Spacious: A Participation Essay

My years of study, and consequent writing, have led me into contemplation; a space of being with something long enough to begin to see a bit differently than conditioned.

One particular area of broader seeing is that of selflessness. I am often compelled to encourage an individual leader to not think of our time together as selfishness; taking time away from those he/she leads and serves. Instead I ask that they see our time as selfless, making themselves better for those led and served through work emerging from application and practice in Trueness.

“Practice is standing in the flow, whereas theory and analysis observe the flow from a position of separation.” –Richard Rohr

Need for Retreat
As of this writing, fifteen years have passed since she took retreat in our then hometown in the mountains. Sheri and I first met when I transferred to an operational data center in Ohio. She eventually became the educational liaison for my division, and by that time had become a good friend. Even though she retired a few years back, and it has been quite some time since we worked together, anytime I hear the term Servant Leader, I still think of Sheri. In her work, and in my experience of her, I’ve never known anyone in the corporate environment so selfless.

While I had been wanting for some time to lead a retreat for leaders in that little Tennessee town in the mountains, Sheri actually requested something specifically for herself and one key, important direct report (himself a powerful example of service). At that time, she was leading the team focused on personal growth and development; the very team that she and I had dreamed of and then worked together to form. The subsequent retreat included structured exercises with me as Coach, and some solitary, reflective time.

In preparation for retreat I asked them each to come with expectations based on a preliminary understanding of what we might do, together and individually. My method with most anything I do as a Coach/Consultant is to be prepared with structure: Methodology to assure a Client they are in good, experienced, and loving hands. However, this is what I know: No matter the structure/plan, things will unfold differently once you’re face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) with the individual, or a group of individuals.

Giving Way
Many of my fondest memories in my corporate life are those with Sheri. What I learned about her, as well as from her, is a form of selflessness rooted in a way of being that is about giving away. It is giving away, freely and actively, directed assistance to individual need, and doing so from love. In the process, it can also become giving a way, freely and actively assisting in a manner that teaches and transfers to the one served strength and energy for the journey.

The team we cofounded in those corporate days together was one focused solely on the growth and development of the individuals and teams in our care. In our work together – in being with her, and she with me – it seems she had a knack of grounding me in the reality of a given moment. As such, she opened a space to be at peace with what is. Only then could we, individually and together, move with both freedom and action toward what was good and right for the situation or circumstance.

We are always a giving, a resonance, never a possession of our own.
–from The Divine Mirror, a meditation by Richard Rohr

I honestly don’t remember what Sheri expected as she came into retreat, beyond maybe some personal inspiration and/or a bit of rejuvenation. But I do remember that as we began the retreat, I asked for a picture (depiction) of who each felt they were in the eyes of others (a brand visual, if you will). Then at the end, I asked them to adjust that visual with any insight from the time in retreat. I wanted to leverage some sort of measurement that would be meaningful to the retreat participant, not the usual survey (what Sheri always called “A Smile Sheet”).

While I don’t have her visual depiction, I do have her comments from the close of retreat:

Going on Retreat was different than anything I’ve ever done because …

“It provided me time in a wonderfully reflective setting to get off the treadmill, relax, reflect and concentrate on myself – my own journey.   I recognized that the self reflection and centeredness will also be of enormous value to my team.

I also came to the realization that it’s not spending time on myself – it’s redirecting the energy management.  For me, that was huge.”

Going on Retreat was a great investment in myself because …

“I’m worth it.  I don’t say that tongue in cheek as had I done this a few years ago I would have felt somewhat guilty.  I ask others to take time for themselves, I need to also.”

I now know I am better equipped to …

“Discipline myself to acknowledge and redirect my energy.
To stay down the ladder (Ladder of Inference – Chris Argyris).
Manage energy and understand that it’s my choice how I use free time but to recognize the time spent in filters.  When I need to spend time/energy on the three team focuses, acknowledge that and do nothing else.

Jeff, this was a wonderful and amazing two days.  It went by too quickly.  In particular, your personal coaching provided me tremendous guidance.  Thank you is just inadequate.”

