Yesterday was a full, full day. Six phone calls / meetings that were an hour long. I started at 7:00 a.m. with necessary preparation (after returning the evening before from a holiday weekend with my son — it was a transition that required some compulsion). I finished just before 8:00 p.m. What space there was in between was largely about todos resulting from calls, or prepping for the next call, or tabling (literally) some of what could wait for later in the week. They were all good calls. With good people. And satisfying. Just full.
It was my last call of the day, with Kinde Nebeker, when I realized how much of an aversion I have to rushing, which is a lot of what I felt I was doing during that full day. Kinde has become a good friend. She’s got a deep soul that calls out more of the deep soul in me. We make sure that we have a good check-in and a deliberate check-out. In the middle was lots of good imagining for the upcoming series that we are hosting, The Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership: Knowing Our Nature. We both got excited about this. It builds on what we hosted previously in the Spring.
It was in our check-out that I realized something. I shared with Kinde that I was feeling the rush of things. All of those meetings. All of those todos. A growing list that is big enough that I need some luck and some real patience to get it all done. I discovered it, aha style, as I was saying it out loud to Kinde. “I don’t like to rush. I’m not at that stage of life. Depth matters more to me. But I do enjoy the buzz of getting things done. It’s just that I don’t want to feel rushed in here, on the inside,” I said, gesturing towards my torso and belly. “I don’t want to feel ungrounded here, or unpresent here.” I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Kinde and I were talking about presence. It is a big part of the series we are offering together.
Well, I know that many people I work with feel a similar rushed and hurried pressure. A hurry. A worry. A fear. A juggling of a deadline. An enslavement to a schedule that is not their creation. An obligation to organizational patterns and habits that haven’t been interrupted or challenged in weeks, months, or even years. “Why are we doing it that way? — Because that’s the way we’ve always done it (and we don’t have time to rethink how we are doing it).” Argh! That’s rough isn’t it. The battle grounds that are institutional and organizational life require coping with this reality in very brave ways. We share our busyness, and our ungroundedness — the rushed on the inside parts — like they are battle scars that we are proud of. And then we move on, finishing that last sip of coffee, back to the battle. I bet you’ve seen some of this, right. Sigh.
What if, we created more room for the calming and presencing on the inside? More of the inner work that so changes the outer work. More of the presencing that makes a big difference in the outer convening. I think it is what many of us are doing. And what many of us, institutionally need to do — I meet people everywhere desperate for depth and meaning.
Not so rushed on the inside.
I’m enjoying writing this week, inspired in part by my friend and colleague (frolleague) Kinde Nebeker. We’ve been thinking together about emergence. Putting words to it. Getting to the heart of it. Growing our understanding. Understanding and working with emergence is a key part of the series we are offering again this fall in Salt Lake City, The Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership.
Here’s a teaser from the three-page thought paper I wrote. The full piece is here.
In the 1990s I was part of several leadership conferences offered in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains at Sundance Utah, where there are a lot of Aspens. Sundance is the resort that Robert Redford built and was original host to the Sundance Film Festival. Those conferences were on “Self-Organizing Systems,” lead by my friends (and bosses at the time) Margaret Wheatley and Myron Rogers. They were three-day gatherings with up to sixty people who wanted to learn of this self-organizing paradigm. Some were consultants. Some were internal leadership. Some were community leaders. Some were C-level in corporations. It was a beautiful place to learn, and that brought out the beauty of those people together.
One of the guest presenters at those conferences was Fritjof Capra, the Austrian Physicist, renowned for his writings (including The Tao of Physics, The Turning Point) and his work at Berkeley’s Center for Ecoliteracy. Fritjof, like Meg and Myron, like many of us that have continued this work, was studying the qualities of living systems, including emergence, and applying those learnings and principles to human systems — teams, organizations, communities.
I remember Fritjof describing an example of sugar in one of his teachings — though he seemed to be thinking it out loud and coming up with the example in the moment. “Sugar is a mix of three elements: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, none of which are sweet.” He continued, “the sweetness,” he paused to peer out into that beautiful forested Sundance setting, “is in, the relationship. It is not in the parts.” In making that statement, his peering outside came back to those of us inside. He’d made a discovery, which got a good chuckle from all of us — in the way that in-the-moment simplicity does.
In the last week I have been able to learn much with two important and good friends. I’ve learned about ceremony, ritual, ancestors, and aspen.
Chronologically, the first friend was with Kinde Nebeker, who hosted a day-long Medicine Walk up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, seen above. The aspen are budding at this time of year at that elevation, about 8,500 feet. Just as Kinde’s work, that includes rites of passage, is budding into a more full presence. The medicine walk included a deliberateness of threshold crossing, setting an intention, going solo the bulk of the day, returning to share some of what I and the others learned, and to be witnessed. I love how she held space for a deeper letting go.
The second friend was Quanita Roberson, who came to Utah to host QT with me. QT very much connects to the letting go that I experienced with Kinde. There is one point in the process with Quanita when we created ceremony to let go of that which doesn’t serve us. It included fire, burning a symbol of that which we don’t need, and a grief canal, a passage to get to the work of releasing. I love the way that Quanita talked about ceremony and working with the ancestors. “The thing about ritual is that you don’t have to believe it or know how it works for it to work. The act of choosing to participate is enough.” She then added, from one of her teachers, the West African Dagara Elder, Malidoma Some, “The ancestors in the west are the most unemployed ancestors in the world.”
I don’t know how all of that invisible work works. But I have the feeling that we did indeed employ some of them in the last week.