Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Turning to Each Other

Yesterday, I let someone get to me and I was angry. Really angry. I felt my heart constrict, my muscles tightening, endorphins kicked in and I was ready to fight. As I tried to control the impulse, I lost focus. Frustrated, I forgot my point which compounded my angst.  I precariously tread a thin line between passion and anger. It is one of life’s gifts, a consistent reminder of my challenges.    

 Afterwards, I ranted, fumed and gestured. It put me off balance for the day. I forgot myself. It took me twenty-four hours to regain equilibrium.

 In hindsight I know that the person's behavior was not a personal attack but a private story acted upon. My anger stemmed from my own acquired stories and meaning making. Our stories clashed in a meeting room. Extract those stories and the event was only words that missed each other across a table. A damaged but shared act of unheard phrases and broken dialogue.  Something fixable.

When we throw the private stories into the scene our worlds explode into unsolvable riddles.  Menacing words are dropped like missiles at war; disrespect, uncaring, rude, prejudiced, incompetent, horrible, unjust, unfair, unsupported all punctuated by expletives.       

These personal stories, the private reality we build in which good are good, bad are bad, we are victims, they are aggressors, all the reasons we or they can’t change, all the explanations why we can’t have our dreams.  All the ways we draw lines around ourselves, our society, our workplace, our family.  These stories are the destructive force.  None of it is true. 
The truth resides when we turn to each other and engage.  When we deeply listen, we dialogue and freely enter into a conversation that explores the biggest questions, they whys, the things that matter, the passions, the humanness of existence.  We leave the stories behind, suspend limiting assumptions and open ourselves.  These connections trigger meaning, creativity, innovation, deep paradigm shifts and ever deeper appreciation of being.    

This is the life force.
I have a lot to learn about it. 


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flipping Opposites

Is there really such a thing as opposite?  Rather what appears as two extremes only comes back to itself, full circle. Opposites entirely observed are the same and contrary simultaneously. 

Black is empty of light expressed as a color.  White is light’s full spectrum encompassed in one.  They are both expressions of light neatly facing each other.  They dialogue, expose their weakness and reveal a different option.  Personified, they giggle while riddles expose their inconsistencies.   Neither right or wrong.  The same but different.  In reality, they tell us they are more alike than dissimilar. 

It struck me recently when a colleague said “this is a good example of her strengths being her weakness.”  And it was true.  In context, her strength is a weakness.  What a strange truth.  Context can flip our abilities, suddenly the reason we succeed is the reason we fail. 

What are my strengths?  What happens when I flip them? 
Most would say that I am fiercely independent. 

 I like being alone and enjoy time to reflect.  I observe, read, study, reflect, discuss but come to conclusions independently.  What emerges is original thought, uninfluenced by groupthink.   What emerges is also incomplete. 
I am a self-starter.  I can point myself to the next priority and begin without external direction.  I can map my goals and forge their pathway.  I enjoy this process’ inherent ambiguity.  I don’t like being told what to do. 

I love to travel alone.  The inexplicable freedom of feet traversing on new ground and eyes on novel sights is exhilarating.  My perspective crystalizes and the world’s expansiveness unfolds around me.  It is inspiring and isolating. 
I love to read, paint and write.  The moments when I live for being, thinking, mindfulness, and creativity are grounding.  They place me in the center of myself, a place where love clarifies everything.  But these are solitary endeavors.

What imbalance? 
The opposite of independence is community, family, friends, connections, relationships, shared visions and collective wisdom.  There is equal power in it. I respect them. I believe in them. But it isn’t my first calling.  I’m drawn into myself first.  Maybe this is selfish, but I seek to bring myself fully to my endeavors before searching out others. 

But community is a blessed testing ground for reflection, ideas, arts, networks, adventure, relationships and action.  My passions cannot rest solely in my domain; eventually they are birthed into the world and shape our community.  My fierce independence bumps into society whether I like it or not.  Independence and community fluidly circle back.  If I don’t embrace this, I will miss the point of my own gifts.   
I’m resolved to flip my strengths and explore their weakness.  This is a challenge that requires my full attention and as I’m writing I feel fear.  Can I really do this? 

I’m resolved to ask for help.  I promise to call my friends when I am lonely.  I’ll explore multiple voices and conflicting ideas.  I will pursue the tension between my goals and others. I’ll seek shared adventures where compromise creates the journey. I’ll seek complexity of networks.  I’ll build intentional community.
Ultimately, I’ll pursue the balanced tension in opposites because I suspect the rewards will be exponential.    


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dharma: The pursuit of life purpose

I love teaching and learning but at times it has treated me like an unfaithful lover, broken my heart, kicked me around and forced me to choose heartache or disengagement.   Lately, I have struggled with two choices:  

1.      leave education entirely 

2.      co-create a culture that would support the passion every teacher has for their profession. 

I surprised myself when I chose number 2. Actually, I did not mean to do that. Number 2 chose me. 
Thursday, April 19th 2012. I accomplished my biggest breakthrough professionally.   I presented the culmination of my professional and significant learnings  which exposed my raw heart with all its passions and heartbreak.   For me, it was momentous. 

This presentation represented a moment in my life when everything came together; the heartache and pain, the victory, the hopes.  I suddenly understood why I had bared the hardship and exhilaration at work. Why I read dearly loved books and studied concepts of transformation, social change, leadership, sustainable business, learning, education. 
My passions converged into what I term a pedagogy for a sustainable future based on hope, transformation, inclusion, action, empathy, connections, shared authority, lifelong learning and technology.  The pathway to which necessitates establishing trust, integrity, inclusiveness, relationships and renewal.  This requires a renewed appreciation for our profession.  Teaching and learning is a decidedly human endeavor, we do it because we love our disciplines, students and process.  We are motivated by love. 

As I spoke, my audience eyes welled with tears.  These were colleagues, faculty, deans, presidents, students.  Those shiny eyes made it hard to not break down.  I touched hearts and bared a glimmer of communal truth.  It was powerful. 
Dharma is the pursuit of life purpose.   Teaching and learning is my purpose.  For over ten years, I’ve been dedicated to my professional love.  That presentation represented a new level of my dedication and a renewed understanding of educational institutions and systems.  It reignited my sense of my purpose.   It realigned me with dharma. 

Why the presentation?  Potentially, a new job.  It is an entrepreneurial endeavor and an opportunity to reignite enthusiasm for teaching and learning on campus.  It is a chance to help faculty find, keep and fuel their passion.  I want it.  I realize now, that I’ve been prepped and pointed to it for most of my adult life.
But now I wait.   

Regardless of whether I get it or not, I accomplished a lot.  I touched people.  I challenged colleagues to think differently.  I placed a framework down that offers faculty a rejuvenated workplace and students a life as informed, engaged, empowered and courageous citizens. 
Afterwards, colleagues approached me and confessed that they want my vision and hope it can happen.  I want to prove that it can.  It is worthwhile challenge and exciting in its dynamic possibilities.

And more importantly, even while facing disillusionment and systemic apathy, I followed my dharma.