Posts Tagged change

Whoosh! The Bottleneck Was Removed

Just last week I sat with pools of dread, unsure how this Acting Director business would unfold.

It’s unfolding with a quick rush of energy. When a bottleneck is removed, things flow more quickly than normal. Work to shift staff and projects into place – work I thought might take a couple of weeks – was complete in three days.

The layer of dread has lifted, revealing a well of unprocessed frustration, anger, and inadequacy. Frustration and anger at past work situations where there was too much work, too much hard, not enough resources, not enough capacity. Inadequacy when I left that anger unexpressed, internalized it, and then endlessly analyzed “what’s wrong with me that I can’t handle this?” It’s still sitting heavy in my chest, just to the left of my sternum. My heart burns.

Slightly Future Me knows how this gets resolved. She is on the other side, the side where I’m not bringing quite so many unprocessed feelings to the table. The side where I’m expressing my frustration and anger appropriately, as a way to set clear boundaries and forge strong opinions.

What does Slightly Future Me have to say?

SFM: Oh! I am so much closer than you think. I’m so close, we barely have anything to talk about.

Me: But it feels like there’s still so much chest pain. It’s hard to believe that won’t take weeks to clear.

SFM: Remember the whoosh of energy when a bottleneck is removed? It’s not just about the organizational bottleneck. You’ve removed an internal bottleneck, a big one we’ve been working on for ages. Things that seem like they should take weeks are going to be done in days.

Me: Is there anything I can do to keep supporting it?

SFM: Meditation – just sitting with it and letting it unwind. Maybe try those trauma release exercises too.

Me: Is there anything else I can do to leave you little presents to make your day better?

SFM: Our weekend plans fell through … it would be lovely to make some new ones. And shimmy pop! And spend some time mucking in details this week – clean out the inbox and the phone messages please! Also, we should schedule a conversation with a slightly-future-version of me. Our next challenge is another layer of inadequacy around connecting with great spiritual beings who we need to call on for help.

Me: I thought we were already working on inadequacy? And it was going to be resolved soon?

SFM: Yes, we’re working on inadequacy/anger. This next layer is inadequacy/needs. There are lots of aspects of inadequacy for us to deal with. One of the many perils of living in a capitalist culture, with 24/7 media telling us that we aren’t good enough.

Me: Grrrrrr.

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Now Is Not Then

This week, I find myself poised to be named Acting Director at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. It’s a temporary solution to support another staff member who will be on leave. We’re hoping this distribution of leadership will jump start our intended move to a staff collective this year.

I feel deeply honored to be asked to step up in this way. And deeply in awe of everything that has unfolded over the past two years, since I decided to move to the Bay Area to be more connected day to day with socially engaged Buddhists. I’m in an even more strategic position to fulfill my dream of trying out new models of governance in a Buddhist organization.

But it’s not all easy. I’ve been sitting with a lot of dread in my chest and throat, a sense of fear and trepidation about what I am getting myself into.

A certain amount of this is normal. There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get it all done in a 40 hour work week. There are a lot of unanswered questions about how much others will be able to step up to help. I may be shouldering a lot in the next few weeks.

But a large part of this is not about now.

1. What does this remind me of?

So much of this is unprocessed anger and fear from my past experience with nonprofits. Some of it is directed outward at nonprofits that continue to work people until they burn out, unwilling to make the hard decisions that would make our work more sustainable. Some of it is directed toward me too – can I trust myself to really take care of myself this time?

2. How is now not then?

Now – I have a huge set of practices that I didn’t even have a clue about when I was last an executive director. Meditation, compassion, equanimity, lovingkindness. When I learned those practices, I was blown away. “If only I had known about these when I was a director, my experience would have been completely different!” Now I get to learn just how different they might be.

Now – I work in an environment that supports me in using these practices. Even ASKS me to incorporate these practices throughout my work.

Now – I also have a whole set of practices for interacting with my stuff. Talking with monsters and walls, learning the patterns with Shiva Nata, emergency calming techniques, how to enter and exit consciously. And a million other helpful things that I had never even heard about, much less practiced for the past year or more.

Now – I know going in the problems of burnout, overwork, and how nonprofits struggle to make hard decisions. I can enter as I wish to be in it. Which probably means doing less, more slowly, but more deeply. There will be more practice of saying no to say yes.

3. What qualities do I want to bring to this encounter?

Courage. Love. Sovereignty. Possibility.

