May 11, 2021

28 : Co-Creating a Community-Driven Mindfulness Movement at Google and Beyond with Ruchika Sikri


Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond I'm your host, Adam Coelho and I'm so glad you're here.

On today's episode.  I'm joined by my friend Ruchika Sikri.

Ruchika is the founder of Mandala Ventures. After a successful corporate career of 25 plus years at Google, Microsoft and Cisco, she was following her life's purpose and mission to create a better world by supporting globally accessible mindfulness, compassion and wellness offerings.

Ruchika's inspiration to do this work comes from leading wellbeing and mindfulness learning programs and strategy at Google for eight plus years out of her 15 years at the. company.

Ruchika has successfully architected, facilitated and curated several wellbeing and mindfulness programs for over 120,000 employees at Google. She helped establish a self-sustaining culture where tens of thousands of Googlers regularly practice mindfulness for better wellbeing, healthy interpersonal relationships and sustainable high performance.

Outside of Google she's activating communities of wellness and mindfulness learning and practice in workplaces by accelerating growth of wellness, innovation, and good for humans technology and by cultivating physical and digital spaces for human flourishing and healing. 

Ruchika is a board member and advisor to several nonprofits that empower women living in shelters, support mental health of at-risk students and provide a safe home to orphan children around the world. She also advises the founders of wellness technology and conscious living startups.

 Ruchika is also a mother of two loving kids and lives with her wonderful husband and the Bay area of California.

In today's episode, Ruchika and I explore her journey through life, which started in India and led her to the United States and ultimately working for Google.  And she shares how she came to find out about mindfulness when she really needed it after finding out herself, working 15 to 16 hours, when Google was just a small, fast growing company of around 5,000 people.

 She shares how following her interest in this area ultimately led her to getting a job leading wellbeing and mindfulness programs at Google.

 In this conversation, Ruchika also share some very practical tips on how we can start to bring our own passion and purpose into our workplaces to create our own programs that can impact the wellbeing and lives of those who we interact with and work with on a daily basis.

 I've seen this in my own life. Getting involved in these programs has really allowed me to have a deeper sense of purpose at work beyond just the normal job aspect of things.

You can find the full show notes for today's episode, including any links, books, or resources mentioned in the episode at mindfulfire.org/28.

I really enjoyed this conversation with my friend Ruchika Sikri, and I hope that you enjoyed as well.

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Transcript

Intro 

Adam Coelho: [00:00:04] Welcome to the mindful fire podcast, where we explore living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond I'm your host, Adam Coelho and I'm so glad you're here. 

On today's episode.  I'm joined by my friend Ruchika Sikri

Ruchika is the founder of Mandalah Ventures. After a successful corporate career of 25 plus years at Google, Microsoft and Cisco, she was following her life's purpose and mission to create a better world by supporting globally accessible mindfulness, compassion and wellness offerings.

Ruchika's inspiration to do this work comes from leading wellbeing and mindfulness learning programs and strategy at Google for eight plus years out of her 15 years at the. company. 

Ruchika has successfully architected, facilitated and curated several wellbeing and mindfulness programs for over 120,000 employees at Google. She helped establish a self-sustaining culture where tens of thousands of Googlers, regularly practice mindfulness for better wellbeing, healthy interpersonal relationships and sustainable high performance.

Outside of Google she's activating communities of wellness and mindfulness learning and practice in workplaces by accelerating growth of wellness, innovation, and good for humans technology and by cultivating physical and digital spaces for human flourishing and healing.  

Ruchika is a board member and advisor to several nonprofits that empower women living in shelters, support mental health of at-risk students and provide a safe home to orphan children around the world. She also advises the founders of wellness technology and conscious living startups.

 Ruchika is also a mother of two loving kids and lives with her wonderful husband and the Bay area of California.

In today's episode, Ruchika and I explore her journey through life, which started in India and led her to the United States and ultimately working for Google.  And she shares how she came to find out about mindfulness when she really needed it after finding out herself, working 15 to 16 hours, when Google was just a small, fast growing company of around 5,000 people. 

 She shares how following her interest in this area ultimately led her to getting a job leading wellbeing and mindfulness programs at Google. 

 In this conversation, Ruchika also share some very practical tips on how we can start to bring our own passion and purpose into our workplaces to create our own programs that can impact the wellbeing and lives of those who we interact with and work with on a daily basis.

 I've seen this in my own life. Getting involved in these programs has really allowed me to have a deeper sense of purpose at work beyond just the normal job aspect of things. 

You can find the full show notes for today's episode, including any links, books, or resources mentioned in the episode at mindfulfire.org/28.

I really enjoyed this conversation with my friend Ruchika Sikri, and I hope that you enjoyed as well. 

  Let's jump into today's episode.

 

Interview 

Welcome to the mindful fire podcast,  Ruchika. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:03:10] Thank you, Adam. What a delight to be here today. 

