I love the cartoon version of A Christmas Carol, the one with Tiny Tim singing “…and razzelberry jelly.” What I remember is that something so simple as jelly could create in his tiny body an immense amount of joy. Not a pony or a rocking horse, just some jelly. The place this takes me is to the profundity of simple gratitudes, simple pleasures. The view from there is unrelenting with grace. How many times do I need to read or listen to advice around finding the still quiet place, to breathe, to meditate…to practice mindfulness? A million. Because for all the times that I am in conscious engagement with the world, the percentage of time I hit the universal pause button is comparatively low. And for this I will forgive myself. The moment I get to awareness about something that can enrich my life is a sacred moment reaching out to me and asking me to take the moment in fully. Countless times in my car, one of my places of creativity (I bow to you who find it in the shower!), I will catch myself looking at the sky and as if to wave at it I will say “Hey, I see you there, and you are so awesome, I should take you in sometime….I wonder why I don’t look at you on purpose everyday?” Then I go about my business chuckling. Another insight from Mr. Mark Nepo applies here: “In truth, our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder: to lengthen the moments we are truly uncovered, to be still and quiet till all the elements of the earth and all the secrets of the oceans stir the aspects of life waiting within us.” I take this to be an invitation to go mining. To look into whatever places I find myself today where I can stay a little longer, muse or relish in some simple wonder of life. I have complete faith that before the day is through I will find MY razzelberry jelly.
I just learned something new from Polynesian mythology! It is actually through the Philosopher and Poet Mark Nepo in his Book of Awakening. Apparently the Polynesians believe that the world began when their creator, “Taaora” woke to find himself growing in a shell. When he stretched, he broke the shell and that is how Earth was formed. Who knew, but he kept growing and found himself in another shell and stretched and broke that one, creating the moon. This went on until all kinds of cool things we know and love were created. He goes on to piece together for us that,
“…we each grow in this life by breaking successive shells, that the piece of God within each of us stretches until there’s no room to be, and then the world as we know it must be broken so that we can be born anew. In this way, life becomes a living of who we are until that form of self can no longer hold us, and, like Taaora in his shell, we must break the forms that contain us in order to birth our way into the next self. This is how we shed our many ways of seeing the world, not that any are false, but that each serves its purpose for a time until we grow and they no longer serve us.”
Synchronicity is a beautiful thing and I’m inspired by this quote today because just two days ago with my coach/goddess we discovered a long-standing belief that resided in my body (and truly, whether it is from another life time or an earlier time in this life closer to my birth it really doesn’t matter so much as the depth of the “shell” that was created). The belief had to do with that my body couldn’t contain all of my beingness and so I often shut it down, more unconsciously than not. My soul didn’t believe it could be contained in my body. Over and over and over again in various aspects of my life, more recently in the area of making a contribution to the world with my gifts, I would face paralysis at the thought of “daring” to move forward even a little bit! I ran around the planet dissing others who live from a place of “all or nothing” and touting that such and existence is nothing short of a life-sucking quagmire of disengagement. Not that I had any strong opinion of that, yet there I was, hiding behind my own mask of delusion around “Dear God if I let THIS out, if I even eek a piece of it the whole world is going to run for the hills.!” So much fiction. So much false humility. So little data. And notice, so much fear. What I notice now, through the piercing truths that my loving coach/goddess spoke of and Mr. Nepo also pens, is that without judgment (a critical component) I have the opportunity to be aware that I can break this shell around me for it has served its purpose (my guess is that once again the purpose was in some form a perceived protection) and I have a new beginning to create. I love the no harm, no foul aspect of this, the freshness of that spiritual warrior sense of start where you are. I laugh also at the notion that there really is no time or need for me to run for the glue to put the old shell back together!!! This is a new, vibrant place of present moment awareness that provides me with immense possibilities for creating my next beautiful shell!
