Usually, when we think about the business, we associate it with numbers, strategy, profit and rationality. For the majority of people, in the business world there is no place for anything that is intangible like it is spirituality. On the other side, newer generations seek workplaces where they will have an opportunity to fulfil their need for finding a higher purpose. According to a growing body of research, bringing spiritual values into the workplace can lead to increased productivity and profitability as well as employee retention, customer loyalty, and brand reputation. In a quest for finding a closer understanding of this topic, we led a conversation with Sanja Stankovic who spoke about her own journey of discovering a higher purpose and applying spirituality in her everyday business life.
Sanja, you are a sociologist by profession and you have worked in HR at many companies for years. How did you manage to bring it all together – working in a corporate world, your personal, spiritual life and volunteering for several organizations?
I will start by sharing my belief that a division between business and personal life is one of the biggest misconceptions. We all have only one life and one awareness. The way we experience different areas of our lives such as our job, family, spare time and various hobbies, socializing and activities through which we add value to a better society depends on the level of our awareness.
How did spirituality become part of my life?
Although people keep highlighting the difference between the business and the spiritual world, it was actually the environment at work that made me reach for spirituality a few years ago. I worked for a law firm at the time and I was surrounded by a lot of negative energy. Lawyers were very nervous and under a lot of stress, often their clients were people who committed murders, rapes, massive frauds and I did a job I was overqualified for. So, I started asking questions typical of every spiritual seeker at the beginning of their spiritual journey: who am I, why am I here, what is my purpose in this world, etc.
I started researching yoga and meditation on my own and developed a practice of getting up just 30 minutes earlier than usual in order to meditate for a few minutes. I did light morning yoga exercises for about ten minutes, and I used the rest of the time contemplating and preparing breakfast in my NutriBullet. After a few months of following this practice, I saw changes in my mood, I felt quite calm within, my response to external events involved greater acceptance; the people around me began to notice that and ask me what was happening. It was during that time that I discovered Conscious Walking and met Devi Mohan, Mohanji’s wife. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the Mohanji so when they told me a story about an enlightened master who was a very successful businessman who left everything and he lives for the world, building platforms to upgrade society, I was in awe. I spent too much time surrounded by people who were merely profit-oriented that I needed some time to understand that there are people who reached the state that they need nothing from society and still give their best to it. Soon after that I joined ACT Serbia Foundation and their charity activities. Also, unexpectedly, I changed my job and started working in HR. I started attending the Power of Purity group meditation twice a week and more than ever I started to break with all of my accumulated patterns and emotions I stored for years. The irony was that I was trained in the psychotherapeutic model and provided counseling to people, run the School of Emotional Intelligence, did coaching work with employees; still, I gained the deepest insights and got rid off of all the things I accumulated through techniques provided by Mohanji and spending time with him on the retreats. Through regular spiritual practice which included meditation, breathing and yoga exercises, I reached the deepest part of my inner being. I realized that over the years I was focusing on learning, education, training, how to self-improve, how to be even more successful. What I actually needed was to unlearn. Sometimes a great desire to learn more, to pay for just one more training course, or to attend just one more course and read another book can be a sign that we didn’t accept ourselves. A sign that we deeply believe that we are not enough. That we are not worthy enough. And no matter how hard we try, we are witnessing that someone has more success with much less effort than us, and we wonder how it is possible and why it is happening. To complete my answer, both spiritual and business lives are part of our life that is special and unique. How we will experience all areas of our life depends on accepting ourselves completely so we can accept others, as well as the circumstances around us. This also depends on the level of our AWARENESS. That is why we named our team Invests in Awareness.
Why do people believe that spirituality and business life are mutually exclusive? Is this true?
We already mentioned that our business and private lives are not separated, but that there are different areas of the same life that we have, and there is one and unique awareness that determines how we will experience ourselves and the world around us. The division between our spiritual and business life belongs to the so-called irrational beliefs. Irrational beliefs are certain claims that we adopted from our parents, the society, important “other” people, and we believe that they are true; in this way, we create our reality around us. Our mind is so powerful that everything we believe in turns into our reality. We program ourselves subconsciously. If we believe that we should be successful in business life and that spirituality is something beyond that, then we keep the spirituality for some other occasion or for some other period of our life, for instance, when we retire, then we actually do not live our true self. Namely, what does being spiritual really mean? It means being natural. Knowing yourself and living in harmony with yourself. If we do not know ourselves, we will not be successful in any field. We may be financially successful to a certain extent, but they will not make us truly happy in the long run. We are beings who cannot be limited exclusively to the material world, we also have spiritual needs. We need to keep a balance of these elements in our lives. Also, each of us is unique. Each of us has a certain skill, a talent through which they can add value. Success in my opinion means that we use this skill or talent to improve someone’s life, to add some value.
