How conscious do you want to be?

The other day I came across the most gorgeous graphics. They came by way of Integral Life, and in particular, the work of Beena Sharma and Susanne Cook-Greuter. Their article and work is titled  The Stages of Leadership Maturity. 

As fate would have it, the same day I came across this work, I was scheduled to present a lecture on “QUANTUM LEADERSHIP” at Case Western Reserve University. My presentation opened with the following quote:

“Becoming a leader is the same as becoming a fully integrated human being.” – Ken Wilber

The deeper I move into my own “work” both personally and professionally, I see  how true this is– and it reaffirms, once and perhaps for all, why I do the work I do.

We cannot improve community/public health or have flourishing enterprises UNTIL we help individuals become leaders of their own lives.  How? Through education of the behaviors that comprise what many, including myself and my colleagues, call “21st century leadership skills”.

These “soft skills” are actually quite potent and necessary. Behaviors such as  cooperation, kindness, contemplative practices, mental and emotional awareness and regulation, among many others practices are necessary proficiencies for all of us because they support our becoming integrated human beings.  

All of these “coincidences” reminded me of a little chart I put together a few years ago as a way to describe the stages of awareness (consciousness) relative to health and well-being. (LINKED HERE) [NOTE: this table was very much inspired by the work of David Hawkins’ MAP OF CONSCIOUSNESS]

Without having a gauge for “where we are”, it is difficult, in this third-dimensional space of ours, to know where we can still go, and that there is more…that there is hope….that there is peace.

How conscious do you want to be?  It is your choice. It is your work. Everything you need is actually right here and now.

The People Who Grind Us and the People Who Shine Us

I’ve been contemplating this for a little while– specifically, the people who have, whether intentionally or unintentionally “grinded” me; meaning that they caused me to reassess, re-think, and re-evaluate, whether personally or professionally, some aspect of my life.

The “grinders” are not easy people. They’re not supposed to be. Their sole (soul) purpose is to show you where you have work to do because you have not fully integrated your own trueness. That’s it.

Getting into any kind of ego battle with a grinder is not only ridiculous, it is wasteful of your energy and creativity.   “Grinders” are learning too by the way,  and you, in fact, are a “grinder” to them/for them! (in Buddhist teachings, the “grinder” is only yourself– there is no “other”).

Ultimately, the “grinders” are a gift because they represent the fullest vision and version of something you yourself find intolerable, and in doing so, provide an incredible opportunity to  consciously change.

And the “shiners”?……they are represented in everyone and everything, actually. Anyone who makes you shine, lights you up, awakens some aspect of yourself, is a shiner– and that includes the grinders……especially the grinders! 

Asking Better Questions

Being bilingual has informed me in ways I’m still discovering.

Having a vast range of words to describe the color of the ocean, for example, has shaped the way I see the ocean, and life.

Ultimately, we are, each of us, an expression of what we think we are and what we are capable of in this world. The quality of our lives, which is shaped by the words we use and the thoughts we entertain, time and time again, do steer our course.

But, what happens when we question this? When we challenge even our own long-standing language and notions, when we, like Rilke invites us to practice “living in the questions.

Learning a new language, albeit French, Mandarin, or love and appreciation, will change you through sheer expansion of awareness. To me, that is the most incredible and fun part of being a human being; that just by getting a little “software upgrade”, we are immediately improved.

The Practice of the Better

Contrast is one of our greatest teachers, and yet, we often miss the point.

When we choose to criticize, judge, or demean that which we find stupid, ridiculous or intolerable, we are, essentially, locking ourselves into a painful dynamic; one of divisiveness and self-righteousness.

In my experience, no one has ever helped me or changed my mind by telling me (or shouting) their “thoughts”. Being locked into a rigid dichotomy that blocks the creative and joyful insights that are available to us all, is painful. However, it is a type of suffering that can be healed within each of us.

Through practicing presence, self-awareness, and discernment we can easily see that there’s not only an alternative to criticism, but a much better use of our God-given talents and energy.

Criticism stems from fear– fear of “what” is up to you…but it’s deeply rooted in separation and desperation. Anytime we feel that “fear” rise within us, it’s a knock on the door of our mind, and an invitation to either enter into battle, or to yield, and instead, practice the better.

The better what? The better way. The peaceful way. The sane way. The way that places YOU at the helm and realm of possibility and of leading by example.

You have a better idea? Don’t tell us. Show us. Forget about tearing down the other— that’s easy.

Criticism is unmanifested creativity. Go create the better.

Vocational Arousal

This provocative term, vocational arousal, came by way of the joyful and visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard. She, in conversation with Steve Farrell, were discussing the obvious (and necessary) shift in our collective consciousness, and what this means for humans as we now them…us.

Vocational arousal describes an internal yearning or calling to our highest work; to our specific “duty” while on Earth.  While this “calling” used to be experienced by the few, specifically those in spiritual vocations, artists, healers, nurses, physicians, and teachers in particular, this arousal is being expressed, en masse, by more and more people on the planet.

In my own work, I use the term soul-work to describe this calling–this yearning deep within each of us that is often at odds with the duties and responsibilities of one’s person-hood….or so we think.

To this end, several of my colleagues at Soul Publishing Group and I are sharing our own stories of vocational arousal. These narratives, many of them decades in their unfolding, describe the journey of shifting from conventional thinking, to one of a higher consciousness and state of being. Many describe the sheer panic, the struggle, the ridicule, the second-guessing that accompanies any journey that is guided by the soul, our higher-calling.  The courage and grit of these stories are a true testament to the power of the human spirit.

