The launch of Holonomics

Holonomics flyer

Today is the official launch date for our new book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter (with a foreword from Satish Kumar). If you would like to order a copy, you can do so via Amazon UK ( where there are a number of buying options for international readers, or also direct from Floris Books. The eBook version is coming out in the next few weeks, and also Holonomics will soon be available via, the other Amazon country sites, and other international book sellers.

Margaret Wheatley

Quite a few of our friends have asked about our book launch, and what is actually happening. Maria and I are thinking about how to put together a little even in São Paulo, but we are not actually going to be flying back to the UK for a UK launch party, although obviously we would love to be able to celebrate with everyone at Floris and our friends there.

Floris Books have today published this interview with Maria and myself where we talk more about our book: Holonomics: Frequently Asked Questions

Thomas Johnson

What I thought I would do is just tell you a little about a few of our launch activities, as we have been busy these last couple of weeks announcing Holonomics to the world, speaking at a number of events, and  doing a number of magazine and radio interviews.

Sustainable Foods Summit

I had the great pleasure of introducing Holonomics publicly for the first time in São Paulo at the end of last month, at the Sustainable Foods Summit. Over the last few months I have been developing the concept of holonomic brand value with some fantastic contributions from friends, and this was my first opportunity to introduce this theme in my keynote talk.

Holonomic brands

For me, holonomic brand value is a move away from a focus on financial value as measured on a balance sheet, to one where we move into a deeper understanding of the meaning of a brand, its authenticity, and also a letting go of our need to control the brand. I am sure I will be writing more about this over the coming months.

Harvard Business ReviewLast week saw the publication of our article Holonomic Thinking in the Brazilian edition of Harvard Business Review. This was a great opportunity for our Brazilian friends and readers to take a deep-dive in to the concept of holonomic thinking, especially how it relates to the themes of strategy, innovation, organisational structure, education, sensemaking and mindfulness, and also to read more about two of our Brazilian holonomic case-studies: Sustentare Business School and Chaordic, a young e-commerce business in Florianopolis who recently and deservedly won a prestigious Best Place To Work Award. Maria and I are also grateful to Robert Kaplan and Iain McGilchrist who contributed to our article, providing insights on systems thinking and Balanced Scorecard, and what we can learning business from an understanding of how our two brain hemispheres presence reality, one in terms of wholeness and the other as a symbolic re-representation.

In his praise for Holonomics, Fritjof Capra writes that “The authors of this remarkable book have distilled the essence of the ideas and values taught at Schumacher College, a unique transformative learning centre based on systemic thinking and grounded in deep ecology, and they show how these teachings can be applied with many case studies of enlightened businesses. Holonomics is a powerful antidote to the fragmentation and materialistic orientation of today’s dominant culture.”

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

Last week Schumacher College published an article I wrote telling the story of the inception and writing of Holonomics. Our aim when writing was to capture in a single volume the philosophy and teachings from Schumacher College, and particularly the unique masters degree Holistic Science – a radical rethinking of our ecological, social and economic systems. In structuring it into three parts – The Dynamics of Seeing, The Dynamics of Nature and The Dynamics of Business – we then wished to show how these teachings could be implemented in a practical manner in business, governmental and other organisations based on our many years of experience in industry, in both the private and public sectors.

Human Values in EducationAnd finally, as some of you may have seen in my last couple of articles, Maria and I were invited to talk about Holonomics and how we are introducing the concepts into business via executive education at the 10th 10th National Sri Sathya Sai Congress on Education in Human Values in Ribeirão Preto. In 2010 Maria began a two-year long course in human values in education, and early into the course soon realised just how important and powerful these lessons were for adult education as well as for children.

In Holonomics we examine wholeness in lived experience (the dynamics of seeing), wholeness in complex organic systems (wholeness in nature) and wholeness in business, economic and organisational systems (wholeness in humanity and the human spirit). The simplest explanation we can provide as to what holonomic thinking is, is that it is an elevated level of consciousness which allows us to perceive the wholeness in systems. This level of awareness is understood not in our rational-thinking-linguistic minds, but through our intuitive faculty, and in a manner which makes use of all our ways of knowing – thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition.

