Growth Through Diversity
I am part of a three-person team responsible for organizing a one-day event next weekend for our Sevenoaks Pathwork Helper Community of 28 folks. Issues the Community face are complex and sometimes daunting. And while each of us is committed to our spiritual growth and our community, we are a highly diverse group of people. And we three organizers are also quite diverse. But committed.
Today I was in the agony of this diversity. This morning I awoke with huge amounts of clarity and energy about how our Community members work with one another in three different capacities. How we serve, how we grow personally in our time together, and how we are inspired and directed as a spiritual community.
True to style, I went to my computer and whipped out a PowerPoint presentation capturing my thinking. It was exciting, it felt creative as I tapped into my intuitive sense of connecting a bunch of dots that have led to struggles we face as a community.
And then I enthusiastically shared my charts and frameworks with my two colleagues. I’m experienced enough now to know that neither of them would be on my page immediately let alone excited about all that had arisen in me. But the push-back, while sensitive, felt relentless. The material that I had created that tied many ideas together for me did just the opposite for them. It was too complicated, it was rigid, it was wrong in so many ways, not at all how they saw things or experienced things. But then they were not on the same page with each other either. Then the idea surfaced that maybe I could develop such a chart after the group meeting we were planning took place, that way capturing the thoughts of the others in our community. That made sense to me, though it rained on my parade of enthusiasm I had felt as I pulled the charts together earlier. “Gary, this is just how YOU see things, not how WE see things.”
I’m a retired businessman. My specialty was conceptual selling using presentations such as the one I had created here to make things clear for customers and my own company alike. I am used to being appreciated for this skill of intuitively coming to the the essence of things and explaining them in new ways that everyone seemed to get the message. But that was just not working here.
I had a number of options. I could get mad and quit, or simply withdraw in silence. Or I could disregard their input and bulldog my way through, “knowing” I was “right” and that my “insights” would be “helpful,” even though my two colleagues couldn’t relate to the picture I was painting with my diagrams. Or I could listen.
I listened. My charts were making them feel constrained, boxed in. They contained way more information than could be grasped quickly let alone thoughtfully engaged with, which is what I wanted. I saw that my two colleagues were looking at my charts and interpreting them suspiciously through a set of assumptions about what I was trying to do with them. They could not really trust me, or not fully. They wanted more spaciousness, more openness, ways of getting beyond the mind, my comfort zone, and into a felt sense of things, whatever that means.
I could begin to see that Gary’s charts were Gary’s, not the group’s charts. They represented how I process things, how I organize things, how I think. AND this is valuable, as my experience in the business world had proved, BUT it is different from how others think and organize and process information.
As I sat with all this, I began to feel like I was being pulled back into a dark sea, thrown into tank with many different kinds of creatures all around me, overwhelmed, out of control. Could I just stop a minute and be here? Could I take in the lesson I was being given in diversity? Can I release my thinking mind and get in touch with my feelings in this murky tank? This very unfamiliar tank! A little scary at first. But then things shifted, and I could begin to just be here.
From here perhaps I can connect with my two colleagues, and with the community, in a new way, in a heart way, not just a head way. Drop my PowerPoint approach to the world and try on jello. This puts our upcoming meeting into an entirely new perspective for me. Can’t say I’m eager for the experience, but I am at least open to it. No I am more than open to it. Perhaps this new way of being will have a profound effect on me. I’m becoming aware that this experience is exactly where I need to be! I’m learning how to become the deeply feeling person that I am, and how to express those feelings, and how not to just be a thinking person, which I also am, sharing exciting ideas. Perhaps an invitation to love, eventually. We’ll see.