Tereza Černohorská (Kalinová) haphazardly came across Fred Kofman’s book Conscious Business and after one year of hard work and at her own expense she eventually translated it into Czech. This book has changed not only her life, but lives of many others as well. She has brought principles of conscious business into the Czech Republic, coached people, accompanied people through transformative journeys in the Sahara and now after many years she has moved to a log house in the Podkrkonoší Region where she and her husband are bringing up their newborn son.
Tereza, how did the shift from work to motherhood happen?
I thought for many years that work equals one’s life mission. Three years ago I found out that work is only one of the expressions of creativity. Even though my work was great, meaningful and well-paid, something substantial was missing. Gradually, I let everything go and the only thing which I could see in the middle of the chaos and fog was my wish to have a child. I now live a modest life with my baby far away from the city, my day-to-day work with people and ambitions to change the world. It seems to me to be the most meaningful thing I have ever done in my life. I see meaningfulness in simplicity.
Did you come to a point at work where you were oversaturated by all sensations?
I was not oversaturated; rather I felt I gave everything to others. I gave my attention and care to many people and even though my work helped them and I had good money and recognition, I could not maintain it anymore. I wanted to retreat and be there for myself which was very hard and it took me one and half years. If I did not go through this, I do not know how I would get pregnant. I read somewhere that a woman has a certain amount of caring motherly energy and if she gives it out at work, she does not have any energy left for the child and hence she may not even fall pregnant.
If we go back to the beginnings of your career, how important was Kofman’s book in your life?
I was moved by the book. I was asking myself why nobody had ever told me this. Even if they had only told me this at school, that would have been sufficient. That is also the reason why I translated the book and consequently started to organize workshops and coach others. The book could be called Conscious Life because the principles are valid in business and in relationships.
I both was fascinated by the book and worried about whether I would be able to adhere to all the principles.
One should be affectionate. When you study a foreign language, you make many mistakes in the beginning. Without the willingness to do things wrong you cannot learn. Conscious business is about principles which make our life easier and happier and less anxious. I realize that even after many years I still act like a victim in many situations and this might never change, but this is how it works. One should lead a constant internal dialogue and not beat himself up for mistakes.
When you say business, many people immediately think of money. Conscious business is different. How would you define it?
It is a conscious life alias living principles which are valid everywhere. They are even more valid in relationships than at work. If you do not like something at work, you can go home in the evening or give notice. But you cannot escape home in the evening. You can split up, but that is not a solution. It is important to listen. Listening goes to many directions. I listen more and more to the world around myself – to the words, body, myself, nature and God.
I was intrigued by the thought that a person striving to have a spiritual life does not necessarily have to leave the world of business to act consciously. Quite on the contrary, the spiritual journey does not end in a Himalayan cave but begins upon return to the society.
As the Buddhist quote says “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” What always made me upset about personal development is that it is a week-end thing. People meditate during the week-end but on Monday morning at work the rules are different. In my opinion personal development is about integration and remembering wholeness. One cannot be whole when he is different at home and at work and in his country and abroad. It is an illusion to think that we can find “it” outside, because “it” is inside us.
The book discusses universal values such as honesty, truthfulness and humility which is not common. Who can pass down these values in the society?
Everyone who abides by them. We hear a lot nowadays about crisis of authorities and leaders but I think we have advanced our individualism so far that we are all teachers and pupils at the same time. By looking into the cashier’s eyes in the supermarket and addressing her by her name (Thank you, Mrs. XY) you teach people around yourself, since you are most probably the first person that day that approached her as a human being.
When speaking about values, is the education about values not missing in the school system?
Education about humanness is missing at schools. It is important to protect the little man so that nobody hurts him and tells him, you are not good at singing and maths. On the contrary he should always be watered by attention and love. We were criticised for coming late to school while teachers also came late but were never criticised. How come there were different rules? Conscious business is about integrity. Teach by who you are and how you behave. Teachers are supposed to be guides and should work on themselves. When one wants to be a psychotherapist, he has to take five-year training. Why do teachers not go through a psycho-spiritual training?
