66. Ruchika Sikri on Compassionate Corporations and Mindfulness at Google

Ruchika Sikri head of mindfulness and wellness programs at Google

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Ruchika Sikri, who led mindfulness, meditation, leadership and wellbeing programs at Google for 15 years, talks about the role of meditation at work, and what she would say to leaders like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg about building compassionate corporations.

Scott Snibbe: Today’s episode is an interview with Ruchika Sikri whose wellbeing and mindfulness programs at Google helped more than 120,000 Google employees over her 15 years with the company. Ruchika left her position at Google a few weeks ago to found Mandala Ventures, where she’s now working with several companies and nonprofits to create a better world by supporting globally accessible mindfulness, compassion and wellbeing programs. She’s also helping to develop what she calls good-for-humans technology. Ruchika took the time to speak with us on using mindfulness and meditation to achieve a greater sense of purpose in life and satisfaction at work.

Scott Snibbe: Ruchika, it’s a pleasure to have you join us for the podcast. Really appreciate you making the time. And I would love to start out by just asking you to introduce yourself and tell us a little about who you are and where you are in your life right now, because I understand you’ve just made a big change in your life.

Ruchika Sikra: Thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me on this podcast. My name is Ruchika Sikri and I am really glad to be here today. The change I’m making recently is that I’ve just recently left Google. Last week was my last week after working there for 15 years. I’ve been in the technology sector for almost 25 years of my career.

And there’s a bigger calling that’s asking me to go and continue the good work that I was privileged to do at Google for the last eight years and enable many more organizations, for-profit, nonprofit, wellness startups to help them accelerate their growth and development, and also help humans flourish at work.

“One thing Jeff Bezos does is he makes time to do nothing. So, my invitation to Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar, and everybody would be: take time to do nothing and stare at a wall sometimes and really do nothing and let’s see what comes from there.”

—Ruchika Sikri

Scott Snibbe: Can you tell us a little bit about your 15 years at Google and the roles that you played there?

Ruchika Sikra: I joined Google 15 years ago as an HR analyst. We probably had five thousand, six thousand employees and I was helping manage performance management, compensation, planning, equity, all of those things that people come to work to get. And I did that for quite some time and went to school to get my degree in organization design and development at USF.

And that sparked a lot of interest in things that go beyond the numbers we can provide on getting the right talent hired and people employed. And I started looking into what makes the teams click and work better together? What makes a great leader? How do we design organizations that are set up for human flourishing.

And very soon I was able to transition into doing executive development at Google where my focus was to enable leaders to grow from within the organization, especially in the tech part of our organization. So I was working very closely with directors and VPs and senior managers enabling them to develop their leadership skills. They all came to Google as engineers and this was about growing talent from within.

And, Scott, that was also a very challenging time for me. I was a new mother and also trying to manage the workload that is given in the tech industry and manage my own stress and burnout. I started my journey around meditation and yoga at that time, just personally taking care of my own wellbeing.

And soon enough, there was a community of mindfulness, yoga, meditation that started growing at Google at the grassroots level. So I got very involved in that as a volunteer, as a practitioner. And a few years later, I found myself working on a wellbeing learning agenda for Googlers. So that’s what I have been doing for the last eight years up until last week before I left.

And I had a huge privileged to become a teacher, a facilitator of the programs, be a manager of the wellbeing learning team and also a community creator. Through our efforts, we were able to create an amazing community called G Pause, which is like “Googlers pause and take a breath” because we can’t keep running.

We need to pause in order to play better. We were able to grow that community of Googlers across the globe. There were 400 Google employees that were supporting each other by bringing mindfulness, activities, non-activities, meditations, events, and authors and speakers who would come to Google.

At the end of my journey with mindfulness programs at Google, we had twenty, twenty-five thousand people trained on mindfulness through several programs, as well as a very robust, engaged and enabled community of 400 Googlers that were teaching each other hosting meditation sessions and just creating the space and social permission to practice this at work.

“I know the skepticism that can come from this ancient wisdom practice. However, after eight years of doing this, I realize the essence of it is in finding the secularity of this practice and the application of it in our real life.”

—Ruchika Sikri

Scott Snibbe: Can you talk a little bit more how meditation and mindfulness were part of those programs?

