Have conversations with people who have differing perspectives from you.
Lodro Rinzler, author, practitioner and teacher, has been meditating for nearly his entire life. As a teenager, he sat retreats and began teaching Buddhist principles. As an adult, he’s built a career out of sharing his leadership and expertise in the ways of the Buddha.
While a student at Wesleyan University, Lodro Rinzler founded the Buddhist House, a dormitory dedicated to mindful meditation. Upon graduating, Lodro took a leadership role in a meditation center in Boston, eventually returning to New York City where the next chapter of his story would unfold and he would begin writing his series of books.
In 2012, Lodro Rinzler co-founded the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, a program where contemporary professionals can study meditation, community organizing principles and MBA-style skills in order to learn to access their inherent peace, gaining clarity and confidence in how they want to help others.
Several years after building out this organization, Lodro began his most ambitious endeavor to date: MNDFL. In operation since 2015, MNDFL is an oasis in the crowded urban space, with 3 dedicated centers in New York City that offer city dwellers greater calm in their perpetually hurried lives, as well as a substantive on-demand streaming video platform, non-profit arm offerings meditation in underserved communities and a teacher training program.
Lodro Rinzler’s published work includes the best-selling The Buddha Walks into a Bar…, the award-winning Walk Like a Buddha, Sit Like a Buddha, How to Love Yourself (And Sometimes Other People), The Buddha Walks into the Office… and Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken. His writing has also appeared extensively across the national press including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic. He has also appeared on NBC News, FOX, and CBS, extolling the virtues of Buddhist meditation.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Based on my years of traveling to teach meditation, I knew just how many barriers there are to people accessing the practice. I was sitting with that problem when my now co-founder Ellie Burrows sat down to tea with me. She had been volunteering for the non-profit I started, the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, and had expressed her own frustrations around launching a meditation practice. The more we talked, the more we realized that we shared an interest in making meditation as accessible as possible and the idea of MNDFL was born. Ellie created a warm, non-judgemental safe space built for the modern meditator, while my role was to recruit instructors and curate content. We knew that we needed to make meditation as financially accessible, offer classes morning, noon and night, and bring in a diverse group to staff and lead classes in order to encourage what today has become a wonderfully diverse community.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days begin with contemplating five aspects of my life I am grateful for, often including my wife, my health, the fact that I have incredible friends, my sweet sweet animals, and more. I have coffee with my wife, exercise, and meditate for an hour. From there, I can engage my inbox and meetings with a lot more awareness and energy, having focused not just on what I want to do but who I want to be / how I want to show up that day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through conversation. When I was founding my first business, the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, I committed to having 108 one-on-one conversations that would help guide me to what would be most helpful to others. Even with MNDFL, I find that the most meaningful ways I help steer the ship come from seeking advice in deep conversation from all stakeholders – people who attend classes, our teachers, staff, executive team – everyone.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am deeply excited that meditation has becomes mainstream. When I was growing up as Buddhist child, I think the fact that I meditated was only part of the reason I was continuously pushed into lockers. Yet now it’s somehow a cool thing to do? It’s mind-boggling to me, but it’s also vaguely reminiscent of what I imagine it was like to be going for routine jogs in the 1950’s, when you would tell people you were going for a run and they would reply, “Who’s chasing you?” Now that meditation is so mainstream I feel like there’s endless opportunities to bring it into places where it was previously foreign and make it as accessible as possible.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
See above. Meditation is the one of the main things that helps me sort through my own confusion so I can show up fully for other people. Also, Boomerang for Gmail.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Two things: the first is to not get in the habit of beating yourself up. It’s harder to break when you’re older, and that little voice so many of us have that tells us we’re not good enough, that our mistakes mean we’re inherently bad, that we’ll never find someone who loves us for us etc is something we can unlearn…but wouldn’t it be nice not to cultivate it to begin with? Secondly, look at your white privilege. I first started looking at my own in college, which is late in the game, and still today notice it rise up in unfamiliar circumstances. If I could encourage a younger version of myself to reach out to and learn from people that do not look like him, the desire would be that I would have become an ally earlier and be smarter than my current self in how to serve to lift up people of color.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A lot of leaders in the wellness world mainly serve to help white, upper/middle class people and many people in that industry remain blind to doing the much needed work to empower voices of color.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Have conversations with people who have differing perspectives from you. Yes, you need to do self-care and take care of yourself/develop your own confidence. But you also need to run your ways of thinking past people who disagree with you and have those conversations so you don’t end up in a bubble only talking to supporters and coming up with ideas for people who look and think like you.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Only hiring really kind people. It sounds simple (and I doubt anyone goes out there trying to hire jerks), but as an entrepreneur I know that I can’t be behind the front desk of three meditation studios at once. The fact that I can be out of the studio and have full confidence that people are checking into classes, being shown around the studios, and warmly welcomed into community by caring people means the world to me and will only allow our community to flourish and grow long-term.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on, I put my business in front of everything, to the detriment of my health and my relationship. I wish I could go back to that version of myself and tell him to take better care of himself and the people I love. It’s pretty horrible to say, but during that time I was working late and my girlfriend (now wife) called me to say our aging dog was quite sick. My pup died before I could get home to see her, which broke my heart. That was a moment when I realized I needed to cultivate more time at home and with my family. It still took me a year or so to find the right balance and still today it is a learning process.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A pleasing gong that goes off when you’ve been consistently on your computer or phone for a half hour, reminding you to lift your gaze and connect back to your body breathing. Maybe something like this exists out there, but it’s a pretty life-changing tip for any workaholics out there, and if it could be set up so you don’t have to track it, it just goes off, that would be amazing.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My wife and I got a couples massage (admittedly, for $120) and it just felt deeply nourishing to share together.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The 10% Happier app. I know I mentioned Boomerang above, and that is a life-saver as I’m the sort of person who consistently zeroes out his inbox, but when I am on the go and I would like to receive a short guided meditation that might be different than what I would do on my own, that’s the app I go to. It has some phenomenal teachers on it and you can customize the length and theme of the practice in a really smart way.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
For anyone looking to launch a meditation practice I recommend Start Here Now by Susan Piver. As the founder of the Open Heart Project, an online meditation community, Susan has become well-known for making complicated meditation teachings accessible. In this small volume she strikes a beautiful chord between confident wisdom and vulnerability; reading it is like sitting in the room with a good friend coaching you in the meditation practice. If people are interested in my books, perhaps The Buddha Walks into the Office might be of interest, if you want to learn more about bringing mindfulness and compassion into the workplace.
What is your favorite quote?
“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” – Pema Chodron