There is always treasure buried in the unasked for. Whether it’s something that gets taken away or some direct infliction of mental or physical pain, unanticipated roadblocks, uninvited anger or shocking, revealed truths—God/the Universe has carefully placed a gift, a treasure inside that could only have been discovered through that veneer, that cleverly disguised wrapping paper, that camouflaged bramble of adversity. When we understand this, it helps us navigate our lives. Storms come and they always end. Perhaps we were prepared, perhaps not, and after they are over we do know something we didn’t know before. Without the storms, what would we truly know or calmness? Radiant sunlight on our face? The perseverance of our souls which stand there with us, in tact after the storm is over, stand pleading with us to remember both. Invitations surround us constantly; invitations to look at all the obstacles, real or imagined, and welcome them with the knowing that they bear gifts. Peacefully we release rather than resist them and with our soul’s confidence, we treasure hunt once again.
I love something I call the power of a third language. I made this concept up when I realized it was something I was missing in many of my relationships. In a relationship, there is a language one partner speaks, a language the other partner speaks and the opportunity for there to be a third language that both create and speak together. In an organization, there is the language an individual speaks, there is a suggested language that the global culture speaks and then there is the opportunity for groups within the culture or even the global culture to speak which can be their third language. This language is created with the intention to cross-over and bridge people throughout the organization with some constructs that are common and shared; not a “cult” language, deeply steeped in “insider” energy, no, a transparent, open language for anything from how we are going to treat one another to how work flow needs to happen. Speaking of language, the operative words here are “intention” and “shared.”
A recent application of this I used utilizes Steven Covey’s “4 Quadrants” tool. This construct has you look at life within the context of urgency and importance. When you are spending your energy on life, there are events and experiences that come along that fall into one of 4 combinations: that which is not urgent and not important; that which is not important but urgent; that which is important and urgent and that which is important and not urgent. When a group visits each of these combinations of experiences, it doesn’t take long before they are adept at figuring out where they spend most of their time AND where they would like to spend more time. The details of this are not as significant as the language of it. Through this construct, all the people who have learned it have at their “tongue tips” words to convey where they are at in any given moment. For example, someone is working on their to-do list at their desk and someone comes bursting into their space saying “I need the data on that project before the end of the day or I won’t be able to get my prototype out!!!” Here is someone who is coming in with something they feel is important and urgent. The person being confronted has the opportunity to assess where they are at in terms of the urgency and importance of their to-do list and this new demand for time/energy. To play this out, let’s pretend that the person on the receiving end can assist the requestor yet not in the exact moment. They might respond like so: “I know this is important and urgent for you. I have several important and urgent items on my list today as well. What I can do is touch bases with my manager and see about bumping one of my items below the line for the day so that I can make time later this afternoon to address your need.” That is one response. One more might be: “I am very clear that I have no room to meet your important and urgent need for that data today; what I can do is address it tomorrow before 10:00 a.m. If that doesn’t work for you, we may both have to work with our manager’s on what the bigger picture might reveal is most important for all of us.” Another response: “I see this is urgent and important for you. I am working on some less urgent items this afternoon and will intentionally put those aside to help you with this.” Finally, and not exhaustive, “I cannot do this at this time. Everything on my list today is on fire—urgent and important. I need to ask you to wait or reconsider the urgency of your request.” Once again what’s important here is that the people in this conversation are sharing a common language and frame work to discuss work and the sharing of information. Absent that language, we can find ourselves running around making demands, people stepping on each other’s work and values, frustration and most of all resentment flying all over the place because the culture has not set up a conscious framework for how requests are going to be made. While this is only a small fragment of a larger conversation around creating culture, I hope it stimulates some thoughts for you around creating a similar “bridge” that will connect well-intending people looking for a
Today’s inspiration comes from Pema Chodron, particularly an entry in her book called Comfortable with Uncertainty. Before I launch into it, I should qualify that I am currently developing a training experience for leaders that would help them be just that: comfortable with uncertainty. Would that not be fabulous??? For that I say, “I’ll have what she’s having!!”