Adam Coelho: [00:03:13] Yeah, it's so awesome to have you here. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:03:14] Thank you. Likewise. I'm so excited to be talking to. 

Adam Coelho: [00:03:18] So before we get into it, I would like to just share with the audience, the funny story of how we know each other.

So  Ruchika and I both worked at Google. Ruchika has recently left and gone  to do her own thing, which we'll cover in the episode. But we connected over this program called search inside yourself, which were Ruchika oversaw for a number of years. But when we're Ruchika was learning to facilitate the course as an assistant teacher or a newer teacher, I was in her class as a student.

And It was a different program, then it was seven weeks, but I would show up each week and you were learning the class and teaching the class and all of that. And it's really funny because eventually I became a facilitator through the work that you did and created that opportunity for me. And I became a facilitator and then we started facilitating together for other students.

And so some of my earliest classes were alongside you. We were talking earlier about. When we talk together and Sunnyvale, when we talked together in Seattle it was just really cool to come full circle, to go from being the student of yours, to then facilitating with you and working  more together with bring mindfulness to Googlers and to people to better their wellbeing.

So it's been quite a journey and I'm excited to share that and dive in today to hear what's new in your world. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:04:44] Thank you, Adam. And as I shared with you earlier, like it just made me like, literally, so nostalgic thinking about the time when we taught together in Seattle. I was just the typical Seattle rainy weather.

And I love rain. Seattle is like one of my favorite places. And honestly, what you said about being, you're being the student, I think they're all constant students, right? Like even the teachers are learning as they're teaching, so I'd be happy to share like what my journey was as a teacher in this podcast, but.

 It's so exciting, how it comes full circle. When, I was, you held the space for me as a newbie teacher, and then, we had the opportunity to teach together again and hold that space for each other is how I look at it. So yeah, I'm excited to chat with you about all of that and more.

Adam Coelho: [00:05:33] Yeah,  it's so funny. I've had a number of these type of full circle moments. Sarah Thompson was in my first class and then her and I taught together her first class and Lois as well, similar type of things. It's so cool to see the interest, the seed that can be planted in somebody's mind in the class. It just takes an interaction, a connection, and can plant that seed that grows and then more and more people can be exposed to this type of thing. And, I think of the person who introduced me to mindfulness and just how that one conversation has impacted all the people listening now, all the people who I've introduced meditation and mindfulness to.  Each one of us has that opportunity.

It's really powerful to me. 

The only bad part about that Seattle trip was that nobody was laughing at my jokes, my well-worn jokes.  I remember the air conditioning was really loud. I'm like, they must not be hearing me, but they just didn't like my jokes.

Which was a bummer. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:06:30] Oh, I don't remember that at all. I hope I was compensating enough for their laughter.  

Adam Coelho: [00:06:35] Always. You're a great customer when it comes to my jokes. 

 So I'd love to have you share a little bit about yourself, your journey and what you're up to.  Give the audience a sense of your life and how we ended up doing what you're doing.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:06:49] Yes. Where to start? I grew up in India. I spent my first 23 years of my life in India. And one would imagine that. India being like the birthplace. Or the East being the birthplace of a lot of mindfulness and yoga practices, I would have learned any of these things there, but out of I had no clue about, what mindfulness is, what meditation is.

What do you, yoga a little bit because it was a little mainstream. However, I'd never practiced any of that. My practice began when I actually joined Google. This was 15 years ago in, in mindfulness. I remember very clearly that 15 years ago, Google was a very small organization.

We were like only 5,000 people probably. And when I joined the team, we were trying to tackle like big problems. I was an HR, I was an HR analyst. Probably the first, the third member hired for supporting all of tech department departments, HR responsibility. And I was drinking through a fire hose and I had a small daughter, it really little cute daughter and year and a half year old.

So my work hours were like 14, 15 hours being a new mother trying to take care of everything in the home. And yeah. Being so far away from the family and not really having a support structure around me it was like not high off Oh, I work at Google, the best people around the great job I'm learning so much.

And life felt like so fulfilling up until and I realized these 15, 16 hours of work was actually getting to my mind and my body, my mental health was very much effected. I wasn't getting enough sleep with a new baby in the house. And then I would work constantly. I would not be sleeping at night. After putting my daughter to bed, I would get back to work at 3:00 AM. When we were young, we want to do everything.

Six months into the job, I realized like my heart, like palpitating. So hard and I couldn't focus and pay attention. And that's when I was walking to one of our micro kitchen and I saw a sign on a conference room saying we meditate here every Thursday at 2:00 PM, join us. And that was my beginning of my journey into meditation.

And I did go end up going to that session. That's where I've met. Some of our friends who have been like long-term meditators at Google, including Meng and Bill Dwayne who were our predecessors of, doing search inside yourself, creating gPause and all of those things. And I sat there for the first 20 minutes.

