When my wife and I joined 60 other members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Nashville chapter for a retreat led by Hindu priest Dandapani, I was skeptical. Like most baby boomers, I went through (and left behind) an Eastern mysticism phase many years ago, and I was leery of revisiting it. To my surprise and delight, the weekend was light on religion and heavy on simple, practical tools for making better use of your mind, and thus, your life. Plus, I found Dandapani’s lessons can easily apply to PR and marketing. Focus your message to focus your customer’s awareness This Hindu priest and former monk encouraged us to think of our mind as a vast space with many different sections and to think of our awareness as a glowing ball of light that focuses our attention on a particular section. It might be focused on the happiness section or the anger section, for example. By visualizing mind and awareness in this way, it is possible to be aware that we are angry, and thus remain in control, versus being overcome by anger. Control your awareness. Control your life. Where awareness goes, energy flows. If your awareness jumps around a lot and is not focused on one place–that is, if you lack concentration–you waste energy. And your reserve of energy is finite. Similarly, in crafting a marketing message we need to focus the customer’s awareness on the benefit he or she will receive from using a product or service. Don’t dilute your message, wasting the customer’s energy and concentration, with a flood of features. Features are something to explore only after the customer is captivated by the image of a compelling benefit. Seek the mountaintop perspective By focusing our awareness on the few things that are really important, we eventually become better at observation in general. And the better observers we are, the more likely we are to see the big picture—how it all fits together—and how an action that looks positive in isolation might actually have a long-term negative effect, and vice versa. It’s the mountaintop perspective, where we are looking up and out instead of only at what is immediately in front of us. This also allows us to see pitfalls and obstacles far enough in advance to avoid one and grasp the other. Tunnel vision—the opposite of a mountaintop view–is something marketers must constantly guard against. For example, it is often tempting to become so focused on the details of executing a particular tactic—like social media—that we lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish. It doesn’t matter how many people like your Facebook page if nobody is buying what you are selling. Creativity requires a clear mind Our “monk on the mountain” suggested that most of us have a lot of junk in our minds that needs to be cleaned out so we can access our creativity. Think of your mind as a three-story house: the first floor is your conscious mind, the second is your subconscious and the top level is the creative, intuitive part of you. Note that your conscious mind can’t get to your creative mind without going through your subconscious. If your subconscious is full of unresolved junk, it blocks the way to the best part of you. So, the next time you can’t come up with a snappy headline, a newsworthy story idea or an event plan that is likely to succeed, maybe it’s time to clean out your subconscious. One way to do this is write down what’s bugging you on a sheet of paper–every detail of it, so that you really feel it, can see it, taste it, smell it–then crumple up the paper and burn it. What you are symbolically doing is burning off the emotion attached to the issue. You’ll never get rid of the thought. The more we think about not thinking about something the more we think about it. But what really matters is getting rid of the emotion that the thought in wrapped in, because then you’ve taken the energy out of it. Then it’s something you can observe dispassionately, not be consumed by. After you have done this several times, you’ll have burned off the bad stuff. Then you can embark on the traditional creative journey of immersion in information, incubation and ideation. May the force be with you.