Bernard Guillerm: “The pandemic encourages me to be closer to my employees. »

- through Sophie Solere

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A Buddhist practitioner since 1984, Bernard Guillerm runs several supermarkets in the Brest region. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it strives to listen to its employees and protect them as much as possible against the risks of contamination, and monitors supplies to meet the demand for basic necessities. In this potentially stressful time, Theravada meditation sessions combined with a healthy diet keep him on track. At home, he receives advice from a Thai Qi Gong master, a former Buddhist monk. Lessons that are beneficial for all his family.

In this time of pandemic, do you feel a particular responsibility towards consumers and your employees?

Our responsibility is very important. We must feed the population and, at the same time, adopt specific measures to protect our employees against the virus. We immediately equipped the boxes with Plexiglas; provided gloves, gels, visors to put on the caps to protect from sputters, and masks as soon as we received them. In a few days, all the barrier gestures were also adopted. This made it possible to cope with the influx of customers by taking the maximum precaution. Some, however, took the filtering at the entrances badly, which avoids having too many people in the store at the same time.

How do you deal with the onslaught of certain consumers on certain products such as pasta or toilet paper?

We do not have an extra reserve. The products arrive directly from the warehouses. So we have to constantly monitor supplies and see what can be improved. Breakages sometimes occur, but we are delivered very quickly. Overall, things are going well, our customers are reasonable. We haven't really had any risky behavior in the store, except for a few people shopping as a family as if nothing had happened. We then kindly asked them to come alone and take only what was necessary.

Can your employees exercise their right of withdrawal? And are they worried about their working conditions?

We are not forcing anyone to come. If anyone thinks it's too risky, we understand. Our employees work on a voluntary basis. We are fortunate to have only 5% absenteeism, which is explained in particular by the high proportion of students in our teams. If there were some initial concerns for some of them, they were quickly dispelled as soon as they were equipped. In addition, we try to organize their schedules so that it is not a constraint for them. For example, they can come to work earlier in the morning to leave earlier, when the first customers arrive, so that there are not too many crossovers in the store. Another important point: in our sector, in this period of crisis, jobs on permanent contracts are not threatened, because large food stores are doing well. We can work in an atmosphere of trust. There is a very good atmosphere, an emulation in the company. Everyone is mobilized, from managers to employees.

A boss remains a boss and is not a therapist. What does the dimension of help and support represent in these conditions for you? Is your approach supported by Buddhist teaching?

In general, I always do my best to listen to my employees. The current situation pushes me to be even closer to the teams, to address all the blocking points with them, to ensure communication and to do everything to maintain a calm climate. It is above all a human approach, much more than a Buddhist practitioner's approach. Nevertheless, meditation leads me to be more vigilant. Practicing in the evening allows me to put the day into perspective, to pacify the ideas that may arise in a disorderly way and thus make myself more available afterwards. This meditation can be done while sitting, walking, lying down or keeping a moment of silence during the meal. In this ordeal we are going through, it is important to slow down our heart rate and observe our thoughts, to look at ourselves so that we can help others.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I practice half an hour every morning, when I wake up, and during the day, I pay attention to healthy eating, to fill up with vitamins. I start with a drink made from crushed ginger, chopped chives and tangerine skin that has been boiled for five minutes. It's a recipe from my Chinese doctor, Longfei, based in Gap, in the Hautes-Alpes. For breakfast, I have a fruit smoothie made with mangoes, bananas and apples. And in the evening, a vegetable smoothie made with cucumbers, zucchini and celery sticks. If possible, products from organic farming. I also drink lots of hot water and tea throughout the day. I live day by day. I don't put off until tomorrow what I have to do, and I do it without rushing, at my own pace. When the day is over, I'm happy to go home.

“I am certain that we will come out of this ordeal stronger. The difficulty of the moment forces us to return to the present moment. We can no longer worry about tomorrow, because each day is made up of the unknown. »

You welcome a great master of Thai Qi Gong into your home. Is the presence of this former Buddhist monk beneficial to your family?

Nawat Thaweephak and his wife, Natcharee, resided with us before the lockdown. Unable to return to Thailand because of the events, so they stayed with us. When I come home in the evening, I first do some exercise, alone, outside. Then Nawat offers us a quarter of an hour of Qi Gong before dinner. Around 21 p.m., I then do an hour of meditation with him and if possible we recite the Namo Tassa, a prayer Theravada. The Thai master, a great teacher who has led several monasteries in his country, is very vigilant about what is happening to me. We take stock of the day, we look at what we can improve. His calm is exemplary. The answers he brings to my questions, his positive advice, encourage me. And it is beneficial for everyone.

Do you remain calm despite the current world situation?

I'm confident. After being deprived of freedom as at this moment, we can only appreciate the moment when we will find her. While we no longer really listened to birdsong, we will probably take more time to do so. A new world will appear. I am certain that we will come out of this ordeal stronger. The difficulty of the moment forces us to return to the present moment. We can no longer worry about tomorrow, because each day is made up of the unknown. I hope that after all that, there will be more solidarity, that we will relearn how to live together, just to live.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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