by Susan Kavanaugh
(First chapter to new book, The Heart of Profit. Release date in November 2020. Still needs heavy editing, but want to share.)
“Right from the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents, and then later on in our life when we are oppressed by sickness and become old, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. Since at the beginning and end of our lives we are so dependent on others’ kindness, how can it be in the middle that we would neglect kindness towards others?” – Dalai Lama
Twenty-four years ago, I was blessed by the concept of a company I wanted to launch. Knowing nothing about business, I founded KavCom: Conscious Communications, LLC. There was no business plan, no market research, no consideration of competition. There was simply a “knowing” that the company was what I needed to launch. I knew the vision. I understood the mission. I even knew the type of clients this company would go on to serve. The rest? I turned this matter over to God, as I understood my higher power to be.
That prior year I had entered ministerial school at Unity School of Christianity, and, while working full time, I studied New Thought and the Aramaic interpretation of the Bible. I devoured the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary and labeled myself a “Truth Student.” It was my badge of honor. I became, and will always remain, all that encompasses a Truth Student. I began to teach classes and workshops based on books published by Unity, all while reading voraciously and meditating with as much fervor. I embraced the phrase “conscious.” For me, it meant living a life of kindness, openness, possibility and focus.
Because I lived a conscious life, my new company was created through a lens of mindfulness and kindness. “Kav” was obviously part of my name. “Com” was for communications and marketing services, a largely successful part of my career up to that time. Yet, my company needed some kind of explanation, a WYSIWYG (wizzy-wig)— naming what it was, an organization devoted to communication services all of which were approached consciously. Hence, the fuller title.
My target market would be, and still is today, companies that needed assistance positioning themselves as conscious companies. The marketing, brochures, possible web content (the internet was really just starting to launch company sites in 1996), press releases, pre-written journalism articles, branding language and so much more needed to be a reflection of a commitment to conscious, enlightened and kind commerce. A moral commerce you might call it.
My first few projects were with metaphysical churches, holistic practitioners and environmentally conscious companies. I expanded over the years to add businesses owned by people I knew to be focused on improving the world by helping others somehow. In the early 2000’s I began to add nonprofit organizations to my client list. Unity School of Christianity was a nonprofit organization, and, after 13 years in an executive leadership role with the School, I’d learned a great deal about creating success for nonprofits. The School became one of my first clients.
Today, in 2020, if you go to Google and enter “conscious business,” it yields thousands of entries. The search engine guides you to story after story of economic success through practicing conscious business. You’ll see links to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, The Container Store, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Patagonia, Tom’s and even Disney.
Additionally, you’ll see some of the same names popping up over and over again, including: Raj Sisodia, Tip Kindell, Eileen Fischer, John Mackey, Herb Keller and Kat Taylor.
My book is a late addition to more than a hundred others already published and proving the world is hungry for understanding the benefits and purpose behind conscious business. However, I hope the uniqueness of what I offer adds richness and value to life, building on the knowledge you already have.
In a September 2018 Forbes article, writer Louis Ganon indicated that a conscious capitalism movement began in earnest in 2010. The tenets of conscious capitalism include the requirement that a company focus on a higher purpose, develop and demonstrate conscious leadership, focus on stakeholder orientation (not just clients, but the environment, the employees, their families and more) and the maintenance of a conscious culture.
I perceive this as the thirst for kindness demonstrated in a mindful and consistent manner toward clients, employees, colleagues and the planet. Kindness is integral to companies (not to mention individuals) establishing a higher purpose and to being successful in maintaining a conscious culture.
Each company and business leader I’ve mentioned benefits exponentially from their focus on conscious living. Later we’ll explore together just how wide a profit margin can be when practicing conscious business, but for now, suffice it to say the true heart of abundant living is manifested through a conscious expression of one’s self. True joy, peace, satisfaction, emotional and spiritual rewards, happiness and contentedness are simply side effects that you experience when you choose to practice consciousness.
What does conscious living mean to you? What can conscious communications offer? What benefit is there in conscious business? And exploring deeper levels, what does authenticity have to do with kindness, communications and success in business? If you are conscious, are you automatically authentic, and if you are kind are you automatically authentic?
There are many things to consider and explore.
A talented life coach, Carla Reeves, described her personal benefits of living consciously, “The rewards of living a conscious life have been: Increased joy from taking part in creating my life vs. at feeling at the mercy of my circumstances. Having freedom to choose at any moment how I want to show up to what’s happening in my life and knowing that this choice has a direct and powerful influence on my experience. Finally, being able to be in the moment—aware and awake to experience the beauty of what is happening now”
A successful businesswoman in Seattle, Teresa Wornstaff, agreed to share her thoughts with me about the conscious life she lives. “Most of my life I ran away from living a conscious life. I worked so hard at living a 3D, non-conscious, non-intuitive life because I thought, that’s what I was supposed to do to fit into this world. The result? A hard life of ‘efforting’ to achieve anything. I suppressed my natural state, which is being in alignment with my soul’s expression. I lived a shallow, unfulfilled existence. Our world is currently designed to put us in a box defined by outside sources; media, family, heritage, beliefs. This is the box we need to break free from.
