Is it a strange proposition? To invite a Buddhist monk to your business or corporate gathering?
Possibly. But it is sure to be interesting too!
Phra Pandit has a wide range of interests and experience, and tailoring the topics to suit the audience. As a guest speaker in a business environment, a totally non-religious approach is used. All the following topics can be approached in a logical and secular format, so that parties of all backgrounds are comfortable.
And it should be as fun as it is interesting to host an ordained Buddhist Monk. It is a reminder that there are many factors to life beyond sense desires, gadgets and targets!
Pandit Bhikkhu is a British born ordained Buddhist monk who lives and works from Bangkok. He was born in 1969 in the UK while mankind was landing on the moon. Having completed a number of meditation retreats he entered the temple at the age of 24, finally taking full ordination in Thailand in 1996. Since then he took a degree in Psychology (in Thai language) and is completing a Masters in Buddhist Studies in Mahaculalongkorn University, just north of Bangkok.
In Bangkok, the Thai temples are keen to attract tourists to take photos and admire the architecture. But they offer nothing for the casual visitor interested to learn something about the Buddhist culture. So in 2006 Pandit made himself available … But – he quickly found out it takes a lot more than simple willingness.
Over the following year he had to learn to write a website, organise information, find partners and sponsors, set up sound equipment, use photoshop, make posters and graphics, and involve local media. And without using money or charging for events. All this was put under the name of Little Bangkok Sangha – or ‘littlebang’. The name was designed to be easily remembered and googled up, and has become well known across Bangkok and beyond.
But there was a tougher problem.
Meditation is chiefly about sitting still and clearing the mind. How can you talk about that? Public speaking is a skill that is overlooked at the best of times. It certainly does not lend itself to a topic that involves sitting and watching the breath …
Over the years since, there were many lessons to be learned in effective communication – both as an organiser and as a speaker. And in slowly learning that in a society which cherishes success, money and possessions, there really is a genuine interest in the opposite values – of knowing what is enough, of letting go of stress, and developing spiritual values. Further – it really helps to talk about these things, even though there are few people to call on for that service.
You should find Pandit Bhikkhu an interesting public speaker for any crowd or event, on a range of topics. He has given talks and workshops in Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and India for YPO/WPO. And he’s also talked to diverse crowds from 6 year old children, to Business colleges, and even a condom research laboratory (the six year olds were the most difficult!).
He currently teaches psychology, logic, public speaking and communication, and academic writing at Mahaculalongkorn University, Thailand. In 2014 he arranged and managed 41 public talks (audiences from 40-130), 3 residential retreats, 3 special cultural events, and gave 28 public and private talks.
Note that the suggested formats below are only that – suggested. You might like to combine different elements or vary the suggested timings.
Some of the main topics that should be of interest:
The Mindful Revolution :
Mindfulness meditation has become a keyword in ‘wellness’ in recent times. It is enjoying a status similar to that of Yoga 20 years ago – gaining recognition and acceptance for it’s contribution to a healthy body and mind.
Mindfulness is a meditation method that trains you in a patient awareness of your own mind and body. In normal life you react constantly to the environment around you – so to just sit and ‘be’ is quite an alien experience. But a large body of current medical research shows that just such time out from your desires, has benefits measured in a host of bio-markers such as heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones and others. More than that though, it teaches you a quite remarkable patience and self-awareness. 20 minutes a day of this meditation can be really transformative.
- What Does Mindfulness do to the Brain – Scientific American
- Mindfulness Articles – New Scientist
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) – the longest running systematic study
- Mindfulness in the Huffington Post – Modern media covering this topic more frequently
- Even Hollywood figures are getting in on the act (is that a good endorsement though?)
2 hour session – time for a talk, some reflections on the lessons of Mindfulness and questions
3 hour session – as above, with some practical exercises too
4 hour session – as above, with a ‘mindful eating exercise’ – Some food required for this silent and mindful eating exercise to be included.
No materials or computer equipment is needed for these formats.
