Leadership, Buddhism, & Meditation

leadership buddhism & meditation May 18, 2022


Leadership isn’t about one person with a bunch of followers. Sure, it might feel like a lonely role sometimes, but ask anyone in a leadership position - to make a leadership role sustainable, it requires a collaborative effort. My Leadership Master’s didn’t teach us how to be CEO of a company or start a mass movement - it taught us about self-awareness and self-love, integrity and responsibility of our actions, and commitment to a vision of helping others. This is why Leadership Studies has become a separate education from a Business degree. I focused my studies on the process of self-transformation, group learning, and the integration of selves/roles. I believe that much like the Buddhist path to Enlightenment, Leadership transcends gender-specific roles and embodies an integrative intelligence. There is a unification of both compassion and wisdom in the evolution of human consciousness.

Therefore, the practice of Leadership extends beyond monetized roles and is much more accessible to each and every person than you might think. When you take ownership of your mind and become committed to helping others, you involve yourself in a dynamic process of inspiring and initiating action for a healthier reality. You lead your own life; you lead your family; you lead your community; you lead your Work. Not because you have more power than the others, but because you practice a pro-active lifestyle that learns and leads with others. You create other leaders to lead with - other people like you who are disciplined in their practice for integration and altruism. You are committed to always learning skills in both the expected and unexpected places. You are committed to always loving even when you are terrified of getting hurt because you understand and trust your ability to uphold boundaries and discern what are false narratives and what are aligned narratives. And finally, you’ve come to realize that nothing makes more sense than helping others - that there is no greater meaning beyond bringing joy, feeding, serving, and giving to others.


Leadership, Buddhism, & Meditation  - Kate Vosti

Leadership is a practice, and it can be as spiritual as you want to make it because, ultimately, there is no division between the spiritual path and the life you pursue professionally. If they feel at odds, then perhaps you are not in the right career. Think about how wonderful it would feel if you could show up to your “ordinary” job every day completely aligned with Spirit in tow. Well, the fact is, it’s never not in tow. It’s always there, willing and waiting to move through you. Your Leadership is a reciprocal process with others - allow yourself to need others just as much as they need you.


Standing on the ledge of true inner exploration that happens when comfort is taken away. Your mind is only as pure as your choices the moment you choose not to give into negative emotions and to release the grip of wanting something to be different than it is



Compassionate Leadership

People often ask, “what is the difference between empathy and compassion?” The answer is: empathy is feeling someone else’s pain, while compassion is taking action or having the wish for them to be free from it. Empathy is a hardwired social tool for survival, and compassion is an evolution in consciousness, furthering humans’ capacity for altruistic behavior based on a deep understanding of their own suffering. Having compassion for another is recognizing that, just like you, this person suffers and from there choosing to do what’s possible to help them be free from it.

Compassion can be gentle surrendering, or it can be fierce protecting. Sometimes saying “no” can be an act of compassion for another or yourself. It is oftentimes most difficult to have compassion for yourself because this means examining your pain and forgiving yourself over and over again. Many people think compassion is weak, but try understanding the pain of another and then recognizing it in yourself, thus forgiving them, knowing if you were in their shoes, who's to say you wouldn’t make the same choices? Hurt people hurt people. We are all suffering. Let’s help one another out of the nightmare.

I got the opportunity to work with an organization in San Diego called Compassion It: a nonprofit and social movement inspiring compassionate attitudes and actions. I attended several profound programs such as Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). Since I was in graduate school for Leadership Studies, I was inspired to integrate the compassion training I received with the leadership theory and practice I was studying. I had the opportunity to co-facilitate in corporate settings as well as a graduate course (Mindfulness and Leadership) at my former school (USD’s SOLES). The founder, Sara Schairer, is still one of my most impactful mentors and friend. I am grateful to her for introducing compassionate service into my life and the importance of tirelessly committing to the success of others.