Satish Kumar quote

At this level of awareness we have moved beyond conceiving of reality in terms of classification frameworks, and moved into a way of being in which the dynamics of seeing is the dynamics of nature which is the dynamics of business. To really understanding the authentic wholeness in systems is to understand at a deep level the wholeness in nature, a nature which we inhabit and belong, in relationship to others, not separate, and where human values are the foundation of a sustainable, ethical and happy life.

Thank you very much to all of you around the world who have been supporting our project, and we hope that those of you who do read Holonomics will find it a rewarding, education and uplifting read.

Many thanks

Simon and Maria


Holonomics on Amazon UK:

Holonomic Thinking, Harvard Business Review (Portuguese)




Hyper-consumption in infancy and the defence of children and childhood

Source: The Sun

Source: The Sun

As I wrote in my last article, Maria and I spent this weekend at  the 10th National Sri Sathya Sai Congress on Education in Human Values in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. In this article I would like to discuss the presentation by Pedro Hartung, a São Paulo-based lawyer who is also a member of Instituto Alana, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1994 with the mission to foster and promote social welfare, education and culture of children.

The motto of the institute is “Honour the child, since the future we want starts with infancy” (Honrar a criança, o futuro que queremos começa na infância) and Pedro gave a powerful and moving talk about the need to protect children from hyper-consumption.

Pedro Hartung

Pedro Hartung

Notijng a study which suggests that 80% of demand for consumption in households comes from children, Pedro began by asking the following questions:

  • What do infants want?
  • What do adolescents want?
  • What does humanity want?

He also asked a question about the obsession children have with technology, and asked the question “Is technology stopping children from having a childhood?”

Noting that children learn outside of the classroom as well as inside the classroom, he showed us the following short video which was created by NAPCAN, the Australian organisation which is fighting child abuse.

Around the world, Pedro noted two different trends relating to hyper consumption: the infantilisation of adults, and the sexualisation of children (two trends I have no desire to illustrate with pictures). Children are now seen as hyper consumers, as sales people for brands, being co-opted in to the marketing of products and services. But hyper-consumption is paradoxical, since it it not making us any happier.

Pedro used the illustration of Suri Cruz to illustrate his point that clothes can also be seen as tickets which give us access to society. Publicity is not selling products, it is actually selling values, and much of the time it seems that the values are “Having is necessary for being”.

Pedro cited other research that suggests that it only takes 30 seconds for an advertisement to influence a child. Around the workld, many countries have legislative frameworks to limit the exposure of children to advertisements, but in Brazil this has not been the case. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that each day children watch on average 5 hours and 22 minutes of television, but spend only 3 hours and 15 minutes at school. There are a number of reasons for this, including the lack of secure locations to play. The audience at the congress was mainly school teachers, and so Pedro asked which teachers taught at schools with an area of green space. Only two teachers raised their hands.

We were then shown extracts from the 2008 Brazilian documentary Criança, A Alma do Negócio which translates as Children: The Soul of Business. A version is available with English subtitles with the title Target Market: Kids which you can watch below. For those of you who speak Portuguese, a ten-minute edited version is also available, and this could potentially be used in workshops and lectures etc.

The good news in Brazil was that following the launch of this documentary, new laws were introduced to protect children. Of course, these are still limited, and food companies such as McDonalds are now running events inside schools with Ronald McDonald which in theory promote good nutrition, but of course are run to promote their fast food.


In Brazil, both Instituto Alama and many other projects are involved in the eradication of this kind of child abuse. Their website curates many of these examples: I thought that I would finish this article by citing one other exciting project in Brazil which was announced by my friends at Mandalah this week.

This project brings together Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball star, and creatives from Mandalah, Flag and Mesa&Cadeira. A team of 12 visionary Brazilians will meet in California through the development of a project inspired by sports and empowered by technology, focused on getting Brazilian youth to stay active, with the overall mission to combat childhood obesity. 

It can be quite a head spin when you realise just how many amazing projects are happening here in Brazil. Pedro’s talk was extremely interesting, and both Maria and I hope to be able to visit the institute in the hear future to learn more about their project and many different activities.

