The Classic Pamela Positive: “UnConference Room” Your Meeting with a Peaceful Banyan Tree

“UnConference Room” Your Meeting

It is interesting how in America, and in many places across the world, most of our meetings take place in walled conference rooms.  Chairs are set uniformly around the table.  The walls are plastered with policies or goals.  Pens and pads are available so we can write and record and get our business done. There is a stark white board.  “Gosh darn it,” I can hear the executives say, “in this room we’re going to get to the solution, get down to business and ‘make it happen.'”  

Yet what if we looked at doing business, or holding meetings, under a banyan tree?

It was under a banyan tree where the Buddha felt his calling to enlightenment.  Under these same trees, Gujarati businessmen hold their meetings.  It is the place for political meetings: In Malaysia, the state assembly met underneath its welcome atmosphere.   So for much of Asia, spirituality, commerce, entrepreneurship and politics are taking place right outdoors.

The banyan tree represents solidity and rootedness.  At the same time, it also represents comfort, shade and welcome.  It is a source of power and peace. It is firm; but welcome. All qualities we need in a positive meeting. This return to nature could help conversations flow more easily.

Banyan Tree at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai; picture submitted by Ranjani Shanker

Let’s imagine this atmosphere. We are surrounded by gentle winds and visionary clouds floating across the sky  – not a blank wall.  A brilliant welcome sun, not a whiteboard.  We can replace the pen, paper and busy scribbling of notes, with more eye contact.  Would we then settle into a more authentic course of conversation, and more impactful solutions?   Within this reframing context of nature, our business relationships and  personal matters can soar.

Until we can “Unconference Room” your meeting space, perhaps we can imagine all of our conversations thoughtfully taking place under a Banyan tree.  A place where comfort, understanding, and right relationships result under its strong, natural presence.

 —✶—

The banyan tree originally received its name from the merchants who gathered beneath it to do business; in the Gujarati language, “banya” means “merchant/grocer.”  Western visitors to India observed the merchants meeting beneath the tree, and the name evolved to refer to the tree itself.  The banyan trees are given great symbolism in both Hinduism and Buddhism.  Banyan trees can grow to cover hundreds of feet, and live for over a thousand years.

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