I'm feeling privileged to have attended a private dialogue with Margaret Wheatley yesterday while she was on a brief visit to Sydney from Utah.
Deep gratitude to Robyn Katz from Talkpoint for hosting us!
For more than 40 years, Meg Wheatley has worked globally in many different roles, as a speaker, teacher, consultant, advisor, and formal leader.
She believes that leaders must learn how to evoke people's inherent generosity, creativity, and need for community. As this world tears us apart, she considers that sane leadership on behalf of the human spirit is the only way forward.
She is the author of nine books, from the classic Leadership and the New Science in 1992 to her newest book (June 2017) Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity.
Meg opened the evening by asking "What time is it on the clock of the world?" and then added: "If we don't have an answer to that, we'll just keep doing what we're doing until we realise that all systems are failing. They no longer deliver the services they were created for. They are just busy maintaining themselves. If we don't wake up and ask: "what's going on?" we'll miss our chance to act in time.
This might be our invitation to deeply listen to the wisdom of the indigenous people of the land, here is an extract attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder:
"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered . . .
-Where are you living?
-What are you doing?
- What are your relationships?
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader."
Margaret Wheatley then shared this poem from the Hopi:
"There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for."
She said: "We have two choices in any of our activities for how we choose to live: we are either destroying life, or creating life".
Meg Wheatley encourages life-affirming leadership. Instead of asking "What is the kind of leadership that will take us out of this mess?", she suggests to change the question to: "What is the kind of leader that I choose to be?". We might not be able to turn things around, but we can be human beings who are willing to serve, and choose to be compassionate and available to those who require our presence.
Margaret Wheatley considers that we are in an invisible war, one of devastating policies and continued destruction and invites us to ask ourselves: "What am I preparing for? What are the characteristics of being strong and useful? How do I define usefulness? How can I be peaceful and compassionate for people who feel afraid and anxious?". She invites us to do our inner work to not get caught up in fear. We have to be prepared so we are not torn apart, we need to constantly bring ourselves to sanity and humaneness. Become far less reactive and more stable. In the face of hardship, instead of hardening, can we soften, relax and yield?
As Robyn said, "we have to adopt a "touch and let go" approach" and not make things personal. We can detach by naming the emotions we recognise, by saying for example: "There is suffering", instead of "I am suffering", or "There is pain", instead of "I'm in pain".
"Our action needs to be detached from outcomes" says Margaret Wheatley and adds that hope is not the thought that something will go well but the conviction that something is worth doing, no matter how it turns out. She said that if she was to have a gravestone, that's what she would like to see engraved on it: "We were together. I forget the rest".
Margaret Wheatley emphasised our need to build community rather than just gather with a group of like-minded people. Community requires trust and commitment. We have to pay exquisite attention to relationships and be available for each other in times of need.
Robyn closed the evening by reading this poem by William J. Crocker:
"If this is not a place where tears are understood,
Where do I go to cry?
If this is not a place where my spirits can take wing,
Where do I go to fly?
If this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
Where do I go to seek?
If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard,
Where do I go to speak?
If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am,
Where can I go to be?
If this is not a place where I can try to learn and grow,
Where can I be just me?
I endeavour to offer such a place to each one of you to be yourselves, so if you want to have a chat at anytime about anything that is arising in you, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org