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah one of our engineers, one of the first few employees at Google, Meng, Chade-Meng Tan, he started a program called Search Inside Yourself at Google. He created that program after writing a book about it. He was playing with this whole word “search” because Google is a search company. And we help people search whatever they want to.

But not everything can be searched on Google, as we know. So he played on that and said, Well, we also need to search inside ourselves. And that was my playground as well, to be involved in mindfulness activities before they became official programs at Google.

About eight years ago when I joined the team, we had some indicators, just as any growing company would, that the employee stress and burnout is on an increase, which I think has just continued to increase over time, especially over the last year. And Googlers really wanted to have meditation and mindfulness as an option to manage their stress.

So we were getting signals in terms of people wanting to come to the Search Inside Yourself program, a long wait list of people waiting to be part of the program. And Meng and a couple of other people were the only teachers at that time. So we brought that data to our leadership and that justified a plan to scale this to Googlers.

Before pandemic, when we were offering classes we covered almost 5,000 Googlers across the globe to the Search Inside Yourself workshop. Meditation and mindfulness were the key components of Search Inside Yourself. Basically, what we say is that it’s a mindfulness-based, neuroscience-backed emotional intelligence program. And we wanted employees to build emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, leadership skills. But the core of all of that was meditation, compassion, empathy. These were the practices that we introduced to our colleagues.

Scott Snibbe: I noticed in the way you write about your work, that you talk about it being developmental, which is a word that we really like also in the podcast. And that’s part of, in general, the Buddhist spiritual path to of personal development, spiritual development. Can you talk a little bit about how these practices relate to personal development?

Because it’s often, you often think about this in terms of spiritual development, the word spiritual. But probably inside of a corporation you use a different language. Can you talk a little bit about how this term “development” reads out in a corporation?

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah. It was a very big part of our culture. And, of course, as it got integrated into our programs as well. We really encourage the growth mindset at Google. The mindfulness program, leadership development program, new Googler onboarding, we definitely emphasize that our mental development, our personal development can always be changed and shifted.

You know, It’s not something that’s stagnant. To me, personal development really starts with knowing who you are as a person. And I think that’s what our programs around Search Inside Yourself, Fundamentals of Mindfulness, and Fundamentals of Compassion, and G Pause were able to enable for our employees, where you could take a pause and really reflect on who you really are.

Like we would walk them through certain exercises, certain reflections like journaling, meditations, talking to each other, where it’s not something that just shows up on the surface, but really starts identifying Who I am? And raise our self-awareness as the first step. And then also introduce some ideas on regulating that self-awareness, going from reacting to things, to responding to things.

And making choices about Where do I want to take my career? Where do I want to take my life next? Almost coming out of an autopilot mode, which we are all living in, until, we start dropping these practices of self-awareness and stopping and pausing and reflecting on Where did my day go? What happened to the week? Did I do something that was meaningful to me, was meaningful to others in my life? And did it create a sense of purpose for me?

So the programs were really surrounded around the personal development of people. And the container we built around that was building our emotional intelligence, as I mentioned before, as well. That, once we know who we are, then we can develop ourselves. Then we would know what are our strengths and what are our opportunities for growth.

We also need permission and self-compassion to accept things that we haven’t quite developed yet, but have the opportunity to do it. And then really talking and taking people deeply into what brings meaning to them? What brings engagement to them in their life? And helping them find that deep motivation was also part of our program.

So it was step by step, but very much involved with the personal development side. And we didn’t leave people at just ending the workshop. We also provided resources for them to stay engaged in the ongoing learning through G Pause and authors’ talks and speakers’ talks. So it was very much integrated into the DNA of our company.

Scott Snibbe: You’ve probably read this study or maybe seen Tasha Eurich talk about self-awareness, how she says only 15% of people maybe are self-aware. Did you notice any transition or did some of the people who take your programs feel that transition from being on that more automatic mode of being toward one that was self-aware, mindful? And how do you do that?

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah, a great question. And I believe that, you know? After even practicing this for 20 years now, I’m like, Oh, why did I behave like that? You know, I just take a moment and that just, it eludes me. That was the basic foundation of the program, Scott, the self-awareness generation.