Overall the education system seems to me to be far away from reality.
I do not understand why it obstinately lingers on obsolete practices. It was founded by Maria Theresa at the beginning of the industrial revolution to create a workforce for the industrial Europe which would obey, respect rules and do repetitive tasks which eventually happened. Two hundred and fifty years passed and the principles are still the same. It does not make teachers, children, parents and the economy feel good. Universities create a feeling of uniqueness and superiority in students even though they lack practical knowledge. They become extremely disappointed when nobody is interested in them. I studied International Territorial Studies and my degree has never helped me at my work.
Universities do not prepare students for work. Moreover the environment (open space, multitasking, stress and pressure) does not allow people to think about values. How do you suggest that people should do their job consciously?
Choose a job in which there will not be stress and pressure. It is nonsense to work from 8 to 5, to work in an environment where everyone is speaking, where there are only light bulbs and no air. Choose not to do it. All communities create cultures which are considered normal. In corporations it is normal to work overtime, be available all the time and live under pressure simply because people accept it. To want to be in a corporation which has this culture and not acceptit is extremely hard. This swimming upstream will result in exhaustion.
Nowadays passion and fulfilment are the catchphrases related to work. When you do not have a job you like, you should keep on searching, but no job is perfect, hence people change one job after another. What do you think of this passion principle?
To think that somebody will give you your dream job is nonsense. You have to create the job yourself. Job descriptions and professions are too small. Each of us is a unique mix of different talents and characteristics and no one in the world is the same as you. Why do people put on uniforms for work positions? Do not wear any uniform, put the job description away, dissolve your convictions and do what you love.
Empathy and respect is often missing in the workplace and it seems it is all about numbers and execution. How should awareness about work not being only about selling products but about work relationships as well be raised among companies and people?
“Be the change you want to see in the world”, Gandhi said. If you want to have something done differently, do it differently. Forcing someone to change something so that you feel better does not help. If you have a feeling that empathy and respect is missing, look into your own life to see where you lack it. It might be in your relationship to yourself. Maybe if you respected your needs, you would not accept the stress, pressure and light bulbs in the corporation.
I am quite interested in what you think of company cultures?
It’s a bummer. People only start to speak about company culture when lived culture is not alright but speaking does not help. In my view a company is a reflection of its owners and leaders and if they want to change something in the company, they first have to change themselves. If you see a paper with company values which are not lived, it justly makes the employees upset.
What do you think of the corporate social responsibility activities of companies?
In translation it means that throughout the year we are making as much money as possible, exploiting our employees, customers and the Earth and at the end of the year we donate half a million to Klokánek (Czech charity). What is this? I think it is important to ask yourself whether what you are doing is meaningful. Most companies do not do anything meaningful because their primary goal is to make as much money as possible. Well, if that is their goal, at least they should be honest about it and not pretend they are helping when they are not.
Many organizations get the largest donations from big companies which paradoxically destroy the planet.
I do not trust nongovernmental organizations. I worked there for some time but left early because I smelt something fishy. The organizations often help someone who did not ask for it which is unfree and secondly the flow of money is very unclear. When you do something good using money from someone who is doing harm, you help him buy conscience and let him exist. It might sound idealistic but if you did not support this, he might stop doing it. Based on system constellations there are notions of guilt, aspiration to buy indulgences and save the world in NGOs which is not openly admitted. This goes for both the people who work there and for those who donate.
Many people admire NGOs because they are trying to make the world a better place.
I also wanted to change the world and I even taught it. However, three years ago this desire disappeared and I realized that I should make my world a better place. Start taking care of yourself and be honest about it. If everyone took good care of themselves, everyone would be taken care of. I feel now that I do not influence anyone in any way and I feel that this is alright now. It is important to be willing not to know and trust that when I feel it that way in that particular moment, it will lead to something and it is alright. Our culture and ego tell us that we should know but the truth we feel inside is different. God is generous in this regard. Maybe the moment in my life has come when I do not have to do more than give birth to a son and protect him. We will see.
Photographs: Tereza Černohorská (Kalinová)
Illustrations: Veronika Gregušová
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