Is Warren Buffett A Yogi?

Yoga Friends,

I watched an inspiring interview that businessman and philanthropist, Warren Buffett, gave to Judy Woodruff on the PBS Newshour recently. Judy reported that Warren Buffett's net worth from all his stock certificates at his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is $77 Billion. Warren said that 99% of it is going back to society through philanthropy. He said he could live on $100,000 per year and still be happy, and though he could buy 100 homes and yachts if he wanted to, he wouldn't be happier. He's happy to live in the same house he's lived in since 1958 because it's filled with memories--obviously ones that are priceless to him. He said the secret to being happy is to find what you love to do, and he tells young students, "look for the job you'd take if you didn't need a job. ... Surround yourself with people around you who make you feel good every day, and make you a better person than you would ever be."

To me, this certainly sounds like someone who is practicing yoga "off-the-mat!"

Warren Buffett has learned to be content --samtosha -- with having only what he needs. He doesn't seem to have a great number of material wants, rather he seems to practice aparigraha--non-greed, non-grasping, non-possessiveness. Unlke most people, he doesn't seem to have an ego that is constantly saying "more, more, more." He thinks in terms of how his greatest gifts can meet society's greatest needs. And perhaps one of his most endearing traits is that he has a jovial quality that clearly demonstrates that he is a happy person.

Many years ago when I was a working actor, an acting teacher shared with me his philosophy about acting that can be summarized as, "Joy is the Center of the Creative process." I have always remembered that. As an artist myself, I know the creative process can feel painful at times--most often due to the fact that you're constantly delving into the unknown. But whenever I am trying to create something -- yoga sequences, lesson plans, an acting role, growing Keoni Movement Arts -- I am always guided by the same basic questions: What brings me joy? Am I enjoying what I am doing? Do I think this will bring joy to others?

The actor Robert Prosky said:

It has been said that an Actor must have the hide of a rhinoceros, the courage and audacity of a lion, and most importantly, the fragile vulnerability of an egg.

Certainly, as yoga practitioners, we must try to cultivate the hide of a rhinoceros. One way of thinking about this is that we can either try over and over to force the outside world to change to our liking, or as the 8th Century Indian Buddhist Monk and Scholar Shantideva suggested, we can protect our own minds by wrapping a thick protective "hide" around it. That's what meditation practice is intended to help us build. A more current way of thinking about this is we're trying to "Donald Trump-proof" our minds!

Also, as yoga practitioners we're trying to access the deepest awakenings of the heart/mind, and it takes tremendous courage and audacity to do just that. Certainly, yoga and meditation are not for the faint-hearted in this respect!

Robert Prosky also said:

It also has been said, and I'm not sure by whom, that the moment of not knowing is the moment that has the greatest potential for creativity. The professional and private lives of most Actors are filled to the brim with moments of not knowing.

And the Buddhist Meditation Teacher, Pema Chodron, said:

The best spiritual instruction is when you wake in the morning and say, "I wonder what's going to happen today," ... and carry that kind of curiosity through your life.

If yoga and meditation can do anything for us, it can help us to feel more comfortable with not knowing, and open us up to the curious possibilities of what might be if we just allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to flow with life as it is unfolding. Certainly seeing what is happening in front of us in any given moment -- instead of being stuck in what we think should be happening -- is a way of being that is fresh, awakening, and freeing. If we can be open to possibilities that God has in store for us by surrendering more, we will freer from the blockages that keeps God's creative force from reaching the surface of our awareness. I know we wish we could control all outcomes, but in letting go of controlling too much, we can know our highest possibilities. 

This past month, I put together a recital for my nonprofit organization, Keoni Movement Arts. I had to figure out yoga, dance, and gymnastics skills that my students -- many of whom are special needs -- could perform as choreographed movement pieces.

And in my desire to advance Yo-Dan-Nastics as a movement arts vocabulary, I asked of my teachers that we also put together a movement piece to share with our students. We only had two 2-hour rehearsals in which to assemble it. Because I was so busy taking care of other aspects of the recital, I didn't get around to formulating ideas for the teachers' piece until the night before our first rehearsal. I remember thinking -- with both fear and excitement -- "what is going to happen tomorrow?" I truly did not know! 

Then just after I had settled myself into bed and before I fell asleep, suddenly and magically ideas started popping into my head. And the next day, as I was leading my teachers and I through a warmup, suddenly movement ideas started popping into my head, leading one teacher to remark "this could be our dance!" And as we went through the rehearsal, the other teachers started contributing their ideas, and after just two short -- and exhilarating -- hours, we had basically assembled a dance together. It was such a joyous experience, and one that I undoubtedly would not had experienced had I not been open to "not knowing."

I am thrilled that, like Warren Buffett, I have found life-work that is meaningful and joyous for me and others. I think back 20 years ago, when for two years I was making $10 an hour teaching a once-per-week adult gymnastics class at the YMCA. Certainly, I wasn't making a lot of money teaching back then, but I do remember that the process of learning how to teach movement brought me great joy. I had fun experimenting with a lot of different ways to approach teaching gymnastics -- an activity that is more suited for learning as a child -- to adults. I used to spend many hours planning my lessons and breaking things down into smaller and smaller achievable bits of movement. My mind used to churn with ideas that I now know didn't come from me, rather from God.

I am most grateful for the talented professionals I am now surrounded by who are giving their time, treasure, and talents to help me to nurture Keoni Movement Arts and bring it to the next level. They make me feel good every day, and help to make me a better person than I would be otherwise.

Whatever is your deepest callings, I hope that your yoga and meditation practices can help you to hear those messages clearly. The world will benefit greatly from experiencing your most creative and joy-filled ideas.

May you revel in "not knowing," ...
May you develop a thick hide to encase your mind in, ...
May you know your greatest potential for creativity, ...
May Joy be the Center of your Creative Process," ...
May you be a yogi like Warren Buffett, ...
... for the benefit of all Beings everywhere.

Metta with Aloha,
Paul Keoni