To read more about the congress, please see my last article: The 10th National Sri Sathya Sai Congress on Education in Human Values



The 10th Brazilian National Sri Sathya Sai Congress on Education in Human Values

The 10th Brazilian National Sri Sathya Sai Congress on Education in Human Values

The Choir from the Sai School of Ribeirão Preto

The Choir from the Sai School of Ribeirão Preto

This weekend Maria and I had the very great pleasure and honour to be speaking at the 10th National Sri Sathya Sai Congress on Education in Human Values in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. The congress is organised by Instituto Sri Sathya Sai de Educação do Brasil (The Institute of Sri Sathya Sai Education of Brazil). The institute is a not-for-proft organisation with the mission of implementing the Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) programme in Brazil. Human Values in Education This educational programme was developed in India in the 1960s, and has at its heart not only the mission of providing the highest quality of education in children, but also the development of their character, the foundation of which is the teaching of the five universal human values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-Violence.

Maria with Dalton de Souza Amorim

Maria with Dalton de Souza Amorim

HolonomicsMaria and I had been invited to speak by Rodrigo Bicalho, the president of institute in Brazil. The reason was that in our book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter we write about the educational programme in human values, and how it is of equal relevance in the teaching of adults, including business executives and MBA and other post-graduate students. In 2010 Maria enrolled for the advanced course in Education and Human Values, and while studying she realised that many of the teachings could be put into practice for business executives.

The city of Ribeirão Preto was chosen as it is home to both one of the five Sri Sathy Sai schools in Brazil, and also home to the institute, which was founded in 2000. After opening speeches from Rodrigo and the mayor of Ribeirão Preto, Dr. Dalton de Souza Amorim, the national coordinator of education in the Sai Organisation spoke about human values in education. “Education is an internal fight for transformation” he told us, and “values represent riches, the most valuable things in our lives”. He made an excellent observation that in schools, the staff room has to have the same energy and be as full of human values as the classroom.

Meetings with parents

Meetings with parents

In Brazil, this programme is helping many disadvantaged children, many who suffer from violence, poverty and drugs. “Sathya Sai schools have an obligation to show what is possible” he told us. The schools also support parents. Dalton told us a story of one parent who came to an open evening. Teachers should not be imposing the human values on parents, many who are struggling as much as their children. This one parent told the teachers and parents that she had been adopted, and had never been told she was loved by her mother and never received a hug. The schools provide a very supportive environment for parents, and as Daltion noted “this life is complicated and no one has an easy recipe as an answer”.

In another pertinent anecdote, Dalton told us of another child who asked why he should learn Portuguese grammar, when he was needed at home to help his brother in drug dealing. The teacher answered that “you have to learn at school in order to be able to discern good from bad”. Quite rightly, Dalton pointed out that there were many courageous teachers, and that human values really act in our day-today, when things are not always going so well for us.

Pedro Hartung

Pedro Hartung – How can Suri, aged five, be the world’s 21st best dressed woman?

Following some wonderful singing from the choir at the Sri School in Ribeirão Preto, Pedro Hartung from Instituto Alana gave an emotional talk about child consumerism and values. As you will have seen from previous posts, I am extremely interested in the concept of conscious consumption and also what I call ‘holonomic brand values’ and I took many notes from this talk. I have written a separate article about Pedro’s presentation, as it deserves space to discuss these important issues (see Hyper-consumption in infancy and the defence of children and childhood).

Gustavo Barros Alcantara and Anayra Giocomelli Lamas Alcantara

Gustavo Barros Alcantara and Anayra Giacomelli Lamas Alcantara – (Re)Enchantment with the World

In the afternoon we all split up to take part in a number of workshops, and Maria and I chose to attend the workshop on Environmental Education and Education in Human Values run by Gustavo Barros Alcantara and Anayra Giacomelli Lamas Alcantara who are both teachers at the Sai School in Ribeirão Preto. These workshops ran for the whole afternoon, and therefore gave us a lot of space to dive into issues which are deeply affecting us. In our workshop, we watched the song Year of the Rat by Badly Drawn Boy, which if you have not seen it, can be watched above. It really helped inspire our discussion about human values, not just peace but also non-violence too, and how without human values, we can not be sustainable in our lives.

Escola Sai, Ribeirão Preto

Escola Sai, Ribeirão Preto

The next morning we heard from a number of the teachers at the Sai School in Ribeirão Preto, including one of the students and a couple of parents. The school was founded in 2002 and currently has 225 pupils. Unfortunately Maria and I had to return to São Paulo earlier than we had expected, and were therefore unable to attend the trip to the school to find our more. Maria and I will definitely return to Ribeirão Preto in the future to visit the school, and spend more time with the teachers and staff, as it really is an extremely special school, doing amazing work in all aspects of the lives of students.