Do the Work
Sharing these comments is not to boast. I simply invited her into a space; gave her the setting to know the spacious gift of her Trueness. She did the work.

And this is an important message for each of us. We must do the work; the Work of Trueness. You don’t have to earn what you already possess. However, your Trueness is waiting for you to reach down, take its hand, and lead it to freedom.

You are not an uninhabited entity under the control of a mother-ship. You’ve been filled with what you need, from the beginning. This Trueness needs your attention and intention to be freed to do its work in the world; the work of being you. Paradoxically it does take some emptying to be full of this true self. We must let go of the false self that has built up to this certain point, this moment of being asked to now consciously do the work. This doesn’t mean you’ve done it wrong, this thing of life and living. So much of that ‘building up’ was very necessary. It is now no longer useful to you on this journey with Trueness. Bless it and let it go. This is not easy. I guess that’s why we are calling it work.


The Divinely Human Effort

What must I do to earn freedom and space?
Nothing.
What must I know to open and be free?
Everything.
Nothing and everything clash in my middle.
Paradox.

A need to empty, the right to be full.
The work to let go, gift of emptiness.

And now empty, my vision much clearer.
Truly seeing what’s beautifully real.

Reality now rushing in to fill.
Spaciousness given, from the beginning.

Notes:

Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. New York: Convergent, 2019. (pp. 222 and 227)

The Ladder of Inference. The Reflexive Loop. From the work of Chris Argyris (July 16, 1923 – November 16, 2013).

Words

Each word is a paradox, meaning dependent upon the fully resonant intention of the spirit speaking. And speak the spirit does, and only in presence may the words be both spoken and heard in fullness.

Two sides to one word are often less about opposition and more about a necessary partnership working together for truth. The meaning of each chosen word enhanced by careful union with a successive word, demonstrates a loving connection through intentional presence, and fulfills one’s commitment to truth.

Presence can only speak in truth, a depth of trust freeing words to transport unique resonance into shared presence.

Voluminous Silence

Older I grow, and more I know
the power of words, lessoned.

From all I know,
from all experience,
realize I do, that words,
carefully selected, must be.

There was a time, I talked,
mostly to hear myself,
a self thinking, smarter
than reality.

It has a way, reality does,
of teaching lessons difficult,
and beyond the ego of it all.

Self, falsely founded, sinks
into an abyss of Trueness,
dark devastation it seems,
but bright and brilliant
in reality it is; light
so bright, Trueness
suddenly shining fully,
blinded we are, by an
original self.

And now a time, a presence
filled with less talk, less words,
trusting silence, imbued
by love, to speak volumes.

–J. Brunson

Passion

To follow one’s passion is to embrace, along the journey, both invested love and experiential loss.

Passion, from original definition, is a word of true paradox. To live and act from passion is to hold the tension in the eddy of enthusiasm and suffering. We suffer when, in the lack of fullness, we allow the pressure to divide and separate to invade our thinking and behavior.

Freedom is in the middle, standing firm in each true paradox. With this confident stance we forgive each act of division, and without apology hold the pieces together for the sake of informing more fully our own Trueness.

The Passion Paradox

Before we effectively
encounter
outside of self,
we must affectively
encounter
inside of self.

A proper encounter
love of self
self-compassion
employed,
usually settles a matter.

And in the disposition,
necessary it is
self to forgive,
fusing within one’s passion
enthusiasm and suffering.

All that remains then
to do, externally,
is to forgive,
to hold in love
the paradoxical self
of another.

–J. Brunson

The Rhythm of Journey – Part 4 of 7

The Path – Life & Living

In my book, Wading the Stream of Awareness, I wrote about how The Stream has been calling to me all my life. It seems the rhythmic flow has always been part of how I see, feel, and hear. Then moving to reside in this beautiful region where I can regularly be with the flow, I finally came to understand the power that has always been present.

When in the stream, brief as the encounter may be, I am completely present. Each wade into such presence strengthens me for the daily walk that is The Path.

