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Lions Roar : November 2018
practice and—of course, because they were lawyers—we’d have long discussions [laughs].” “The people who came in were often successful in what they were doing and really committed to it,” Bush says. “But they were searching for something, from just quieting down a bit to really discovering meaning. It was extraordinary watching peo- ple waking up.” One day in 2007, Bush got a call from Google to help design a program at the company. The idea was to present mindful- ness in a way that would be relevant and appealing to Google’s engineers. “People there either thought stress was good, because it had gotten them to the top of their class at Stanford or MIT, or they thought stress wasn’t cool and they didn’t want to admit being stressed,” says Bush. “We looked not just at what they needed or could benefit from, but also what they perceived they needed. At that time, Google employees were really young, really competi- tive, and had been in front of screens just about their whole lives. The place where they were least developed was self-aware- ness and awareness of others.” In the early days of Google, the engineers had mostly worked solo, but now they were frequently required to work in teams, and they were struggling. “We decided,” says Bush, “to develop a course that that emphasized in- teraction and compassion.” Covering topics such as mindful listening and emailing, emotional intelligence, and the neuroscience of mindful- ness, Search Inside Yourself is the most popular course that’s ever been offered at Google. More than ten thousand Google employees have taken it, and in 2013 the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute was founded to pres- ent the program to other organizations and the public. Bush has fielded criticism from some Buddhists for taking traditional contemplative practices and integrat- ing them into mainstream secular settings. “ The critique,” she explains, “is that businesses use these practices to help employees focus better so they’ll be more productive and further capitalist goals. Many of the managers who bring these programs in are doing it for that reason. But what I’ve found with good teachers and a well designed program is that the practice is very powerful. I’ve seen remarkable changes in people. I’ve seen people questioning the goals of their orga- nization and looking at the alignment or misalignment of their own values and the values of the organization.” “OVER THE YEARS,” says Mirabai Bush, “Ram Dass and I have always checked in with each other about what’s changing spiri- tuality, how we see the world now, and how we’ve been able to interpret and reinterpret the things Neem Karoli Baba told us. “Ram Dass is a friend at the deepest level,” she continues. “He’s also fun. We’ve always liked to do things together.” That includes teaching together every year. This November, Bush and Ram Dass will lead the eleventh annual Open Your Heart in Paradise Retreat, held in Maui. In recent years, the two old friends have also been spending a lot of time together in Ram Dass’s room, looking out at the Hawaiian sea and sky. Drinking tea, with a cat curled up on Ram Dass’s lap, he and Bush have been talking intimately about death. Their exchanges have become Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Love and Dying. Bush remembers talking to Vajrayana Buddhist master Kalu Rinpoche in the 1970s. “Why should we meditate?” she asked him. “To prepare for death,” he asserted. Being young at the time, Bush thought that was a strange an- swer, but recently she turned to Ram Dass and said, “It’s taken me all this time, but I’ve finally realized that Kalu Rinpoche was right.” Ram Dass, according to Bush, would say, “Bring fear close. Look at it as clearly as you can, becoming intimate with what you’re afraid of, then let it go over and over.” Talking about death as these friends have done—thinking about it, really in- vestigating it—is a profound way to look at death clearly. Ram Dass is eighty-seven now and has been in a wheelchair since he had a stroke twenty years ago. Bush herself is seventy- nine—still healthy but keenly aware of getting older. She loves her life with E.J. Lynch, her partner of thirty-five years, and hopes to be around long enough to see her beloved granddaughter grow up. But, she says, she’s getting closer to accepting that death will eventually come.As Bush says in Walking Each Other Home, “I’m going to start telling people more often what it is I love about them so they can hear it while they are living. I’m changing my to-do list from the tasks I faithfully work through every week to ‘tell friends what I love about them; die without regrets.’” Bush says, “Loving is the best preparation for dying and get- ting around your fear of dying. It’s the best way of living your fullest life.” ♦ Bush teaching a Contemplative Mind retreat for academics. Today the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is focused on transforming higher education through contemplative practice. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 63