A world more ethical

A world more ethical

Following this presentation, Maria and I spoke about the journey into adulthood and the teaching of human values. While at the airport waiting for our flight to Ribeirão Preto, we saw that in the April edition of Exame CEO, the entire edition was dedicated to ethics. In our talk we read out a brief quote from one of the articles which said that according to research, seven in ten Brazilians would stop buying products or services from companies who were involved in irregularities. It is really encouraging to see magazines such as Exame CEO give so much space to the theme of ethics, and shows just how important work such as ours is introducing ethics and human values into business and economics. Maria and I talked about many of the themes which those of you who read Transition Consciousness will already be aware of.

We talked about our exercise in which we blindfold executives and ask them to work in clay, an exercise which Maria came across while on the course in Human Values in Education, and which had been introduced by Karla and Paulo, who also had attended the course and who were here at the congress. We talked about the four ways of knowing – thinking, feeling, sensing and intuition, we talked about the need for human values in brands,  all these themes of which I discuss in my article From Economic Brand Value to Holonomic Brand Value.

We had time to actually do one our meditation on starlings exercise, where we show people a film of the murmuration of starlings, and ask people which words come to their minds when they watch them (see my article Dialogue on Leadership: Maria’s Meditation on Starlings). People in the audience suggested many words, examples being dance, harmony, synchronisation, poetry, beauty, respect and co-ordination. As Maria said, when we do this exercise with executives we then ask “would you like your own organisation to exhibit these qualities” and of course the answer is universally yes.

©Simon Robinson 2014

©Simon Robinson 2014

I am now starting to speak Portuguese at events, and so I took over from Maria to talk about “seeing”. It was interesting that the opening of the congress featured the phrase “The Look of the Educator” (O Olhar do Educador”) i.e. the way in which a teacher sees. In holonomics we write that “to see well is an act of humility” and I explained this via our “ladder of seeing” which is a tool we created to help executives develop their level of consciousness, and hence their ability to “see”.

Harvard Business Review

The Resilient Business

As well as Exame CEO, we also discussed this month’s Brazilian edition of Harvard Business Review, which features a number of articles on sustainability, including our own article Holonomic Thinking. Our article is in Portuguese, and features our Ladder of Seeing and the Holonomic Operating System – the four ways of knowing. It really does seem to us that big businesses are now waking up to the need to understand reality in a qualitatively different manner in order to really understand complex problems in their entiretuy as well as to be able to develop and nurture truly authentic brands. The teaching of human values is critical in this journey of transformation, and programmes such as Sathya Sai have a huge role to play.

Premio Crianca 2012

Premio Crianca 2012

We finished our presentation with Maria talking a little bit about the award ceremony Premio Crianca, which is sponsored by the Abrinq Foundation and Save the Children. In 2012 Maria was one of the judges, and one of the winning projects was Estação da Luz, a Sathya Sai school in Eusébio, in the northern state of Ceara, and so it was particularly special to have two of the teachers from this school at the congress. (For clarity, Maria played no role in the evaluation of this particular project for the awards).

The heart is the true source of education.

The heart is the true source of education.

As I said, both Maria and I would dearly have loved to have been able to stay for the remainder of the congress, with the second day being full of insightful and deeply inspirational talks. I certainly learnt a lot myself, and it was a very wonderful experience to spend this weekend with such amazing people doing remarkable work transforming the lives of both children and parents in Brazil.

Guest Article: Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi – The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

I am delighted to share this news from Fritjof about his new book, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, co-authored with Professor Pier Luigo Luisi. I will be writing a full review of the book in a few week’s time, but for now I wanted to let you know that the book is out now, a book which I am sure will soon be one of the key references for all students of systems thinking the world over.

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi

As the twenty-first century unfolds, a new scientific conception of life is emerging.

It is a unified view that integrates, for the first time, life’s biological, cognitive, social and ecological dimensions. At the forefront of contemporary science, the universe is not longer seen as a machine  composed of elementary building blocks. We have discovered that the material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships; that the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system.