And it’s a journey. It’s not like something that you can generate. It’s not like a pill you take and now you’re self aware. It’s like the work that you do in the workshop when you’re there, and then a lot more work that you do when you go back to your real life.

And I can speak personally for myself and many of my volunteer friends, friends who are volunteering for this program, that heightened sense of awareness, which can include not just the pleasant things that are presented to us: a promotion, great food on our plate every day, which is also needed, I’m not discounting that. But also the unpleasantness of life and how do we relate to that? Become an observer of that situation, as hard as it can be.

It was a very profound experience personally for me, as I entered the space of learning this for myself. And then even more deeply when I started teaching it to other people, because we had to embody this into our own lives. And, I clearly remember, like first I was a very big deep introvert in my first half of my career. And there would be meetings where I would not say a word, and the meetings would just go and I wouldn’t find my space on the table as they say in the corporate world.

Just the self awareness and really knowing and dipping into my discomfort of not speaking up, allowed me to actually then open up and try something and be open to failing and saying something that was not relevant or meaningful or whatever labels we may want to put on it.

And we got the feedback from many other colleagues as well, that this was very instrumental. And again, it’s a journey. Really self-awareness gets generated when you go and experience something like this, a workshop, or even read a book or practice something.

But at the same time, it takes practice. Practice is the only way that you can deepen that self-awareness for anything else to happen from there.

Scott Snibbe: For people who aren’t at Google, are there similar programs externally or books that you recommend that provide the same instruction that you were offering the employees there?

Ruchika Sikra: Absolutely. So the book that I would recommend is Search Inside Yourself. There is a book on it. It’s great. It’s funny. Chade-Meng Tan, my friend, he has a great sense of humor, so people will enjoy the readout of it. But Search Inside Yourself was also donated as an IP to an external organization by Google. And Chade-Meng Tan and our VP at that time, Karen May, enabled that to happen.

So it is an external organization called silyi.org. Trust Meng to kind of name something like that. But it stands for Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. So if you search for that, Google it, you’ll be able to go there. And they do offer public programs that you can, or even like smaller orientation, if you’re not ready to jump into a two-day workshop. If there are some options available for that.

In terms of other resources, I have some very near and dear teachers who’ve played a big role in my path and have been able to do some really great work with this ancient wisdom that comes from Buddhism or Vedanta, and then bridge the gap with modern science and enable people to understand the relevance of these practices in our life.

And so I really follow Jack Kornfield’s teachings Sharon Salzburg’s teachings, Rick Hanson is great. Dr. Daniel Goleman has done some amazing work. Dr. Richie Davidson has been a great partner all along. If you just search for their names you can find some great work that they’re doing right now with programs, books, articles, and continue dropping it in our lives.

Scott Snibbe: Yeah, those are great recommendations. And we’ve had some of those folks on the podcast too, as guests.

I wanted to ask you a slightly difficult question. Because, in my own meditation practice a challenge that I’ve had is that I have had some of these intense jobs at startups and big corporation once. And I noticed that sometimes I was using my own meditation practice as a way to take on more and potentially add more intensity and more performance to my life; really as a way of taking on more, rather than necessarily opening up and relaxing and balancing your mind that maybe we associate a little more with meditation. So I wanted to ask you if you’ve seen that at all as you’ve worked with people at Google. And also how do we make sure that we aren’t using meditation and mindfulness as a way to take on more stress?

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah, it is such an interesting question, Scott, because I’m reflecting on it for myself as a person before I speak for anybody else. I feel like it does increase our capacity. Doesn’t it? Like when we do meditation, we worked through some of the fluff that we carry and we’re like, Okay, what needs my attention in this moment? And how can I help?

And one of the things that happened to me and I see a lot in my friends who’ve volunteered their time for this work, even they have a full-time role. They didn’t have a job like me that pays them. But they were sales people and engineers, product managers. But they would take putting on an event for a whole week in an office and invite 1500, 2000 employees to come to that event.

And I’m like, How do you do that? I think our passion to serve and enable others just allows us to do it. So I think I look at it as an advantage, that we are able to really expand our capacity. And I don’t know if there’s research on it that helps us identify how we can choose and expand our capacity.

