Book Club Discussion | The Buddha Walks into the Office

The Buddha Walks into the Office seemed a particularly apt choice for our Shambhala office book club. After all, if anyone should aspire to an awake, uplifted workplace, it should be us. We dove in to see if Lodro Rinzler, teacher in the Shambhala tradition and founder of MNDFL meditation studios in New York, had any tips for us.

If you’re reading along, please comment at the bottom of this guide and let us know if The Buddha Walks into the Office was helpful to you, whether or not you work in an office.

Questions for Discussion

  • How do you envision applying these teachings in your workplace every day? What are the ways we can collectively support each other to continue practicing these lessons after we’ve finished reading? How do we take the teachings off the page and cultivate a work environment rooted in mindfulness and compassion?
  • The Buddha said, “Come and see for yourself,” meaning that we don’t have to take Buddhist teachings on faith but should actively investigate whether they hold true in our lives. Which teachings from this book resonate with your own experience? Which contradict it? Which do you feel require further investigation?
  • Since Lodro is part of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, this book touches on a lot of the same principles that we read about in Trungpa’s Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior. How do their presentations of similar topics compare? Which do you find more accessible and why?
  • This book is full of all sorts of sensational anecdotes, metaphors, and pop culture references. Do you have any favorites that stand out to you or that illustrate a difficult concept in a particularly helpful way?

Notable Quotes

  • “When it comes to figuring out a career path, knowing your intention may be the most basic and most helpful step on the journey that links your work with your spiritual path.” (6)
  • “It occurred to me that given the current educational and economic situation in the United States, maybe the question of what you want to be when you grow up is outdated. This conversation steered me toward what is perhaps a better question for the thoughtful young person today: ‘Who do you want to be when you grow up?’” (26)
  • “Your job is not your life. If you think your life is your job, you should be concerned. Your life is what you make of it and what qualities you want to cultivate during your time here on earth.” (30)
  • “Sometimes we need to create space around difficulty in order for solutions to arise. When we take a step back from a problem, that simple mind that arises can unravel the complicated situation. The more space we create for ourselves and others, the more clearly we are able to see a situation.” (46)
  • “We all suffer. The fact that you see more clearly how you get hooked by suffering only highlights how your friends and coworkers are going through the exact same thing.” (62)

Social change through inner change:

  • “By continuously coming back to the present, we are learning to free ourselves from fixed points of view. That is an important first step in creating change, at work and in society.” (106)
  • “The more we can empathize with coworkers, clients, and even superiors, the better we will be able to understand them. Having understood them and seen them for who they are, we will be able to figure out how best to engage in compassionate activity and create change based on what needs to happen, as opposed to our ideas about what needs to happen.” (108)
  • “Instead of trying to yell our ideas for societal change into existence, we have the opportunity to infiltrate the same organizations we seek to transform and create the change from within. . . . We can maintain an open heart, even in tough corporate settings, and let our compassion touch others.” (108-109)
  • “We can use our work situation as a jumping-off point for sharing our heart more widely with everyone we encounter. We can reflect each day on whether what we have done has helped others or created positive change in the world. Through this gradual process, we can build a society that is based in empathy and compassion.” (110)

Compassionate Leadership:

  • “A fundamental principle of leadership is that we need to engage others, work with their skill sets, and encourage the people with whom we collaborate.” (122)
  • “Take a moment to recognize that all parties concerned have at least one thing in common: basic goodness. . . . Instead of meeting someone on the battlefield of aggression, you can meet them in the spacious playground of shared innate wisdom.” (130)
  • “Power is best used when everyone profits from it—when we share it and empower others.” (136)
  • “Fearlessness is about looking at our fear, learning it well, and seeing our way through it.” (148)
  • “An artful leader is one who gives others the space to discover their own wisdom.” (158)
  • “With the view that everyone and everything we encounter is rooted in basic goodness, we can find magic in any situation.” (163)
  • “If we recognize obstacles as merely part of the display of our world, then we realize we don’t have to take them—or ourselves—so seriously. You are not this heavy, solid thing but a vast conglomeration of knowledge and experience that is ever-changing. Similarly, when you face an obstacle, you should think of it in the same impermanent, fluid way.” (176)

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