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Breaking Open

These past few weeks I have been taking nothing for granted. I find that pain puts things into perspective - it brings me into presence and down to my knees…

I am humbled by the vastness of the suffering in our world. There are no words equal to the tragedy of this moment and to the depth and complexity of the wound it is creating and perpetuating.

A wound that is bigger than all of us and that lives within each of us.

Nothing can redeem the horrors that we’re seeing. I only pray that within this brokenheartedness there lies the possibility of a breakthrough. That for every life that is being blown apart there are eyes and minds being blown open. That this pain can pierce through the numbness that leads us to collude with forces of oppression and division, and that it can deepen our capacity to listen with our hearts.

May this barrage of grief tenderise our meaty minds and make them soft, and supple,

and kind. And may learn to find each other in that field our ancient brother Rumi wrote about - the one that lies beyond ideas of right and wrong…

Will you meet me there?

First we’ll have to cross the gaping chasm of despair and division that separates us. We’ll have to learn to trust each other again. To extend warm hands in the hope of friendship. With the aching knowing that the only redemption we’ll find in this life will be through the loving eyes of another.

Rather than looking down on, or up to others, can we learn to look into them? And get curious about the world that they inhabit?

For no matter our differing ideologies and beliefs, each one of us has a heart that beats, and that loves and that grieves. Each one of us is enacting some version of what it means to be human.

In times of extreme polarisation it can be hard to feel connected to the shared ground of our humanity. And that is why it is more important than ever. We have to work together to sew stitches through the gaping wound of separation.

This wound that is bigger than all of us and that lives within each of us.

I’m not gonna lie, there’s been moments within this past month where despair and hopelessness have come knocking at my door. And all I could do was lie on the floor…

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that - sometimes collapse is necessary to keep going.

And it’s better to stop and soften than to harden in order to persevere. Because if we act from a place of emotional disconnection, we are much more likely to perpetrate harm.

A question that I’m holding at the moment is how do I respond from within my heartbreak rather than resisting it?

(Implicit in this is the sense that responses are chosen, whereas reactions are compulsions, and that compulsive behaviour is generally a form of defence against suffering.) Parker Palmer’s framing of the ‘Tragic Gap’ and our strategies to avoid it, speaks to this in a powerful way:

The tendency, when we’re standing in the tragic gap, is to flip out on one side or the other… On one side of the tragic gap is corrosive cynicism, on the other is irrelevant idealism. Corrosive cynicism and irrelevant idealism look very different, but they both take us out of the action.

Cynicism and idealism take us out of the action because they are reactions to the pain of the world, rather than responses to it. Cynics armour themselves against the aching beauty of the world and the glimmer in their hearts that something else is possible, by turning down their life force and settling for reality in its lowest common denominator. Idealists run away from the pain of the world by creating a smoke and mirrors defence of affirmations and denials.

The cynic is weighed down and closed off; the idealist is floating and deflecting; neither are both grounded and open, which means that neither are response-able. Of course the cynic and idealist are in all of us. And we are all prone to flip out on one side or the other regularly. Holding the tension between the two, and finding the third way, requires the patience and steadfastness to sit with discomfort and not grasp too quickly for a solution or position that would resolve it.

What inner resources can we draw upon to find strength and stamina to do this?
Where can we find the courage necessary to show up for the vital work of ‘suffering together’? (Com-passion)

These are some of the key questions that guide my ongoing enquiry into soulful leadership…

In January I am starting a three month Soulful Leadership container. In this new format the calls will be shorter and the journey will be longer, which means less intense zoom sessions and more time to integrate the knowledge. I’ll be alternating between seminars and discussion groups, which I’m hoping will allow people to engage in the way that is most relevant and useful to them.

My intention is to create a space of mutual enrichment that is not just about learning and personal unfoldment, but that can also act as a space of ongoing support, accountability and sanctuary. If you’re curious but unsure if this is right for you, feel free to book a discovery call with me.

In the meantime, I am also offering a new event called Welcoming the Dark, in which I will combine meditation, spoken word and ritual to create a deep, soulful journey… Join me to commune with the darkness, and through the darkness to connect to the seed of light within you - your deep, soulful, imaginal self.


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