Knowing how seriously I take Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” and my ongoing battle against the sinister corporate forces that would seek to keep us from our truest selves and our most authentic voices, my sister Molly, an attorney with Thompson Reuters, recently gifted me with a beautiful bauble she scored after a work seminar: A desk plate emblazoned with, “Be Here Now.”
Seems Thompson Reuters and other corporate beasts are, via Senn Delaney (“the culture-shaping firm”), spreading the three-word gospel of presence and mindfulness that was first coined in the ’60s by Ram Dass, and which I wrote about a couple months ago here.
Now it’s corporate America’s turn, and, thanks to Senn Delaney, cubicles and boardrooms across ‘merica and beyond are being outfitted with Be Here Now posters, placards, and desk plates.
“What does this phrase mean to you?,” writes founder and chairman Larry Senn on the Senn Delaney website. “Be present. Stay in the moment. Focus. Pay attention! Stop multitasking. Stop what you are doing and listen. Quiet your busy mind. Yes, Be Here Now is all of these things on the surface. But it’s much more than a catch phrase and is really the tip of the emotional intelligence iceberg.”
“Be Here Now is an important concept that we work to get people personally connected to when we are working at companies to shape their cultures,” writes Senn, without ever mentioning Ram Dass, and then comes to the decidedly non-Dassian conclusion: “Helping people learn to Be Here Now, and consciously practice being fully present, provides their companies and them personally with the greatest opportunities for maximizing effectiveness and life fulfillment. It is also the key to the customer experience and employee engagement.”
Corporate and crass, for sure, but the businessman knows something: In a world gone chaotic, any chance to practice and spread the quiet love is a good one. So it was in that spirit that, a couple months ago at the height of construction season and as Twin Cities motorists were named most insane road-ragers in the country and I was starting to feel like Ms. Pac-Man in a Grand Theft Auto world, I went to that temple of cultural sanity, the Northern Sun gift store on East Lake Street, and purchased five “Namaste” bumper stickers and slapped ‘em all over my car.
Namaste, from the Sanskrit: “I bow to the God in you,” or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.”
Couldn’t hurt, I figured. I’d grown weary of so much wordless misunderstanding, born of living too close together on this wild and wiggly planet. Seemingly overnight, this quiet little prairie town has become a tangle of highway congestion and confrontation and all the tailgating, speeding, and competition for inches of tar and asphalt and drivers and bicyclists alike regularly flipping out and flipping each other off made me seriously question what we are, who we are, and what we’re becoming. And then …
“Namaste?!” “Namaste!” yelled the delighted young man at the drive-through window at the Blaisdell and Lake White Castle one night after a gig. It had been a week since I’d put the sticker on my driver’s side door and this Somali-American kid’s enthusiastic response was my first review, and I was happy for it. Dude was so giddy he returned my “Namaste” threefold and rushed to gather his co-workers, who came and took a gander.
I left them all grinning in the middle of the night, and they were not my last peace-and-love victims.
There was the Somali-American family of five who waved wildly at me from a Lake and Lyndale bus stop and similarly returned the love; the guy in the packed and freaking-out Calhoun Village parking lot who I never saw but heard when he yelled, “Namaste, dude!” and the homeless guy at the 35W off ramp who, after I gave him a couple bucks, noticed my purple-and-gold greeting and stepped back reverently, put his hands together in prayer, and bowed.
That’s the extent of my journey thus far with the good ship I now call the Namaste Mobile, but given the current insanity of the metro roads, not to mention all the racial-gender-political-generational divides we’ve made up, I’m going with her until she drops.
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet. He can be reached at [email protected]