The view of the human body as a machine and of the mind as a separate entity is being replaced by one that sees not only the brain, but also the immune system, the bodily tissues, and even each cell as a living, cognitive system. Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as a cooperative dance in which creativity and the constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces. And with the new emphasis on complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, a new science of qualities is slowly emerging.


This new science encompasses many concepts and ideas that are being developed by outstanding researchers and their teams around the world. In our multidisciplinary textbook, we integrate these ideas into a single coherent framework. We call it “the systems view of life” because it involves a new kind of thinking — thinking in terms of relationships, patterns, and context. In science, this way of thinking is known as “systems thinking,” or “systemic thinking.” It is inherently multidisciplinary, and thus helps to overcome the fragmentation that is characteristic of our academic disciplines.

In The Systems View of Life we present a broad sweep through the history of ideas and across scientific disciplines. Beginning with the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, our historical account includes the evolution of Cartesian mechanism from the seventeenth to the twentieth century, the rise of systems thinking, the development of complexity theory, recent discoveries at the forefront of biology, the emergence of the systemic conception of life at the turn of this century, and its economic, ecological, political, and spiritual implications.

We believe that it will be critical for present and future generations of young researchers and graduate students to understand the new systemic conception of life and its implications for a broad range of professions — from economics, management, and politics, to medicine, psychology, and law. In addition, the book will be useful for undergraduate students in the life sciences and the humanities.

Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi The Systems View of LifeIn the last part of our book, titled “Sustaining the Web of Life,” we identify the major problems of our time — energy, environment, climate change, inequality, etc. — as systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent. We highlight the importance of the systemic understanding of life for finding corresponding systemic solutions that will help us meet one of the great challenges of our time: to build and nurture sustainable communities. We then review a wide variety of such systemic solutions that already exist; and we conclude that the systems view of life has given us the knowledge and the technologies to build a sustainable future. This is perhaps the primary reason why we believe that our book is so important for today’s students — the world leaders of tomorrow.

The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision is currently now available via Amazon in the UK ( It will lauch in the US on May 31st.


Guest Article: Karn G. Bulsuk – Genchi Genbutsu – How it helped Toyota win a multi-million dollar contract

I am very happy to be able to publish this case study from Karn G. Bulsuk. Karn is a consultant with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, in organizations including the World Bank, Toyota and KPMG. He has significant international experience, and has been based in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Japan and Australia, with experience in managing multicultural cross-border teams throughout the region.

During his tenure at Toyota, he taught the Toyota Production System to Toyota staff in Thailand, as well as adapted it to suit service-based Toyota subsidiaries. He was also responsible for implementing HR process improvement projects. His present consulting specialization is on process improvement and IT risk mitigation, and has led engagement teams for some of the largest banking, telecommunication and industrial companies in the world.

This case study is an excellent example of why we in business need to learn how to see. The Chief Operating Officer in the case study for me shows a high level of extremely insightful mindfulness and a deep understanding of customer needs. It is wonderful anecdote and I am grateful to Karn for sharing this story, one of many from his blog where he shares a great deal of his experience.

Genchi Genbutsu – How it helped Toyota win a multi-million dollar contract

Karn G. Bulsuk

Karn G. Bulsuk

Karn G. Bulsuk

Genchi Genbutsu (現地現物) is another pillar of the Toyota Way. Translated roughly into “go see for yourself”, its a methodology which helps people to truly understand a situation, find the root causes and fix it appropriately.

Here we look at a case study in how genchi genbutsu helped Toyota Tsusho win a major government contract in Malaysia supplying noise absorbing walls for highways.

Several years ago I was attended a series of training sessions with senior executives from Toyota Tsusho, the trading wing of the Toyota Group. We were formally taught the Toyota Way, which was something that had not been previously formalized within the company, as well as conducted case studies and shared our experiences.

The story below highlighted the importance of genchi genbutsu, and is the perfect case study to show how it was essential in helping Toyota Tsusho to win a multi-million dollar contract in Malaysia:

Photo: Gordana Davila

Photo: Gordana Davila

We have a good relationship with the Malaysian government, and a few months ago we were told that they were looking for a new supplier of those noise absorbing walls you see used along side the highway. Besides protecting cars from flying off the side in an accident, they also help to reduce noise pollution being generated by the thousands of cars passing by every hour.

