Here are some key quotes:
"Mr. Gordhamer started Wisdom 2.0 in 2009 to examine how we can live with technology without it swallowing us whole. The wait lists for his panel talks and conferences now run into the hundreds.The “Disconnect to Connect” meet-up was typical. The audience was mostly young, mostly from the Silicon Valley tech scene and entirely fed up with taking orders from Siri. “There was a time when phones didn’t tell you to do everything,” said Mr. Gordhamer, 45, as the conversation got rolling. “What’s work, what’s not work, it’s all become blurred.”[...]Earlier that morning at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Chade-Meng Tan, a veteran engineer, was laughing about the demand for an in-house course he created called “Search Inside Yourself.” The seven-week class teaches mindfulness, a loose term that covers an array of attention-training practices. It may mean spending 10 minutes with eyes closed on a gold-threaded pillow every morning or truly listening to your mother-in-law for once. Google naturally sees it as another utility widget for staying ahead. “Whenever we put the class online, it sells out in 30 seconds,” Mr. Tan said.
This is not just a geek thing. Everywhere lately, the here and now is the place to be. George Stephanopoulos, 50 Cent and Lena Dunham have all been talking up their meditation regimens.
[...]The Marine Corps is testing Mind Fitness Training to help soldiers relax and boost “emotional intelligence,” the buzzwords of the hour. Nike, General Mills, Target and Aetna encourage employees to sit and do nothing, and with classes that show them how. As the high priestess of the fully aware, Arianna Huffington this year started a mindfulness conference, a page dedicated to the subject on The Huffington Post and a “GPS for the Soul” phone application with a built-in heart sensor to alert you when you’re calm or stressed.The hunger to get centered is especially fervent in the cradle of the digital revolution. The Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz told Wisdom 2.0 audiences about modeling his current software start-up, Asana, after lessons learned in his yoga practice. At the same summit, eBay’s founder and chairman, Pierre Omidyar, shared the stage with Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s English interpreter, and pegged the auction site’s success on human goodness and trusting in complete strangers.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist leader who introduced mindfulness to Westerners (Google got first dibs on him as a guest speaker), once said, “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.”
“This isn’t the old San Francisco hippie fluff,” said Mr. Tan, who started the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute as an extracurricular program in 2007. More than a thousand Googlers have gone through the course, which uses scientific research and the profit motive to entice coders and programmers to be here now.
It is easy for Mr. Tan to joke. With the financial benefits that come from being Google employee No. 107, he works only three days a week and concentrates more on giving away his wealth than growing it. “I don’t have much sympathy for miserable rich people because sharing money is the key to happiness,” he said. “For me, becoming rich was a wonderful experience, but then the thought became, now what?”
Mr. Gordhamer’s response to this came five years ago while residing in a double-wide trailer in remote Dixon, N.M. He was newly divorced and had lost his job organizing events for Richard Gere’s Foundation. At the time, Mr. Gordhamer was reading a lot of Eckhart Tolle and kept returning to one idea: Rather than asking, “What do I want from life?” he asked, “What does life want from me?” Convinced he had settled on an answer, Mr. Gordhamer withdrew the last $10,000 from his bank account and started Wisdom 2.0.With prominent speakers from the technology and “wisdom” communities, the first conference in 2009, held outside San Francisco, was a modest gathering of 325 people. By 2012, the wait list ran to 500, with headliners that included co-founders of Twitter, Facebook, eBay and PayPal. Last winter’s lineup featured Ford’s chairman, Bill Ford, interviewed by his meditation guru, Jack Kornfield; Congressman Tim Ryan on using mindfulness to transform education; and Marianne Williamson, on ending world hunger with the aid of social media. The conference in February, at a convention hotel in downtown San Francisco, is expected to draw around 2,000 attendees over four days and is part of a year-round cycle of events.[...]The paradox of profit-minded techies engaging in the realm of nonattachment is not lost on those shepherding these wired flocks. Marc Lesser wore the black robes of a Buddhist priest as director of the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near Big Sur in the 1980s. “I literally didn’t know what to do with the $60 monthly stipend I used to get,” he said. Today, as an M.B.A. and chief executive of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, he is comfortable integrating money with mindfulness. “All business is about helping people in some way and you can’t do that without focusing on success,” he said. “The hope is that turning a profit can be done more wisely and compassionately.”At his first Wisdom 2.0 conference in 2010, Arturo Bejar, Facebook’s engineering director, sat in the back row. “I was reluctant because I’m primarily a numbers person,” he said. But hearing the author and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn say that if people fully saw one another, they could get along better, a light bulb went off for Mr. Bejar. He decided to integrate that idea into his work handling content concerns from Facebook’s one billion users.Collaborating with neuroscience and psychology researchers at Stanford, Berkeley and Yale, Mr. Bejar made significant changes to the ways communication happens on Facebook. This year, the company introduced emoticons to capture a broader range of human feelings, along with a gentler formula for settling tension between users. Previously, someone tagged in an unfortunate Facebook photo could flag the image as offensive and hope the other person would remove it. Now, a form pops up with options like, “It’s embarrassing,” “It’s inappropriate” and “It makes me sad,” along with a polite request to take the photo down.Introducing that simple, thoughtful language has tripled the likelihood that users will send a message asking for the photo to be removed, Mr. Bejar said, adding that the overall response has been significant. In the United States, if someone marks a Facebook photo as “embarrassing,” it is 83 percent likely that the poster will respond or delete it. Facebook will soon add a similar function to text posts. “We didn’t realize how hard it was to feel heard in electronic communications, but now there are mechanisms for being more expressive and thoughtful,” Mr. Bejar said."