Falling down as a leader and getting up again

Falling down and getting up again is one of the hallmarks of the Nondual Kabbalistic Healing community that is my home.

This morning I fell down as a leader, and my healer-colleagues caught me.

And this is how it works among the imperfect humans that we are.

 

I always, always want to be at my best when I facilitate a meeting.

Clear intention. Clear agenda. Clear (preferably flawless) communication. Definitely flawless documents that reach participants in time to prepare. Show up knowing what I want, ready to state it and also make plenty of room for others to state their views. Open to learning and to changing my mind. But still, as a leader, I expect myself to be able to confidently say: we are going in this direction!

Oh, and presence. Taking in what is going on, considering it with wisdom, and…well, you get the picture (aka fantasy) in play here.

 

Today’s reality: unrelated to any meeting anxiety, I ‘d been awake since 3:00 am before this 8:30 meeting. Still recuperating from a respiratory bug, with a muzzy head and bleary eyes. With an unstable internet connection that could (and did) drop me from the meeting at any moment. I wasn’t the only one. A mom’s cancer surgery. A newborn grandson. A dog’s death. Everyone had Life going on.

One issue on the agenda – creating a Master Calendar for projects, was a big departure for this all-volunteer group’s working style. I expected a range of resistances to this proposal. There was none. On the contrary, people saw the need and how it would help. Exhale.

It had taken me a week to drop into how to frame a second major issue. That involved our vision for the community that we serve, and how to bring it alive in the biennial gathering we are planning for next summer. I felt very clear that offering attendees different creative ways to explore the theme of the gathering – movement, mask-making, a community mural – was the way to go. But in the service of what intention, with what goal? I was alarmed to find that as the chair I was coming up empty. I felt the best I could offer was an empty form. Ugh.

 

So here’s what happened.

My energies were low, my mind not too sharp, my level of presence questionable. I simply could not run the meeting in whatever my usual style is.  This left room for different conversations and inventiveness. Many dots were connected about how this could support that. Oh and of course the theme of the meeting could play out in this inspired way so it was really an integrated part of the whole. And oh this and that person have wonderful artistic specialties they might offer. In fact, that community resourcefulness is precisely what we want to harbor at the big gathering. Oh!

Lesson of the day: I was off my game, and this made room for fresh movement, new information, originality, heartfelt desires, initiative, skills, engagement. What a rich stew. An outcome that helped me get up, and left all of us uplifted, and in awe of one another.

I became useful in a different way when I fell down – off my own standards for myself. My colleagues picked me up and the whole committee enterprise too. Next time you feel off your game, consider you might be making room for something wholly new and brilliant to emerge. Including enlivened trust and intimacy in your group.

 

In practice: the medium is the message

Dear Friends,

Today I celebrate a full year of showing up with a weekly post about some aspect of living A Life of Practice.

The medium has been the message: this blog has been a promise to myself to keep showing up, sharing my sometimes rough growing edges, my ongoing questions, and my occasional revelations. In other words, it has proved a powerful way for me to remain in practice.

Your comments and personal emails to me about the ways you have resonated with my words, and been encouraged and inspired in your own life, have been a joy and ongoing inspiration to receive.

So a gift and a request for you, my subscribers ….

The gift: an opportunity to explore a personal question about practice in your life in a thirty minute conversation – to the first five subscribers who respond.  Just cut and paste “personal question about practice”  in the message box linked here and I’ll be in touch to schedule.

The request: however A Life of Practice has captured your interest, please send this post on to 3 friends with a few words about what nourishes you here, and invite them to subscribe here.

With blessings for all you need to arrive at the life of practice that nourishes you.

May your life in practice bring you home to the uniquely wise and imperfect human you are.

With gratitude,

Sara

_______________________________________________________________
I am including links to a selection of posts that provoked a chain of thoughtful responses:

Nothing is as you left it? Walking into Walls?
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/transition-and-mischief-m…/

Make Yourself Useful
https://alifeofpractice.com/daily-…/make-yourself-useful/

Listen to Your Body, it speaks truth
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/listen-to-your-body-it-sp…/

The Morning After: a 21st Century Creation Story
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/morning-after-the-election/

How to sit in the dark
https://alifeofpractice.com/dail…/how-to-sit-in-the-dark/

Thank you to my women friends, who come bearing gifts
https://alifeofpractice.com/…/women-friends-come-bearin…/

It’s not about anything but love

It’s curious how I’ve been drawn back repeatedly to an area in the Catskills that I have visited regularly for close to forty years. Clearly it has been home to me in some way I have not been able to name.

There is a “there” there, but what is its nature?

Spiritual initiations and awakening, weeks of study and following ashram discipline, Jewish Renewal retreats, gatherings with healing colleagues, meditation and prayer and practice – and family events. For the past eight years the family events have included pilgrimages to Stagedoor Manor, a camp for serious theatre geeks from which my grandson will “graduate” in a few weeks, then head off to college.

