Everyone who works in advertising must immediately convert to Buddhism.
As soon as I became a Buddhist, I started feeling like the most natural career for me was advertising. Most people think that Buddhism teaches you to relinquish the material world, and particularly desire for material objects. In this industry our aim is often to awaken that material desire in people, and cause them to reach for their wallets. It would then seem that advertising is the antithesis of Buddhism. A Buddhist monastery in Tibet certainly seems like it inhabits a completely different world from a London ad agency, but is Buddhism really as far from advertising as it initially seems?
Buddhism is a study of human nature. Like all good advertising, it doesn't try to deny core elements of our collective psyche. Buddhist teachings acknowledge that it's perfectly normal to pursue our passions and desires, even if these desires come from a decidedly non-spiritual perspective.
My personal interpretation is that the goal of Buddhist teaching and practice is not to rid you of all desire, but to learn to avoid being overly attached to the outcomes. The idea is to be happy regardless. Of course, this has always been a difficult proposition for humanity. The Buddhists monks we are familiar with have chosen to forego all possessions in an attempt to rid themselves of attachment to the outcomes of their desire, but this is not the only path that can be taken.
Buddhism leaves us free to embrace our desires and the successful outcomes of those desires, no matter how material and superficial. It also leaves us able to happily embrace our inevitable failures when they come.
Advertising is often blamed for causing people to be unhappy because they don't have the latest hot product. The truth is that unhappiness largely comes from within.
Buddhism isn't just compatible with a career in advertising; I believe that it's practically essential for success, particularly in a creative department. As a creative I try to be a sponge, absorbing the cultural messages that come from every direction. Meditation brings order to that chaos. It helps me to turn influences into ideas, and ideas into ads.
If you go into mediation with the aim of getting something, you'll find yourself coming up short. It's less about a goal and more about cultivating your mind. It's not a quick fix, but after meditating daily for a few months, I've found myself the owner of a mind that is more capable of focus, patience, clarity, and perspective. Most importantly for myself, meditation has provided me with considerable insight. We've all had the experience of a flash of inspiration leading to the solution to a problem when we haven't been consciously thinking of it. After I started practicing daily meditation I've found it happens a lot more often.
Buddhist teachings and practice help me maintain mental clarity and focus in my life. I believe that sometimes the best way to increase creative performance is to do nothing at all.
Follow Ciaran Murphy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ciaranmurphyads