The problem with us people and the humanity occurred when we began to use our skills and talents solely for our personal interest, without caring about whether our actions create any positive value or pose a threat to anyone; when we started abusing the resources of the planet Earth instead of using them and giving back equally.
What is the role of spirituality in our business life?
One of its roles is related to what I have said - that we cannot look at other people or other living beings, including our entire ecosystem, as they are separated from ourselves. We must pay the rent for living here. If I create value for myself in such a way that endangers someone else, then we cannot talk about success. Then it is a failure for the entire planet. Spirituality reminds us that this detachment is an illusion. There are no people who are worth less than us so we can take advantage of them and violate their rights in order to gain something for ourselves. Also, we cannot treat animals like their lives worth less or do not matter, and so it is okay to torture, abuse or kill them in order to gain value for ourselves. Spirituality is a reminder that we are all connected and that our actions have an impact on our environment, and therefore ourselves, because our future is a reflection of what we do today.
Please tell us what you have learned through spirituality and what helps you in your daily activities at work?
First, by meditating regularly, doing yoga and breathing exercises, I increased my awareness. For example, the awareness to recognize when my limiting beliefs are active. Some of these beliefs were that I had to work very hard to earn money. When I realized that I had this belief, awareness helped me develop functional belief like “Money comes while I do things that I enjoy and do effortlessly.” This does not mean that I never work long hours and never work hard, but that I gave myself permission to make money easily and by doing what I really enjoy. As a result, the sweetest money is the kind of money I earn that way.
In order to eliminate our limiting beliefs and create success, we need to get to know ourselves well, accept ourselves with all our strengths and weaknesses. I would say that we will be more successful if we focus on our strengths and concentrate on how we can create value using our strengths. With this attitude, success is guaranteed.
Contemplation that the spiritual world introduced me, helped me to see clearly my purpose in life. I realized that I was not attracted solely by the opportunity to make money in any company. Our purpose in this world is not to create money but to create value for the common cause and that money is a non-essential element that accompanies the creation of this value. In fact, when we focus on creating value by using our strengths and skills, we are in what great minds call “flow,” “in the zone,” we flow like water. And exactly then, since we are not chasing money, it comes most effortlessly. If you get uptight, there is no free flow. Also, balance is very important. If you focus solely on taking and not giving, that is not natural and cannot be maintained. When your fists are clenched, nothing can come out, but nothing can come in either.
We should use our business success not only for our own and the benefit of our immediate family, but also to support those who need help, the weak, the hungry, the sick, the underprivileged. To always share what we have, be it the money or time, a skill or our kindness. Only then will our efforts pay off enormously.
Is that what you teach the employees in companies that hire your Invest in Awareness team?
We teach them how to be content. The ultimate goal of each of us is to be happy. That is the reason why most of the people work - to be able to get the things they believe will bring them happiness. However, we want to assure people that they can be happy immediately instead of someday, when they buy a car, a flat, a house, have a cosmetic procedure or whatever people do because they believe it will make them happy.
As part of the Invest in Awareness team, we believe that each of us has the right to be happy and that this is something that people can achieve when they raise their awareness, get to know and accept themselves, focus on their purpose, vision and draw on their strength to accomplish this. We help people achieve success by not comparing themselves to others, not competing with others, but by expanding their inner capacities and resources. Everything lays within ourselves. When we manage to gain deep satisfaction with ourselves and our life, regardless of external circumstances, we become very powerful and then we can say that we are happy and successful.
Sanja Stanković is a Mohanji Acharya and a representative of an Invest in Awareness company whose vision is firmed in Mohanji’s teachings and their goal is to empower individuals to achieve consistent contentment by accepting themselves fully and developing a purpose-driven vision to their business by being connected with nature, respecting its resources and giving back to society. Sanja is a sociologist, HR professional, certified Himalayan School of Yoga teacher and she is passionate about bringing wellbeing into the business world and promoting kindness and altruism.