Compassionate Leadership  - Kate Vosti
Compassionate Leadership  - Kate Vosti

Bodhisattva Leadership

During my 2 years at SOLES, I was able to complete two independent studies in Asia. Inspired by my studies in Leadership, the Dharma (Buddhist teachings), and compassion education, I created a short workshop that I presented at Sakyadhita, The International Association for Buddhist Women, 14th International Conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The following summer, I led a 4-day workshop at 3 monasteries in Vietnam. Buddhist nuns are an under-recognized demographic for receiving leadership training. These women dedicate their lives to a rigorous study of compassion and insight - ancient teachings still relevant today because they help guide the human mind towards feelings of peace, equanimity, discipline, discernment, and kindness. Not only should leadership training be more available to women all over the world, but especially to women who are embodying positive qualities that others can learn so much from.

There are many types of education in the world from many traditions. I feel grateful that I have accessibility to teachings that are derived from Asia. I hope to share what I have been privileged to learn in America’s education system and integrate it with education from different countries. Each year we, as humanity, come closer to more inclusivity of traditions, educations, and cultures. Let's take advantage of these opportunities to open up these channels of knowledge to learn more from one another. Everyone may benefit when we see each other as teachers and ourselves as students. 

What Do You Sit For?

During undergrad and grad school at USD, I led a biweekly meditation group for students. I hope to continue bringing contemplative practices to educational environments. I served for 3.5 years with the following mission:

iSIT is an acronym for “I am a Student Inspiring Transformation.” The original definition of the word “inspire” means “to breathe life into.” By “breathing life into” our own transformative process, we breathe life into others as well.

The practices of meditation, mindfulness, and compassion training are greatly needed for students in the high-stress university environment. The quality of students’ mental health on campuses is disgraceful. An alternative to medication and counseling services must be given. However, many universities claim not to have the resources to support a meditation program, so it has become the students' responsibility to provide this outlet for one another. Together, we can help each other develop quality meditation and mindfulness groups that are conducive to improving the well-being of college students. As research studies show, these practices can help reduce mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. iSIT, as an ongoing learning process, is working to empower students to take control: finding a desire to help themselves, choosing to address their issues, and bringing themselves to these group practices.

College is a time for learning, and the education system only accounts for a small margin of that. Students’ learning should extend beyond academics and explore the inner depths of the human experience: What are my core values? What does it mean to be human? Who am I? What do I want to contribute to the world? How can I be a better human being? How can I truly be happy?

Even though much of meditation stems from Eastern traditions, iSIT has taken on a non-denominational role to reach a larger audience. This movement extends beyond religious and cultural boundaries to respond to the universal needs of humans.

iSIT fosters student-led work in the field of mindfulness and meditation practice. What is provided here is personal experience grounded in research. Three components have been integrated to produce a supportive meditation practice conducive for the college student: mindfulness, cultivating wisdom and developing the heart. Mindfulness allows the students to become aware of their experiences. Wisdom is cultivated through deepening an understanding of personal experience. The heart is developed through compassion training techniques based on Stanford’s “Compassion Cultivation Training” as well as Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer’s “Mindful Self-Compassion.” What we discovered is that students noticed an impact in various aspects of their lives…

What do you sit for  - Kate Vosti


What Students Have Experienced

Stress Reduction and Mental Health

My first time I went to one of the meditations, I admittedly felt uncomfortable. I thought to myself, "This is a waste of time." But within an hour after I left, I noticed how relaxed and calm I felt, and how easy it was to work through my to-do list the following day. This practice reduces stress, improves sleep, and in effect makes you work more efficiently and feel better about yourself and your environment.

- Michelle, 21


This meditation group has helped me balance my level of stress tenfold! Being able to come to this meditation group in the evening has helped my brain to relax which proved to decrease any anxiety I felt during the day. It also decreased any tension-related pain my body absorbed from the normal stresses of a typical workday. This meditation group has allowed me the opportunity to join a space of calmness and joy.

- Jeff, 23

The group provided me with a weekly escape from the craziness of my life and it grounded me in calmness and mindfulness. For a couple hours each week, I came to the mat to focus on my breath and I was reminded that I was alive and well. I left each session feeling refreshed and at peace and I was able to focus on the tasks at hand, instead of worrying about things out of my control.

- Caitlin, 21

I saw immediate benefits. I didn't make it every week, and the weeks that I didn't I could tell that I needed to go to meditation. It was extremely calming and brought me back into balance. Before joining iSIT, I had trouble finding healthy ways to manage my stress. From what I have learned through iSIT, I can now calm myself down using the methods taught during the sessions.