Someone rang the bell. And, I have to say it. That was the most, excrutiatingly painful 20 minutes of my life. It's what am I doing here? I'm so bored. Oh, my body is hurting. Like I have all of these things to do. My mind was racing. My body was speaking to me. And, I think my mind was always racing.

My body was always speaking to me, but so numb towards all of those things and just sitting for those 20 minutes really brought all of those things up. And I'm just really grateful for the mentoring and coaching. I got along the way through my peers at Google. I didn't go to a formal meditation program to begin with, to stay with that feeling, that discomfort.

And that's what mindfulness is all about, right? To really. Accept and acknowledge and be aware of what is coming up in our mind and what is coming up in our body. And, from there, the journey just continued growing all the way to, leading some of these programs at Google, in your company and your great company.

And now, transitioning out of a Google and really honoring this life's purpose of bringing this practice to more people in my lifetime.

Adam Coelho: [00:10:27] Yeah, that's really interesting. I didn't know all of that background of, the 14 hour days having a young baby at home.  I can only imagine what that was like, one being at Google when it was 5,000 people, when I joined it was 30,000 people and that feels small.

But one sixth of that, just. Must have been really exciting, but also just absolutely exhausting. And to hear that you came to the practice,  through an invitation that was just posted there. Hey,  we practice mindfulness here on Thursdays you're welcome to join us.

And so I'd love to have you share a little bit more about your work at Google. A lot of growth in mindfulness, both within Google and outside of Google happened during that time. And I know that the programs that you lead having been involved in them have touched a lot of people.

I'd love for you to share like how that growth happened and the impact that you witnessed during that time.  

Ruchika Sikri: [00:11:22] So it was very grassroots, like very, employee to employee based program for a very long time. As I mentioned, just to build upon my own journey and how it became a formal role for me a few years down the line, which I had not anticipated or expected or planned for, but I'm grateful for it that I did get an opportunity and feel very privileged to have.

Done that work at Google. We, with this meditation group, it expanded into more meditation groups at Google and, we had each other as employees, as peers to support and guide us through those practices. Eventually what started happening was like some people in the organization knew some meditation, teachers, researchers, scientists who were looking at the work of mindfulness and meditation and the impact it can have on creating positive behaviors for human beings.

So Daniel, Goldman, Richie Davidson Tanya singer, like all of these. People like who have done some cutting edge research in this field, they started coming and speaking at Google because either a leader would invite them or a Googler would invite them and they wanted to come and talk at Google.

They wanted an audience. So that's started creating a lot of interest even more interest from Googlers. Including actually a lot more from engineers to start paying attention to like, how do we take care of our mind through these practices? So that was a very organic way in which it started growing.

The learning started growing and the practice was getting deeper for people who were interested in it. And then our friend, Meng he ended up writing a book called search inside yourself. He went on a sabbatical and then he wrote a book. Which got a lot of external press, like it became new York's best seller and, Googlers were aware of it.

We all were reading this book and then he got inspired after that to create a program around it at Google called Search Inside Yourself. So he named it after the book he wrote and Search Inside Yourself took many shapes and forms, before you and I started teaching it. I was a student of it.

 I may have attended like eight different variations or iterations of Search Inside Yourself,    a four hour training, then a Saturday, all day training. Can you imagine? We wouldn't do trainings on Saturdays anymore, and all of that started organically happening.

So after writing the book, Meng created a program around it, which started getting a lot of grassroots interest. He eventually went to Eric Schmidt who was our CEO at that time and made a business case of developing emotional intelligence capabilities in Googlers.

We were hiring the best talent from the best universities, from the best, backgrounds that people were bringing in to Google to create, to innovate.  At the same time as the company was growing so big and large, we also needed people to work effectively with each other to lead compassionately. To also, work together in teams that feel safe and trustworthy of each other. And so Eric is okay, great. Let's just go and create a program around it. 

 That's when Meng himself started teaching this program and that was not a scalable solution. Like one person cannot get to 30 40,000 employees. And there was a lot of interest in it. And I remember like at that time, the case was brought to people operations , Laszlo Bock who was the SVP.

 I was working on executive leadership development programs, but I was involved in the grassroots effort around search inside yourself and meditations and inviting speakers, attending those events and things like that. And the management said if mindfulness is a recipe for wellbeing for our employees, let's make it run through the taps.

That's when, a formal team was put together. So my manager at that time, Bill Dwayne he got his head down donated and came to people, operations to run this. And I was known to be a practitioner of this work and also a G2G, which is our volunteer to volunteer teaching platform and Google and and then I was also very good at operationalizing people programs.

So my department was going through a change and my management asked me if I wanted to go and work with bill on this project so I was like, okay it might be a three month project or a six month project. I'll go do this. And then I'll figure out like, what's my next chapter at Google after doing executive development for four years.

