By Jim Van Huysse, HBI’s Executive Director
I have been blessed with a long career in the traditional “business world.” I moved to California in 1995, accepting my first position out of college as a training consultant at a Fortune 50 software company in the Bay Area. Not long after I teamed up with three friends to start the first Internet Radio service (a predecessor to Sirius XM, Spotify and the like). The four of us rode the wave of that first .com bubble, building our start-up into one of the largest music services on the Internet and selling it to AOL in 1999. It was a stressful but exhilarating ride and one that would launch my career in Internet media.
Mine was a career many would define as successful by business standards, but it was not without a lot of stress that I found impossible not to “take home with me”. I found it difficult not avoid having my thoughts drift to the to-do list, even after the birth of our first daughter. I distinctly remember sitting on the floor of her bedroom chastising myself for not being present as she started interacting with her environment. But whether it was frustration with people who were more concerned with climbing the ladder than acting with integrity or feeling like it was all on me to support my team / my product / my company I found myself becoming more and more bogged down in the workplace. Case in point: in one of my last leadership roles (a “turnaround” trying to reinvent itself) I came down with mono and pneumonia in a six month period. In short, I was burned out.
When my wife took a leadership position at a very high-profile tech company we decided I would shift gears and become a stay at home dad for our (now) three little girls.
While I’m grateful for what I learned in the years that preceded that decision I realized that I was less and less drawn to the pace and content of the business world and more and more content with being a primary caregiver.
That said, I felt called to give back in my own small way and joined the Boards of some Bay Area non-profits. One of those non-profits was Heart Based Institute.
DRAWN TO HBI’S MISSION AND VISION
As I became more and more familiar with HBI’s mission and vision, I felt drawn to it in a way that I had not in previous roles. I felt personally touched by the relevance of this mission to my own life, and at the same time, I became more and more inspired by how the program and the methods behind it could transform some of the tremendous challenges we face as a modern society, both in this country and globally.
- I realized that the burnout I was dealing with was not just present at all levels within tech, but across all sectors, for-profit and not;
- I saw the ever-escalating stress across all ages and all demographics, especially in the U.S. (supported by the 2019 Gallup poll my colleague blogged about recently);
- I witnessed how the destructive opioid epidemic could rip lives and families apart;
- I watched as dear friends succumbed to chronic diseases like cancer;
- And I saw how caregivers–both professional and not–struggled to deal with the suffering of those they served.
Unfortunately, many of us have challenges like these (and many others) in common. But it is my firm belief that these challenges do not define who we truly are.
OPENING OUR SPIRITUAL HEART
Fortunately, the thing that ALL of us have in common is the very thing that can help us transcend the stress and strife we all deal with in some form or another–our spiritual heart.
I attended my first heart based workshop in 2007 at a time when I considered myself an atheist. By the time I had entered University in 1990, I firmly rejected my Catholic upbringing, believing that our senses and mind-based perceptions were all we had to rely on. That opinion would only become more rooted as time passed.
But as I learned to open my heart and strengthen it through heart based practices things gradually began to shift. I not only saw the limitations and traps that I had been susceptible to, but I also started to experience a sense of peace beyond anything I had ever felt before. I realized that I had been conflating religion and spirituality…one an institution often limited by humanity’s flaws and the other a very personal, intimate connection to something deeper and beyond myself.
In my time on the Board of HBI and in attending numerous workshops, I’ve seen firsthand how powerful our hearts can be to help us eliminate our suffering and the suffering of others.
I have seen a number of case studies in which veterans and others suffering from severe PTSD report feeling a “10” in overwhelm to a “0” in only a handful of Heart Based Therapeutics sessions. I have seen a room of 120 scientists have their work-related stress markedly reduced from just a two-hour introductory workshop on heart based meditation. And I have seen how practitioners just being in the state of heart based presence can result in measurable environmental changes: specifically in cancer cells in a lab (more on that soon).
These shifts have helped define the person I am today.
MOVING AWAY FROM LEADING WITH THE EGO
It’s time for a paradigm shift on a broader scale. A move away from leading with the ego. A move away from defining the patient by their affliction. A move away from over-reliance on chemical solutions. A recognition that we have to treat the underlying causes of addiction, stress and disease in order to alleviate them. A recognition that addressing the causes need not be painful, fraught with effort or dependent on specialized techniques. But one that relies on that which is beyond “us” through the doorway which is IN all of us–our spiritual heart.
And now I’d like to help bring this heart based approach to more professionals in more organizations.
I’m very grateful for the chance.