“Today, I live from my intuition. It is my greatest gift and in fact, my soul’s purpose is to reflect back to other’s their greatness, their life’s greatest opportunity so they can embody it. Life always hands us exactly what we need to learn what is required to grow and be our greatness. Shifting from an unconscious existence to a conscious one is my WHY today; I empower individuals and companies to create conscious businesses to support conscious living. This is the ultimate existence.
“The universe requires only one thing from us during our lifetime here on the planet. Live from your zone of genius and be the greatest you can be. Living your greatest life is contributing your gifts and living from consciousness. Living consciously to me is living a purposeful life.”
Jonathan Miller, founder of Mindful Communications Coaching in South Africa, told me, “The rewards I receive from living consciously are clear and straightforward: Fulfillment, satisfaction and joy. For me, conscious living is about living with as much intentionality as possible. This provides me an opportunity to live as much in alignment with my values as possible.”
When I asked Jonathan how that manifested in his life, he explained, “What this looks like in my life is work that stimulates me, relationships that nourish me, a physical environment that fuels me and decision making that comes more easily. To be clear: It is not fairytales and unicorns all the time. Life can still be quite challenging at times. That said, I have found that as I live more consciously, I experience highs in life that are longer-lasting, more frequent and more sustained than before.”
A registered nurse, Martha Blessing spoke to me about how she had to become accountable to fully engage as a conscious being in her world, “Living a conscious life is accepting 100% responsibility for everything in my life. It means I recognize that in each moment I can choose my thoughts and actions to reflect what it is I want to create. It means I become educated and aware on how my actions affect not only my own life and well-being but also my community and the collective.
“From the food I eat, the places I shop, the causes I support, the energy, mindfulness and presence I bring to each and every situation. I approach each day with an open mind and heart to see and hear different viewpoints with the intention of focusing on solutions, rather than problems. Living a conscious life allows me to ask what the lesson in my current circumstance is and what can I learn from it, in order to create more of what I desire to experience. Truly, to be the change I wish to see. My purpose in my conscious life is to illuminate potential within and transcend perceived limitations.”
One of my favorite quotes, and one I put on my original business cards in 1996, is taken from a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet. In it, Rumi writes that the breeze at dawn has secrets to tell us and reminds us in that poem: “do not go back to sleep.” (I actually had this on my business cards for 10 years.)
When we awaken to a new world (dawn), we gain more than just knowledge by not going back to sleep. Stay awake, stay conscious.
If you’re a newbie to conscious living, your journey will need to begin with understanding your conscious self.
Realize here, if it hasn’t already slammed you in the face, that I’m not talking about Carl Jung’s theoretical “id,” “ego,” “superego,” “unconscious self,” and “collective consciousness” (although there is academic overlap). This is about how present you are in each moment of your daily life and the choices you make when you are present versus simply living life in general.
We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy and we’re always doing something. And, though our minds may be like washing machines, with ideas going around and around, we rely heavily on our mind. It tells us when we are happy, when we are stressed, when we must make a decision, when our body has needs (such as hunger or sleep) and a myriad of other messages. Our mind can also become focused on the past or on the future. We may relive joyful memories or bind ourselves in regret. We may be planning a dinner party or a vacation, or a project while on the job.
We rely so much on our mind, but are we taking care of it? Are we giving back to what we understand to be our “selves”? We take care of our loved ones, we take care of our hair, and we take care of our finances, pets, cars and so on. But when was the last time you were kind to yourself and included SELF-CARE on your to-do list? When was the last time you took a break from the whirling thoughts and just did nothing as a way to relax and nurture your mind?
In discovering our conscious selves, we must first slow the world down (at least in our minds). We can meditate, purge our thoughts through journaling, focus only on our breath, look into a candle flame, and eventually let our thoughts untangle themselves and pass through—until we feel we are suspended while conscious. In these times, we can embrace the present moment. That’s all we really have, isn’t it? The future, which you have not yet entered, becomes the present. The present, as you stay in it, slows into the past. The true, authentic you is what you acknowledge and recognize in the present. A wise ministerial friend of mine once said, “The point of power is in the present.” The alliteration is fun, but the message is a home run.
The most significant encounters with ourselves and the most powerful decisions we make are done in present moments, when we are conscious, caring for our mind and connecting with the sense of something greater or larger than ourselves. In the present, we feel most alive and better able to acknowledge our senses. This mind that we nurture in present moments is the same mind that we rely on to direct us toward being kind, being creative or doing our very best. And, we can choose how those actions will manifest in our lives.
We can’t change everything in the world that happens to us, but we can change the way we respond to it. This can only occur when we are conscious. Uncover your conscious self and begin to see who you really are, what you truly feel, and what you sincerely want in life; and, commit to mindful decision-making.
Once you have met the real you, it’s time to identify your deepest needs and wants.
Put it to the test.