And  the rest is history. Adam, it wasn't three months. It was eight years of beautiful, long. A hard journey to establish these programs, not just the programs, but also this practice into the DNA of Google. Really. That's how I look at it. As our accomplishment. We may think that we are making people meditate or attend this two-day workshop, but however, what it ended up doing was really Create the space for people to take care of their mental health, to take care of their mind, to be more compassionate with each other, to be more respectful and inclusive.

All of the things that I felt and I heard were a priority for Google and as it should be for other organizations, Those objectives were met, by attending these workshops,  participating in these community events and also the community at large. So my role, I started as a program lead in the wellbeing team and I created the program called gPause.

So when people would attend search inside yourself, they had a place to go and practice because the stuff only works if you practice it. And then has grew 260 offices in two to three years time. And by the time I left, we had a really robust community of almost 400 volunteers leading meditations across the globe.

Leading events workshops. Talks. And of course like teaching search inside yourself and fundamentals of mindfulness programs as well. So I, again, just to wrap it up, that was a journey. I led some of it, but I also, co-created a lot of this with my team and all of you, many of our volunteers who put their foot forward and their heart forward to do this work with each other.

Adam Coelho: [00:17:21] Yeah, that's super cool. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that journey and yeah, the impact has been huge. I think thousands of Googlers are going through the programs every year, search inside yourself. Several thousand people each year now and more and more things are happening, the pandemic certainly slowed it down, but I know you brought that to a virtual setting. Now every day around the world, 8 to 10 to 12 meditation sits are happening at all hours of the day.

 I lead one on Tuesdays and I've attended them at all different times. It's super cool to see people coming together, especially in such a trying time where the practices even more needed and impactful. 

Bravo to you for doing all of that work over the last eight years or so.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:18:09] Thank you, Adam. It wouldn't be possible without all of you. It's a collective effort. 

Adam Coelho: [00:18:14] Yeah.

 I didn't realize that Mang wrote the book before he created the course. I thought he wrote the, created the course and then wrote the book. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:18:22] I think he wrote the book.

Adam Coelho: [00:18:24] Wow. 

I think it was concurrently happening. He was writing the book and then that's the eight iterations of that sidewalk that I was attending. It wasn't a formal program at that time. 

I see. So it formalized. I remember he was having all of the people come the scientists and the experts in the fields come and meet with all of you and work on the content and refine it.

On that topic, you asked me what it is that I want to do with this and in general. One thing that I'm looking at doing and I've already started doing a little bit, is creating a program around envisioning. My envisioning story I've told it a million times in S I Y, and was something  that I'm really drawn to.

And I'm feeling compelled to create a workshop, maybe 90 minutes.  Any advice to me on how to go about developing that and refining it in the way that you had those eight or so iterations of Search Inside Yourself. 

Any advice? 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:19:22] I think it's such a novel idea and I think it's coming to you because it's so needed, Adam. We all need to get our heads out of the sand and start looking at how do we define and design our life? The way it can happen rather than being succumbed to the circumstances around us, right?

If the work related challenges or personal life challenges or this world. It's coming to an end with the pandemic kind of mindset, right? So I think envisioning can really be a very powerful tool for us, especially in these times to start thinking, let's start taking the ownership back off. I have control over my life.

 I don't need to let it run on autopilot. So to answer your question on how I would explore that.  I'd come up with a framework. I have  tons of learning and design experience. I'm happy to consult with you on that. Just, be your guide and coach if you need.

Because I've created some training offerings what is the, like a good beginning of getting people into and you're trained now. So you're already, once you've put the framework together, it might be a hundred percent there already, but if you need a sounding board.

I'm here for you is all I'm trying to say. 

But what I would say is develop that and test it send it down to search inside yourself, alumni and say, Hey, you guys remember you did envisioning exercise in search inside yourself. 

Our vision that we created at that time, it's not just like one vision, right? Like in few years, our life circumstances change, we are in a different place or, a little bit more awareness as risen as to know where we want to go. And then we'll do a refresher on envisioning, right?

 With the spin from Adam , whatever personal things you're bringing on top of SIY and just run it.  You have such a privilege to be still at Google. You have a ready audience. You can send it to G pause or say, because I think SIY I'm suggesting because they already have.

Had gone through that exercise and it's a very powerful exercise and many will be interested in doing it. So set up that 90 minute format and ask people like, let's do it.  Set a date, put it in grow and and see what happens. 

Adam Coelho: [00:21:22] Yeah. That's simple advice.  It's  basically just try it.

And interestingly, I've already created the basic structure cause I was invited to lead a session for women's history month for a team . I created this envisioning workshop. And so I already have the foundation of it, but I always make things into a bigger thing. Do I want to do it in Google? Do I want to do it outside of Google? As part of the podcast or? This and that, 

 It seems like the program would benefit a lot from doing it in Google, because there are so many people that would be willing to do it, that would give me good feedback. 