- Austin, 19

Learning how to deal with mental struggles in a natural and mindful way changed the way I viewed many of the things contributing to those issues, brought upon self love and love for others around me, and introduced simple, daily coping mechanisms that I am able to do anywhere, for which I'm eternally grateful for.

- Nikki, 20

After being in the darkest place due to depression and anxiety, meditation allowed me to change my outlook on life and see the value of the small but powerful daily wins. I know that I'm a completely different person than I used to be because of the journey that meditation has taken me on and I'm forever grateful.

- Christina, 20

I can always rely upon iSIT to be a refuge for me from the stress of law school. I have learned that taking time out to meditate makes my problems more manageable for the rest of the day.

- Mo, 26

This group has helped me tremendously. After being introduced to the meditation class I was immediately hooked and wondered how I ever got by without it. Meditation serves as a great way for me to de-stress and temporarily forget about all my worldly responsibilities. The fact that it happens on Monday afternoons is perfect because it helps me relax before starting a new week of homework and studying. Meditation has done wonders for my mental health. I felt like once I started attending the group I gained a better understanding of the world around me as well as a better understanding of myself. It was certainly something that had been missing in my life.

- Matt, 20


Compassion for Self and Others



Self-Compassion has been a large area of growth for me in meditation as I have learned that through whatever hardship, anxiety, stress, or obstacles in my life, as long as I am centered and I have love for myself, then I can conquer all my fears. The opportunity for my spiritual self to grow is something I know is helping me build a deeper aspect of myself.

- Ella, 21


I think for self-compassion meditation has helped me be less critical of myself and accept my mistakes and my judgments as I go through life. I’m a perfectionist and self-compassion helps to break down my perfectionist mentality and be kinder to myself.

- Thomas, 24


I have learned to become still and allow the dust of life to settle. Once the fog of misunderstanding, frustration, and anxiety settles, I am able to see myself for who I am and exactly where I am meant to be on this journey. This work has cleared the air around me and creates a space for self-love and self-compassion. I traveled to parts of my consciousness that I did not even think existed. And the result was powerful and moving.

- Cailin, 21


I have grown so much as a person and learned so much about the world since I joined. I had a tendency of neglecting my body's needs and pushing through pain. Now I pay attention to it [my body] and give it the time that it needs.

- Austin, 19


iSIT has not only helped me to love myself, but also has helped me to understand WHAT I love about myself. It has helped me to center around my most positive attributes as well as work on and explore my weaknesses, and has taught me to be gentle and compassionate towards those weaknesses. This group has only helped to enhance and fine-tune mine even more. The group has really driven my passion for helping others. Through meditation we are able to not only begin to understand our own experiences, but others' as well, and it has reinforced my longing to always make others feel supported, loved and safe. Because I am going into a field dealing with both those in the prison system and with mental health issues, meditation has really contributed to my passion for this work as well as even more compassion for the people that I will be working with in the future.

- Nikki, 20


In the competitive environment of law school, I often feel pressured to perform well, and I am encouraged to be ambitious and result-oriented. I am grateful that iSIT provides a welcoming place on campus that also nurtures qualities of compassion and awareness.

- Mo, 26


Academics and Athletics

Meditation allows me to succeed without making sacrifices to my well-being, and I want to succeed as badly as I want to be happy. In my subjective experience this group facilitates both student wellness and educational outcomes.

- Mo, 26

I've always suffered from ADHD and not being able to focus. Meditation has helped me focus on one activity at a time - like reading, or exercising, instead of distracting myself with other things.

- Thomas, 24

I would go to meditation before intramural basketball games and I played tremendously better than the days I did not go to meditation before. It helped me focus in on what I needed to focus on, which was myself.

- Austin, 19

iSIT proved to not only be a fun between-classes activity, but it also aided in my actual school performance. I was able to develop skills that were helpful in creating a quiet, calm space to allow me to really focus on class instruction, information recall for tests, and overall academic performance. We learn how to focus on our own strengths and weaknesses while participating in a community in an effort to improve not just ourselves, but also that community.

- Stacy, 26


Learn More

If you’re interested in integrating spiritual practice with meditation and movement, check out my online offering.


Learn More about Sensual Self Love  - Kate Vosti