But what is it really that has drawn me back over and over again?

As I drove south through Sullivan County a few days ago, returning to Baltimore after a camp performance week-end, I once again considered this question. When my daughter and I arrived on Friday afternoon, we had been greeted with a double rainbow. The weather had been sunny and pleasant with a few heavy downpours. As we left were still under the influence of Saturday evening’s gloriously silver full moon. Nature was certainly at its kindest this trip.

And we had been inspired by six shows from Friday through Saturday evening, full of gifted and spirited acting and song, and enjoyed the particular dance that happens every summer as various family members and friends disperse go to different shows and come back together to exchange “wows!”

….and then I heard these words spoken in the voice of one of my teachers:

It’s about love.

It’s always been about love.

It’s not about anything but love.

When I thought it was about wisdom, it was about love.

When I thought it was about skill, it was about love.

When I thought it was about duty, it was about love.

And what is the nature of that love?

The nature of that love is action, not sentiment.

In Hebrew, the word for love is Ahava, which has a numerical value of thirteen. The word for One is Echad, which also has a numerical value of thirteen. Coupled, in relationship, their value is 26, the numerical value of the Unpronounceable Name of God.

And so it goes: we think that we travel, we think we gather and disperse, we think we study, we think we perform on stage or off.

While what we really do is love.

Receive and give over and over again.

Express the One – endlessly and concretely. Humanly, that is to say imperfectly.

Sing the Unpronounceable with our imperfect human actions.

 

 

At an intersection: But what do you love to do?

“But what do you love to do?”

JC has stopped me in my tracks with his question. We have been sharing our respective histories and current engagements with activism and social justice, and I am suddenly and unaccountably inarticulate.

Here I am a couple of hours later trying to understand why.

I met JC Faulk as a facilitator of conversation circle events several times over the summer months, and we had spoken before. Long enough to discover our shared admiration and debt to Edie and Charlie Seashore, who had trained both of us in group skills and diversity work, albeit a half generation apart from one another. An unexpected intersection, rich with a shared understanding of group process.

Red Emma’s, where we met over breakfast, sits at its own notable intersection. Charles Street runs north-south. It is typically described as “Baltimore’s Main Street,” “a historic cultural corridor,” ripe for development and redevelopment, and “a place where people want to live.” North Avenue, which crosses Charles Street just outside the door, runs east-west. It is “targeted for revitalization, improved safety, economic opportunity and access for residents.” This corridor gained notoriety for the Uprising that took place about two miles west of here in April 2015. These corridors can easily stand in for the city’s racial and economic fault lines. Red Emma’s sits at this intersection, drawing a mix of customers from both corridors, a stew rich with possibilities. A rarity in Baltimore.

I have just written myself to a new understanding. Now I see that I am pinned by his question at my own intersection:

Who I am and who I wish I was. Who I am and how I’d like to see myself: more skilled, more willing, more courageous, tougher and more empathic, grittier and more loving, ready to put not just my voice but my body on the line. The for-real Sara and the idealized Sara. The Sara who wants to make a difference in the world, be a difference in the world and thinks she has to be some other person to do this. The Sara who has just effectively devalued her life’s work.

And oh, my. The fact that I have crossed and recrossed this bridge with pretty much every single client I have worked with over the years does not save me from the same dilemma.

Now that I have named this problematic intersection, here’s my answer, JC:

I love to write. It helps me to see myself more clearly, to see myself whole. When I share my writing and hear back that it has helped some readers see themselves whole, I am nourished even more.

I love to explore life’s challenges with another person, to see the light come on in someone’s eyes. See a face soften, a body relax or straighten up as it needs to.  A flash of understanding. The “oh,” or the silence that says: I really get that, I get that in a way that restores me to something essential in myself, I get that in a way that I can make a different choice, I get that in a way that I see you in a fresh way. I love to travel with someone as she takes root in herself, breaks through hard soil, and unfolds towards the sky.

I love to play a role in a community that shares a clear focus and intention for a common good. Every such group is an intersection of differences rich with possibilities.

I love to work with people who are ready to talk, and want practice. Help design welcoming and safe but not bland or superficial group meeting spaces. Where strangers can build lasting and resilient relationships over time, become allies and friends. Where we human beings can show up with our strengths and limitations. Grant one another dignity. Listen to and tell stories. Learn and teach. Be together in “we don’t know.” Shed tears and shake with laughter. Drop through anger and fear and open to heartbreak. Stand together. Grow, grow up, grow in self-responsibility. Build the generosity, willingness, fortitude, trust to have one another’s backs.

And by nourishing connection in these ways, draw down grace. Because when we humans come into relationship, especially when that relationship is big enough to hold our differences, the world does respond and signal.

I love to work with practice groups, where we can practice being imperfect, genuine human beings together, and carry that out into our lives.

Thanks for asking, JC.

Now, friends – read more about JC’s work here.


 How about you? What do you love to do?