Contagiousness: Vulnerability and Courage
As I wade through my tri-color-highlighted, page-eared, post-it- infested copy of Daring Greatly (Brene Brown) AGAIN, I landed today on the quote “Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious.” She cites, “There’s actually some very persuasive leadership research that supports the idea that asking for support is critical, and that vulnerability and courage are contagious.” I sure the heck hope so. I can’t hear enough about how critical it is for leaders to ask for help or support. That the “lone wolf” leadership days are over (give me a hallelujah!!) where a leader has to have all the answers and lead by themselves and dare not ever ask for help, lest he or she appear weak. Please. In my CTI Leadership training journey, we learned through an amazing yet simple experience that asking for help IS a leadership skill; that great leaders ask for help. Once again, amen.
So what of the contagiousness of vulnerability and courage? A story from Brene’s book illustrates this point wonderfully. She tells of a “managing director of a large German corporation who realized that his directive leadership style was preventing senior managers from taking initiative. The researchers explain, ‘He could have worked in private to change his behavior–but instead he stood up at an annual meeting of his top 60 managers, acknowledged his failings, admitted that he didn’t have all the an answers and asked his team for help leading the company.'” I found what happened as a result is even more fascinating: “Having studied the transformation that followed the event, the researchers report that [his] effectiveness surged, his team flourished, there were increases in initiative and innovation, and his organization went on to outperform much larger competitors.” Results are gold in so many industries and these represent some of the juiciest ones out there: leadership effectiveness, a flourishing team, increases in initiative and innovation and outperforming larger competitors! This leader made three shifts in his approach and those shifts created more than three significant impacts on the company: he acknowledged his failings (this is the aspect of vulnerability that Dr. Brown refers to as emotional exposure); admitted that he didn’t have all the answers (also emotional exposure but also speaks to another tenant of vulnerability, the discomfort of uncertainty), and asked for help (speaks to the tenant of both emotional exposure and even the tenant of risk).
“Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious.”
We would not be human if we did not momentarily have a visceral reaction to concepts such as vulnerability in the workplace, that is, asking ourselves “Who the heck would lead from THAT place? ” Given our predominant business cultures of today, such topics would qualify for some back room or off-line discussions best handled in HR or, in some more adventurous companies, there may in fact be “people services” departments willing to take a “sneak peek” at these post-new age, Ekhart Tolle-esque antics (goodness, is this “touchy-feely on acid?”) Or maybe, in the really radical organizations who are embracing the gifts of Mindfulness practices in the workplace, maybe people could begin the conversations around this notion that personal and professional empowerment can be derived from the courageous act of sharing some of our vulnerability. Maybe we will start to witness each other daring to cast aside old notions of “armoring up” to do the hard job of leading a large company or cause. I’m cracking up thinking about how I’m teetering on the edge of wanting to be a hard-ass for vulnerability; I’ve always loved a good oxymoron.
The good news here, which is supported in a similar way by Ariana Huffington in her book, Thrive, is that the cat is out of the box around everything from spirituality in the workplace to mindfulness to vulnerability. Each of these aspects of who we are being (in addition to and never as a substitute for doing) in the workplace offer real promises around their impacts on the bottom line, on results, on better workplaces. This is contagious, these concepts are catalytic and we have plenty of people in our places of work or within one degree of separation to them who have the courage to take us deeper into this new territory. It is fair game and it is safe to come out and play here. There are people, movements and resources available on it all, some of which I’ve already referenced here. Find your edge workers, people. We are here, we are here, we are here (thank you, Dr. Seuss and Horton Hears a Who).
