Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.  But of course every day is earth day.  

Here is something to contemplate.

Activist and author Naomi Klein tells a story about the time she travelled to Australia at the request of Aboriginal elders. They wanted her to know about their struggle to prevent white people from dumping radioactive wastes on their land.

Her hosts brought her to their beloved wilderness, where they camped under the stars. They showed her "secret sources of fresh water, plants used for bush medicines, hidden eucalyptus-lined rivers where the kangaroos come to drink." 

After three days, Klein grew restless. When were they going to get down to business?

"Before you can fight," she was told, "you have to know what you are fighting for."

I retold this story to a company recently as part of a pitch for working with sustainability managers.  Suffice to say, it wasn’t appreciated.  “As a person I get it, but it is not appropriate in this context” we were told.

Nature is worth saving for its own sake.  If we as humans want to co-exist, we need to realise our connectivity with it.  We can so easily disconnect ourselves, particularly if we are sitting in an office feeling far removed.   It can bypass us that everything around us is born from the earth, that everything we do has an effect.  To ponder on the raw materials and production processes, that made this city, this chair, this cup of coffee, one can only be humbled and awed at the gifts of nature and the ingenuity of people, and be pained at the impact we have.

The path to sustainability or a more respectful co-existence with the earth, is a spectrum.  At one end, are the companies who adopt sustainable practices as a legal obligation.  For others, it is purely a profit-driven motive, a strategic approach for survival.  Along the continuum is recognition that there is shared value in a balance (good for business, good for society).  At best,  a systemic approach, one that recognises the interrelationship between economic, social and environmental elements, is taken.

We can only do this if individually, we become more conscious of our own actions, and our sense of belonging in the world around us.   This collective sense of interconnectedness will help our communities and companies make more earth responsible decisions.

There are numerous ways and experiences that we can draw on to nurture this.  Here is one...mindful walking.  As Thich Nhat Hanh said,  'Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.'


Naomi Klein story ( as told in R. Brezny (2009) Pronoia is the Antitode of Paranoia, North Atlantic Books, page 76

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What resources you?

I see my purpose as a coach and consultant to support others feel and be more resourceful.

So as a participant on a workshop recently, I appreciated that one of their opening questions to the group was... "What resources you"?

To reflect on that is resourcing in itself.  

We remind ourselves of what energises us, refuels and recharges us.  We actually feel better by remembering and definitely more so by actually doing that very thing.  

We have an innate wisdom to seek and do what resources us.  It’s called life.  And it’s deeply personal and particular to each of us. We notice in our bodies what and who brings us alive.  What helps us function effectively and make us feel good and whole.  What stops us from feeling depleted and fills us up when we do.  These buffer us to weather storms. They are the strategies we adopt to overcome difficulties.  They build our resilience and feed our soul.  In times of stress we can draw on them to offer immediate relief and perspective, but engage in them as part of our lives, out of sheer joy and love.    

The external act of resourcing enables us to access our internal resources. This is its real value. The more we are conscious of what we tap into, the more we can nurture that strength, that quality and integrate it into our daily being. For me, what a colleague referred to as ‘filling up the energy box’ is meditation and being in nature. Meditation helps me feel aware, balanced, at home with paradox.  This aids me in change and ambiguity.   So I give priority to meditating twice a day.  In a heated moment, it is enough to access those inner qualities by a pause and coming into presence.  Similarly being in nature is deeply resourcing for me.  It makes me feel more connected and free.   This helps me be centred and deal with complexity.  Even if I cannot be deep in mother nature, I can imagine it or reflect on the natural form of what is around me – which facilitates a sense of that same interconnectivity.   

Reflect on what resources you.   Fiercely protect that very thing and go easy on yourself when you can’t.  What you need is within you.

photo: own of my gorgeous sister Hannah, in Paradise.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Will you marry you?

In some cultures, tradition is such that every February 29th the woman may propose marriage. I'm not personally planning to take advantage of that window, but it has set me thinking about the whole subject of marriage, union, and the balance of male and female, anima and animus, in our society, workplaces and our own internal lives. Not a typical leadership topic, I grant you, but one which may be important for maximising our potential, both individually and collectively.  

Carl Jung wrote extensively about our masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) traits, the archetypes of the unconscious mind. Regardless of our gender, we have both.  The more conscious we are of them, the more we can ‘wed’ them within ourselves, the more access we have to our skills, talents and gifts.
From our stories to our structures, we can see how our organisations reflect society’s developed animus.  Traits that are honoured are those which come from a place of strength and are associated with values of initiative, courage and rational deduction. They echo a deep belief in the value of one’s own life.

Our feminine side, our anima traits seem to be more hidden in organisational life and society.  But they are there. These are the traits with a strong emphasis on the outward expression of feeling, of connection and sensitivity to events which impact on people’s inner lives. These echo a deep belief in the value of the life of others.

What does it mean to support and value people in environments more familiar with challenge and structure?
How may we access our feminine traits as men or women working in a male-dominated world, to bring more balance within ourselves and within society?   

Here we can turn to archetypes in myth, legend and storytelling, which flag up universal human traits, experiences and patterns of development.   Archetypes never go out of fashion, because they express universal truths which, on some fundamental level, we can all recognise in ourselves.   

It's far from being a traditional organisational tool, but we can draw inspiration from Tarot cards.  During the Renaissance, Tarot card archetypical images were used for meditation; to help raise one's consciousness and to connect with one’s true essence.  We can still use them today to reflect on anima figures and consider what qualities they have, which we can reclaim for ourselves, as men and women.

For example, the ‘Empress’ image, can remind ourselves of our life giving qualities, the value of our body and our senses, and our bond with nature.  This can help us manage our stress and wellbeing, as the more we are in tune with our own body, the more resourceful we become.   The ‘High Priestess’ who is a connection with the mysterious inner world can help us reflect on what is within our control and what we have to let go of in our lives. She also reminds us of the power of accessing and using our intuition for quick and clear decision making.  The ‘Temperance’ angel may prompt us to explore the function of feelings, what it means for emotional intelligence and working in harmony, cooperation and collaboration.  And the ‘Moon’ figure can inspire us to be comfortable in whatever phase we are in, and to operate in a VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
It may be a bit of a leap, but if we attend to our inner union of anima and animus, perhaps we can become more integrated and balanced, and help create a more balanced sustainable society.

Sharman-Burke J and Greene, L (1986), The Mythic Tarot, Random House. 
Special thanks to Cathy and Si , and Ray for their guidance. 

photos: via and own respectively