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A Hidden Wholeness: Leading from Within

“…The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and in human responsibility. Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better…and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed—be it ecological, social, demographic or a general breakdown of civilization—will be unavoidable.” Vaclav Havel (in an address to the U.S. Congress, 1990)

I continue to wonder about the nature and possibilities of the human heart. This wonderment has been stimulated further from my experiences in China these past four months.

Facilitating programs for leaders in China is now held in my memory and imagination in a creative tension with my work with thousands of people that I have guided in small intimate circles and larger gatherings over the past several years in North America. And Havel’s haunting challenge to the US Congress, in light of what I have been learning from my ongoing provincial political engagement, have left me with even more questions.

How do I adapt to societal and organizational pressures?

How do I expose and accommodate myself to them without becoming deformed by them?

How do I not contribute any longer to the critical failures of our organizations and institutions?

How do I become more active in ‘the immune response of the planet’?

Where do humility, chutzpah, hope, courage, passion and compassion come from?

What is the potential for a small group of awakened leaders to realize a global revolution in consciousness?

I value the invitation from the leaders at the educational center Hollyhock to guide a four day experience in May of 2019. The title of the program, A Hidden Wholeness: Leading from Within, derives from the evocative language of the Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton and the title of my mentor and friend Parker J. Palmer’s book on small group practice.

“There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness.”

One truth I can describe from the diverse human stories heard in these workshops and program these past years is this: there is a built-in longing to be who we are. This is the ongoing discovery of our unique self-hood and wholeness: limitations and strengths; success and failure; visible and hidden; shadow and light.

Coming to terms with our brokenness reveals the hidden wholeness beneath the broken pieces of our lives and communities. This is the hard work of sustained spiritual practice. This awareness grows from a lifelong unfolding of becoming generative. We can then provide life-giving leadership from the guidance of a whole, broken and humble heart: our only reliable source of inner wisdom.

Our diverse spiritual traditions reveal a singular truth: despite the old worn-out narratives we may repeat, we are not the powerless victims of society. We co-exist in a dance of interactions between what is ‘outside’ and what is ‘inside’. This is even more the case for those of us who experience political freedom, education, wealth, and privilege. There is no ultimate constraint of an all-powerful destiny imposed on us by external powers, unless we choose to surrender our freedom to these powers.

Yet, this is not to deny the power of fear and heartbreak. The pressures of the external world, the demands of difficult roles in our organizations, and the day-to-day challenges of relationships are hard realities that affect us. They do. Yet our wise elders remind us that we also corrupt, lend power and sustain these pressures, demands and challenges by projecting our inner world onto them. We can learn to interact with them death-dealing or in life-giving ways.

If our relationships, organizations, workplaces and politics are reactive and resistant to change, it is because our fear has empowered these reactions; If they are aggressive, harmful and competitive, it is stimulated by our lust for success and winning at all costs; if they are cruel and destructive, it is a lack of compassion within us.

Parker Palmer inspires me to consider what choices I am making in the knowledge of these realities. He writes:

We can make choices about what we are going to project, and with those choices we help grow the world that is. Consciousness precedes being: consciousness, yours and mine, can form, deform, or reform our world. Our complicity in world-making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility—and a source of profound hope for change. It is the ground of our common call to leadership, the truth that makes leaders of us all.

–from Parker’s book Let Your Life Speak

If you share this longing and this wonderment, please join me for how we might grow the world that is. Together we will consider how we continue to form, deform and reform our world. You are invited to these four days guided by principles and practices of a ‘Circle of Trust’: a safe, respectful, quiet, and disciplined space. The invitation offered is to help one another realize our freedom, identity, dimmed light, and our hidden wholeness.


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