On 20th March 2017, Radhanath Swami addressed a lunchtime crowd at Norton Rose Fulbright’s London office – a global firm that has over 3500 lawyers and legal staff across more than 50 cities in the world. Given Radhanath Swami’s unique life experiences, highlighted in his bestselling memoir, The Journey Home, the firm was curious to hear his thoughts on how to build a culture of collaboration, build genuine relationships and cut back on stress through mindfulness.
The Rt. Hon Shailesh Vara MP for North-West Cambridgeshire opened the event with the following words of praise: “As a politician I get to meet many people, but Radhanath Swami is definitely one of the most special people I have met. All of us believe that we lead busy lives and men of God do not. But that’s not the case with Radhanath Swami. He is a man who has started up a project feeding 300,000 people daily, setting up schools, ecovillages, schools and orphanages.”
Norton Rose Fulbright prides itself on the principles of quality, integrity and unity. They aim to do this by valuing differences, promoting a culture of respect for each individual and encouraging workforce diversity at all levels. The event was organised by the firm’s Origins network – the London office’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic employee resource group.
One of the more memorable stories Radhanath Swami shared with the group was his experience of being invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to welcome the President and First Lady of the United States of America. With all the pompadour of the welcoming ceremony, across the lawns of the Sansad Bhawan, he questioned what he was doing there. He felt insignificant and unqualified. Looking up at the clear sky, he saw a small bird circling above. As he sat in a room full of the most powerful people in the world, he thought to himself: “this tiny bird cannot do anything they can. It cannot manage countries, make trade deals or run for a public office. But similarly, the people in this room cannot do what the bird does – fly”.
A room full of lawyers can be a speaker’s worst nightmare. Every word could be construed to have a different meaning and every phrase questioned for its authenticity. However, after an hour of pin-drop silence, with the professionals attuned to the Swami’s every word, there was a rapturous round of applause.
After the talk Manuela Sforza, the firm’s diversity & inclusion advisor, commented: “I wish all employees could have been here to hear Radhanath Swami speak. We often address the corporate side, but this addressed people in a very personal and spiritual way”. Siri Nomme, the head of diversity and inclusion at the company added, “I was incredibly tense coming here this morning; I had a very busy morning. The Swami made me feel calm and reminded us not to judge and make assumptions about people”
James Morrison, a newly qualified solicitor explained how the stresses of his demanding and challenging role dissipated as Radhanath Swami was speaking: “I was excited about the event because it’s not every day you get to hear a speaker talking about balance, spirituality and taking time to connect to yourself. For me, it came at the perfect time and I was grateful for the opportunity to speak to him one-to-one.” Shiv Daddar, an intellectual property lawyer and co-vice chair of Origins group echoed his remarks: “the Swami’s talk was inspiring, relevant and current. I love how he drew perspectives from ancient texts and from his personal life experiences to teach us a different way of looking at the world today.”