But in terms of your question, How do we not become a doormat and continue taking more and more work? It’s a good one. As I’m transitioning right now into creating space to do my own work, I’m finding myself like, overloaded with a lot of meetings, a lot of work, lot of write-ups that I have to do.

So you’ve given me a prompt to actually think about like, how do I choose this gift of increased capacity wisely and not bury myself in more stress? I don’t know if I have a good answer to this. But I would just say, what I would do in this situation is to have a heightened sense of awareness that we have limited resources. Our body is limited. It can be run down if we do too much. And our mind is infinite, right? Like our capacity to do things. So just becoming aware of these two dimensions, the body and the mind, and finding that intersection where we can have a little bit of balance and harmony.

And taking good care of ourselves while also doing the work that’s meaningful, not just to us, but for this world. If I can put that somehow in an equation, that would be my recommendation. And I see wise people who are able to do this practice: hold their ground and also take care of themselves. So that would be my answer. 

Scott Snibbe: That’s a good answer. I’ve seen both sides of myself and also in a lot of the people I worked with. I think you’re right that your capacity does get expanded. One of my teachers once said an hour of meditation has the effect of two hours of sleep. I think that can be true.

I wanted to ask you another slightly difficult question, if you don’t mind. Because I worked at Facebook for a couple of years. And they offered us almost unlimited mental health care as a benefit. I think you had 52 sessions of therapy a year and many other things. But some of the people I worked with complained that the free mental health care was to help them deal with problems that their workplace was creating in their own lives. I wanted to ask you what’s the responsibility of an employer to create a healthy working environment and not just the tools to manage the stress of an intense working environment.

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah. I think it’s huge. It’s a huge responsibility on the shoulders of employers to take accountability and play a role in not creating stressful situations so that then they need to be mended by providing mental health. I think all of those resources should be made available because it’s helpful.

Many of my colleagues, including myself, there were situations in my life where I had to go and meet with a therapist every week. When my mom was going through a terminal illness like a few years ago. And there was no way, like if I would just sit and do my meditation or do my yoga, the thoughts would just keep reeling. And it would make it more intense for me to manage.

And I had acute anxiety. And so the mental health resources were very helpful to have a weekly session with a therapist. If I didn’t have that option, I would be paying a lot of money out of my pocket. So Scott, what I would say is I look at the responsibility of well-being at three levels, when we’re engaging with organizational wellbeing.

First, it rests with the organization, right? We should create conditions for human flourishing and not human stress in organizations. So how do we do that? We’re all overachieving humans. You know, when we go into bigger organizations, we have great ideas and we want to make them happen and materialize them. How do we measure that mind and body interaction here, right?

Like my mind can think of creating this amazing, massive piece of technology. However, I don’t have the appropriate amount of resources or I don’t have the right skill set on my team, the capacity management is down the drain. And we overload people with work or we don’t provide clarity and the clear vision on what we are trying to do and a lot of fluff ends up happening.

So I think it’s the responsibility of the organization. And when I say that, the organization is an entity, but the people in the organization need to take responsibility.

That brings me to the second level, which is the leaders of organization. They hold a lot of responsibility to create conditions for employee wellbeing by giving clear vision, by doing appropriate capacity planning, by enabling and supporting people when, you know, life takes on.

Last year COVID has just disrupted people’s lives. You know? Moms are working with the kids on their toe. And they have to educate their children and also provide three meals every day, and feed themselves. So all of these life conditions come up.

So what role do leaders play? And I say that with empathy because leaders at the end of the day are also human beings. So what are you doing to recognize your limited human capacity, right? And design your work and your team’s work according to that. And set some expectations accordingly.

And, more importantly, model that behavior for your employees. You know, you could say, Hey, yeah, go take mental health benefits, or go work out. And if you’re sending emails at 11:00 PM at night, your team is going to not follow your advice or not trust that you really truly believe in their wellbeing.

