This penultimate 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.
Harvard Business Review authors Talbot-Zorn and Marz (2017) wrote a blog titled “The busier you are, the more you need quiet time”. There are many ways to incorporate stillness such as looking at or making art, yoga, meditation, prayer, listening to or creating music, walking in nature, journaling or reading. Additional investment may be required for media fasts or meditation retreats. Holiday (2019) dedicates an entire chapter to limiting your inputs. During a busy workday taking even 5 minutes of quiet time can clear your head for more perceptive and creative engagement. Some use a chime, a singing bowl or a phone timer. It doesn’t much matter since the discipline can’t be reduced to a technique; it’s different for each person. I recall during the meditation retreat that my rhythmic breathing had a sleep-inducing effect and I fell asleep. It took discipline to stay alert and fully engage the work of meditation but I slowly got better by paying more attention to my posture and attuning my focus rather than allowing my thoughts to go everywhere.
During times of stillness Benefiel (2019) suggests we might reflect on these or similar questions:
- What is driving me?
- What is driving us as an organization?
- What part of my leadership is ego?
- What part is desire for self-perpetuation?
- What will help me/our organization see blindspots?
After a stressful incident involving judgment, criticism, rejection or loss, Holiday (2019, p.164, 218) suggests an appraise-reappraise method inclusive of the following prompts during a time of stillness:
- What happened? What am I feeling? What am I thinking?
- Can I be absolutely sure that the way I am seeing the situation is really true?
- How can I view this situation differently so that it causes me less stress or self-doubt?
- In this challenging situation, what is it that I’m here to learn?
- How can I better connect with this person?
- How can I express myself?
- How can I best serve?
There are certainly challenges with incorporating stillness. Finding time, lack of understanding or suspicion of others may prevent us from even starting, while distractions and competing demands may make it hard to continue. The best advice from practitioners and authorities alike seems to be to keep with it, return to the practice, savour it and be gentle with yourself. Off-beat advice that will at least bring a smile to our efforts comes from Ron Rolheiser, an Oblate priest: “Fear not, you are inadequate!” with the implication to keep trying and not give up (2019). It is helpful to recall that we are indeed ‘works in progress’ as German theologian Karl Rahner reminds: “In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable, we ultimately learn that in this life there is no finished symphony” (Rolheiser, 1994).
Benefiel, M. (2019). Conscious Leadership as a Spiritual Journey. [online] Shalem Institute. Available at: https://shalem.org/2019/05/01/conscious-leadership-as-a-spiritual-journey [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].
Holiday, R. (2019). Stillness is the key : an ancient strategy for modern life. London: Profile Books.
Rolheiser, R. (1994). The Insufficiency of Everything Attainable. Ron Rolheiser, OMI. Available at: https://ronrolheiser.com/the-insufficiency-of-everything-attainable/#.Xk4rcBd7nRY [Accessed -21 Sep. 2019].
Rolheiser, R. (2019). A Spirituality for Steadiness and Sanity. [Conference, St. Mark’s College, Vancouver, British Columbia].
Talbot-Zorn, J. and Marz, L. (2017). The Busier you are, the More you need Quiet Time. Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-busier-you-are-the-more-you-need-quiet-time [Accessed 19 Feb. 2020].