Many things have power - questions, for example. A good question can open doorways to expansive vistas previously undiscovered, utterly transforming my perception of a situation or, often what is most needed, of myself.
Space has power, too. The physical environment I put myself in, day in day out, can massively affect how peaceful I feel, the kind of thoughts I think, and the levels of energy that flow through my body. I'm learning this only too well at the moment, in polarized ways: my new home environment is a haven, and when I land here with presence and attention, it is expansive and spacious. My work environment, on the other hand, is cluttered and awkward. We've seriously outgrown our two person office, and are in desperate need of moving elsewhere. When we do move, I plan to take ownership of my space: plants, crystals, a Buddha statue. In doing so, I acknowledge that it is not just myself that I'll be affecting. A Course in Miracles says two key things about this:
1. Everyone teaches, and teaches all the time.
2. To teach is to demonstrate.
As a newly appointed Chief Executive, I am seeing so clearly how much influence my choices have on those working with me. If my explicit words and actions are not matched by my unconscious thoughts and beliefs, something is out of alignment, and I can bleat on until the cows come home about this or that, but it is the unspoken thoughts and energies that will teach each member of the team what is expected of them. My decision then has to be whether these will be loving or fearful thoughts and beliefs. Do I want to lead with love, or fear? I think you know the answer to that one as much as I do. You probably also know that I'm prone to fear, self-doubt, and a host of other ego-driven thoughts. My decision is the foundation on which my action and leadership will depend.
That is why today - Saturday - I have chosen not to work on the budget that is due in on Tuesday evening. If it's late, so be it (I'll do it when I'm at work, perhaps?!), but this week I witnessed one of my staff getting seriously stressed, working long hours and ending up utterly exhausted come Friday morning. It upset me and showed me with crystal clarity the inevitability of my unconscious value system eventually influencing my team. I've been working hard, long and somewhat stressfully, and already, just a few weeks into managing a fantastic woman who simply is enough, I've started to teach her that somehow, she isn't. To what extent have I been teaching that to myself, this makes me wonder? The answer is so apparent that it surfaces even before I've finished answering the question.
Being a woman in business is something I have felt both incredibly drawn to, and incredibly repelled by in almost equal measure over the last few years. I have witnessed so many of my female friends take seemingly fabulous jobs that, six months down the line, result in them winding up stressed, taking tablets, ill, out of balance. Yesterday, I sat in a cafe doing my weekly review (more on that another time), to hear a woman being grilled interviewed in what I can only describe as a repugnant style. The man interviewing her did no favours to men everywhere, reinforcing the old, outworn stereotypes of what the 'man's world' of business looks like - aim for the top, stop at nothing to get there, your best is never good enough, keep trying until you burn out and then try harder still, and never show any weakness.
I find myself so often driven by unconscious messages I absorb simply from being out and about in the world. I don't read women's magazines because they leave me feeling inadequate, worthless, ugly and unloveable, but I nevertheless compare my hair / make up / body / clothes / shoes / posture / breasts / waist / handbag / confidence to almost every woman I meet - instantaneously, a mechanicized reaction developed over years and years of self-attack and comparison.
Now, stepping into a role of leadership, I find myself feeling the pressure of responsibility for whole areas of a business that just a few months ago I had absolutely nothing to do with. Am I ready for this?, I wonder. And, how on earth did this happen?! How did I go from being an intern to a CEO?
But perhaps, perhaps, these aren't the most fruitful questions for me to be asking. So today, here at my antique writing bureau in my peaceful home, I open myself to new questions.
Seeing as I've been led into a position of leadership, how, as a woman, can I teach and learn something different to the destructive societal messages saying that I have to be like a man in order to succeed like one?
What, from the last few years of creative self-expression, adventurousness and playful innocence, can I bring with me into this role?
How can I be fully alive in my work?
What legacy would I like to leave for the team I lead?
What is my purpose? What are my values? Who do I admire and want to emulate? How can I be an authentic leader?
I'm reading a fantastic book called "Success Intelligence" by Dr. Robert Holden. His book contains many such questions, encouraging a deep and searching enquiry into the very notion of success. I find that for me, success means that I gave my best to a situation, relationship or project without sacrificing what is truly important to me.
Recently, I have been sacrificing meditation time in the morning. I have been sacrificing writing on my blog. I have been sacrificing connecting in my relationship. For my work. But my work has suffered because I've been rushing, pushing, efforting instead of flowing.
It's time for me to dance to a different tune. In doing this, I am shedding generations of expectation, assumption and demand. This is no easy task. But I did not get clean and sober 9 years ago to live half a life. I am not on this planet to work myself into the ground. I am here to sparkle, to shine, to spread love and joy and peace. I am here to dance, to sing, to watch the birds and breathe and connect and appreciate. And when I do these things, the emails I write, the projects I manage, the people I lead, will be thought-full and full of heart, and that will make all the difference.
Today then, I am choosing again. I have been for a singing lesson. I've not bothered to shower yet. I've eaten a delicious breakfast and lunch. I plan to run this afternoon, and read, and lie in our fabulous bed for a bit. This evening, I'm doing a walk on part in a play and then taking my seat in the audience to watch the rest of it. It's Saturday, the sun is shining, and life is inviting me into softness, stillness and balance. No effort required.
An illumined conversation with Nige this morning helped me redress the idea of restoring balance within myself. What I'm doing today is what the weekend is for: resting, playing, cleaning up, reading, connecting, strolling, exploring, lazing, writing, bathing, meditating, dancing, laying on the grass, making tea, emptying the mind, and generally living life. It is not, when you work all day Monday to Friday, for working!
Nige's homemade lentil soup, with carrots, kale, red onions, garlic, miso, pumpkin seeds, good oil, tamari and beetroot. Perhaps even tastier on the second day. Gobbled up in minutes, every bite savoured. My body sighs in the grateful nutritiousness given to it.
Endless gazing deep into his beautiful, wolfish eyes. I could be with you for eternity.
A heart pounding, rhythmic, energizing run around our new village. My new trainers were so worth the £90 I paid for them.
No more surround sound underneath my bedroom, invading my moments of quiet with gunshots and MTV. Instead, the hum of the fridge - our hum, our fridge - and the coo of birds on the roof.
Space. Quiet. Home. Long overdue, yet here, right now - and I'm here, right now, soaking it deep into my being, allowing myself the awareness that I totally deserved to allow this to happen.
Being true to myself and honouring that I needed this, this day of stillness, this day of solitude. Lovingly cancelling my plans, and turning my eyes towards the dawning awareness that perhaps I need this day to be empty every single week at the moment.
Honesty of the brutal kind, through which gushes a torrent of emotion, deeply held beliefs, and - yes! - me emerging again, bruised but not broken, innocent, vulnerable and tender. Witnessed. Supported. Seen. Safe. Loved.
Utter heart wrench as I watch the devastation wrought on Japan. A decision to donate, to contribute, to be open to my part.
Your Voice, for never leaving me, for never forsaking me. Please be with them too.
Incredible friends who write and create with such beauty that it changes my life.
For all this, I am indescribably grateful.
It's good to be back. What gratitude are you nurturing today?