Philosophy? Wisdom? Spirituality? The Financial Times struggles to find the right word
The FT Weekend has a story this weekend on how the Minniapolis company General [Häagen-Dazs] Mills has embraced eastern philosophy – er, wisdom – no, spirituality- in a bid to improve corporate creativity and decrease stress.
They have been “practising meditation, yoga and so-called ‘mindfulness’ in the workplace.”
David Gelles, the author, is a meditator himself and notes that “the foundational tenets of Buddhism, Hinduism and other pan-Asian philosophies have infiltrated the upper echelons of some of the biggest companies on earth.” Google, First Direct, Target and Apple are cited.
Throughout the article, the usefulness of these practices – sitting, meditating, learning to be present – isn’t doubted. The tussle comes with whether it’s religious or not. Describing the roots of these traditions as philosophy is OK, so too wisdom and even spirituality. But not religion –
“Nor are General Mills, Google, Aetna or Target trying to convert their employees to some new religion. Instead, it seems that eastern wisdom – stripped of its religiosity and backed by scientific research – is becoming an accepted part of the corporate mainstream.”
Whilst Buddhism has non-theistic forms and is not usefully described as a ‘faith’, it is still regarded, along with Hinduism, as one of the great world religions.
The corporate pioneers of this new trend were taught by religious practitioners themselves.
The article, and the ambivalence, continues.
“The result is that the people who work hard to make high-margin, low-calorie breakfast cereals are at the same time striving to improve their spiritual equilibrium and even get a taste of enlightenment.”
Sounds very religious to me. If they also plunged into the social teaching, they might find they were tackling the high margins and the low calories, too.