Back to Pema: she informs us that learning not to cause harm to ourselves or others is a basic Buddhist teaching and that nonaggression has the power to heal. Check. Not harming ourselves or others is the basis of enlightened society she says; check. “The most fundamental aggession to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” Wow. There is such power to four of those words: courage; respect; honestly; gently. I think “gently” gets the prize for the concept that I needed to hear the most.
More good news: “The ground of not causing harm is mindfulness, a sense of clear seeing with respect and compassion for what it is we see.” I find myself in need of the reminder of the power of mindfulness and related meditation practice as avenues for this level of compassion. But wait. It gets even better:
“It’s a lifetime’s journey to relate honestly to the immediacy of our experience and to respect ourselves enough not to judge it.”
This I want. I want it for me, I want it for my family, I want it for my clients, I want it for the world. Do you know how immensely powerful life can be when we are capable of exercising that muscle of non-judgment? Have you ever had the experience of being in a room of people who love you deeply and the last thing they would ever do is judge you for ANYTHING???? I have. It’s incredible. Everyone should have the opportunity for this, and it IS possible. One of the avenues is through mindfulness, creating the time and space for awareness in our lives. This conscious act of increasing our awareness around something can provide us with insights, and when looking at judgment, we may notice that there are times when we have been harsh with ourselves. Should we arrive there, I believe we are receiving an invitation to hold ourselves without judgment and to replace those impulses with kindness and gentleness. A commitment to this kind of journey is certainly worth considering for any of us who truly do want to see an enlightened world. Thank you, dearest Pema.
When a thought arises in me twice in one day I know myself well enough by to see it as a signal that something is alive and needs shared. Earlier in the day I was listening to Brene Brown’s CDs on vulnerability and the topic of empathy and compassion came up and particularly her insights on foreboding joy. The notion that sometimes one of our most difficult places, if not the most difficult places involving our vulnerability is actually around experiencing joy. This floored me as much as it floored Brene. We actually have a hard time inviting in joy, experiencing joy fully and staying with the moments of joy that are brought into our lives. She shared that her research uncovered that the people who were able to most handle joy, in the thousands of interviews she and her team did, were those who had an active gratitude practice. I loved learning that. I loved the reminder that it is not the “attitude of gratitude,” but the living practice which allows us access to this oddly scary place of joy. Who says humans aren’t complex??? I certainly have room to expand my gratitude practice, as I was reminded today, and at the same time a tender place in my heart was touched by this entire discussion. That place was around my obsession with why I am on the planet. While my over-arching purpose is to love and be loved, to teach love, to inspire love, to remind anyone I meet about the amazing gift of our original true essence that is pure love, there is still a piece of me that says: “And?” The fact that the “And?” question arises gives away that there is still work for me to do because some part of me, after all my human development and spiritual training, is still thinking “Well, that isn’t quite enough.” I am aware that this certainly is just not the truth. But what is? What is the truth lies in my second inspiration today, and that was when Brene was talking about how people who survive a traumatic experience will often report that what they miss the most about their pre-traumatic experience life are the ordinary moments. That’s when it hit me. I’m absolutely also here to remind you to cherish your life. Cherish. From here on out, when I feel like sharing some ordinary moments of my life that are just stunningly amazing to me, I am not going to hold back, edit or worry about how it might land for you. I’m here to live my cherished life out loud. What I want for us all is to live from a place where we love AND cherish ourselves and our world. It would be even more amazing if we could keep opening to the experience of this kind of existence without the traumatic experiences to “shock” us into that place. Trauma will happen, don’t get me wrong, but I definitely want to keep living into this here and now present moment awareness of a life loved and cherished. I am compelled to share the gorgeous, “ordinary” moments of life that don’t escape my noticing so that we all can get a glimpse of what is possible for us around living into that joy that Brene says we so often avoid. Welcome to the joy of a sacred, ordinary life!