Spiritual business

My wife and I have built a thriving business enterprise that employs 30 people. When we were a smaller company, it was easy to maintain a familial atmosphere steeped in a nontheistic spirituality. We are planning a major expansion, and, as avid readers of your column, we want your advice on how to keep our “family” spiritually connected during and after this growth period.

My current favorite text on business and spirituality is Spiritual Intelligence in the Workplace by Catherine McGeachy, a management consultant in Ireland. McGeachy explains the social, economic and environmental reasons why Western culture is “spiritually dumb” and then shows how developing spiritual intelligence in the workplace benefits a company’s bottom line. She writes, “What does an organization that is supportive of spirituality look like? It is one that is socially responsible and whose current actions will not adversely affect future generations. It is one that looks to all its relationships—with suppliers, customers, employees and community. … It practices servant leadership and asks, ‘Do our stakeholders grow as persons: do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? What is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will s/he benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Don’t imagine that McGeachy is a Pollyanna, though. For example, McGeachy reminds us of University of Michigan Business School professor Robert Quinn’s exhortation that individuals must “close their integrity gaps, that is, examine how they behave against how they claim to behave.” It is, after all, individuals who comprise companies. Insights about genuine leadership are threaded throughout the book also, along with action items that create and sustain true leaders. Published in Europe, the book is not available here but can be ordered online at www.veritas.ie.

I suggest that you provide the book to all employees and structure a company retreat day around it. Another possibility is to ask employees to volunteer for a series of lunchtime or online book-study sessions culminating in a questionnaire for all employees. Information from the questionnaire could be used to create an action plan to ensure that your company maintains its spiritual intelligence.

My boyfriend calls me a spiritual dilettante because I have tried different spiritual practices but have not stayed with any. He says that is why I am not as centered as he is. It’s true that he is more peaceful than I am, but I have not found any spiritual practice that fits me. Suggestions?

Meditation, yoga, tantra, tai chi, smudging, chanting, feng shui, etc. are religious practices, not spiritual ones. Savvy marketers try to extract the religious connection to appease consumers who are uncomfortable with religion. By contrast, spiritual people would heal their discomfort with religion so that they were as comfortable participating in religious activities as not. A person with a psychological or therapeutic orientation (as opposed to a spiritual one) would seek a practice to bring wealth, personal power, peace or some other nameable outcome into his or her life.

Another way to live is to discern your guiding principle. Individuation, for example, would inspire a full commitment to any practice that allows insight into the neurotic ego or hidden self, so that it can be healed and integrated. And that explains why a practice may not feel like it fits. It is created for a you that does not yet exist. A certified spiritual director could be a great help on your journey. Find one at www.sdiworld.org.

Meditation of the Week

At the Capitol Awards Banquet sponsored by Death Penalty Focus and the Friends Committee on Legislation, actor Mike Farrell said, “Torture is being done in our name, not just at Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo Bay prisons, but through the dehumanizing of human beings in state-sanctioned killings where our own Constitution is called into question.” Taking a stand against the death penalty is about deciding what kind of country we are and what kind of people we want to be. What is your answer?