Presence. Laughter. Sustainability. Fierceness.

4. What do I want?

To midwife the organization into its next iteration. To stay open to not knowing what that actually looks like or how much of this process is mine to do.

To find my practices of self care so solid, so natural, that I stop telling the story that “I can not be trusted to take care of myself.”

5. What do we have in common?

(I’m reading this as “what do I have in common with this role of Acting Director”). Ten things:

  1. We meditate
  2. We use other self-reflective practices to bring our best selves to work
  3. We open our hearts with practices of compassion, loving kindness, joy & equanimity
  4. We’re interested in non-hierarchial leadership models
  5. We need to get more rooted after a period of transition
  6. We need to not get so rooted that we can’t still be transplanted as things continue to transition
  7. We need to ask for help from others as a way to be less hierarchical
  8. We are both terrified and hopeful about the future of the organization
  9. We are walking forward into a dark forest full of unknowns, slowly feeling our way
  10. We are resting in a larger field of interconnected, supportive people.

6. And how will this experience help me in the future?

I will certainly be learning a lot more about my practices of self care. Even if they completely fall apart, I’ll have new information about how to retool my self care tools to be more effective the next time.

I also am getting another set of lessons about nonprofit management. Even if things completely fall apart, I’ll have new information about what works and doesn’t work when trying to shore up a nonprofit.

7. Without having to appreciate this situation, what might be useful about it?

I don’t love that I’m feeling so much dread about taking on this role. I wish I could be unabashedly enthusiastic about it.

But having to process this old dread is really forcing me to think about how critical my self-care is going to be in this, and how important it’s going to be for me to start saying no to many upcoming things. I’m wanting to carve out lots of time for self care and reflection. And I wouldn’t be quite so intentional about this if it didn’t feel quite so dire.

8. What might help this encounter be less agonizing more harmonious?

I could ask Slightly Future Me who knows more about how we are aligned with this role of Acting Director in cool and amazing unanticipated ways.

I could refresh my memory of some good Emergency Calming Techniques, so they are easy to access when I am in a panic.

I could make a bag of slips specific to self care, and pull one out every day plus every time I find myself in a panic.

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(D)anger

Basilisk
Creative Commons License photo credit: asra_valorshon

Yesterday’s post on anger as a force for change sparked some spirited discussion among my facebook friends. One of the most brilliant and successful community activists I know said it best, “The problem is with this idea of ‘transmuting’ anger – like it must be changed or named something different (like judgment) to be ‘okay’ or ‘good.’ …. My anger simply is. And I will not call it anything but what it is – anger (and sometimes rage). No ‘transmuting’ for me because if my anger is the power that moves me then our anger can move the world.”

Anger is not my strong suit. Part of me has worked hard to be more comfortable with anger. But there is part of me that would feel happiest safest if I could just eliminate anger altogether. Some small part of me still links anger with danger. While I’ve found no etymological connection between these two words, the small ‘d’ that separates them evokes words like disaster, dire, deadly.

Yet I know this is my own reactivity. Instead of seeing anger plainly, I see it through the fear-soaked lizard brain that runs for cover, certain I’m going to be eaten. And perhaps this response ensures that I am eaten – hiding under the couch, eaten up inside that I couldn’t respond appropriately to anger. I might as well have served as someone’s fuel for all the good I’m able to do from under the couch.

To by angry in both smart and heart-felt ways, I first need to relish the full enjoyment of anger. What makes anger gorgeous? Who does anger well? When am I overjoyed to hear an angry word? More thoughts to come, and I would appreciate hearing what you love about anger!

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Change Only Comes from Suffering

Sun Showers and Rainbow

Creative Commons License photo credit: SearchNetMedia

This said, I don’t believe that you can have a rainbow without a storm first, and unfortunately, I don’t believe that it is the nature of man to substantially change without the aid of what I call “legitimate suffering” ….  increasingly these days there is a lot of economic pain being felt around the world. In short, the world needed a dose of pain in order for it to change. – John Hope Bryant in The World on Reset

If this is true, what does it mean for those of us trying to create change in the world? Do we wait with glee for times of suffering, because we know that suffering is what breeds change?

Instead we often get bogged down, depressed ourselves when we see this amount of suffering. We identify with the suffering rather than the resilience. We focus on our own kvetching, on giving other people space to complain about their troubles. Perhaps instead we should be pouncing on these opportunities as the rare windows we have to create change.

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