Trying not to change someone--in fact realizing you can't--and holding that space from center may feel like you're suspended in mid-air, not knowing, just taking one breath at a time, one step at a time, relinquishing control. As challenging as it may be, this is a place of learning and growth. Being comfortable with discomfort, as my yoga teacher says.
There's a song from a wonderful 1970's musical -- The Last Sweet Days of Isaac. The title is: "My Most Important Moments Go By," and in another life I was an actor (yep!) and sang this song. Maybe because of that, I've always appreciated the importance of certain moments in my life. I've tried to take note of them.
When we let moments go by without paying attention, we lose something--something that won't come again. And, sometimes it makes it harder to go on to the next moment. Something is holding us back, and we're not even sure what it is.
My last post was about being present with happiness. I reflected on how it can be as difficult to be present in happiness as in anger and that meditation and reflection offered ways to appreciate happiness without losing ourselves to it or letting it slip by unnoticed. The same principles apply to anger.
You'd probably just as soon let angry moments go by. Why would you want to stay present with anger?
Have you ever been so happy you ...
- were afraid it wouldn't last?
- lost your equilibrium?
- couldn't stay present with it?
Such is Anne Elliot's happiness at the end of Jane Austen's Persuasion, that she engages in "an interval of meditation" as the best way to preserve and appreciate the feeling.
I write a lot about centering in conflict. Searching this phrase on my website turns up 112 results. And yet, what about being centered in happiness?
It's always great to hear from past and current clients about how they utilize my work and writing personally and within their organizations. And sometimes I get a surprise, as I did last week when I received an email from someone I'd never met--an employee in a major global financial institution. The financial institution included my Checklist for Managing Difficult Conversations in a regional communication program encouraging staff to "Be More."
In the 9-day program, there were a number of challenges participants had to complete that helped them "Be More" in important aspects of their leadership and communication.
Under the heading of "Be More Honest," the company explored the topic of gossip and encouraged staff to take the challenge to reach out to talk to someone directly if they felt the urge to "gossip" about someone. They then reported their experiences, which the employee gave me permission to share...
One of the most interesting things about my work is that I teach skills everyone already knows. If you've been in a workshop with me, you know this to be true and you've even heard me say it.
We know we want to be centered and in control of our emotions in difficult moments. We know that putting ourselves in a mindset of inquiry is also really useful. And when I ask, "What would you like to say to this person so that they understand your positive intention?" coaching clients are usually clear, composed, and thoughtful in their message. We also know that putting ourselves in the customer/client/coworker/family member's place and seeing their perspective can absolutely turn a difficult situation around.
This being human is a guest-house
Every morning a new arrival.
This is the beginning of one of my favorite Rumi poems. I appreciate its wisdom on how to greet each emotion with gratitude and wonder.
I am now recently and thankfully over a bout of laryngitis that in all its manifestations lasted 8 weeks. That's a long time for an organizational trainer, public speaker, and professional singer. It was traumatic at times, frightening, and fascinating. Friends would say, "this is going to be a story eventually," and indeed it is and has been.
Have I said that "Unlikely Teachers" are not always welcomed at first? They can seem like annoyances at best and physically or emotionally traumatic at worst. In many cases, the teacher is life-changing in the sense that it shows us something about ourselves and the world that we might not have otherwise seen.
I've written about how default programming and ingrained habits can be changed by noticing them in the moment they occur and making a different choice, and advice-giving is one of my defaults. During the first days of the lovely laryngitis attack, I couldn't speak at all--not even a squeak. How fascinating were those moments when I would start to say something and realize I couldn't. Because it was a struggle to speak and because the doctors had told me NOT to unless absolutely necessary, I became acutely aware of these ki moments--Do I really need to say this? Most of the time I didn't.
A Worthy Opponent
I began to see my laryngitis as a worthy opponent, with whom resistance was futile and counterproductive. By using Aikido principles, I could metaphorically join the opposing energy to see where led. Several possibilities immediately showed themselves...
You spent time and energy preparing and holding an important conversation. You developed a useful purpose, acknowledged your conversation partner, and framed your message with skill. But, in spite of your best efforts, the situation does not improve: a direct report continues to be disrespectful; an important member of the team persists in showing up late or not at all; your teen's room remains a mess.
Chatting with my friend Amanda Ridings recently about lessons learned from our work, I realized that "fixing" is one that I continue to learn again and again. It seems to be in my nature to help, to offer, to be ready to do. I like that person in me who looks to solve problems and facilitate ease. It's just good to notice when I'm on autopilot and to be intentional about it.
It's an occupational hazard in my work. People come to trainings, request coaching, and look to my book, articles, and CDs perhaps hoping to be fixed. It's tempting. But....
When I think I'm the one with all the answers, here's what happens:
- I begin to believe I actually know what will help them.
- I begin to believe my answers are their answers.
- And I forget that all learning happens from the inside out.
After 21 years, I've gotten better at noticing when I'm on autopilot. I recall how I felt in Year One of Power & Presence Training, when I knew I didn't have the answers. I could only present the Aikido principles in physical form and ask the learner how it made sense for them, for their conflicts, their stress points, and their relationships.
I know this to be true:
Learning happens when the student has the Aha! When they understand something in a way they will never forget. They feel it in their bones, and they are changed because of that moment. I'm a lucky bystander.
It happened in Arizona recently when a student working through an Aikido movement had an insight...