After the last post, I heard from a valued colleague who posed a question that has become the focus for today:
“I love your recent blog post, Sallie. These questions are part of my heart song. How do we hold ‘I and Thou’ as Buber said? How do we do we honor the ‘I’ and the 'we' of the system? I'm curious about the ways that you and others invite people into this multiplicity, especially the drop from head to heart.
Here’s an expanded version of the answer I sent her.
Yes, the question you are raising about the 'drop to the heart' is the big one. We can easily intellectualize the need for wholeness and see multiplicity from so high above the fray that it never gets real except as a concept.
I differ from many in the leadership field in that I believe that there are two macro ways to drop to the heart and that both are required, not in any particular order:
--Individually reflected WHOLENESS PRACTICE from the INSIDE OUT: There are so many individual reflective practices that are recommended and commendable for generating heart connection. Any of us can benefit from taking the time to focus and connect to all creation, in whatever way that calls to us.
For me, compassion meditation has been a life-changing and life-connecting practice: not focused on emptying the mind but on having compassion and kindness for the whole and for myself, choosing to picture those we feel have hurt us and forgive them. I was fortunate enough to get trained in this Cognitively-Based Compassion Training [CBCT] at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta through their Emory-Tibet Partnership program. This is a gentle meditation practice, but by no means is it easy, at least for me.
I have frequently read leadership practitioners promoting some version of this essential practice. They speak about the importance of personal transformation as a prerequisite for group transformation. Personally, I don’t think we have time to wait for our leaders to experience personal transformation, but I do believe that having a reflective practice is one path to perceiving and connecting to the Multiplicity and that that is a path to transformation.
--All invited WHOLENESS PRACTICE from the OUTSIDE IN: The other path is daily life--right now--working with others in specific, practical ways that help us do more together and reinforce the opening of the heart while we're at it.
For me the #1 wholeness tool and practice is thoughtful, exploratory and persistent inquiry, using questions to open doors and draw out the brilliance and the stories of others. Hearing the experience and wisdom of someone helps us see them as us, and to appreciate the humanity and contribution of all, no matter how superficially different from us.
Managing Multiplicity and ‘dropping to the heart’ is more than anything the practice of continuous invitation into dialogue and belonging. We can’t ask people what they think about something without acknowledging them as stakeholders and ‘belongers’. The invitation from one brings with it the opportunity [and requirement] for another to accept and step up and step in to relationship.
This may sound heady, but I know that many of you reading this have had the experience of asking someone a real question and inviting them into participation in a way that engenders a connection that amazes you both. Or, maybe I should say that it makes visible the connection that has always already been there in our interdependent existence. It can make for an immediate ‘drop to the heart’ and generate solutions at the same time.
Perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our communities is to keep creating situations where the whole system can show up and participate [since it does anyway]. Then, we can see what wholeness looks and feels like. We can see the infinite power of the multiplicity--it can blow you over, take your breath away, connect up your heart, and scare you to death, or into momentary awakening.
From the Inside out; from the Outside in.
...the future well being of the planet depends significantly on the extent to which we can nourish and protect not individuals, or even groups, but the generative process of relating. Ken Gergen, Relational Being, 2009