Try at least one or more of the following exercises:
- Develop your imagination. You do not have to practice meditation by assuming a sitting cross-legged position and closing your eyes while chanting, “ohm…”. That is a starting place for some. For other beginners, try listening to an audio program that helps you focus on something positive. You can find many excellent “guided-meditation” audios on iTunes or by online search. Audible and other audio production companies make some of the finest available. Find one that helps you relax and become receptive to intuitive messages. Here are recommendations for three effective audio recordings you might use:
Mindfulness Meditation, by Tara Brach
Everyday Meditation, by Ceasar F. Barajas
Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
2.) Find a quiet place, without distractions, light a candle and then focus on the flame. Take a piece of paper and something to write with and allow your mind to roll out the thoughts you have as you write to describe the experience. Focus on your senses while you determine how to describe what you see. What does the flame look like? How does it connect with the candle? What colors do you see? What movement? What does the experience sound like? Can you hear a crackle as the fire sparks, or is it gently quiet? Use your finger to reach out almost to the flame. Do you feel heat? Did you stick your finger in liquid wax? Did you burn yourself? What did you sense physically? Stick your tongue into the air or taste the finger that you used to get near the flame. What is the taste? Finally, do you smell anything? Maybe it is the smell of smoke or the scent of the candle.
Describe these things in writing, as if you are telling someone about the flame and they have never seen fire before. Finish your writing. Gently blow out the candle, but then close your eyes and imagine that you still see it. Take a deep breath, exhaling slowly. When you complete this experiment, notice how you view everything in physical form around you now. Does anything seem different?
3.) Get outdoors and take a walk, preferably in a quiet area, perhaps on a beach, along a mountain trail or through the woods. Pay attention to your stride and your breathing. Let your mind wander. Think about anything you want, but keep your body moving. Hopefully, you’ll be able to spend at least a half-hour on the walk, but whatever time you take, allow your mind to wander. When you return to your starting point, reflect on whether any ideas came to you that may be helpful to choices you will soon make. Does your body feel energized or relaxed? Let the feeling wash over you. Is it one you would like to re-create?
Living consciously is a lifestyle, a skill, an art. It’s not something you do just once, but a habit that you can form for the rest of your life. However, it is deceptively simple: Be conscious and think about everything you do. Make conscious choices rather than doing things without thinking. That is all.
It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how few people can comfortably do this. Many of us simply live life on autopilot, and just do what we always do because that’s what we’re used to doing. Being kind and living with an awareness of what occurs around us and in other people’s hearts isn’t always at the top of our list. It should be.
It’s not easy to change our lives, to break out of our routines, to begin to live the lives we want. Some of us may avoid conscious living for that reason alone. It requires work. In the beginning you can try to start your day by looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, “My intention today is to live consciously. I move forward kindly and mindfully.” Focus, do not go back to sleep, really listen, connect with your surroundings. Your commitment to the work will bring so many of the rewards discussed earlier.
Here are some key tips that have helped me live more consciously:
- Make reflecting on your life a regular routine. Whether you keep a journal, or make reflecting on your day part of your evening routine, or have a weekly session where you review your life, or take some time away from the office to reflect on everything; it’s important that you give things some thought. Regularly.
- At least once a year, set or review your life’s goals. What do you want to do in life? What is important to you? What do you want your life to be like? And, how will you get there? Write it down, and keep it somewhere you will see it often, and take action.
- Review your relationships. The people we love are among the most important things in our lives, if not the only important things. You need to think about your relationships. Do you spend enough time with the people most important to you? Do you show your appreciation for them? How might you nurture your relationships? Can you start with simply being kind? Do you need to forgive or apologize about anything? Are there barriers that can be removed? Communication that can be improved? Also, review your relationships with others, such as co-workers and business colleagues.
- Consider your impact on the world. How does what you do, what you consume, and how you live impact the environment? How does it impact the poor, the powerless, the voiceless? How does it impact your community? Your life has an impact, whether you think about it or not. Be conscious of the effect you may have on others.
- Review how you spend your time. Keep a log of your day, even if it’s just for one or two days. Did you find you were surprised by how you spent your time? If you know how you spend your time now, you can make conscious decisions to change how you spend your time in the future. Do you nourish your lives with spiritual content from loving leadership or magazines devoted to your beliefs?
- Take some time to think about what kind of person you are. What your values are. Whether you live your life according to those values. How you treat people. How you treat yourself. Think about this: what do you want people to say about you when you die? Will they say you were “kind”?
This first phase in your life transformation—one that will lead you to richer relationships, greater contentment and eventually business success—does not rest solely on your shoulders. Connect with your higher power. There are many names for this force, including Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama Buddha, Mohammed of Mecca, Krishna, The Universe, the Great Spirit, and so many more. Connect with your choice and follow your faith. Your higher power will support your efforts and provide the personal discoveries you need. Slow down. As the psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Once you join in the flow of your higher power you will shed your old ways and become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Susan Kavanaugh is founder of KavCom: Conscious Communications, LLC. Former executive director of Conscious Capitalism Arizona, co-founder of Shift/Co a conscious business B-Corps, certified life coach, and Christian minister, she is preparing for release of a new book The Heart of Profit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.