All the same points as above – but with the focus on the actual practises. There will be less talk and less theory, and just enough explanation in order to understand how and why we do each exercise:
- Sit and do a concentration meditation exercise (20 mins)
- Walking meditation exercise (15 mins)
- Open awareness (vipassana) meditation (20 mins)
- Silent Eating meditation exercise – requires oranges or apples to distribute (20 mins)
- Metta (loving kindness) meditation exercise to finish off (15 mins)
This will give a good grounding and experience for everyone – enough to see what it is about, and if they are interested to take it up further with local groups or a regular home meditation discipline.
For all the above, including explanations, session will be about 2hrs 15mins long.
More to Life
You all know there is more to life than work, feeding the children, and going on holiday once a year. But it is something that is not often talked about. There is a good science of happiness, both in psychology and in religion. But it needs to be talked about in order to become relevant to people’s lives. Gratitude, forgiveness, letting go … there are many qualities that we all value, but do little to foster.
We will look at the psychology behind happiness, the nature of spiritual qualities, how to develop the qualities that are useful. We will also examine the meditation methods that tie in to these qualities. And examine what lessons can be learned from the rather radical renunciate lifestyles of Buddhist Monasteries.
Typically – a 2 hour session is needed. No materials or video required
What could regular people find of use to learn from a renunicate Buddhist monk? American led consumerist culture promises that chasing your dreams and desires is the key to happiness. Whereas monastics of all religions deliberately go against this ‘worldy stream’ and practise renunciation, moderation and simplicity.
We will look at the role of desire in general, with an added special emphasis on our relationship to food. Some research on eating habits, and basic biology will be used to illustrate the points.
This topic is especially good with a silent lunch or dinner – you will be shown how and why to keep silent, and make keen observation on how your relationship to food and eating changes instantly as you pay attention to it.
Typically this would need about 1.5 hours. If a silent ‘eating meditaiton’ lunch is included allow an extra for 30-40 minutes afterwards for participants to share their experience.
An optional extra might be a group showing of Eat, Fast, Live Longer – cult documentary by Michael Mosley
Welcome Back to Your Ego
In the common understanding the Ego is considered to be something bad. But this is not the understanding of Freud, or of Buddhism. The Ego is something to be nurtured, not abandoned. We will take a look at the original meaning of the term, where it fits into models of psychology and of meditation. We will look at some of the ways the ego has been researched. And of course, what can be done about a maladjusted ego – both your own and others.
You should find this a fascinating topic, and one very relevant individually and to the human story in general. The aim is to understand the models properly, and shine a light on one’s own behaviour. It makes for a good talking point, and is something a little different to most business seminars.
Typically a 2-3 hour session is good. A projector or large screen is needed for some short video clips.
Defending Your Neurotic Self
Another really interesting aspect of psychology – the Defense Mechanisms of Anna Freud.
These are the ways we defend ourselves from perceived danger. Everyone does it! As we go through the 16 defense mechanisms that Anna Freud (Sigmund Freud’s brilliant, but overlooked daughter) you will feel a bit uneasy – seeing how many of these neurotic tendencies you also employ!
We will also look at what ‘neurosis’ means, how bad habits are learned, and why they are so sticky.
Psychology is for everyone – not just for researchers or therapists. Pandit Bhikkhu can make this topic very interesting, and very relevant.
Typically a 3 hour session is good. Video equipment for clips is good, but not vital.
Story to the Top:
The Power of Story in Public Speaking
This topic is especially dear to me personally!…
How can a meditation teacher talk about … well, just sitting and watching the breath? It is not easy, especially without any kind of training in public speaking. I had to learn on the job, the hard way.
Over the years, giving 20 or 30 full scale public talks a year, I got to understand some very important points about public speaking. And I learned some tricks, rules and strict no!-nos! too.
Really, of all the things I can impart to anyone, this is the most useful topic. To be able to speak in public – officially or informally, to large crowds or small groups, is an absolutely vital ability for all leaders or trainers. And the most effective element of public speaking is how to tell a story. Yet it is very rarely talked about or taught as a discrete skill.
