Archive for “April, 2012”

The two wings of the positive change agent

What is the relationship between creating positive change in the world and personal development?

From my perspective, each leads to the other.

Positive change work leads to personal development

In our efforts to make a difference or have an impact, we will run into our personal barriers: limiting beliefs about ourselves, or about the goodness of humanity, limits in our interpersonal skills or in our capacity to effectively handle change or a large volume of inputs. Our personal limitations will rise up and try to stare us down.

We can back down out of fear. Or we can avoid responsibility and blame circumstances, people, or institutions for our lack of effectiveness. But then we have missed an amazing opportunity for growth, and the possibility of making an even bigger difference.

A limiting belief

Some changemakers hold a disdain for working on ourselves because they see it as a distraction from “the important work.” But as I alluded to above, holding on to this belief keeps in the shadows the exact things that will help me make a bigger difference.

Personal development leads to positive change work

I’ve met people in the personal development space who come across as aloof or even disdainful of creating positive change in the world. This is some of what Terry Patten and Marco Morelli, co-authors of the book Integral Life Practice were getting at in their article Occupy Integral.

However, even a surface glance at the writings of the saints and mystics the world over and throughout the ages shows a strong emphasis on compassion and being of service.

Working on ourselves helps to expand our compassionate embrace to grow beyond just ourselves, our families, or people like us, to encompass all of humanity and beyond that other sentient beings. From a place of enormous purpose and compassion comes service.

A bigger issue of spiritual confusion

In Sex, Ecology, Spirituality philosopher Ken Wilber points out that for thousands of years there has been a war between two strands of spirituality: one “ascending” approach that emphasizes transcendence (Spirit is beyond this world), and a “descending” approach that emphasizes immanence (Spirit is everywhere, here-and-now).

His main point being that both are true and that a more integrated approach sees the value of both ascent and descent, both transcendence and immanence.

Embrace them both

Thus, the two wings of the positive change agent are “making a difference” and “becoming a better person.”

I work with people who have this dual commitment. My private coaching clients understand the importance of both.

In case you were thinking that one is more important than the other, think of them as two wings of a bird.

And take flight.

Imaginal cells

Caterpillars spend a relatively long and stable phase of their lives as caterpillars and then also a relatively long and stable period as a butterfly.

But it is the time in the cocoon that is shorter and full of extraordinary transformation.

Biologists found that there are cells in the caterpillar’s body which are activated in the cocoon, called imaginal cells, around which the new tissue that will become the butterfly-body begin to form.

It is the spaces in between the imaginal cells that experience chaos and re-absorption.

Some people have used this as an analogy for social change.

There are organizations, places, and people which are like the imaginal cells of a new culture that is emerging on planet Earth. I think of Bellingham (in Washington State), the Netherlands, Findhorn (in Scottland), Auroville (in India), Earthaven Ecovillage (in NorthCarolina), YES! Magzine, Seth Godin, Integral Institute, and many others.

And there are places rife with chaos and pain, torn apart during this massive cultural transition. I think of Juarez (in Mexico), hate groups in general, Syria, and many individuals lost and confused.

If you are part of the fabric of the new culture, or seek to be, begin to weave yourself into the places and groups where you truly belong.

Best advice I’ve ever gotten, part 1

At the age of 20, a very wise Outward Bound instructor said to me:

“Alan, you have a good cognitive mind. But I suggest you get some direct experience first-hand through meditation.

I’m not here to sell you on my technique or tradition.

Actually you need to go out there and ‘shop around’ – pardon the expression…

…you may need to sit with a particular technique or tradition for a few years to see if it’s for you.”

This is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

My job in this moment

Sometimes I lay awake at night, my wheels turning.

I just can’t stop thinking about this or that — and then I remind myself: “What is my job RIGHT NOW – in this very moment?” (The answer late at night in bed is sleep or at least rest.)

It’s often clarifying and stress-reducing to bring myself into the present, and get out of my head, by simplifying my perspective to the thing immediately in front of me.

Pre-empting confusion

I’ve been working hard, building the “Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program.”

This is an online program that will include about 50 training videos, monthly Q&A/Coaching calls, a live event (and a few extra surprises).

I’m very excited and I know this program will benefit many people!

But I realize the term Blackbelt may confuse a few.

In this case, the martial arts analogy refers to aikido more than karate or kung-fu.

Aikido is a martial art that is based, not on kicking somebody’s butt, but on neutralizing an attack in a way that preserves the integrity of both parties.

I’m a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent CommunicationTM, a process that is based on both deep compassion and radical authenticity — basically a form of communication aikido.

When we enter intense, fragile, or high-stakes situations, having a high level of mastery in our communication skills produces results that are exceptional. It is this level of mastery that I want to make accessible to increasing numbers of people who want it.

I’ll be launching the Blackbelt Communication Skills Coaching Program in the next few weeks with some free training videos that are sure to surpass the popularity of my video titled How to DO Empathy!

Meanwhile, I’m chomping at the bit – excited -, trying to get it all done…