It has taken all of me–all my life to this point–to open to the reality of everything belongs. Everything belongs on The Path. The path is where I am learning to journey with paradox in my pack and steadily walk with a staff of non-dual thinking.

The Paradox of Life & Living

Paradox is reality, and always present to teach us how to live without the degrading need to separate.

Life is observation. Living is participation. Life is the energy of internal focus. Living is the energy of external focus. Life must be held then released. In the hold we receive. In the release we give. They are inseparable. In the hold is life and in the release is living.

For too many of her young years, Sarah suffered internally with conditions beyond her control. There is the internal energy of life, and then there is the suffocation of internal struggle; for reasons unknown this was the suffering for Sarah.

I was blessed to meet Sarah because of Sarah.

Like most freelancers, I get messages from people introducing themselves in hopes of selling me some product or service that’s going to make me much more successful. But Sarah’s message was different. It was skillfully crafted and was written to me, not shotgun scatter fired in the false hope of hitting someone.

I tried to ignore it. I couldn’t.

So I met with this passionate young individual and was intrigued by her courageous balance of life and living.

A life must be lived.

Sarah is certainly in possession of everything belongs on the path of her steady walk. Sure, she has had every worldly reason to give up. But she hasn’t. She knows her life is to be lived.

Sarah is a writer. She always has been. It’s now time for the world to know her passion as she creates epic content for her clients–and for herself!

Life is the birth of new ideas and creative, intuitive ways of being. Living is the freeing of such energy into a needy world.

I tell you Sarah’s story to encourage the balance of your own life & living. If anyone could justify a withdrawal into an internal, dark place hidden forever from any and all things external, it’s Sarah. But for her, it’s the binding-together of observation and participation that is building her impact in this world.

How thankful I am that Sarah selected me to be a part of her journey–her path of Life & Living.

A Poem at WadingtheStream.com: A Life Must Be Lived

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21st Century Skill Paradox – Part 6

The 21st Century highway of management is jammed with those speeding to solve as they exercise limiting judgment, fixes, and attempts to otherwise set another straight.

We manage process and we lead the individual. As a leader you are a facilitator. To Facilitate means “to make easy.” This doesn’t mean you ignore conflict or difficulty. Quite the opposite is true as you facilitate the necessary holding together of good process and desired outcomes.

“For peace and agitation are stitched together and, tugged on, they unravel a thread of Oneness.” −Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

I was very fortunate in my corporate career to have opportunity to take advantage of good learning experiences. Such learning was in the balance of classroom and application; practicing knowledge into a skill. The skill I treasure is that of Listening. This skill has served me well in my coaching, and molded me into a facilitator who can create and navigate dialogue.

Listening is the foundation of 21st Century Skill 6: Collective Facilitation.

In my corporate experience I was given much opportunity to practice as a facilitator. Early on I knew enough to be moderately effective and dangerous at the same time. Let me illustrate.

My customer service manager and his team approached me and asked that I facilitate a session to assist them in working through an important issue with their service work. We scheduled everything, gathered together, and got to work. So there I was standing in front of them facilitating. The team came together around the information needed and I dismissed them to go and collectively implement what they thought best.

A week passed and I had not heard any follow-up or follow-thru on their decision. I called Bill, the manager, to my office and asked what they had decided to do. His response, “We did what you told us to do.”

I was stunned. I asked Bill to tell me what he had heard from me. He did. And I was stunned even further−not by him or the team. I was slapped with the reality of the lack of neutral focus in my brand of facilitation. As I supposedly facilitated, I had unconsciously also participated: participation at a level that was easily perceived as an order or a request from their division leader.

I had unintentionally held their loyalty in a manner that diminished their full creative abilities and individual and collective contribution.

Skill 6If left apart, good process and desired outcomes pull against one another.

If focused upon one at a time, as is usually the case, they are left in conflict causing us to ignore one or the other.

To expertly be with the skill of Collective Facilitation, you must hold the two circles together where they merge in support of the depth of listening required.

You then facilitate in the power of a neutral focus.

 

Read about the shadow strength related to Focus; Shadow Strengths – Chapter Six (Focus)

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