So naturally we got our team together, and threw together a proposal in record speed. The contract was lucrative, offering millions of ringgit.

We sent in the proposal and did the usual thing: waited. After a good deal of time later and several follow ups, a contact within the government had told us that our proposal had already been rejected in-committee. What we had proposed was simply too expensive.

The working team was rather surprised, as we offered the government the best, highest quality wall we had, and also provided them with a very competitive price. We conducted several five whys but none of them led to the root cause.

Our COO (Chief Operating Officer) was due to fly into Kuala Lumpur to see how we were doing, just a few days after we had found out that the proposal had been unofficially rejected. He too was interested in finding out the root cause in why we were no longer competitive in the bid, and whether anything could be done to help us win.

When he landed in KL that week, the driver asked him: “Shall I take you to the office?”

He replied: “No, its okay, let’s go in a bit later. Just take me around for a drive around the city.”

“Any place in particular boss?” asked the driver.

“Surprise me.”

A few hours later, he arrived at the office and asked to see the proposal, pouring over the writing in absolute detail.

“Here’s the problem”, he said, pointing to the model we offered to the government. “This is the best in the market and although we use this in Japan, Malaysia isn’t ready for it.”

He explained: “Have you noticed that the Malaysia highways all use a much older, but cheaper version of noise absorbing wall?”

Our team shook our heads.

“That’s the problem. They can’t afford this yet. It’s true that our offering is superior to what the Malaysians are using, but economic reality is the reality that we live with.”

“We have good quality and the people in the government know that. If you redo the proposal and offer them a cheaper version which matches what they’re using here, while emphasizing our service and quality, we stand a chance of winning.”

We revised and resubmitted the proposal, and a few weeks later we found out that we had been selected as the supplier of the walls.

*   *   *

What this case study illustrates is the importance of understanding a situation through first-hand experience. By seeing the situation for himself, the COO was able to determine the true issue and solve the correct root cause.

By looking with your own eyes you will understand the reality, and from reality, you will know how to approach an issue.


This article is copyright © Karn G. Bulsuk and was first published on his blog

Kark is on twitter, @karnbulsuk, and on Facebook

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A Buddhist CEO in Brazil. Is it really possible?

A Buddhist CEO in Brazil. Is it really possible?In just a few day’s time, our book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter will be available from UK distributors. In my previous post I have just written about the fictional story Joia Rara, centred around the idea of Buddhism and the reincarnation of a Lama monk in Brazil in the 1940s (See Love, Peace, Enlightenment – The End of Joia Rara).

In Joia Rara, one of the characters Franz Hauser takes over control of Hauser group from his ailing father, and decides to turn it into a collective, where all workers benefit from the profits, much like the John Lewis partnership in the UK.

Maria and myself with Sérgio Chaia

Maria and myself with Sergio Chaia

In Holonomics, Maria and I interview Sergio Chaia, who at the time of writing was CEO of Nextel Brasil, and who is now Vice-President and Director General of security group Symantec for Brazil and Latin America. Sergio shares his insights from Buddhism, his spiritual path in life, and how these great teachings can be applied to leadership in business today.

For Sergio, the greatest attribute a leader can have is self-knowledge, and through developing self-knowledge, leaders can build great businesses through empowering their people.

Sergio has also written his own book about this leadership philosophy, Será que é possível? (Is it Possible?), which is published in Brazil in Portuguese, and Maria and I are delighted to be able to share his teachings to a wider global audience through Holonomics.

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Dialogue on Leadership: Presidents who Practice Mindfulness – Two Amazing Examples from Brazil

Love, Peace, Enlightenment – The End of Joia Rara

Pérola comforts Manfred

Pérola comforts Manfred

I have written three previous articles about the Brazilian soap opera Joia Rara and to be honest I was not expecting to be writing a final and fourth one. In my first article – In Praise of Joia Rara – I just wanted to say how mind-blowingly excellent and high quality this soap opera was, dealing as it did with the theme of Buddhism.

In my second article – Compassion, forgiveness and Joia Rara – I dealt specifically with the themes of compassion and forgiveness, and how these greatest of human qualities seem to be so lacking in our television programmes today which more often than not glamorise violence, sex and mindlessly cheesy ostentatious consumption as the path to happiness and fulfilment.

