Three years ago, I temporarily stopped taking on new work. I was turning 60 and planned to go on retreat in January and February 2020. Whilst existing clients would readily accommodate this absence, it felt unfair to new clients to do a couple of sessions and then disappear. In addition, I wished create space to acknowledge a threshold into the latter stages of working life: what were the implications of this? I intended to return to work in the spring, albeit with different emphasis.
We all know what happened next… and my emerging plans came to nothing as the world changed. And then changed again. And again.
Since March 2020, I’ve experienced ups and downs in my orientation to both life and work. Initially, I was accepting and positive – in the first lockdown, I felt we were genuinely in this together and it lengthened my period of pausing, reflecting, regrouping. Then I was cautiously proactive, although my workshops involve touch and remained off-limits. As time marched on, key people in my network retired and I became quite deflated, finding it difficult to make new relationships without being in someone’s presence.
I became ambivalent about my direction of travel, losing my usual clarity about my purpose, the contribution I want to make. Sometimes I even thought I might stop my client work and focus on writing.
Then, this year, I connected with a profound desire to continue to support, challenge and resource others in their work. I began to extend outwards and offer in-person workshops, adapting and trying again when these didn’t populate.
However, over time it became harder to find the energy to start again – because I am starting again. More generally, I think we’re all starting again – at a time when many of us are weary and depleted. We’re trying to find our feet as the world moves towards a different relationship with coronavirus. In addition, the losses, illness, restrictions and disruptions that we’ve endured have taken their toll. And in the background, many of us remain anxious about getting Covid, so things we’d have looked forward to in 2019 may now be tinged with trepidation. It can feel harder to take the plunge and commit to an activity – even when it’s something we’d like to do.
In this context and with some reservations, I signed up for two events this summer – some Buddhist teachings postponed from 2020 and a Leadership Embodiment (LE) retreat with Wendy Palmer at Samye Ling. I’m so glad I did. Neither experience was free of challenge, but each inspired and resourced me. The Buddhist teachings will inform me for years to come. And, in the short term, being back in touch (literally) with embodied practices changes everything. I’ve been viscerally reminded of their role in helping me meet adversity, extend my reach, navigate uncertainty and connect with an aligned resolve.
For me, the essence of LE practices is finding agency in a situation, however unpalatable it seems. One of Wendy’s tenets is:
‘We don’t have to like a situation, but we do need to be able to function within it.’
The heart of LE is to acknowledge the impact that demands, set-backs or other pressures have on us, and to use a brief centring practice to change our relationship to a presenting difficulty. This gives us options and expands our capacity to access resources and fulfil our potential (to paraphrase one definition of ‘agency’).
Wendy also says:
‘Energy organises around what is most articulate in the system.’
The essence of this principle is expressed in other sayings such as ‘energy follows interest’ and ‘what we resist, persists’. In Wendy’s framing, what I find valuable is the phrase ‘what is most articulate in the system’. This enhances my agency because I can influence what I make most articulate in my system/being by clarifying a positive intention, which I then repeat until it becomes compelling.
On Wendy’s retreat, I refined an intention to resource others by sharing Leadership Embodiment practices with them.
The next step is to reiterate these words until my energy (and that of the world) organises around them and actions arise.
- What are the current dominant narratives in your life/system?
- What do you choose to make most articulate in your being?