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China: Courage & Renewal

I am profoundly grateful for the invitation to be here in China and to guide a series of programs exploring authentic leadership, effective communication, personal wholeness, and professional integrity at House of I (near Yanqing). I am based at this remarkable holistic organization, ecovillage-in-the-making, new property development and sustainable living center that serves as the host for these programs. My home here is located about two hours’ drive away from the bustling metropolis of Beijing. It is a vivid contrast to that thriving city: a quieter, beautiful and serene setting against a backdrop of mountains.

A few insights have crystalized after this first month of what will be four months of facilitating Courage & Renewal leadership experiences in China. At the heart of these insights has been a validation that, beyond our significant cultural differences, we share a longing for courage to act on our true callings. We want to have relationships based on trust. We need healthy practices that can feed our motivation and make it possible to thrive. We long to lovingly transform our organizations, our communities and our societies. I continue to be inspired by the dedicated hopefulness and determination of the leaders I have encountered here.

I arrived with limited assumptions about the country, the people and the culture. I knew so little about China. I still know very little about this vast nation with millennia of history. It is easy to have ‘beginner’s mind’ when I am an authentic beginner! I am glad for this.

I did notice that before I left Canada and as I began to inform a few people about this opportunity, I bumped into a few biases and beliefs about China. I am aware of some of the media stories that are told in North America. I noticed that among some strange reactions that there was a surprise that I was being invited to facilitate programs that focused on individual growth and development: on personal integrity and ‘leading from within’. I did not know to be surprised and trusted an invitation to respond. What I have discovered has been a profound readiness and openness to what I am offering in these deeply reflective circles.

It is my first experience of relying on a translator to communicate what I am trying to say. I have valued the discipline: the need for a greater patience in being understood, the ongoing opportunity to check in with my heart and mind, the greater attentiveness to what is happening in the circle, and the gentler pace of speaking in turn as I wait for Hugh to speak words I do not understand. I love noticing the thoughtful reflective energy and nuance in his voice.

I have also found a far greater depth in the poems and readings I brought with me as we go through the process of translation and reading aloud. Some of these poems are old friends who have accompanied me in previous circles. I have found new revelations from the familiar, as we prepare our sessions by discussing how to transform and retain the meaning of these readings across the gap of language and culture. I honor how Hugh thinks to include the ancient Chinese version of the Taoist story: ‘The Woodcarver’, alongside the contemporary English and modern Chinese versions. It reminds me of the simplicity and power of a true human story that continues to offer fresh challenges across so many centuries of telling.

I have also been asked to do more individual coaching of leaders than I had thought I would do. This too has been a rewarding surprise.

Beijing is my go-to place on days off. I love the variety of the food, the smells and life of the alley and streets as I get to know a few neighborhoods, hopping on a cheap bike to explore, and praying in the holy places that are scattered around the city. Some new and delightful friends are appearing in Yanqing and in Beijing: teachers, screenwriters and computer animators. The dinner invitations for hot pot, bbq and espresso at the workplace have been a gift. And it seems that each invitation opens up doors for another.

I am glad that I said yes to Sean to consider this opportunity. I join in wonder with the multitudes of others who have pondered what being in another culture might have to reveal and uncover. So far, so good! And I remain open to what emerges next.


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