This talk is offered primarily for executive leaders, teachers, trainers and PR staff.
There are many aspects to public speaking – and many manuals on it. But here we will focus on telling a story. While this includes long stories (over 5 minutes long), the emphasis will be on short stories (1/2 to 5 minutes long). The topic is divided into a number of connected lessons:
- Why story is absolutely vital to move an audience emotionally
- How story is fundamentally different to regular narrative
- Drawing a frame around the story
- Making abstract ideas concrete
- It’s all about the Drama – and the language of drama
- Jazzing it up further
- Projection, eye contact, mirror gestures
- Pacing, pausing, and the placebo effect
- And finally, practise
This is best as a full day workshop – say 4-5 hours with breaks. We will see video clips of good and bad examples. We will do some exercises with volunteers. And of course, we will be telling some stories! Video equipment is needed, and pencil/paper.
A reading list can be provided too, of some of the many great, but under-appreciated books on this topic (Pandit’s own book is being planned).
The topic can be broadened to ‘Story’ for print (rather than public speaking) depending on the audience. However, much of the workshop is for developing the spoken skills.
This topic works in two dynamics –
- with a large group of participants who are leaders, managers or trainers; to learn and witness some of the important lessons
- in a small and focussed group of around 10, where each will get the chance to practise some story telling directly during the coaching exercises.
Mindfulness, and The Queen Bee
We can talk about spiritual qualities. We can talk about psychology. We can talk about human values. We can ask Aristotle’s question ‘What is a Good Life?’.
But does it stay with you? Does it motivate you?
Our modern age has become too academic, and too calculating.
Why not return to the proven system from thousands of years of human history and tell a story instead. We will look at where faerie tales come from, why they are good for children, how they are good for adults, and the amazing ‘stickiness’ of their motifs. We will look at how story can frame a business plan or help to raise a child in a good way.
Then we will open up the famous Queen Bee faerie tale. Don’t be fooled. the breakdown of the story is not for children. For adults, understanding the motifs and elements is as fascinating as it is entertaining. The Queen Bee is itself full of life lessons. But also it exemplifies the power of story telling, which we will relate to public speaking and PR in general.
About 1-1.5 hours is good for this topic. A longer session is also possible bringing in some other faerie tales (Rumplestiltskin for example) – which helps participants understand the mechanism of story better, and how to use it effectively in corporate or home environments. No video is required, but pencil and paper is needed.
In the same thread we can tell, and breakdown, the classic Jack and the Beanstalk – which again, has very adult themes. There are some 50 versions of the story, and it has found it’s way into dozens of languages and cultures. There is good reason it is so memorable. Wouldn’t it be great if you could put your own messages across in such a sticky and mesmerizing way? We can look at the secrets of the story’s meaning, and the reasons why its motifs are so memorable.
This will take about 1.5-2 hours. It has two dynamics – in a large group, or a small intimate group of friends/colleagues.
Harnessing Power, and the Grateful Beasts
Again, story is the most powerful way to put a message across. Where your logical self can learn from bullet points and powerpoint presentations, your feeling self learns only from story. What you learn from the feeling self stays with you longer and stronger.
This particular story is a classic faerie tale, and is all about empowerment, focus and harnessing the ego to solve problems. This is a story about finding your voice and your confidence through the cultivation of spiritual qualities. But does not end up with turning the other cheek. The story is the classic Grateful Beasts.
Again – the story can be told to children (you will learn something of how to tell stories), but has very adult themes. Breaking down the story into its elements and explaining it is only useful for adults – not with children. About 1.5 hours is good in order to include a general introduction. If the group has done a session on one of the Faerie Tales with Pandit Bhikkhu before, then an hour should be sufficient.
As an extension of the theme, we can look at some of the elements of story telling, and then practise it with group members telling some of their own stories, with some coaching in storytelling techniques. This can be quite moving and a bonding experience – best in a small and intimate group.
The Fisher King
The Greatest Story Ever Told
This topic is still in research phase, and will be available in 2016