 It's not a situation where I'm like trying to like do this full time and have this be my only income. I'm enjoying my time at Google. Like I can definitely leverage that platform to  do this. 

 All this is to say is that I think that next step of just putting it out there within Google, inviting people to join, seeing the interest, giving it a go might be a good first step.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:22:24] Eventually you can go to SIYLI. I'm working a lot Richmond and it's also like really helping him think what's beyond the two day program with  at  Search Inside Yourself.  I'm encouraging them to  have these bite-size  programs available for their alumni. 

There may be an opportunity if this works in Google, like you can, I'm not promising anything, but you could go to a SIYLI and say Hey, develop this envisioning module.

Like what can we do together or something like that? 

Adam Coelho: [00:22:50] Yeah. That's really cool . And  the reason I feel even more compelled to do this now is because it's not in the virtual program. The motivation section is not in the virtual program.

When you're packing all that content into two days, or even now with the virtual program four hours, you can't go deep on things as much as you might like. So I see an opportunity to go and expand expand this out. 

Yeah, I really liked the idea of bite-sized things. I've been thinking about how I can do that at Google as well.

Not that I need more projects to get involved in,  but imagine like a drop in mindful listening. Right where you just show up, you get popped into a breakout room, you practice mindful listening, or, just like different versions of G pause where it's like that. Or you journal, you just show up to a thing.

Someone gives you a prompt and you journal, right? So it's in a community setting. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:23:41] That's a great idea to making the best, an extension of G pause that you can create, just like instead of feeding sets, maybe you can take a backseat like this can do it. It's all this. Like you have to. And just say, for, one month, I'm going to try doing the gPause mindful listening  session gPause, mindful journaling session or something like that.

 I'm going off on a little tangent, but related to this mindful listening, is that. You know how it was curating. A set of resources is one of my last project and mindfulness work that I was doing. I brought in like this company who is just doing this  paired meditations actually.

So you could test it out and see if you want to promote that to Google as it's called pure P U R. 

Adam Coelho: [00:24:22] Yeah, I saw that. I think you might've posted something about LinkedIn or they posted about you being involved. And I was looking at it.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:24:30] Yeah. Yeah. After leaving Google, they're like, now that United Google, like there's no conflict of interest. Can you be our advisor? So I'm, that's one of the startup I'm advising and I'm doing pure every I think three, at least three times a week. And it's beautiful. It's not like loving kindness, but it's like mindful listening with a partner. So there are five questions, then it really helps people kind of deconstruct, this shame framing, or, this feeling of loneliness and, guilt and anxiety. There'd be hold in our heart in our body because of like daily things. Like my manager said this to me, or my husband said this to me, my daughter is not like behaving well or disrespecting me, all of these things.

They come up every day. There's a new thing. So you just do a pure and the person who was listening to you will ask you five questions and you just go boom. Like the, you like, what's the shame talk your brain is telling you, or where are you feeling compassion in your body today?

So it's really mind and body alignment and I feel like so loved and cared for every time I hang up, I feel like it's a stranger. I spoke to sometimes the pair of people are like, again, like you meet with the same people or you could be paired with someone completely a stranger and then maintain confidentiality and nothing is recorded.

Everybody's bound to not like put it on social media. Hey, I spoke to rich guy today and she was like really having a hard time, but yeah, it's it's a very fascinating concept of that cathartic sharing and like someone just listening to you and not giving you advice and celebrating your courage for sharing today.

So take a look at it.

Adam Coelho: [00:26:04] That sounds cool. Yeah. That's interesting. And it's, you're meeting with another person like participant, like you or it's with a pure employee or something.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:26:13] No peer to peer it could be a person in  New York, Jersey the like Texas who have signed up for your service and you're paired with them. Initially what they do is like they do five or six sessions with a super pure pal. Like it has like at least 20 to 30 PO sessions and give you the space.

If someone says, Hey, I lost my mom or like my dad or something really, like they have the capacity to hold the space for you and give you advice and say things that can spiral down. So the training like to get that those five or six per sessions. Was it a little experience and then you can be paired up with anybody and the call and then it's pretty cool.

They're unique. 

Adam Coelho: [00:26:53] Yeah, that's interesting. That's yeah, it's always cool. Like the pairing connecting people in a compassionate way is been an interesting something that's come up in my mind a bunch because yeah, there's the con connection online, right? Can be at best shallow and at worst destructive.

We need a lot more of the compassion piece in there. 