The third part where the responsibility lies is with people like us, who worked at Google and Facebook. As individuals, we are free. We are free to make a choice on how many hours or midnight oil I want to burn. In my first few years at Google I was very enthusiastic to work 14, 15 hours a day. That was a personal choice I made. I could have pushed back. I could have been given resources to identify How do I push back? How do I identify how much work I can really do in eight hours a day? I get it, like the organization responsibility, the leaders and the manager’s responsibility, and then the individual responsibility. If it can have clarity.

It’s so complex though, right? To get clarity at all of the levels.

But just the recognition that it’s not one entity or one person who holds the space for our wellbeing. We are all born free. We’re going to die free. And we have the choice to make today, how much time I’m going to spend in front of my computer, in front of my phone, time I want to spend with my kids, making a healthy meal. All of that is a choice that we individually can make and organizations should support that.

And I see a lot of that as being given. But somehow we lose track on talking the talk and walking the walk. And I would love to see how this gap can be bridged with people listening to talks like this, or taking workshops, like Search Inside Yourself or anything else.

Yeah, I hope that was helpful.

Scott Snibbe: Oh, it’s really helpful. And I wouldn’t mind following up a little bit. So say, for example, you found yourself with a few minutes with Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk. Maybe you have already, in fact, Jeff Bezos. And they ask you, What can I do to improve my organization? They’re extremely performance driven people. I’m sure you’ve met many people like this. But if they just asked you flat out, How do I improve my organization? How do I make it a better place to work? Would you say anything in addition to all the wonderful things you’ve already mentioned?

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah, I would just say, increase your empathy quotient. If we can relate to each other as human beings first, if a leader can see that the people who are coming to their work are people first and they are humans first. And what do humans, who are humans, right?

They’re this infinite energy, creativity, motivation; all of these things that are so valuable to their company. And at the same time, we’re very fragile. We’re like these tiny little like microbes on this planet. And we have fears and we have anxieties. We want to thrive and we want to be motivated in life.

So really I think if we can connect as a leader compassionately to the people who are coming into work and create space for them to thrive and be successful and be enabled and being taken care of; create psychological safety in our environments, make choices that are ethical.

I mean, it’s a lot to ask from those leaders. They can’t do it alone. So first of all, they need to hire a bench of their leaders who can also have higher empathy quotient.

You know, I think we’re all born as empathetic human beings. If I look at my two kids, they were most empathetic when they were little, because we start protecting ourselves more. So how do we kind of enable these leaders to find who they are. And then, you know, just also forget who they are and then start taking care of the people in their organizations would be my invitation.

I want to just say about Jeff Bezos, I was reading an article from him or someone who wrote about him. And they said every day, one thing Jeff Bezos does is he makes time to do nothing. You know, my invitation to Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar, and everybody would be: take time to do nothing and stare at a wall sometimes and really do nothing and let’s see what comes from there.

Scott Snibbe: Yeah, like that famous saying, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” So, having just left Google, I bet you have all kinds of thoughts about how to improve organizations. There’s so many constraints in our system, right? Of the 40 hour work week or 60 or 80 hour work week, depending on how you measure it; quarterly reports and fiduciary responsibility.

There’s a lot encoded into our laws and also some of our conventions of work. I’d love to know, if we could relax some of those constraints, what would be your vision of the ideal workplace? If you could craft the ideal balance of work and life and mind and body developmental support for employees, what might that look like?

Ruchika Sikra: I read a lot and I’ve seen a lot at Google in terms of organizations making an effort to provide resources and and create this enabling environment in terms of the spaces people can come and work, the food they can eat, the gyms that are available to them. But you know what, Scott, whenever I would host a class and we would ask a question, What do you value about working the most in this place? You know, What’s the number one thing that would come up is people. The people that people work with is the number one thing people appreciate.

My invitation for organizations as we want to create more space for human flourishing, flourishing is the word that keeps coming up for me, is, enable and empower your people to do good for each other.

And I speak from experience of managing a community for the last eight years; creating that community, developing it, growing it, scaling it. And now at the end, leaving the baton in their hands. And it’s so comforting to leave that and know that they can run with it. You know, going back to empathy, we’re born with empathy. We can feel each other’s pain. And when we are given the knowledge, the support, and if we can put that knowledge and support into practice in a community, the only natural thing that comes up for us is to serve each other, to enable each other.

