Tightrope: Making a spiritual connection with clients

Hello, Gladys,

I want to apply spiritual practices to my new consulting business, but I'm not sure how to approach it. I have read many books on spirituality but I haven't found many that directly apply to running a business. What approach do you suggest?


The spiritual business is booming in the American economy. Books, videos, retreats and tours to fit any pocketbook range in price from $8 for books to thousands of dollars for soul-searching retreats. While driving the other day, I listened to a radio interview of a woman who teaches how to eat your meals spiritually.

Many of these spiritual aids are aimed at entrepreneurs and corporate executives. Recently a friend was telling me about an executive retreat that she took geared toward executives of large corporations. She spent the weekend sitting in a circle with others listening to African drumming and chanting. Imagine that for getting "in touch" with yourself, and to help open your heart to compassion for your customers and co-workers.

And of course, there are spiritual supports for leadership, time management and business management. The list is endless.

Whatever you are looking for, there is a spiritual experience waiting to happen for you, or so we're told by new-age spiritual pundits.

It's nice to live in a time when it appears that the masses are ready and willing to plop down a few dollars to get in touch with their spiritual side. You might even think that at long last the various forms of discrimination, violence and world hunger will soon be coming to an end.

Let's look at another way to reach nirvana that is less costly.

On one of my regular morning walks in the park, I met Artie, who jogs there regularly. That morning he decided to join me on my walk and enjoy the unusually pleasant morning weather.

As we walked, Artie told me how the park's peaceful environment helped to clear his mind.

"In my line of work I have to regularly take time out for a mental break," he said. "I counsel recovering drug and alcohol victims. Most of them are between the ages of 16 and 25. It's a tough job seeing so many young people in this condition."

As we approached the turn marking mile three, I had listened intently to Artie talk about many of the techniques he uses in his counseling sessions and how it was very much like being an entrepreneur. He was determined to be successful at keeping young people drug- and alcohol-free.

He said that many times after his normal work hours had ended, he would get a call from someone in recovery who was thinking about going back to drinking or drugs. He would immediately stop what he was doing or get out of bed to rush to the person's side to remind him of the importance of staying clean for another day.

As our pace slowed, I asked him what kept him motivated to be so diligent about his work. "I believe it's our responsibility as human beings to be committed to our mission and to serve our customers with sincerity and compassion," he said. "These young people are my customers, and my work is like owning my own business. Each day that I am able to go to my job and give service to my customers from my heart is a day I feel that I have fully and completely lived. So you see, in a way we are helping each other."

What Artie described was true spiritual practice in business and the workplace.

We are constantly faced with dealing with different personalities and behaviors of our clients, customers, employees, co-workers and business associates. Each day we have the chance to practice service, compassion and commitment, all while making a living. This is what I call bringing spiritual practice to your workplace.

You don't have to buy spirituality, bargain for it or look for ways to apply it. It's always right there in front of us, waiting to be accepted and applied.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. Click here for an index of her columns. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds is founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published by Viking. Her website is www.gladysedmunds.com. You can e-mail her at gladys@gladysedmunds.com.