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Lions Roar : September 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2009 37 popularity. Very few fellow Buddhists he contacted showed much enthusiasm for the idea of proving the benefits of meditation scien- tifically, but Alan Wallace (whose shamatha Project aims to prove the tangible benefits of intensive meditation) was very encourag- ing. When Wallace told him that the Dalai Lama had reached the same conclusion, meng felt he was really on to something. Yet, as meng sees it, establishing meditation as scientifically valid is just one element in a larger campaign. For meditation to be widely adopted, people will need to think of it as something as normal and obviously beneficial as exercise. If meditation is regarded as a workout for the heart and mind, the thinking goes, it will start to become a part of the fabric of daily life. When meng read Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, he felt he’d found his “vehicle for aligning meditation with real life.” emo- tional intelligence seemed like a desirable feature that everyone would like to have and that would be appealing in a business context, as a means to make people more effective. “Google is, after all, a business, and there needs to be a business justification for whatever we do,” meng concluded. meng felt eI would appeal to engineers and high-achieving people because “we may have some problems in dealing with dif- ficult conversations. We either avoid them or go at them like ram- paging geeks. either way, we recognize it’s a deficiency.” Also, meng says, software engineers may think that the most important thing is coding, and that interacting with others takes a backseat, but as one gets into higher levels of engineering, “half or more of the work is about talking to people.” Learning to emerge from your shell and interact well is what emotional intelligence is all about. meng asked mirabai Bush to help design a course. she brought in poet and Zen teacher norman Fischer and per- suaded Dan Goleman to help generate interest by giving a talk at Google. Peter Allen, director of Google’s employee education program, known as Google university, became sIY’s patron saint and an active participant. eventually, Google university started the school of Personal Growth, which is headed by meng. It in- cludes sIY, a course that meng teaches called “the neuroscience of empathy,” and a few other offerings. they frequently invite eminent guest speakers such as sleep scientist William Dement and neurobiologist Dan siegel. the current sIY curriculum has been designed by nine con- tributors, in typical Google teamwork style. the design team mixes scientific, meditation, and business expertise. In addition to Fischer and Bush, it includes, for example, the young stanford professor Philippe Goldin, a leader in the budding field of con- templative neuroscience who told me that he’s fully in sync with meng’s notion that contemplative practice may one day be seen as a beneficial workout for the mind; marc Lesser, author of Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Administration; and monika Broecker, who was in- strumental in the development of the school of Personal Growth and is now an independent consultant and business coach. Life at Google: food, fun, and creative workspaces. Below: Google University’s logo PhotosBY(left):shAWnWInes,(otherphotos):CouRtesYoFGooGLe Google employees are given every amenity to make work enjoyable, healthy, and creative. When you get a feel for the atmosphere, a meditation program seems not radical, but sensible.