The Coach is In…
“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet…maybe we could understand something.” ― Federico Fellini
I spend time talking to leaders, or emerging leaders, about the behaviors of leadership. One of the things that we discuss is the behavior of ‘responding’ rather than ‘reacting’ to the events/people in the course of their work. It is the notion of inserting a ‘pause’ between the event and their response to the event. As a young leader I believed it was important for me to have the answers, and to have them quickly. As I matured in my thinking, I came to recognize that my best ‘answers’ were the ones that were crafted after some thought.
Now, some 45 years later, I am pulling on the thread of ‘contemplation’ as part of my journey for improved responses. Contemplation has been described as “a long, loving look at the Real.” Contemplation comes from the Latin word, Contempata which means to gaze at something eagerly or with intense interest.
On this journey I am called to explore things, people, events as they are, not as I wish them to be. A piece I was reading by Fr. Richard Rohr described it this way, “…contemplative consciousness is about receiving and being present to the moment and to the Now, exactly as it is, without splitting or dividing it, without judgment, analysis, negative critique, mental commentary, liking, or disliking; without resistance; and even without registering your preferences.”
From what I see around me this is a tall order for most of us. Not only does the ‘speed’ of our world demand quick response, but the nature of what we see around us is often full of judgment, frequently visceral if the topic is polarizing enough. The combination of the speed, and a more critical world (my observation), makes the thought of being more present without judgment a big challenge.
As I have chronicled in my writing, my father was a chemical engineer, a scientist; my mother, a teacher. Dad was an introvert, mom an extrovert. Mother could react swiftly, with great emotion, and often with judgment. Father would often spend time in thought before responding, and rarely with judgment. I am a combination of the two, which means that I can react with great emotion and judgment, and I can take more time and be less judgmental. My goal is to leave a lighter footprint on others and the world. Hence, my interest in contemplation and the ability to take things, events, people in without judgment; accepting things, people, events as they are. It is a great challenge, but one that, I believe, is worth pursuing.
“…doesn’t seek to fix, control, or explain but surrenders to Presence and synthesizes the full reality, warts and all.” Contemplation for some is a type of prayer. It can bring us in contact with our thoughts, beliefs, assumptions; it is a deeper exploration. The deeper exploration, for me, has been humiliating at times as I connect to those thoughts, ideas, assumptions, judgments that don’t reflect who I want to be. I ‘encounter’ me – warts and all. Much earlier in my journey I spent a fair amount of time avoiding my ‘darkness,’ trying to keep others from seeing that darkness. Yet, as I expressed in my November piece, this ‘connection’ to my dark side enables me to slowly learn to embrace all of me, making less judgments of myself and others. There is the value.
Contemplation, for me, is about examination – considering, pondering, noodling, reflecting, inspecting, observing. It also includes writing. Writing is a way to process what I am thinking; a way to examine more deeply what I see/feel. Some of that writing is for public consumption. Much of it is not. Contemplation has a brother (sister if you’d rather) called Meditation. Meditation could be described as one form of how I contemplate. I use these tools to slow the world down, to process, work through, experience. It helps me to savor, to understand, to be more receptive to what I am experiencing ‘just as it is.’
Contemplation is part of my mindset. As a leader, I trained myself to ‘take in’ the external information, including the emotions that might relate to the event. The ‘taking in’ often included many questions that would help foster greater understanding. Then, to ‘contemplate’ what it meant before responding. This is my ‘pause.’ In the pause was the time I needed to understand more fully, respond better.
When I start from the bias that what I was taking in is ‘just information’ I am more successful in my responses. There are many circumstances, however, that start emotionally charged – a topic or person that I feel strongly about. My biases and assumptions cloud my thinking. I am at high risk to ‘react.’ There is no magic in those moments, only forgiveness and a commitment to do better. I go back to my overarching desire to leave a lighter footprint upon the world. This is the imagine of who I want to be. It is part of the legacy I want to leave. I know when I have achieved it – I feel centered, at peace, and my interactions have a different rhythm, a calmer cadence. I know then I am not ‘forcing’ the action but am closer to moving without judgment.
To me, in this space, I am more able to bring the very best of me, generating more harmony and positive energy to my work and to my relationships. My life has less stress, less anger, and I have more joy.
As I’ve stated, this is on-going work. I smile at this version of me; me in the ideal state. Sometimes, I can even smile at the antithesis of this, where judgment, anger, greater negativity thrives. This version of me thrives because there is no magic wand to spending more time with the higher version of me. Having a vision of that higher version helps. Understanding what it takes to ‘be’ the higher version of myself helps. Continuing to feed the discipline of contemplation helps.
I offer this writing to invite you into a world that has less chaos, and the opportunity for you to experience you in a loving more encouraging way.
To a better you…