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On leadership and healing



Follow this dog's lead.

Healing is living. Athletes know this; a hard day in the gym or on the field must be followed by rest, massage, good nutrition. Mountaineers don't charge up endlessly; they acclimatize. I've been reading a variety of pieces by athletes describing their routines and habits, and without fail, rest is included in the routines.

Those of you who are leaders in your communities or in movements, paying attention to the whims and caprices of politics, I ask you (or challenge you, whatever appeals to you) to take up this practice and build rest into your work.

It's hard. Why? Not because there's so much work, although that's true. No, it's hard because there's so much ego. And nothing feeds ego more than the fear that someone else is going to show up as a better, faster leader. Someone else will tweet a witty comment about the latest White House gaffe, idiocy, excuse, or evil; someone else will announce a world-changing partnership or their new leadership role or their amazing new job. Or perhaps you're more internally focused (this is another way our egos show up)-- there are a million things left to do at work and you need to be a good colleague and finish them. Or maybe you personally won't be able to sleep until you put XYZ project to bed first.

There are a million reasons/excuses to not rest. But a real lesson I've taken from reading mountaineering stories in particular-- even if the summit is in sight, if they're not ready to scale it, then they turn around.

To me, it's a wonderful example of spirit and maturity and humility, the ability to say no to one objective and to say yes to another. To back off in one place so you can rest, and then maybe advance in another. Or not.

The trick is to figure out when to rest. I have found benefit in five minute meditations anytime. The more I put it off, the worse I feel. So I tell myself, "Don't put it off; take a minute or five or ten or however many you need to sit with yourself and just be." Even if there's no acute trouble (or maybe especially when there's no acute trouble), the thing to do even still is rest. I've found it works to just breathe and pretend you're a rock or a tree for awhile. I'm not kidding; there's wisdom in this kind of rootedness and silence and stillness that we lose from constant distraction and constant movement.

Pretend you're a rock and that your only job is to sit there. Let the wind blow, let the phone ding. You're a rock. After awhile, the places that are hurt will let themselves be seen, and let themselves be healed. You'll figure out how. And after awhile, you will bring this steadiness right into your work and the rest of your life. A rock doesn't react immediately to the nonsense around it. Giving yourself that space is the beginning of very good healing, and leading.


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