Have you ever felt inexplicably drawn to an event, a person, or a place that you knew very little about? I had that gut feeling about attending the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this past weekend. A mentor forwarded me the conference writeup, and I made plans to go after just glancing at the content planned for the 4-day conference.
I was not disappointed with my decision—from the first afternoon at the conference, where tens of people came up and introduced themselves because of my first-timer badge, to the full-length mindfulness practice day on Monday, I felt like I belonged there.
The Wisdom 2.0 Conference was founded by Soren Gordhamer as a way for people to come together to celebrate and discuss wisdom, compassion, and mindfulness in the Digital Age. Now in its eighth year, the conference has grown to over 1,000 attendees. The recent 2017 San Francisco gathering was held in the iconic Palace of Fine Arts near the Bay Bridge.
My favorite conference sessions included the long-form Integration Lounge workshop, “Discovering Your Real Work.” With the guidance of a former Buddhist monk and Google “Search Inside Yourself” advisor, we dove deep into our purpose in partnership with other attendees. I also loved the “Wisdom and Money” Tribe Meetup where we were challenged to pull out cash or credit and meditate on a conversation with Money itself. These intensive workshops allowed us to pull back the veil on growth opportunities and commit to further exploration even after the conference was finished.
Beyond the formal conference programming, I also made lifelong connections with other attendees. I met a CTO consultant, Jeremy, and a marketing executive, Susan, while we were standing in the coat check line. The three of us first-timers were all in periods of transition, and we continued our conversation over lunch the following day and emails this week.
I also connected with likeminded attendees at the "Birds of a Feather" dinner Saturday night. Our eight-person group discussed Mindfulness for Addiction Recovery. I loved meeting other young people who were working as Recovery Coaches and Intervention Specialists. There were even physicians and public health experts who attended not because of their own stories but because of the overwhelming trends of addiction among their clients. The dinner rekindled my passion for helping others by sharing my own road to recovery.
Finally, I really enjoyed visiting the vendor tables in the exhibition area. I learned about a new mindfulness app, Simple Habit, aimed at busy millenials. I connected with the editor of Mindful magazine, one of my favorite publications. I even tried out Oculus Virtual Reality for a mindful nature walk!
By Sunday evening, after three full days of conference programming, all of the attendees felt quite full of information and inspiration. Therefore, the Monday Practice Day gave us a chance to catch our breath and revisit The Work we had to do on ourselves. Byron Katie presented techniques for challenging limiting beliefs, and Jon Kabat-Zinn encouraged us all to take Mindfulness off the cushion and into daily life.
My stay in San Francisco culminated fittingly with a night at the San Francisco Zen Center, where I sat in meditation with the center residents for over an hour on Tuesday morning.
While I loved every workshop, presentation, and experience that I had on my nearly weeklong trip, what I am taking away is bigger than just one speaker's message. After witnessing so many renowned public figures hold space for themselves and the audience, I was reminded that presence always trumps perfection. As leaders, yoga teachers, and even trusted confidantes, our first responsibility is to just be there. We don't always need to be perfect; we just need to be fully present.