How Google’s “Enlightenment Engineer” is Leading a Revolution in Peace and Happiness

“I hate my job. I hate coming to work every day. But yesterday I tried your suggestion and it was my happiest day in seven years.”

That’s a quote from an employee who attended one of Chade-Meng Tan’s workshops at Google. Tan, who has come to be known as Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow”, and was dubbed an “Enlightenment Engineer” by Wired magazine, is leading somewhat of a revolution in the company by training employees in the art of inner peace.

Tan joined Google in 1999 as the company’s “employee 107” but by 2006 had determined to create something different, something that would make an impact in a different way. The result is what has since become Google’s most popular training course, the “Search Inside Yourself” program, otherwise known by its acronym, S.I.Y.

Search Inside Yourself encourages its attendees to do just that, yet from a strictly secular point of view, as it is taught mostly to engineers, who tend to be members of the skeptical community. Says Tan: “…now that it’s become scientific, it has been demystified. It’s going to be seen as fitness for the mind.”

Such an approach is not surprising, given that we are in the middle of what Time magazine has called “The Mindful Revolution”. Science has finally come to embrace what sages have been telling us for ages — due to the ever growing swath of empirical evidence for the many benefits of mindfulness and meditation — and the result, in the end, appears to be an explosion of interest from communities that were formerly wont to write it all off under the umbrella of mysticism. Yet it appears the tipping point has been reached.

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“There are some things in life where if you improve one thing, everything else in life is improved… If you improve physical fitness, it improves your home life, success, wellness, everything. The same is true for meditation, because meditation is in fact mental and emotional fitness. If you are fit mentally and emotionally, every aspect of your life improves.”

The program has since become so popular that Tan and his team decided to expand in 2012, forming the non-profit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI), offering the training to organizations outside of Google, and Tan’s book, Search Inside Yourself, received an endorsement from no less than the Dalai Lama himself. Seeing as he is under direct orders from Google to “enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace,” this seems somehow fitting.

The course stresses (pun intended) specific tenets of the emotional intelligence and mindfulness teachings, showing multitasking, ambitious professionals how to more calmly embrace change and recognize instinctual patterns in themselves that may be getting in the way or their — and others’ — ultimate success and happiness. It teaches that without a foundation of joy and inner peace, true success is simply not possible. What this does is provide a pathway for a return to one of the most fundamental and important aspects of personal and professional wellbeing: contentment. As the Dalai Lama has continuously taught, if one can learn to find contentment in what was before seen as simply mundane, it can serve as a spring-board of sorts to all kinds of possibilities, in both oneself and others — and the situations created thusly —  that priorly seemed either impossible or totally off the radar. The potential is truly endless.

“To create sustainable compassion, you have to be strong in inner joy… Inner joy comes from inner peace — otherwise it’s not sustainable. And inner peace is highly trainable…”

For more information on Tan and his course you can check out his website here.

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Kyle McMillan is the founder and managing editor of Wisdom Pills. He is a freelance writer and maintains a personal website, metanoia, as well.