This article is also translated into Portuguese – Compaixão e Perdão em Jóia Rara. Maria was also moved to write her own article about the hero’s journey and human values in Joia Rara - A Jornada do Herói: Valores Humanos em Joia Rara.

And then in my final article – The Romantic Conception of Life in Joia Rara – I moved my focus away from the main characters to take a look at some of the additional story lines and romances and how these were interwoven into the richly fabric that is the world of Joia Rara. I wanted to talk about many other members of the cast, all who have delivered powerful and moving performances, meaning that the experience of Joia Rara is one of authentic wholeness, a wholeness that is rarely achieved in practice since the whole team – writers, production, acting – all have to have a deep and sensitive understanding of the essence of Joia Rara, in order to allow it to come into being as it so amazingly has.

Duca Rachid and Thelma Guedes

Duca Rachid and Thelma Guedes

Never in my life have I been so intensely involved in a programme, let alone a soap opera. I had been expecting an emotional ending, and having seen a few pictures on Facebook before the last episode last night, I was expecting the programme to end at the cabaret hall where many of the characters work and perform. Of course the cabaret did feature with all of the cast present (bar the “villains” of course) and the two writers Duca Rachid and Thelma Guedes also made a cameo appearance as members of the audience which was a sweet touch. But what an emotional final two days we have had. I will try and summarise the ending, in order that you understand just how insanely amazing this experience has been.

This last week saw the final disintegration of Manfred, a character who in any other soap opera would be a black and white villain, but who in Joia Rara plays a character who although we see committing atrocities, is treated with non-judgement by those he has wronged, principally Ernest, the man he grew up thinking was his father but who we learnt had sent him to work in a child-labour camp. Manfred, who is consumed by paranoia, hatred and revenge, kidnaps Pérola, the girl he believes is his daughter, but his plan to escape to France is thwarted, and he holds up in a desolate barn for weeks, not having a plan, and with Pérola growing dangerously ill with a fever.

Pérola and Manfred

Pérola and Manfred

Eventually their location is discovered, and both the police and Pérola’s family arrive to talk Manfred into seeing reason and allowing Pérola to be set free. But Manfred has other plans, and manages to escape with Pérola, who he leaves in another farm shed, only to have his car blocked by the pursuing police. With police guns aimed at him, he makes a sudden and rash move, with Ernest, who we know is not his father, dashing instinctively at Manfred to help him.  But both Ernest and Manfred get shot, and in this scene we see the fear of Manfred, as he realises these will be his last moments, in the arms of Earnest.

Ernest and Manfred

Ernest and Manfred

Both Carmo Dalla Vecchia and José de Abreu totally excel in their roles, and in these moments of intense tragedy, as I have already written about, characters find solace and a level of humanity rarely seen in soap opera characters, allowing them to forgive and find peace within themselves.

Gertrude visits Ernest

Gertrude visits Ernest

Manfred passes away, leaving Earnest in a serious condition in hospital, where he is visited by Gertrude (Ana Lucia Torre), who reveals to Ernest that it was she who killed his wife, and not him as he had erroneously thought all these years, filling him with a guilt which had consumed him, eaten away at him, and a crime for which his children could not forgive him. In these moments, we experience the story of Joia Rara not as a simple linear progression, but as a Buddhist circle of life, with actions, both good and bad, coming back to us, the writers deftly crafting memories of our deeds from a misguided youth into the story.



Pérola of course is still missing, hiding, exhausted and scared in the barn as a storm breaks. Sonan (Caio Blat), who although is no longer a monk but who remains her guide and teacher, meditates as his wife Matilde sleeps, and he realises he has to go and seek Pérola.

Sonan finds Pérola

Sonan finds Pérola

In an age when supernatural programmes only seem to feature supernatural violence, horror and evil, this is a gentle spirituality which evokes a sense of connection with all of life, something deeper than just a material, fragmented and ultimately meaningless universe. In a scene which gave both Maria and I goosebumps, as he walks through a forest, the clouds break, and a ray of sunshine points towards the direction to where he will find Pérola.

It is worth remembering at this point that Pérola is played by nine-year old Mel Maia, who not has only had to play an enlightened Rinpoche, but has had to enact every emotion under the sun, both fear and heartbreak as well as compassion and love, a level of performance that many actors twice or three times her age would struggle to achieve.