So organizations should continue doing what they’re doing, provide all types of benefits to their employees so that they can nourish themselves at work with trainings, food, all the perks that are available in Silicon Valley at the very least.

Managers and leaders should continue developing themselves. Who they are. What is their role? And really shift their mindsets, not just the jobs that they’re doing, as a leader, but shift their mindsets to become people enablers that help people tap into the talent that they have, that they were not even aware of that they had it.

And at the same time, organizations and leaders should enable their people to support each other as well. We had programs where Googlers can teach each other. I was a career guru coach. I would do four or five career guru sessions every month.

And, I was a sage guru helping people in underserved communities find their footing and enabled them to grow and develop. And that peer to peer and human to human connection was the most meaningful part. So can organizations think about what can they do to tap into that potential that’s already there and enable and give permission for people to do this for each other? It would be my wish and hope.

Scott Snibbe: You know, I was going to ask you what your plans are for the future. But perhaps you have no plans, which is what you’re recommending for everybody else. Do you have any answer to that question? And if you don’t, congratulations.

Ruchika Sikra: I was laying down in bed last night and I’m like, why am I so busy? Like, why am I busy still? And the answer came like it’s not time for you to rest yet. Your rest will come from continuing to serve the purpose of your life, which is to enable as many people in my lifetime to get in touch with their own selves through these practices.

I do have an answer for that. If you want me to share it, Scott.

Scott Snibbe: I’d love to hear it. Yeah. I just, I felt bad asking it after you said we should to try to do nothing.

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah, do nothing. Not all the time. I think we need to make time to do nothing in order to do something that’s meaningful and helpful for everyone, is how I look at it, if I had to complete Jeff Bezos’ sentence: Do nothing so that you can do good things. I am trying out a lot of different avenues. I’m supporting two non-profit organizations.

One nonprofit is enabling students in school to learn these important skills from elementary school all the way to high school. The other nonprofit I’m supporting, they’re enabling underserved women who live in shelters to find their feet back on the ground through some wellness, and also enabling them to find their way back into work life somehow. They have small kids or some of them are very young and some of them are very old. So really focusing on that.

I’m advising some startups that are doing wellness innovation. My dream is that, if technology has to grow and develop, which I think it will, artificial intelligence, it should grow in the wellness space where humans can go online to come offline and really connect with each other. So I’m working with a couple of great companies who are doing that.

I’m also starting to think with some other people who worked in the corporate world or healthcare world or education world to see what can we do to enable this community upswell of doing this work from within an organization, not keep bringing trainers who do one-day training, two-day training and then they leave. But how do we inspire 20 people in an organization to grow a chapter on mindfulness, on compassion learning, on creating psychological safety; creating some services or offerings that we can go and provide to corporations, workplaces so that we can see some more movement there. So those are some of the ideas. The gifts that I have received, I just want to pay it forward.

Scott Snibbe: I was intrigued by your mentioning artificial intelligence, because obviously the bias in AI is a big issue right now. There’s some movies that have come out about it too. Is it possible to create artificial compassion and empathy? Is that something you’re helping startups with?

Ruchika Sikra: I’m not supporting an AI project, but I’m reading a lot about AI, the great things it can do. And how it can just disrupt everything on this planet as well. It excites me and it creates a lot of fear in me too.

The companies that I’m advising, they’re they’re more kind of creating modalities for people to engage with daily meditation practice, daily compassion practice. And they’re very human centric. There’s a community aspect to these startups that they want to provide these options online so people can start connecting with each other offline.

One of them is called pure PUUR. And what they do is, they enable people to do paired meditations. So two people can get on and sometimes sitting alone, I’ve had situations in my life where things were really hard, as I mentioned with my mom’s health. And if I would sit and my mind would just reel and I would feel more panic coming up. So in those situations can I actually sit with someone else and do a paired meditation?

And that’s beautiful. I’ve been doing that a lot, and I feel fulfilled. I feel like I have a friend who can sit with me and we can meditate together or talk about things that are meaningful and beyond the daily things. Yeah. Good question. I am an explorer in the AI space. I’m not an expert at all. But I hope for people who are the experts that they are very mindful thatwhat they’re creating will only create value and not disrupt.