So Ruchika you have recently left Google.  I'd love to hear what led you to that decision and  what you're hoping to bring into the world now that you are on the outside.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:27:27] Thank you, Adam.  This is where the story gets interesting. So I'm glad you asked. Eight years is a really long time to have the privilege and honor to run a program or a whole portfolio of wellbeing learning programs. So I'm very grateful for it.  Changes happen in organizations and I was assigned to do a different role and a job at Google last year,  in November, and which I wholeheartedly took because, I love Google. I still love that place very much. It really transformed my life and gave me a sense of purpose. So I owe a lot to Google especially my gratitude. So I took on that job and it was good. It was interesting. The people were really nice. My manager was amazing. The teams that I was working with were very creative, innovative, just like what we see at Google all the time.

And I don't, I, my heart was not into it though. The projects. We're we're not close to what I think my life wants me to focus and do, and as luck would have it, early this year, like in March, I ended up getting COVID and my whole family ended up getting Corbett.

So for the whole month of March, we were out of commission. I was like just sitting on the bed, meditating a lot. Resting and, not really try. I got off the Google trend by force to really think about what matters in life. And one night I clearly remember at, I was like, meditating.

I couldn't sleep because my chest was feeling so heavy. My husband wasn't well, and my kids were okay. They did well. They'd recovered fairly quickly. Thankfully. Yeah. But I was like, my gosh, like this has come into our home. Like we're all suffering in this moment. So of course my eyes, I meditated for 10 minutes.

And when I opened my eyes, I just felt this sense of this radical acceptance. I felt I. I'm ready to accept even this dire situation of being affected by this virus that we've been escaping for the one the whole one year, right? Like we escape the whole one year and then we ended up getting it.

And I, I, my hands just opened up and I'm like, COVID you're here to teach me something. You can stay as long as you want. And you're, you can leave whenever you're ready. Like I accept you as well. That was like, once I got back, a little bit more grounded up after the meditation, they realize like, how did I cut to vet this quality of acceptance, this radical acceptance of, being affected by something that has taken people's lives, right?

Like around the world. And that was just an epiphany moment for me, where I realized I want to help people cultivate these skills in their lifetime, and I can continue working in Google, but it wasn't a possibility for me to, focus and do this work more at Google. My management actually told me like, you're working yourself out of the rule.

It is great success. The programs are. Going well, the community is thriving. All of them are very engaged. All of you, which means, and I'm like, yeah, you're right. I've worked myself out of this role, but I haven't worked myself out of the work that needs to happen to me in this time, in this lifetime.

So that's when after three weeks of COVID leave, when I went back, I'm like, I just can't go on like that. I really need to look towards what does it want to make off? What does my life want to make off my dedication? My sense of service to bring the, these practices and create conditions for human flourishing.

And I call flourishing as in not like we have all our needs met and we're living a V only a very pleasant life as how we call it in search inside yourself, but really feeling like we're living a very meaningful in a very engaged life. 

 So I left Google early April and, since then I've been focusing on on many initiatives and I can talk a lot, about it, but I'll pause for a second to see if you want to comment or have any other questions relating to this? 

Adam Coelho: [00:31:26] Yeah, I really appreciate you sharing that story. When you told me that when we connected a few weeks ago , my mind was blown that you had that epiphany moment. Just that complete letting go and accepting of kind of everything it sounded like.

And so I'm glad you shared that. Yeah, I'd love to hear, what you mentioned, you feel. That is something wants to flow through your life. Can you talk a little bit about. What that is? What as your purpose and then how your, maybe some of the projects that you're working on to fulfill that purpose.

Ruchika Sikri: [00:31:59] Yeah. I think if I had to like summarize it in one line, it is like creating conditions for human flourishing in this lifetime is my purpose. And, deeper than that, I just want to be a conduit of service. I've received so much knowledge and such a beautiful community around me and, in my journey of mindfulness and self awareness and self regulation, and also like this radical acceptance that just came to me, I just realization of radical acceptance, and the way it's shaking out in terms of initiatives right now, Adam is I'm focusing on how do we how can I be an advocate or a consultant to organizations who want to do community enabled wellness and mindfulness at work in their organizations, not just like one training or half an hour talk, but more about how do we empower and engage people from within organizations, not like how we were empowered and engaged at Google, to. To teach to host meditations, to create our own programs, just from a good heart and open heart, really giving from the place of receiving, why did they received it? How do we give it to others? So I'm looking at like, how do we, how can I be of service to organizations where we can excite, motivate and encourage people from within organizations to do this work.

So more like really more volunteers with an organization. The second space that's really calling me as we were talking about earlier is the accelerating, the growth of wellness innovation. As fortunate or unfortunate, it may be. We're spending more time, with our phones on our laptops than we are in real time.

But real people, gone are those days when we could go on a retreat, a two-day workshop, one hour workshop or a yoga class, whatever it may be. Everything is happening online which. Is a bit of a threat. And at the time, at the same time, I feel it's such an enabling platform for us to bring scalable solutions for people to be able to meditate with each other by themselves, or even as communities or, create like conditions for wellness.

