When I was started thinking about university in my teens, the decision was simple: Wesleyan University. My brother, who is 5 years older than me, had attended Wesleyan and I had visited multiple times a year. I was always so sad to leave, and so excited for the next opportunity to visit him. While my brother and I had very different experiences in college and post-grad, we have both followed paths that are grounded in the same values of love, compassion, mindfulness, family, and conscious leadership.
So, it is not a surprise that I am following in his footsteps again. On a recent family beach trip, my brother told me about Open Masters: a self-designed, self-directed, and self-declared Master’s degree in the subversive educational tradition of Danish Folkschools and Chautauqua Circles. I had never heard of the concept but it stuck with me. When he told me that he was designing his own Open Masters in Mindful Leadership, I felt the call to do the same.
What I’m presenting below is my effort in mapping my journey to now, my plan for my journey from now, and an invitation for how to join me along it. My goals in this Open Masters are to:
- Bring a deeper level of intention and focus to my learning
- Find meaningful connection with people in my community that are interested in these same topics
- Create space(s) for people to learn and teach about these topics to those that are interested
- Bring mindfulness practices into the business environment
A little about me
I’m passionate about raising the consciousness of individuals by creating, nurturing, and leading communities and teams founded on the principles of mindfulness, learning, and belonging. As the son of a spiritual leader and a business strategist, I have been practicing mindfulness and leadership for my entire life and have been actively studying it for over a decade.
In my privileged experience, mindfulness and leadership have always been connected and I’ve been given the opportunity to explore these topics in practice both professionally and personally.
In college as a dance major, I choreographed and produced more than a dozen post-modern dance performances. Post-modern dance posits that all movement is dance expression and any person is a dancer regardless of previous training. This type of movement is grounded in mindfulness of the body, being fully present of where you are in your environment, what your body is doing, and how it is reacting.
I taught and practiced mindfulness of the body through more than 1000 hours of rehearsals and coursework. Leading a group of dancers through a 4-month semester to create and perform a piece of work requires being in your body fully and leading others to do the same.
Following graduation, I had the opportunity to bring mindfulness into professional environments. I’ve built marketing teams from the ground-up at multiple technology companies by investing in people, process, my own study of mindfulness and leadership, and learning from mentors that have done the same. Every experience has allowed me to grow as a leader, learner, and teacher.
In the past year, I received my certification in mindfulness teacher training, which required 300 hours of meditation practice, lecture, and retreat. I currently lead a marketing team of seven extraordinary people at Artsy, where I lead mindfulness meditation practice in the office and strive to regularly introduce new leadership principles and frameworks to my team.
I believe that if every community of people, no matter how big or small, adopted mindfulness principles and practiced compassion and lovingkindess for themselves and those around them, then we would truly build the world that we all want to see.
I’ve been given incredible opportunities in my life to learn and teach. Every conversation with my family broadens my perspective and abilities and my liberal arts education taught me to adopt a lifestyle of continuous learning. My mentors have encouraged me to embrace opportunities that arise and apply everything I know to build the communities and teams that I want to be a part of.
As I’ve gotten further and further away from my college years, I’ve found that continued learning requires more and more intention. Perhaps it’s the constant bombardment of media stimuli or the increasingly rapid-pace of everyday life, but I’ve found that the best way for me to continue to learn is:
- to declare my intention
- create a plan or pathway forward
- leverage my powerful community to support me in following it
- take the next step
Thank you to everyone who has already been a part of this journey with me and I hope you can join me for the rest of it.
Open Masters in Mindful Leadership
While I have studied mindfulness and leadership practices for over a decade, this declared Open Masters program began for me in January of 2018. The program outline below includes what I had completed prior to starting this course (or prerequisites), concurrent practice + requirements throughout the program, courses, additional readings, and capstone guidelines.
An important part of this program is to create spaces to discuss these topics and connect with my community on these topics. There are a few ways to join me on this journey that I have outlined below and I am very open to hearing your ideas for more ways to connect!
There is no predefined timeline for this course. I started this program in January 2018 and plan to complete the following by the summer of 2021.
Below are practices and experiences that I had completed prior to starting this program, which I’ve included for the benefit of others looking to follow a similar path of study. I believe these are fundamental before pursuing a study of mindful leadership.
Maintain a daily meditation practice for 3 months
Maintaining a daily meditation practice is fundamental to this program. There are many types of meditation, but I recommend starting with Samatha, mindfulness of the breath practice. It is important to maintain this practice throughout the course of this program.
Lead a team of 3 or more people for at least a year
Part of this program requires experience and opportunity to put these principles into practice. The goal of any mindfulness practice is being able to apply it to your everyday life. It is important to have the opportunity to apply what you learn in a “real life” setting.
MBA, equivalent management education (MPP, MPA, MSM) or equivalent job experience
While I did not receive a traditional MBA, I have learned many of the core areas of business strategy, management, project management, and marketing through my job experience building teams in technology startups. As part of this course, I am including areas of the MBA that I have not experienced as part of my work experience, like some of the more technical components of business finance and accounting.
concurrent practices + requirements
The practices below are to be completed throughout the course of the program.
Maintain a daily meditation practice
Leading a work team
Find and build a relationship with an experienced mindfulness teacher/mentor
Part of this program is working with a teacher or multiple teachers that provide guidance and mentorship in my journey. Bringing mindfulness into any space is something that needs to be done with immense care and respect. It is important that anyone that plans on teaching mindfulness to have someone in their circle that can guide how to bring mindfulness learnings into a leadership practice and to make sure you are ready to implement those learnings in a safe way.
