Can We Be Done Now?

Last week, round about session 3 of my ALIA Module: Leader as Shambhala Warrior, as we were going back into creative process yet again, I recall sitting there thinking: “Can we be done yet?  I’ve had enough.  I’m ready to move on to the “real” work of the module.”

Immediately I chuckled at my own thought and the awareness that came with it.  Just a few weeks before, a colleague and I had been in that same question with a client about the status of the long term shift process we were in.  We told the client, we have reached the point where some of the people will begin to say: ” We have our document, can we be done now? Can I get back to real work now?.”

This raises two things.  The first is our concept of “real work” as something that does not happen in a conference, training or retreat.  If it’s not real, is it imaginary?  Un-real?  If it’s not real, why do we do it?  I love challenging this notion when it arises – this is real work too.  For myself, when I’m in retreats, I now think of  the outside world that does come knocking and “real” work happens in both places and many others in between.

The second thing is that when we encounter in ourselves or others this question of “Can we be done now?” it’s a pretty good indicator we’re in the groan zone.  The groan zone is a place that feels a bit murky because we lack some clarity in the moment about where we are and where we’re going – or how we are going to make use of what we’ve been learning or experiencing.  We may be tired or challenged and just want to get beyond it — or usually get back to wherever we were before we started.  And this is the opportunity in the groan zone.  Stick with it just that much longer and the opportunity for emergence and for clarity is primed.

What happened when I was in the groan zone last week around the creative process?  Well, we were being led, through exceptional leadership displayed by Jerry Granelli, to become a “blues band”, writing our own lyrics and actually singing them out loud while other people witnessed us – or really, while we witnessed each other.  I don’t sing. I don’t know musical form.  I can’t carry a tune.  I don’t write music lyrics.  The day we were asked to just hum the blues form, I felt a visceral reaction along with my sharp intake of breath… and then, I did it!  I told Jerry, he had butted me up against my fear.  He laughed, in a gentle and wonderful way.  I told him the good news was that in previous years, that would have been my terror I butted up against.

Last week, we had marvelous and thought provoking teachings from Meg Wheatley and Jim Gimian and I will write more about that in future blogs.  We knew though, as we were at “band practice” at 9:30 one night, that this band experience was bonding us into a community as we supported each other in writing our lyrics and setting them to the blues form and that this was the thing we would most easily and fondly remember as a collective.

In all my years of attending ALIA’s Shambhala Summer Institute this one stands out in my memory for the bond created within my module.

I traveled through the groan zone, pushed the edge of my learning, wrote my lyrics and sang them… sang them first actually (not because I volunteered though), finding a place of greater ease, peace and playfulness within myself and understanding the groan zone at a whole new level.

Thanks Jerry, Meg and Jim and my band mates!  Be warned – you now just mind hear me singing in places other than to my young children – like on the street when I’m out walking and “shape shifting, shape shifting in a soulful way…”.

Immoral Power or Powerless Morality?

I am still basking in the glow of my ALIA Institute experience last week (my 5th one, by the way) and this morning find myself pondering concepts offered by Adam Kahane from his new book Power and Love.

Kahane said, power properly understood is nothing but the strength to bring about purpose and love is the drive to unite the separated.  Both power and love have generative and degenerative sides.  What makes power degenerative rather than generative is the absence of love and what makes love degenerative rather than generative is the absence of power.

The idea of this continuum for both power and love makes absolute sense to me.  The idea of experimenting with the blending of power and love with greater awareness has me on the edge of my seat.

I was particularly struck by the expression: immoral power and powerless morality.   We have come to believe that power corrupts, is held in the hands of a few and is the source of much that is bad in the world.  We believe that people who sit in the place of love are ineffectual and weak – other than a few prominent examples like Mother Teresa or Ghandi whom most of us have trouble identifying ourselves with.

While we  may believe the antidote to power is love, when we swing too far in that direction it often becomes inaction and ineffectual.  How many of us have avoided stepping into our power out of fear and the belief that power is bad?  How many of us have self-righteously sat in the place of love waiting for it to right all the wrongs of the world – or have just given our power away?

Kahane says it is not a choice but a paradox.  We can’t choose just one.  We need both.  We just need to find the balance between power and love.  In any given situation, what is needed of me?  If there is too much power, act with love.  If there is too much love, act with power.   When we work with this consciously and intentionally, then power and love  gradually overlap and we find our place of greatest effectiveness and greatest movement for any given situation.

Shape shifting, shape shifting,in a soulful way, leaning in, claiming it back, leaning in, growing open, shape shifting, shape shifting in a soulful way” – some of my  “blues band” lyrics that just spilled over onto this page as I consider the journey of power and love I have been traveling the last 5 years.