Yesterday we ventured deep into Ashdown Forest, birthplace of Winnie-the-Pooh, a once medieval deer hunting forest (in Norman times) and now known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s a truly captivating part of South East England.
We were there to meet Rohan Narse, a former investment banker with Goldman Sachs. His story is one we have come to hear all too frequently. How a man can have all the money and possessions he can wish for, yet is deeply unhappy and unsatisfied and unfulfilled from within. Shortly after his time at Goldman Sachs and during the period he was CEO of a successful investment firm, Rohan experienced a physical, emotional and mental burnout. The journey to getting his life back took him across many eastern and western paths of self-inquiry and has been captured in his book ‘In Search of Silence’. What he shares with us, and we’ll shortly be sharing with you, is based on his experience. And what makes his teachings unique is that they work, they are truly integrative and they are free of any conceptual clutter.
Rohan now hosts programmes on mindfulness (and intimacy), worldwide. He works with leadership teams and individuals within city firms and global organisations, to explore how being mindful impacts not just their professional expression but also their personal lives, enabling them to reduce stress and achieve a sense of balance and wellbeing. Our plan was to ‘feel’ our way into capturing mindfulness on film; something we subsequently discovered is not so easy to do. Mindfulness you see, is about juice; it’s about capturing the essence, feeling into the space and the tranquility and the beauty of a moment. Deep in the forest, in Rohan’s log cabin home (yes, really), we realized that squeezing this juice into moments of video content was not as easy as we’d perhaps expected. Take this piece for example, written by Rohan on mindfulness about how it can be used in a busy office environment to relieve stress:
“Domesticated animals have a tendency to familiarise themselves with any new space they are forced to visit. Wild animals demonstrate this trait too.
Take a few minutes to observe the office walls, the floor and its texture, take a short walk around to notice things that you never noticed before and then sit down for a few minutes at your desk, taking a few conscious breaths.
A group of city professionals tried this and the results were apparent. The reptilian brain I am told, relaxes when it knows the environment that it is to be settling in. We rarely notice the environment we are in when visiting a new office or even an existing one. Noticing it with intent, can make a big difference in easing the mind to rest in its most natural state. Sometimes just noticing the area around and the one leading to the office can itself be a real stress-buster.
Nothing more complicated than just that.
Experiment and know.”
For the team at The Life Adventure, working with Rohan yesterday highlighted the realisation that the journey ahead will be a series of similar challenges for us; working out how to truly capture on film, the essence of a topic such as mindfulness. We think we’ve cracked it and in a few weeks you’ll be able to judge for yourself (if you aren’t already, just sign up for announcements on upcoming workshops). Interestingly and perhaps obviously, what really got us through our challenges and made the day particularly special for us were the mindfulness techniques that Rohan used to align and centre us when things became a little stressful. These invaluable techniques are what makes mindfulness so sought after in the corporate world and what makes someone like Rohan so special and unique. If you’d like to try for yourself, start small, perhaps with these suggestions below from Rohan. If they seem silly or frivolous to you, try them anyway. You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain:
Experiments in enabling a clear mind
“Desires, fears and a million priorities. In the midst of all that, the need to make conscious choices. I find the following meditations the most effective in stilling the mind of any needless thought and in noticing the sheer clarity that arises in that very instant.
Being conscious of the feeling ‘I Exist’ or ‘I AM’
There is nothing much to be done other than just bringing attention back from any discursive thought to the feeling ‘I AM’, holding attention on that and taking conscious breaths with that very knowing. Incredible impact on energy levels too. This works best when I am not tired.
Spending time in nature listening to sounds, feeling sensations and noticing movement:
I live in Forest Row in the UK, close to the Ashdown Forest. The privilege of seeing trees, leaves and the entire sound, sight and sensory spectacle that unfolds with the onset of a passing shower or a gust of wind is enough to allow many a moment of sheer stillness. Again, as earlier, there is no doing but just a witnessing.
Gazing at a candle-flame
This is an ancient eastern meditation that requires some effort. I find practicing this technique allows the mind to just be free of any needless lateral movement. This meditation is best done first thing in the morning.
Having shared the first two with city firms, the impact is clear to see and feel. We had a group walk along the Thames and then watched the flowing river until a pattern to the flow could be felt. At a personal level, I feel that much of leadership development will undergo a significant change if the focus is on first enabling a clear mind. So the adage ‘less is more’ would be a felt experience.”
Thanks to Rohan for an exceptional day of giving, receiving, experimentation, excellent food and of course, adventure.