Scott Snibbe: In the startup you’re working with that pairs you with people to meditate with, are you paired with strangers or with people that you know?

Ruchika Sikra: With strangers, yeah, you could be paired. And then you become friends and you can become PUUR Pals is what they call it. PUUR Pals. If I hit it off with another person, then it’s more of a back and forth questioning, and really dipping into our vulnerable moments every day.

And it’s so fascinating, Scott, as I’ve been doing PUUR. Listening to myself, one day I’m having such a great day. I made the decision to leave Google. And the last day of my Google, I’m doing my PUUR and I’m like, Oh shoot, did I really make this decision? So listening to myself go through all of those emotions, which I’ve done, in sitting practice they all come up, parts come up, feelings come up.

But when you see it, when you hear it in your own words, and then you see the pattern: Oh great day, bad day, great day, bad day. You realize that’s what life is all about. So yeah, it’s a fascinating product that they’re creating.

Scott Snibbe: We’ll share some links on the webpage for this interview. I’m curious go try it out. Very curious. One of my teachers, Venerable Sangye Khadro said other people are a mirror. That you learn a lot about yourself through what you see in others and how you talk to others. So it sounds like a really interesting product, I guess you call it a product.

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah, I come from like this corporate world. So that’s my terminology right now. I think it’s like a vehicle for human connection. If I had to expand on that a bit.

Scott Snibbe: I want to try it out. Is there anything else that you’d like to add for our audience of skeptical meditators? Anything you think would be a benefit?

Ruchika Sikra: Yeah. You know, when I was listening to other podcasts, I realized that you’re catering to people who are either non believers or are inching towards this. I can just share my own experience just establishing this work in a place like Google, which is 70, 80% scientists and researchers and engineers.

It was a difficult journey initially, Scott, for me. Because I I know the skepticism that can come from this ancient wisdom practice. And there are a variety of practices available out there. However, you know, after eight years of doing this, I realize the essence of it is in finding the secularity of this practice and the application of it in our real life.

And that’s what I’m very motivated about. So my invitation to anybody who is skeptical is to really learn. Start with the information.

I call it four pillars. So either knowledge or information is the first pillar. Really dig deep, listen to these podcasts, read some articles, read research, if you want to start there. Or read a wisdom book, if you want to start there. Practice it, apply even one minute of meditation or five minutes of meditation is good, and you can see like what difference it makes; take a workshop.

So the second pillar is the practice of that knowledge or information.

The third is, start building a community of people, even if it’s a community of all skeptical people who are not believing in this, come together and start talking about it. Or if you do believe in it, start practicing it in a community. And then just see like what that enables you to do from there on. And we followed that kind of path with a lot of secularity, holding onto the principle of secularity and science driven meditation and mindfulness in our company.

And, as I shared, like thousands of people have benefited from it. And most of these are engineers and scientists and skeptics who started walking the path and unfolded what this had to do for them.

Scott Snibbe: Ruchika, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. I really appreciate it. And it’s it’s also made me think how wonderful it is that you’ve helped these people that are having an enormous influence in our society to have a more mindful, compassionate viewpoint. I can imagine it’s had a lot of ancillary benefits over the years, not just for the people at Google, but for the products they made. So thanks a lot and I’m really excited to follow your career as it goes forward too and see what you do next.

Ruchika Sikra: Thank you, Scott. It was a pleasure talking to you. And thank you for picking so many of the things that I’ve done over time and really bringing it to life through this podcast.

Scott Snibbe: Thanks for joining us for this conversation with Ruchika Sikri. If you’re interested to learn or about Ruchika, you can find a link to her website and some of the organizations and programs she mentioned on this episode’s page at skepticspath.org.

If you enjoyed this episode, please consider making a donation to our podcast. A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment is a nonprofit organization. All our content is free and ad free thanks to our generous donors. To support us now, visit our website at skepticspath.org. We accept cash, credit, Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies and your donations are tax-deductible in the U.S.

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Learn more

Ruchkia Sikri’s website
Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute
Mindful Life Project
Akhila Health
Indian Institute of Management, Bodh Gaya Samatvam
Human Cosmos App
Cosmos City


Hosted by Scott Snibbe
Theme music and mastering by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio


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