peace or in balanceâ¦ I thought that was an interesting approach.
Cebrian tells Sifted that The Suited Monk’s coaching and workshops have been positive for his business and helped the organization define a culture that allows people to be themselves.
Cebrian isn’t the only European entrepreneur to sing the praises of bringing a more spiritual mindset to the workplace.
Jos Verhoeven is the founder of the Netherlands-based hat design company ID Hats and a strong supporter of the power of transcendental meditation in business.
Transcendental Meditation, or TM as it is often called, is a form of silent meditation initiated by Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s. The technique of meditation is based on the repetition of an internal sound or sound. mantra to oneself in order to free the mind from other thoughts.
The spiritual practice has been praised by celebrities ranging from the Beatles to Hugh Jackman, and has been found to potentially lower blood pressure. For Verhoeven, TM is a valuable tool for making better decisions.
âTM takes care of a clear mind, and a clear mind nourishes intuition,â he says.
Intuitive knowledge, as Verhoeven defines it, is what we use to make decisions that go beyond numbers, measurements or results.
âI use intuitive intelligence every day,â he says. âWhen you have a clear mind, you ask yourself questions like: How do I feel about this? Is it good for the short term or for the long term? Is it good for the environment? Is it good for me? Is it good for my colleagues? “
The business of meditation
Verhoeven is convinced that his practice of meditation has been a big factor in the success of his business, and some startups are now starting to sell this idea to other companies.
âPeople learn to tap into inner sources of strength. It’s like a superpower.
My Method is a London-based startup that offers yoga, meditation, and mindfulness classes, and founder Alix Waterhouse shares Verhoeven’s belief that meditation can give people an edge in their professional lives.
âPeople learn to tap into inner sources of strength. It’s like a superpower, âshe said. âBefore, people in the workplace didn’t have this. They have relied on caffeine and alcohol and other means, which is unsustainable and leads to burnout. “
So how receptive are corporate teams when it comes to discovering an ancient spiritual tradition like yoga?
âYoga had a very ‘hippie dippie’ image. The way we present it is to demystify it, âshe explains. âThere’s a lot of confusing terminology, so we’re just trying to keep it very simple, so it’s accessible to a lot of people.â
Making yoga accessible to corporate teams can be good for combating burnout, but simplifying its ancient spiritual traditions opens My Method to criticisms around the cultural appropriation of yoga.
This is something Waterhouse is aware of.
âYoga disinfection is underway. Businesses and individuals move through space without the proper training or respect for tradition, âshe says. “Instagram is inundated with spinning tops and contortions by yogis and, sadly, physical practice without the spiritual element.”
She adds that all of My Method’s teachers have a minimum of 500 hours of training and an in-depth knowledge of the ancient roots of yoga.
That said, the startup’s message is very largely written in the language of wellness or wellness, rather than spirituality, and Waterhouse seems clear that this is what gets to business leaders.
âFor every kilogram you spend on wellness, you save three kilograms on illness. People knew this sort of thing, but the impact of mental health and burnout (during the pandemic) really affected businesses, âshe says.
“A lack of belonging”
A growing awareness of mental health exhaustion might prompt more companies to consider spiritual practices like yoga and meditation, but spiritual belief in the workplace is nothing new.
Arfah Farooq is an angel investor at Ada Ventures and the co-founder of Muslamic Makers, a community of Muslims working in the field of technology. She believes that while bosses embrace trends like mindfulness, religious practice is often overlooked in the workplace.
âWhat’s really interesting about the modern model is that there has been a real shift towards mindfulness and yoga, and the focus is on that kind of practice. But then, religious practice is always seen as something a little weird, âshe said.
Farooq co-founded Muslamic Makers in 2016, in part in response to the focus on drinking alcohol at tech networking events.
âThe real sticking point and the reason we founded it actually had to do with the fact that technological events were so drunk. It was like beer and pizza, beer and pizza, âshe says. âYou end up missing out on these kinds of informal networking and educational opportunities. There is a lack of belonging.
A place to pray
This lack of belonging isn’t something you only feel at networking events, according to Farooq. She remembers her early days at tech companies in London – where there was no space to do daily prayers in private.
âMost of the time, in these tech companies, everything is obviously open. Glass meeting rooms, that sort of thing. So unless you’re a little loud and proud, and say, ‘Yeah, it’s okay, I’m just going to pray in the corner,’ you don’t actually get that private space.
Farooq says things are improving, but there is still a long way to go for people of different faiths to feel welcome in the office.
âReligion is like the forgotten feature of diversity and inclusion.â
âReligion is like the forgotten feature of diversity and inclusion. Often we think of skin color, disability, sexuality, etc. But religion, I often feel like it’s actually a very hidden thing.
The need for an organization like Muslamic Makers is a testament to the fact that spiritual belief is often sidelined in the highly secular professional culture of Europe. WWhatever your spirituality, Farooq is clear that we all have a lot to gain by making room for each other’s beliefs in the workplace:
âIf you want to create a diverse and inclusive workforce, something as basic as a private room – not just for Muslims who pray, but for introverts, for people who want to practice mindfulness – it can go very far. “
Tim Smith is Sifted’s Iberia correspondent. He tweets from @timmpsmith