Through technology. I've been lucky to be working with now five startups, when I'm advising and coaching and supporting the founders and the teams to advance the growth of the product that they're developing, which takes people online, either through a phone app or through our computers.

In order to bring them up into, back into the offline world, like who am I? It helps. They help people understand who they are, connect with their inner self connect with each other. So that's my second initiative. And then the last and final is helping people create spaces around them. I personally practice this a lot, like space matters to me.

If I am working in. A place where there's a lot of natural light. I have a plan, in my room and, good lighting and all of those things I can smell fresh air. I 

tend 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:35:02] to be more creative. I tend to thrive in those conditions. So how do we bring that learning? And also, maybe one-on-one consultations to people, homes and offices on how to create space around it, as that can be conducive for our wellbeing, for creating conditions for.

Calmness and better focus attentiveness towards what matters in our nights. So those are the three things that are calling me right now. Let's see how far, all of these or any of these initiatives go. And I'm very hopeful. 

Adam Coelho: [00:35:32] Yeah. That's very cool. So you're talking about physical space. Physical space.

That's very interesting. Something I won't get into now, but I've been thinking a lot about it. I wanted to be an architect. So I'm still very interested in that space and how it affects us and things like that. But I won't get into that.

 Let's shift gears now into what I call the Mindful FIRE Final Four. Okay.  

 The first question is, earlier, you mentioned not wanting to just put out another training,  another training might be helpful for people. You are thinking a little bit more broadly on how to enable more people to embrace mindfulness and wellness. Can you talk a little bit more about how you're thinking about creating impact  and creating the conditions for human flourishing, if not through another program?

Ruchika Sikri: [00:36:23] Yeah. Programs will be part of it.  I don't know if I need to create those programs. There are really good programs that are available outside, right? Like search inside yourself is now an external training that is available. If people want to take it. MBSR is a great course and there are many other all around the world, great teachers, experts, scientists there are, that are creating apps, trainings that people can go and take. What's missing in the equation is like what happens after the training?

And that's where like I want work because, and again, this is the lesson I learned from my work at Google.  We had Search Inside Yourself, people would come to the training for two days and then they would leave. So  maybe, a little shift happened.  A fraction of those people may be  going out and do a daily meditation.

We give them Headspace for free or for a subsidized price. Some of them got onto it. But what really inspired me working on these initiatives is when we created G pause and the real people started coming together and saying, I'm going to host an event in Dublin office and have all the Dublin Googlers come for this one week of mindfulness in our office.

I wasn't there, Adam and the Dublin office, it was just the gPause leads from Dublin office. And they did wonderful work. They had meditations, they had speakers, they had yoga sessions, they had green Dublin, community joined that group. They looked at end to end. They created Schrag on their own.

Like, how did that happen? These were people who had regular full-time job, either in sales or engineers. We're working finance team, but it took time to really make that shift happen. And then that enabled a community where after that 40 50 people will come together and meditate together. Hundreds of people attend the talks from there on. 

So that groundswell that got created is a Testament that we need more than a training.  And the good thing is that now we have so much research and availability of mindfulness learning externally that I think organizations should now look for what's beyond the training.

They should bring in the training. I'm not discounting it. If you don't tell people the recipe for wellbeing or for mindfulness. You can't make them practice it. So bring in the training, but also empower those five, 10, 20, 100 people in the organization to feel enabled to do this for each other. And that's where, organizations will start seeing the shift.

And that's what I want to encourage them and play a role on helping them identify that. 

Adam Coelho: [00:38:52] Yeah, I think that's so needed. Even within Google where this has been. Flourishing right. There is still just this. There's such a disconnect between how many people take Search Inside Yourself for instance, and how many people of those people end up practicing regularly or getting involved in the gPause community.

The infrastructure is there, but I think the pipeline. It needs to be continually refined to get more and more of that happening. And yeah, I think you're right. If any of these things that we're talking about, the envisioning the any of these things need. A follow-up what's next? How do we empower people who this really speaks to, to take ownership of it and bring it forward in a ongoing, sustainable way?

So that's a really cool area to focus and I'm glad that you are focusing on it.  

So the second question is what piece of advice would you give to people early on their path to financial independence? Okay. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:39:51] Do the hard work, there's no way around it. I sometimes say Oh see articles about you can be smart and make a lot of money.

Sure. You can. But at the same time, the hard work matters. It really matters. And that's why, they there are studies and theories and research that has been done on children, which shows us that if I. If I tell my six-year-old son today that, Hey, Nikhil, you're so smart. Just solve that math problem.

He's going to get into his head. Oh, I'm a smart person. I can solve anything,  if I give him feedback, like Nikhil, you worked so hard to learn the concepts of math.  All the practice you did, how you listen to your teacher, all of the work that you did to get to solve that math problem.

It's going to teach him lifelong lessons of like hard work leads to good results. So I think that's the secret for financial success for me personally as well. Adam, I come from a background, like when I was in India, my family was mid to low class, where we were not very financially strong.