3-5 courses in each of the following areas (15-25 total courses)
*Note about MBA-level coursework: Part of the goals of this program, for me, are filling a few of the holes that I have from not spending 2 years (and a lot of money) getting a traditional MBA. If you are using this open masters plan for yourself and also chose not to pursue an MBA, I recommend connecting with someone who has received one and has worked with you in a professional setting. They can help you assess what areas of the MBA you should include as part of your coursework.
(Communication, Negotiation, Leadership)
Negotiation Fundamentals – Essec Business School
International Leadership and Organizational Behavior – Bocconi University
(Operations, Finance, Accounting, Economics, Law/Business Ethics)
Introduction to Financial Accounting – Wharton Business School
Corporate Finance I: Measuring and Promoting Value Creation – University of Illinois
Global Impact: Business Ethics – U of Illinois
Introduction to Operations Management – Wharton
Ways of Being
(Mindfulness, Ethics, Philosophy, Religion)
Mindfulness Teacher Training Lectures – MNDFL Teachers
Science of the Mind
(Psychology & Neuroscience)
Paths of Exploration
(Electives exploring connections to other areas)
Private Equity and Venture Capital – Bocconi
An introduction to the many schools of mindfulness and meditation
Living in New York City, I have the privilege of access to many mindfulness communities of teachers and practitioners. Part of this course incorporated a 6-month teacher training course led by multiple teachers in New York City, curated and led by MNDFL. I started this course with a many years of experience meditating, but this course gave me a broader understanding of the different lineages and schools of practice.
If you do not have access to a mindfulness teacher training with a defined course curriculum, I recommend educating yourself on the various types of mindfulness and meditation. Below is the reading list that I used. Find what speaks to you and explore additional texts, teachers, and authors that speak specifically about that practice.
[Topic] Book/Reading Author
[Meditation 101] Start Here Now Susan Piver
[Theravadin Buddhism] Living Dharma Jack Kornfield
[Zen] Selected readings from Dogen, Robert Aitken, Bernie Glassman
[Shamatha] Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation Misc authors
[Tibetan Buddhism] Indestructible Truth Reginald Ray
[Insight/MBSR] Full Catastrophe Living Jon Kabat-Zinn
[Vedic Meditation] Lecture broadcast Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
[Hindu Meditation] Urban Monk Pandit Dasa
[Christian Meditation] Reveal Meggan Watterson, How To Love Yourself Meggan Watterson, Gospel of Mary of Magdala Karen L. King, Meaning of Mary Magdalene Cynthia Bourgeault
[Kundalini] Intro to Kundalini Guru Rattana, PhD, The Aquarian Teacher Yogi Bhajan, PhD, The Roots of Kundalini Yoga Yogi Bhajan, PhD
[Jewish Meditation] Being-ness Your God Yael Shy, Everything is God Jay Michaelson, This is Real… Alan Lew
[Mystic Meditation + Divine Healing] The Six-Step Spiritual Healing Protocol Robbins Hopkins
Managing The Nonprofit Organization – Peter Drucker
The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
Radical Candor & the Radical Candor Podcast (23 Episodes) – Kim Scott
The Art Of Gathering – Priya Parker
Tribal Leadership – Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership – Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, Kaley Warner Klemp
Leading While Being
Dare to Lead – Brené Brown
Daring Greatly – Brené Brown
Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl
The Tao At Work – Stanley M. Herman
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
The Reboot Podcast (~50/100+ Episodes) – Jerry Colonna
How To Love – Thich Nhat Hahn
The Art Of Communicating – Thich Nhat Hahn
The Disappearance Of The Universe – Gary R. Renard
Rising Strong – Brené Brown
Letters To A Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
The Power Of Now – Eckhart Tolle
The Art Of Presence – Eckhart Tolle
A New World – Eckhart Tolle
Super Soul Sunday (~50-100 episodes) – Oprah
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts – Annie Duke
Tribe: On Homecoming And Belonging – Sebastian Junger
Made to Stick – Chip & Dan Heath
Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else – Laszlo Barabasi
Many masters programs include either a thesis/dissertation or a capstone project. The purpose of such a project is to integrate all the new skills you’ve gained and demonstrate your mastery. For a capstone for Mindful Leadership to truly use all these skills, it should be something outside my comfort zone that pushes my ability to be mindful as a leader. I plan to work with my close mentors and inner circle to design a capstone project or multiple projects that I feel will give me a sense of completion for this program.
how to join me
Please join me on this journey! I will be reaching out to several mentors in my network for specific ways that I am looking for support throughout this program.
If you have read through this and feel inspired or motivated to learn more about mindful leadership, here are a few ways that we could do that together:
- Complete a Coursera course together and schedule some time to discuss what we are learning in the course.
- Read a book or several chapters from a book in the reading list and plan a time to discuss it.
- Join me for a meditation.
- I’m an extrovert and process things just by talking about them! If you’re just interested in discussing a topic about mindful leadership, I’d love to have coffee/phone chat etc.
As part of this program, I may create some kind of more regular group meetup/conversation. At the very least, just reach out to me and let me know if you’re interested in being kept up to date on future opportunities to connect! I’ll send an email out every month with the courses/books I’m planning on taking that month so that you can choose to join as I go. You can reach me @devonhopkins on Instagram, text (if you already have my number), Slack (for Artsy colleagues) or email email@example.com.