Bless my client today. With sheer ease he just let the word fly off his lips like it was a real word: “soft ships”. Brilliant. The inquiry for the day was, “What is a pattern interrupt that you can introduce into your life right now?” To kick start the conversation, I threw in the example that I was going to do a pattern interrupt around being hard on myself. That when I catch myself making something harder or being harsh, critical or judgmental in the vast expanse of my over-functioning head (See? I snuck one in RIGHT THERE!!! This stuff is relentless….so yay for pattern interupt!!!), that I need to stop, drop and roll into my heart space and see what is really going on. I make up that this is part of my spiritual warrior training. I do not make up, because the evidence is clear, that this is a long-standing behavior. Once brought into my consciousness as a mechanism to protect me (if I am hard on myself, I’ll do something good, better or best and then I will be accepted and loved and maybe even sought after), after years of Chinese water-torture, it becomes not just dysfunctional but sheer betrayal. Pattern interrupt offers us the opportunity to move toward life affirming behaviors and ways of being. It brings us closer to self honoring and self love which, when you think about it, is pretty much where all of our therapeutic, coaching, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, rock-worshiping, tantra, counseling efforts are attempting to get us. Big secret, right? Yeah, no. After sharing his insights on his observations about my obsession with this behavior I already copped to, and, encouraging me in all kinds of ways to cease it immediately….he said something like “You need to change your hardships into softships.” To which I replied “I’m done giving my example here, it’s your turn!” (Good grief, clients coaching their coaches? Heresy!). So his pattern interrupt was that he was going to proactively take on the air quality issues with governmental agencies in our area. Sweet. I want to get back to the soft ships.
Let’s just make stuff up about what soft ships are. I make up that soft ships are instances where things move around smoothly and easily. They are times when the energy in the field is full of allowing and devoid of resistance. A time worthy of comments by loved ones, like this: “She’s been relaxing into her new role as a single parent and seamlessly goes from work to home and curling up with her journal as if it were all in one breath. I think she’s going through a soft ship right now.” Will people use this? Will people want to comment on others who are not struggling or having a hard time? What will people do if soft ship is an option? How wild would it be to say to someone, “I”m really going through a soft ship right now and I’d love your support while I go through it. I need loved here too”? I like it. I’m going to go set myself a big fat intention around generating a soft ship. I love my clients, they bring me new material every day! What is your take on what soft ship could be?
It is amazingly paradoxical that in a world exhibiting the need for connection more than ever, having the capacity to invoke healthy detachment can bring us freedom. Go figure.
A friend of mine had a situation where she had accidentally broken the microwave that came with her apartment. She contacted the manager about it and asked him what needed to be done. The manager immediately responded that she broke it and she needed to replace it. My friend decided that she wanted to express to the manager that she would like to split the cost for the replacement (and as she tells the story, because she needed to keep her expenses down and that is what she was willing to do). The manager went out and bought a new microwave, installed it and decided in the end not to charge her. My friend profusely thanked him for his gesture of moving toward her interest in this situation (though she did not use all those words). She mentioned that in the past she would not have spoken up or suggested any alternative and would have just paid for the microwave. What she noticed was that she didn’t make the situation a personal one but rather detached from “right or wrong” or entitled or not entitled, and leaned into articulating what she needed. I’m guessing that her approach was kind and neutral of any energetic charge (like “gotcha” or “you owe me!”) and that this afforded the manager a shift in perspective such that he was not put in a position of being on the defensive but being enrolled to share a solution to a problem. In the end, it became a service and gesture of good will and he became willing to take on the situation and provide for his renter’s need.
To the point, detachment offered my friend the clarity to proceed with what is usually a “charged” situation. She plainly stated what she was willing to do and what her interest was and provided the manager with another alternative and perspective for his consideration. That detachment may have been contagious! Who knows? I loved witnessing her here and what is exciting is how we all can learn to look for places where we can detach (and more often than not, from an outcome that we must have or else) and end up getting a need met. It sounds so insanely simple, and yet I can confess heartily to how this is still not an auto response for me. I’m noticing that now I want to experience that ease and experiment with detaching from a situation that might otherwise bring me discomfort or ill ease. I also love the opportunity to continue to build my “ask for what you need” muscle. In terms of the link to connection, we can still have and be in connection with people AND hold situations from a place of detachment. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled out in the world for “super powers,” those skills and capacities that I believe really catapult us into our more integrated lives, and I definitely put this one in the “super power” category. I’m also excited to find more examples of where we can live with paradox rather than fighting it, so in this case I’m learning that you can be connected and detached at the same time—and that is not science fiction!!!!!