Mindfulness in the Marketplace with Marc Lesser

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Mindfulness is both profound and potent. Marc Lesser suggests that it is not about holding the busy world at bay, it’s to cultivate a more alive, responsive, effective and warm-hearted way of being within the world as it already exists and within a life you already live. This deep dialogue explores how to find composure right in the midst of the storm and ways to integrate mindfulness into our daily life. He shares the story of how, with no experience as a cook, he ended up as chief cook at a major Zen retreat center supervising fifteen people to serve three gourmet meals a day to seventy residential students and seventy to eighty overnight guests. This taught him to summon up a sense of kindness in a highly stressful environment. He says when you are hot and tired and the pressure is on, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” From this experience he helped to develop Search Inside Yourself (SIY), a mindfulness-based leadership training program which he helped develop at Google. Zen priest Norman Fisher was asked to attend an early meeting of SIY. When he learned that he was expected to speak, he quickly jotted down some notes on a blank piece of paper and spoke “off the cuff.” With permission, Marc was able to turn the seven guiding principles spoken that day into the core principles for teaching mindfulness. In describing the seventh principle he writes, “The intention of the Seventh Practice is to see or recognize the most important thing in any given moment. Even in the midst of our busy lives we can’t avoid challenges, or problems, or grief, or death, but when we feel confused and overwhelmed, we can remember: eep making it simpler and simpler still. Each moment in each day, keep making life less complicated, so we are more focused, spacious, and present. So we prioritize the most important action to take.” Here we explore some of those seven principles. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Marc Lesser is a Zen teacher who leads trainings and talks worldwide. He has led mindfulness and emotional intelligence programs at many of the world’s leading businesses and organizations including Google, Genetech, and Kaiser. He’s currently CEO of ZBA Associates, a company providing mindfulness-based leadership trainings and creating community by supporting ongoing groups. Previously, he served as CEO and co-founder of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, whose core programs he helped develop within Google. Marc was a resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years and former director of Tassajara, Zen Mountain Center. 

Marc Lesser’s books include:

To learn more about the work of Marc Lesser go to www.marclesser.net.

Topics explored in this dialogue include:

  • How Marc ended up as chief cook in the kitchen at Tassajara Retreat Center and what it taught him
  • How he developed the Seven Principles of Mindfulness from an “off-the-cuff” talk that a Zen Priest gave
  • How mindfulness can be both deep and wide
  • How some people use mindfulness to reduce stress, improve corporate profits, or be a better leader
  • What principle three means in “don’t be an expert”
  • What Marc’s work in improv theater taught him about failure
  • What is generative listening and having the courage to not know and listening beyond the words and feelings
  • What are the many qualities of love
  • What are the eighty-fourth practice the Buddha talked about
  • How life is all about depending on others and learning to be better at collaboration
  • What the seventh principle teaches: keep making it simpler and simpler still
  • How asking the question, “what is essential and what is most important right now” helps us make good choices
  • What was his moment that stopped him in his tracks when he needed to take his mother to the doctor appointment
  • What is important about know our “ground truth” 

Host: Justine Willis Toms      Interview Date: 6/7/2019       Program Number: 3678 

Music Playlist

From Album: Music for Zen Meditation
Artist: Tony Scott

Opening Essay: Track 01 Is Not All One?
Music Break 1: Track 03 A Quivering Leaf Ask the Winds
Music Break 2: Track 05 To Drift Like Clouds
Music Break 3: Track 06 – Za Zen (Meditation)