Ernest finds peace

Ernest finds peace


With Pérola now safe and recovered from the fever, she and Ernest’s children visit him in hospital, where it is clear he has no resistance to life, he has no battles to fight, and he has found peace within himself. His daughter Hilda, and two sons Vikor and Franz both forgive him and declare their love for him, and then depart, leaving Earnest alone with Sonan and Pérola. Sonan guides Pérola to place her hands on Ernest’s forehead, and as he slips into sleep they offer one final mantra for him.

Franz and Amélia

Franz and Amélia

At no point does Joia Rara descend into schmaltz, as so many American soap operas are want to do. We see time passing in the lives of the characters, and one by one the many couples who came together start to marry. We are also taken to the gathering of the family, where the lawyers reads the final will and testament of Ernest, but in this potent scene, the words of the will are read by de Abreu, and as you can see above, Bruno Gagliasso continues deliver a contemplative intensity, supported ably of course by his wife, played by Bianca Bin.



What then came next was just totally unexpected, and was definitely the best ending I have ever witnessed to any drama series in my life. We move forward in time to when Pérola is a young adult, and she returns to Tibet to the monastery to take up her role as a monk.


A few days ago I sent a tweet to Thelma Guedes and José de Abreu in which I mentioned that it would be amazing to see Joia Rara set in modern day Brazil, to see what had happened to the descendants. In all honesty, I was talking about my hopes for a new series, and yet José wrote back to hint that maybe I would see something, who knows? As I was thinking about a new series, it never occurred to me that he may have been talking about the end of this series! Actually, Maria had also written an article some weeks ago observing that for her, Ernest’s life seemed to be following that of Buddha, and a few days ago Ernest himself made this very same observation.

Rinpoche Pérola

Rinpoche Pérola

After seeing the ceremony in Tibet, we were then taken to a room set in 2014, with Rinpoche Pérola (now played by the highly esteemed actress Gloria Menezes), being interviewed by a journalist, who asks her about her autobiography. Pérola relates the stories of many of the characters, what had happened, and where they had ended up. Pérola’s parents Franz and Amélia had never spent a day apart, and they died together at the same time, having lived an honest and fulfilling life together in peace and harmony.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi

But then we saw Pérola take to the stage at a congress where she gave the most outstanding and uplifting speech about peace and love. As she does so, we see scenes of war and terrorism, but then we see Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and The Dalai Lama.

Inside each and every one of us is love

Inside each and every one of us is love

Below is my own translation of Pérola’s final speech (without the help of Maria – who is away today but who will be writing her own final article about Joia Rara in the next few days). Duca Rachid and Thelma Guedes have been outstanding beyond words in this final scene, which really has to be watched, and so I can only say one final thing.

Congratulations to everyone who has taken part and contributed to Joia Rara. It has been phenomenal, and a production that each and every Brazilian can be proud of. There has been nothing like it every broadcast before, and in a Brazil which is so desperately lacking in leadership, what a sheer joy to have Joia Rara articulate such a powerful message of peace, love, forgiveness and enlightenment in these troubled times in which we live. Thank you to all of you.

Dear companions on this beautiful journey through life,

Today we are here to talk about peace. Many beings are suffering on this planet due to a lack of peace. Human beings are destroying the lives of others, attacking buildings around the world, all for money and power. But no one is in peace, they are suffering, causing pain.

We think that peace exists in the love of another. So who is this other who we should love? This person is ourselves. Love is the true rare jewel (joia rare) in life.

In this room, in this city, in this country, in this planet, in this galaxy, in this universe, everything is extremely delicate. The essence of these new times of great confusion and endless barriers which don’t stop, they don’t exist, they are an illusion.

We are all together. Many scientists, including Nobel prize winners, see life from the ground to the heaven as a beautiful poem. We need to live in peace.

Let us meditate on our negative thoughts which can hurt our neighbours. If we can smile it can reach to the other side of the world. Our love and respect for every creature will reach and benefit every creature in the universe.

It is only compassion and love for every being on this planet which will bring peace and happiness to all.

Peace is a decision of each and every one of us because each one of us has inside of us love.

The truth is that love is the rare jewel of life.

Joia Rara

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