Nuggets From Home Nguyen's Call
Posted by Chris Johnnidis on Jan 24, 2020
Dr. Home Nguyen was born in Vietnam in the middle of the War. When Saigon fell, his horrific story of escaping (with his parents having been imprisoned) culminated in his complete surrender to nature and to the divine after 20 days at sea – where he realized that what he thought had mattered (like money and even survival) didn’t matter. At the moment of complete surrender, young Home’s boat miraculously landed on shore and he was taken to a refugee camp. He later again learned that what seemed to matter doesn't matter when he took up meditation. He now has over 20 years' experience in personal leadership, mind-body practices, and executive coaching. His mission is to develop mindful, influential and compassionate leaders. He has coached senior executives from midsize to Fortune 500 companies and MBAs at Columbia and Yale. He is also founder and CEO of MindKind Institute, a mindful leadership development company.
Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...
- After fleeing Vietnam as a refugee, at 13 years old, thought "this is the end" on a boat lost at sea for 19 days, and remembers experiencing a complete lettering go of the anticipation of death, a surrender. In his words:
"There were waves of Vietnamese refugees escaping on boats, and I was one of them and ended up in the middle of the ocean. And we were lost for 19 days. And I too remember the experience of waking up, looking around and seeing all of these bodies -- and I didn't know whether they were dead or alive. And then I remember crawling on top of these bodies to the top of the deck and sitting there and looking at the waves coming. And I saw these huge waves, and I thought at any moment, one of these waves will kill all of us. And then I started praying. I remember praying to Jesus, praying to the Buddha, praying to my grandfather. And then there was a bird that flew by and I prayed to the birds. And then, and then suddenly I saw this huge wave coming and I thought, 'Oh, this is the end.' And so I do remember very vividly that experience of completely 'Let go.' The anticipation -- the anticipation of death, you know -- I just completely let go of everything. I just sat there. I looked at this wave, and then it came and it went, it came and went. And then there was this moment of complete surrender and peace."
- Later experiences in meditation would revisit and provide some framing to profound experiences of present moment.
- After 9 months in refugee camp in Thailand, came to U.S., not speaking the language except for, "I'm hungry," "where's the bathroom?" and "thank you very much."
- Wanted to change name to "Michael" at some point, feeling out of place with birth name "Hung"--which in Vietnamese translates to "quality of bravery."
- After struggling with career choice, including failing accounting twice, :) dropped out of college and started successful theater company with friends. Toured a play called "Laughter from the Children of War."
- Many audience members, including veterans, reported experiencing healing from the play.
- Story-telling became a powerful way to deal with ongoing traumas, including circumstance around coming out as gay man in 1980s, in the midst of AIDS epidemic.
- In a pivotal moment before a performance, a young woman in theater company approached and, despite resistance, shared, "I came to this because I value the work; but I have to tell you, I don't feel loved when I work with you."
- After developing psycho-somatic symptoms such as insomnia, a friend serendipitously introduced Dr. Home to meditation. Starting with sitting still for 10 minutes. A "skin crawling experience."
- Thinking it would be like a vacation, signed up for a 10-day meditation course. "Thought I was going crazy for the first few days." Eventually realized, "I had known how to observe externally, but hadn't known how to explore deeper inside--inside the mind, inside the body."
- On the topic of "feeling loved"--an ongoing inquiry. Motivation a key aspect. Are our actions motivated by fear? pride? guilt? craving for approval? etc. Realized these motivations give us fuel for some time, but in the long run we lose energy via these motivations.
- Heard recently, "The way I do work, it's like using non-renewable resources--I use them, then they run out. What could it be like to work from renewable resources? "Recently a client of mine had an aha moment and he said, oh, I figured out what you are doing with me. He said, oh, up to this point the way I used my energy to do work is kind of like a nonrenewable energy, it's like coal power or gasoline. We use it and eventually we've run out of it, and then we have to go and get some more of it. But what do we have access to the energy of the sun or the wind or natural energy? Then that's always there, right? So the human consciousness is similar. So when I operate, or when I'm motivated by courage, or when I'm motivated by a willingness, or even higher level, where I'm motivated by love and I act and I work out of that, it's like I have access to the energy of the sun that's there all the time."
- Powerful story of working with a CEO of a company around these topics. After seeing CEO scratch his chest, spontaneously asked him, "if your chest had a voice, what would it say?" After initial confusion, slowing down and breathing, and space for emergence: "this is enough" came through. Deeper motivations were accessed.
- Think so much pain arises in workplaces out of lack of trust, and lack of skillfulness in communicating basic human needs and emotions. "I know that because I too struggle with it."
- What advice would you give your younger self? When in doubt, come back to the breath. No need to push or grasp; you don't know most things; it's okay not to know.
- "For me, I enjoy the experience of exploring. And as someone who -- I think of myself as an adventurer -- I think exploring human consciousness is like a going out, going 'outer space'. Rather than go 'outer space', I go in 'inner space.' And the inner space is just as powerful and beautiful and exhilarating. So I would encourage to begin somewhere, begin with some practice, and then keep asking questions. I think there's so much to learn and we're living in such a beautiful time where we have access to... really, we can be awakened in this lifetime."
- "How do I create an island of sanity within my my own body, within my own mind?"
- "I got enough courage to say, to ask Joanna Macy: 'Joanna, well, I want to grow up like you. So how do you grow older and stay so awakened, so learned, so alive? How do you do that?' And she, without missing a beat, she laughed and she said, 'When I see suffering, I don't flinch. When I see suffering, I don't flinch. I move right through the suffering. I move right through the suffering.' And so I think we live in a world that is full of sorrows, infinite sorrows. And yet, alongside all the infinite sorrows are all the infinite, simple joys."
- "Even if you don't know how to ask for help, ask for help with how to learn to ask questions."
- "it's really healthy to have an ego so that I can negotiate and I can talk with clients and write proposals and negotiate money and work with the team and grow a company. Really important to have a healthy ego to do all of that. And then at the same time, the ego is nothing but the emissary for the master, right? My ego is the servant to my true self. And my true self is just pure, pure beauty, pure presence, pure awareness, and I need to have an ego to serve that part of me"