And it was just, steadfast focus on getting my education, picking up three jobs along with going to college. And then, finding my way through life and trying and testing and working 16 hours a day has led me to a place where I feel like financial freedom is available to me right now, and things change in life.

And I'm grateful for the financial freedom available to me so that I can quit my job at Google and take a six month break to curate and cultivate my own ideas. But my life story and many others I have seen, I think hard work is the way to financial success and stay focused, and mindfulness can actually be a really good enabler for us to stay focused, work hard and also take care of our body and mind because hard work does affect. My heart palpitations, started happening because I was just working hard.

I didn't know. I didn't have a good head on my shoulders to know I also need to stop or, sleep enough or eat well. Or exercise, but mindfulness enabled a lot of that for me. So that's what I would say. 

Adam Coelho: [00:42:02] Wonderful. Yeah. 

And that leads me to the third question, which is what piece of advice would you give to someone getting started with meditation and or mindfulness?

Ruchika Sikri: [00:42:11] Don't expect that this is going to solve for all of your problems right away, meditation and mindfulness is work it's practice that you need to do. It's not a pill that you can take and everything will change. As I shared earlier in my story, first meditation session was really hard for me.

And over time it has become easier and it has become a lifestyle for me. I start my day with daily meditation. If I, and if I can, I also do a end of day meditation at night before I go to bed, which helps me sleep better. So it's a journey. It's a journey towards self-awareness towards making us better human beings and better friends to each other.

Adam Coelho: [00:42:50] Wonderful. Yeah. Thank you. 

And finally, how can people connect with you and find out more about what you're working on as the next chapter of your life unfolds? 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:43:00] Yeah, you can connect with me on LinkedIn. That's the best way. And also I've just created a website with my name, RuchikaSikri.com all the details of my initiatives are available there.

Please be in touch and let's call create a better world. 

Adam Coelho: [00:43:14] Sounds great. I'll put links to both of those things in the show notes. Thank you so much for Ruchika for joining me on the show today. It's been an absolute pleasure and I feel like we could talk for hours more. So maybe we'll do it again.

Another time. 

Ruchika Sikri: [00:43:27] Sounds great. Thank you for doing this great work, Adam and bringing wisdom and knowledge and practice and people together.

Outro

Adam Coelho: [00:43:34] Thanks so much for joining me on today's episode of the mindful fire podcast.  I hope you enjoyed this conversation with my good friend Ruchika Sikri.

 If you enjoy today's episode, please hit subscribe wherever you're listening to this, this just lets the platforms know you're getting value from the episodes and you want to be here when I produce additional content 

And if you've been enjoying the podcast, I'd really appreciate. If you could leave a five-star written review on Apple podcasts. This lets more people find out about the message of mindfulness and financial independence. 

 As a reminder, every week on Tuesday, I release either an inspiring interview like this or a guided meditation to support your mindfulness practice.

And as a reminder, you can find the full show notes for today's episode at mindfulfire.org/28.

 You can also follow me on Instagram at the mindful fire podcast. And I'd love to hear from you and hear what you think about the show and who you'd like me to invite on the show.

Thanks again, and I'll catch you next time on the mindful fire podcast. 




Ruchika Sikri

Ruchika is the founder of Mandala Ventures. After a successful corporate career of 25+ years at Google, Microsoft and Cisco she is following her life's purpose and mission to create a better world by supporting globally accessible mindfulness, compassion and wellness offerings. She is doing this by activating communities of wellness and mindfulness learning and practice in workplaces; by accelerating growth of wellness innovation and good-for-humans technology; and, by cultivating physical and digital spaces for human flourishing and healing.

Ruchika's inspiration to do this work comes from leading Well Being and Mindfulness Learning Programs & Strategy for 8+ years out of her 15 years career at Google. Ruchika has successfully architected, facilitated and curated several well-being and mindfulness programs for over 120,000 employees at Google. She helped establish a self-sustaining culture where tens of thousands of Googlers regularly practice mindfulness for better well-being, healthier interpersonal relationships and sustainable high performance. She led a passionate community of 350+ employees who volunteer their time to make this reach and impact possible at Google.

For over 20 years, Ruchika's daily meditation and yoga practice is grounded in increasing clarity in mind, purity in heart and sincerity in action. She believes these skills are increasingly needed to uplift humanity, build genuine connections and increase respect for our planet. Her goal is to bring secular and science based mindfulness and compassion learning to many organizations and communities globally.

Outside of Google, Ruchika is a board member and advisor to several nonprofits that empower women living in shelters, support mental health of at-risk students and provide a safe home to orphaned children around the world. She also advises the founders of wellness technology and conscious living start-ups. Ruchika is a mother to 2 loving kids and lives with her wonderful husband in Bay Area California.