Saturday, December 27, 2014

1st Annual SPIR-IT Summit - From the Human Doing to the Human Being

During a visit by the IT minister of Government of Telangana, Mr KT Rama Rao, to the Shanti Sarovar Retreat Center, he was very impressed by the meditation programs conducted there for IT professionals. He invited the Brahma Kumaris (BK) in partnership with Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA) to organize a national conference at the intersections of technology-consciousness-leadership. The Brahma Kumaris asked me if I would like to help organize it and it felt right. We came up with the title SPIR-IT Summit and 1st annual event was held in Hyderabad on 6th December, 2014, a first of its kind in India, with the intention of shifting the focus from the Human Doing to the Human Being.

About 1,100 IT professionals came to listen to thought leaders, both from the consciousness world and the industry, share their experience and insights on keeping a balance between their inner and outer worlds. The sessions were based on four themes: Physical Health, Emotional Health, Social Health and Compassionate Leadership.

The conference began with a video message from Dr Devi Shetty, the world-renowned cardiologist and founder of Narayana Hriduyalaya. The keynote on phsycial health was by Padmashri awardee Dr G Bhakthavatsalam (GB) who entertained the audience with his message of the importance of listening to your body. He said give your body an hour of your time, sitting in meditation, and your body will work 23 hours for you. The ensuing panel discussion with Sleep specialist Dr Nalini Nagalla, Deena Harapanahalli, founder of the largest corporate bicycling event in the country and Dr GB was moderated by Murali Bollu, CEO of ZenQ. Murali pointed out that this is the first time in his 20+ years of experience that he’s seen a forum with IT and health listed together in the title. The panel highlighted chronic issues in the IT industry, for instance a survey showed that 80% of IT professionals suffer from eye problems, hypertension and diabetes.

On sleep deprivation, and Dr Nalini stated that lack of sleep results in reduced ability to focus on important things and improper functioning of all internal organs. Our brain remains active during sleep to repair the body and consolidate all the learnings into memory. Stress in your life is inversely proportional to the amount and quality of sleep you get.

Deena suggested some simple steps to keep active like taking stairs wherever possible, taking the farthest parking spot and eating healthy. He noted that 10 minutes invested in a day (in activities for our body like yoga, meditation, etc.) is 10 vacations days saved (in a year due to illnesses).

Dinesh Kashikar, senior disciple of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living, led a demonstration of hathayoga asanas. He pointed out that yoga can make you more efficient and help you save time. If you feel you don’t have enough time, meditate to make time in your life.

Welcoming the guests in the plenary session, sister Jayanti, BK representative at the United Nations, explained the purpose of BKs, which is to create instruments to make this world a better place by shifting the consciousness from doing to being. She suggested that the 2.5-inch tongue shouldn’t dictate a 6-foot person in terms of taste and what we talk. The way to achieve mastery on self, inner peace and freedom is through meditation. Too many choices and less wisdom lead to stress. And the best way to sustain a relationship is through love and respect.

GV Prasad, CEO of Dr Reddy’s Labs, suggested that at parties instead of telling people what you do in terms of your position, tell what you’ve done that touched lives.Harpreet Singh, IT Secretary of Govt of Telangana, indicated that this event was part of series of events called “Happening Hyderabad”, in an effort to create a culture of its own for the city, the capital of the newly formed state of Telangana.

In the Emotional Health session, sister Jayanti suggested, it is knowing what is it that pushes my negative buttons and then controlling that. People with high IQ are not as successful as people with high EQ (emotional quotient). The more we know ourselves, the more we’ll be able to understand how to deal with others. When emotional well-being is not dependent on physical experience, it lasts for a long time. Meditation leads to that positive psychology. She noted that scientific evidence has shown that immunity is directly proportion to positive emotions.

David John Kilowsky led a music and meditation exercise called ‘Stillness through Sounds’ using about a dozen musical instruments, which took the audience into deep silence, much appreciated by all.

In the panel discussion on Emotional Health, Dr Kiranmai, Senior VP of HR at AMD, mentioned that it is not only the technical skill set but the emotional connection with others, self awareness and teamwork that matters a lot in IT industry. On Team Psychology, she said it’s important to cultivate people’s sense of security. This is enhanced when everyone is able to express their opinion openly and not be afraid of failures. “We as leaders give employees that confidence when we spend more time listening to them”.
Moderator Bala Kishore, SVP at United Online, asked about the importance of teamwork, to which Sister Jayanti quoted Mahatma Gandhi - “Speed doesn’t matter if everyone is walking in different directions”. To be able to work in a team controlling egos and ones attitude are very important.

On how to give negative feedback to an employee, sister Jayanti suggested that it should be communicated with compassion and not blaming the person. It should be task specific and not personal. Feedback sessions should start from the time the people begin working together as team. It should be regular and not on a specific day of the year. Build relationships of trust within the team. Give more importance to the relationships than the task at hand. Everyone has a need to be loved.

In the panel discussion on Social Health, Narasimha Rao (Narry), head of Infosys in Hyderabad was joined by Sister Shivani, famous TV personality and moderated by Flt Lt Bipin Pendyala, MD of iKeva.  Bipin expressed his concern of how today’s children are running away from direct interactions and are getting into a digital world and asked questions on how to create a healthy social life and how important are interpersonal relationships. In response, Narry suggested it’s important to prioritize different relationships and make sure that each one of the relationships becomes a priority at least once at some point and time must be invested into growing it. Sister Shivani suggested to check one’s interpersonal health. Check how you get along with others and what energy people receive around you. To be able to radiate positive energy, you should have a positive relationship with your inner self. She also mentioned that what we think and feel will become our energy which will be transmitted to people around us. If we avoid people, our energy will be stagnant; it won’t flow to others and other’s energies wont flow to us.

Answering a question from audience on how to react to people behaving differently in different situations, sister Shivani said “Let’s not focus on what others are doing and how they are behaving, focus on your response which should be constant for all. It shouldn’t be customized based on what the other person will think or say. We expect to control people but people don’t behave according to our script. So, let’s start working on our own script and become the creator of our own thoughts.” She also stressed upon the importance of joint families and that the more people we have in our family, the more energy exchange will happen leading to healthier selves. Sister Shivani led the audience into a meditation that created space for the ideas to settle.

In the last session of the day, on Compassionate Leadership, Mr Varaprasada Reddy, Chairman of Shanta Biotechnics, set the context by saying how you treat your rival is a way to gauge your character. The qualities of a great leader are clarity of mind, purity of thoughts and focus on the goal.

In the panel, Prof. Raj Raghunath of Indian School of Business, Sister Jayanti and Mr Reddy touched on empathy, kindness, generosity and how these increases the happiness quotient of a person.

Sister Jayanti mentioned the traits of a good leader and that if you share what you have, people gravitate towards you on their own. Prof Raj described self-compassion and demonstrated through an exercise that generally people are more compassionate to others but lack self-compassion. Self-compassion can be cultivated by spending time with yourself, just being.

Delegates shared very positive feedback before the closure. Some appreciated the meditations woven into the discussions. One commented, “These kinds of events really make us to think where are we heading? What are we achieving? Is it really worth it?” Others requested frequent meetings. And, one felt “It has changed my understanding of life”.

To bring things to a perfect finish, sister Jayanti led the gathering in a closing meditation.

Immediately after the summit, we got several requests to host such events in other cities. The team is planning on a series of smaller summits and one flagship event in 2015. All of this will be posted on the summit website –

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