Shankar Hemmady grew up in Mumbai, India, where most material things were scarce. Feeling that he had missed out on many things in his childhood, he has earnestly devoted his life to learning music, dance, poetry, hiking, mindfulness and rock climbing over the past two decades. Shankar co-founded two successful startup companies and has taught the course “Creativity At Work” at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the co-author of “Metric Driven Design Verification”, a best-seller in the electronics industy, and his short stories have been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
My personal practice is…
The Art of the Heart
How did you discover your practice?
It evolved on February 1, 2011 out of all that I learned prior to that in my life.
Why do you practice?
The practice is grounded in being present to whatever arises moment to moment, and in practicing equanimity as well as compassion to the entire ecosystem around. There is no fixed time/place for the practice, nor is there a required way of doing it.
How frequently and for how long do you practice?
I practice it several hours a day as I go about the rest of my life.
What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how to you move through it?
Often the challenge is in staying present, living with equanimity and compassion. These are variously described in literature as empathic distress, compassion fatigue and falling back into old habit patterns. There’s nothing to do at such times per se.
The moment there’s awareness of any of these things happening, the practice is to gently get back to watching my breath, being kind to myself, and slowly going back into the flow of life.
What supports you in staying committed to your practice?
The joy that arises from the practice! Greater awareness of all that’s happening around me. Joie de vivre — the joy of being alive. Growing passion in all the things I do. Growing compassion for the people, animals, plants and the ecosystem I live in or travel to.
What role does your practice play in your work?
Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.
A friend, Ganoba Date who practices something similar — he is 79 years old, and as playful as a 2-year old! He describes his practice as “Stay and Play.”
A practice I’d like to explore is…
I am no longer sampling other practices. I love the flexibility I have in my current practice – which is open to all others.
Anything else you’d like to share about practice.
Each and every day of my life has been joyful since I made “Art of the Heart” my daily practice. I have demonstrated and shown it to others simply by being with them for a few hours, and living it together. Most folks get used to it within a day or two, and seem to love it.
Learn more about Shankar and his work at Project Happiness here.