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Mindful Leadership Lessons from a Former Monk

Dasa, Pandit

By: Pandit Dasa | Jun 7, 2019

Yes, it’s true, I spent 15 years living as a monk. However, my monastery wasn’t surrounded by mountains, rice fields and trees. The monastery I lived in was surrounded by bars, nightclubs and subway stations and was located in a very different kind of village. It was situated in the very scenic and serene environment of the East Village in New York City. How and why I became a monk is a very long story which can be found in my book, Urban Monk. 

Post-monk life, I have been speaking in corporations and conferences on the topics of Mindful Leadership and Creating a Mindful Workplace Culture.

Of the many essential qualities required to becoming a mindful leader or colleague is to cultivate thoughtfulness about our method of communication. Some key tips for developing mindful communication are:

1. Don’t respond to communication when you’re angry

Sometimes, we are a little too eager to immediately respond to a critical or negative email. We feel the need to defend our point of view and at times can be a bit hasty not considering the possible consequences of our response. When we become angry or upset, we should know that our mind becomes clouded preventing us from having clarity about the situation. Sort of like when the sun is covered by clouds, light is still there, but it’s limited.

Rushed communication can lead to workplace conflicts and once the message has been sent, there’s no “undo” option and it can often take weeks, months or even years to resolve the situation.

2. Take a moment or two or three

The best thing is to wait until we have calmed down and tried to understand the perspective of the person who sent the message. This can only be done when some time has passed and our anger subsided to some degree. It helps to take a few deep breaths and if possible, go for a quick walk around the block to clear your head before responding. And, if you think a written response could be misunderstood and possibly escalate the situation, it might even help to pick up the phone and calmly ask for a clarification of the sent message.

3. Two ears and one mouth

Fortunately, nature designed us with two ears and one mouth and not the other way around. If we can remember this during our communication and use these faculties in these proportions, our communication could be greatly improved. If we can try to be more present when others are speaking and sharing their ideas instead of formulating a response, we can not only better understand their perspective but can also build trust and improve relationships. Misunderstandings are a big reason for the breakdown of relationships. 

Nature also arranged it so that our ears remain naturally open and our mouth naturally closed. Nature is definitely trying to tell us something.

4. Appreciation. Appreciate. Appreciate.

There is no better way to build trust and strengthen teamwork with your colleagues and direct reports than to express appreciation for their qualities and contributions. Small gestures of appreciation on a regular basis can go a long ways in keeping employees loyal to the organization. It makes employees feeling valued and creates an engaged workforce. A lack of appreciation will result in unmotivated, discouraged employees that could eventually result in turnover. Create a workplace culture where people are appreciating each other and are celebrating each other’s successes.

5. Be Mindful

No previous monk training required. There is ample research indicating that simple deep breathing exercises can lower stress and anxiety, 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 us shift our mindset from negative thinking to a more positive frame of mind.


You don’t need to become a monk to be mindful. Simply by 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.

Want to see more from Pandit Dasa? Be sure to check out his website. And his latest video reel.


Dasa, Pandit
Pandit Dasa

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