It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and yet the impact was undeniably profound. In a very hot Aug. 2019 I participated with close to two hundred other participants in a four-day silent meditation retreat.  For me, the retreat was an effort to foster an appropriate disposition in the face of my professional VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment.  Not long before, I had been promoted at work and, knowing little about my new responsibilities, desired time to recalibrate. I am part of my academic department’s own VUCA as it transitions in organizational structure and seeks to extend its influence to India, China, Africa and the Middle East. Exciting as the venture is, establishing learning centers in these varied contexts is indeed proving to be volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In contrast, the stillness I experienced at the retreat amidst the stunning landscape of the Pacific Northwest’s mountains, sea and sky invited me to ponder and assess my role.  In retrospect, I realize the significant impact of stillness during those four days. A seemingly small yet profound insight I gleaned was related to the fact that the clock in the large meeting room was not working and if we were tempted to ask the time we were told ‘the time is now’!  I have taken this lesson with me to encourage me to work on being truly present and avoiding worry over things that have not yet happened. This is an example of how the meaning of the retreat followed the lived experience, which is similar to how stillness often works in the lives of practitioners. The stillness helped me reflectively prepare for a launch into the unknown and I left with a quiet confidence and motivation to engage the good work ahead – work that brings out the best in those who do it and aims to bring lasting benefits to others.

Stillness is a disruptive and important innovation for the busy professional in a VUCA environment. In the next five posts, I will explore the concepts of stillness.

The next post will offer an example of a business person who incorporates stillness in his professional life. The example sheds light on the discipline of stillness and how the development of a contemplative mind can serve the professional and the organization.

Next, stillness is defined and a brief outline of its connection to leadership provided.

Following this conceptual and theoretical base, persuasive benefits are given for leaders to create stillness in their own lives.

The fourth post suggests methods for incorporating stillness and identifies challenges as well as potential solutions for those interested in incorporating stillness as part of leading self and others in a VUCA world.

The final post offers some concluding thoughts on stillness.