Long ago, Dag Hammarskjöld noted that the longest journey is the journey inward. Too often, we allow our outer life to distract us from the most important work we can do, the inner work that informs the whole of our lives. It’s time to do that work for the soul of our leadership! Will we repeat the past or commit to shaping a future out of the intersection of personal transformation, innovation, and systemic change? Join me for a seven-week journey of letting go to take hold.
Release | morphoo | Let Go!
You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter you long before it happens. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity.Rainer Maria Rilke
The image… the call to establish a community of Poets & Prophets… first came in 2012. The early nudges expressed in a growing sense that I was no longer in the right seat on the bus. By the time I wrote and presented a white paper on The Leader as Poet & Prophet in 2014, it was clear that I was entering into a season of disquiet. A season in which I would have one foot in and one foot out of the institution. It was time to nurture the poet and prophet within.
By their very calling, prophets are leaders who serve at the margins. Shaped by the institution, prophets see the disconnect between the espoused mission and institutional survival. But, the voice of the prophet alone is not enough. It must be woven with the poet. Many voices compete for our allegiance. The poet helps us to remember who we are that we might reclaim the integrity of core identity, character and call. Beyond the quick fix, beyond the individualization of our times, beyond the loss and pain born of deep change, nurturing the poet and prophet within releases a paradoxical hope for the future, in the face of deep loss.
The Future Must Enter You
Little did I know the prophetic truth of the poet’s words: “The future must enter you long before it happens.” As with the stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, I found myself first in denial that I would actually need to leave the institution.* Couldn’t I do the work from within? Hadn’t I earned the right?
Denial was followed by anger at the system for its failure to change. Even as I understood that the system was set up to do exactly what it was created to do, I wanted the change without disruption to my own life. Then came the negotiation. I would (and did) design my own position description. The problem, of course, is that tacit norms displaced core values every time. Finally came the acceptance that I could not be faithful to the call to support leaders in growing up and waking up in spiritual maturity within the institution.
Seen from the vantage point of today, I am bemused that I ever thought I could give birth to my images without first releasing my attachments. Attachments to the very things I was challenging: power, privilege and position. It was humbling to realize how much my identity was shaped by those three Ps. I liked the power, I assumed the privilege, I was comfortable (even if unhappy) in the position.
A Series of Conversations
A series of conversations helped me to release into my present call:
- Anita Howard, soul friend, pressed me to name my call;
- Judi Neal, founder of Edgewalkers, helped me to locate my work at the margins;
- Janet Hagberg released me to focus my work with leaders and organizations “at the wall” (moving beyond the burden of ought self);
- Alicia Forde, introduced me to Movement Ecology (https://ayni.institute/movementecology/), helping me to understand how my work moves across three domains—personal transformation in my coaching; formation of alternative community with The Meetinghouse, home to Poets & Prophets; and deep systemic change through the Pivot Projects.
One by one, the wisdom of these women dismantled my defenses, challenged my unowned fear of failure, and blessed me into my present work. There has been an unbundling and remixing that I could not have plotted or orchestrated.
Releasing Power, Privilege & Position
To fully engage the inward journey took releasing position, power and privilege. It involved reconnecting soul with Source. The gift is finding myself transformed, degree by degree. There is a koiné Greek word that captures this soul movement. The word is morphoo (mor-fo’-o) and it means the inward and real formation of the essential nature of a person.
Our formation is akin to the growth of an embryo. We are pregnant with more possibility than most of us can imagine. A lifelong process, waking up and growing up involves not just learning about the spiritual life, but daring to connect soul with Source. Like the hungry caterpillar in Eric Carle’s storybook, when we dare to surrender, amazing things begin to happen!
On a personal level, the journey has once again become my home. I’m no longer destination bound. Instead, I’m present to the invitation of each day. With the letting go comes new an understanding of what it means to be, belong and become. Do not fear the releasing which must precede the receiving.
The hour of clarity will come… if you only dare let go!
Questions for Reflection
- What invitation (or resistance) do you find in the poet’s words?
- How are you being called to nurture the Poet & Prophet in yourself?
- What might it mean for you to be transformed degree by degree?
Practice: Go for a Swing!
The problem is that to grow, to take the journeys on which our growth is predicated, we must confront our own immaturity, selfishness, and lack of courage. In a sense, life is all about our forceful, often overpowering need to take journeys, yet our tendency is to grip the swings ever more tightly.Robert Quinn, Deep Change
As a child, I loved to swing as high as I could and then let go. The sheer thrill of soaring through the air and then landing on the ground. The release and the opportunity to begin again. It led me to ponder when did I begin to grip the swings ever more tightly? When did my own immaturity, selfishness, and lack of courage displace taking the journey?
This next week find a swing set and reacquaint yourself with the experience of moving through the air. Perhaps your knees, like mine, can no longer handle the jump. Simply, allow yourself to remember (or imagine for the first time) the exhilaration of letting go. Name what your soul is inviting you to release that the future might to be born through you… and then let go!