To be true to who you are is the single greatest gift you can share with others. Then, when we unite with others who are similarly inclined, the synergy and creativity that unfolds is beyond what any one single individual could ever do, or even imagine.  Of course, we can “sense” these things– deep within, but our human minds are actually limited when it comes to fully grasping the magnitude and effects of the consciousness of connection and what this means for life and work as we know it today.

What is calling you? What is your soul-work?

Puerto Rico

As I view images of the wide-spread destruction across my precious birthplace, I cannot ignore the impact of this event and what it implies both personally and collectively.

The Caribbean, one of the most beautiful regions on Earth, has been ravaged by nature itself….disfigured to the point of annihilation.

As I write today, my childhood best friend is parked in a line, 100 cars deep, simply to get gasoline.  Her place of work, too unsafe for entry. Her ability to leave the island, tempered by family responsibilities. Her simple and humble desire for the day, ice. Ice.

No one familiar with Puerto Rico can overlook the political and economic history, and how this obviously necessitates the US step in to assist. Our colonial status requires it, but more importantly, our shared humanity demands it.

To the countless organizations, leaders, and celebrities who will lead the recovery and rebuilding efforts of our precious island, thank you. This catastrophe represents an unprecedented opportunity in human history. To the islanders who remain, this is also a call to leadership and to envision; not the Puerto Rico of yesteryear, but the Puerto Rico of today; one that honors its rich history, but most importantly, one that integrates the dignity and resilience of a people whose spirit cannot be destroyed.

La Borinqueña
Lyrics: Manuel Fernández Juncos (1846-1928)

La tierra de Borinquén
donde he nacido yo,
es un jardín florido
de mágico fulgor.

Un cielo siempre nítido
le sirve de dosel
y dan arrullos plácidos
las olas a sus pies.

Cuando a sus playas llegó Colón;
Exclamó lleno de admiración;
“Oh!, oh!, oh!, esta es la linda
tierra que busco yo”.

Es Borinquén la hija,
la hija del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol,
del mar y el sol.

Leadership

Leadership, I’ve learned, means different things to people.

For me, my own views of what it means were informed by my career track, which included a decade or so in corporate America, as well as my work in adult education & community health.

What passes for leadership today; forcefulness, aggression, bullying, and shaming are actually, forms of abuse– and it seems many people feel that to be “strong, boastful, and loud” means that someone is not only a good leader, but that they are right, at the exclusion of other viewpoints.

Millions of people have grown so accustomed to tuning-in and following the loud voices, which our national media perpetuates, that they have forgotten to listen to the soft voice of their own soul.

Leadership is not something for a chosen few. Leadership is a necessary human practice that shapes ones health, career, relationships, and quality of life, and therefore our collective well-being and quality of life.  

Some may argue, and have argued, that none of this is “leadership.” Perhaps they’re right– perhaps we should call this something else.

Still, in the absence of a term that exemplifies the necessary power and energy that is required to make sustainable behavioral changes in one’s life and community, I sense leadership is a pretty darn good word.

There is a leader inside each of us. Are you listening to her voice?

Hope

As I observe the breaking of hearts and opening of minds around me (my own included), I am led to one place. Hope.

I have hope that healing will come to all who seek it. 

I have hope that those who insist on spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, economically, or physically raping others, will simply stop. Your “services” are no longer needed. Thank you.

I have hope that my daughters will live in a safe and loving world.

I have hope that equality (humanity) will be the norm for our country and for our planet.

Adapting

Adaptation is a bit of a paradox.

While it is wise to adapt, it also feels like we’re surrendering, or somehow “giving up”.

Yes. It is both, and.

It is only in surrendering (our ego) that we allow the grace of life to enter our being.  To surrender to life, however, is no easy task.

In our Workbook of Human Superpowers we define adaptability this way: openness to changing conditions

Adaptability, then, is not necessarily something we do, but is more of an orientation, and openness, to whatever comes our way. If we desire happiness and personal peace, it is our task to adapt; constantly.

Control is the opposite, of course. However, control is something we all must do and try– until we learn, for ourselves, the futility of our effort.

Life is a constant flow of favorable and unfavorable events and circumstances. If we can be mindful (aware) of this, it becomes easier (slightly) to “go with the flow” and to adapt to what life is asking of us.

Letting Go

This is probably one of the most paradoxical and challenging aspects of being a human being; letting go.

How can one embrace life and also let it go? This question used to haunt me and grew painfully loud when I became a mother.

Life and death are a single point in our existence. For anything to be born, something else dies, which then makes the “thing that died”, part of the living thing.

It has taken me many years to fully understand that letting go is both a spiritual and practical practice; one that is critical to my overall health, productivity, and well-being. There are countless teachers and books to guide one through the process, but the best “teacher” is your own life.

Letting go is one of the biggest “advancers” of consciousness– it can literally transform your human experience from one of chronic suffering (mental, emotional, and physical), to one of personal freedom and peace.

Father Richard Rohr has a passage in one of his books about “the colonized, the marginalized, the recovered, etc.” as a sub-set of our human family who are intimately aware of the necessity of forgiveness and the letting go of the distortions that block personal reconciliation and healing.

How do you reconcile (literally) the injustices, crimes, and ongoing abuses of fellow human beings? For anyone who has ever “done me wrong” (harassed, abused, threatened me), I see that I have two options:

Option A (my ego): engage with “my attacker” and fight back
Option B (my soul): understand their pain and suffering (their distortion) and let go

From the words of Jesus, near the moments of his own death, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24), there are few more poignant reminders of the power of understanding and forgiveness.

Letting go is not a sign of weakness.  To yield and release has been one of the most profound practices of my life. This is true in everyone’s life. Yes, your ego (Option A) will always tell you otherwise. Fact is, however, that letting go is a conscious and awakened choice and the quickest route to the birth of something new.