The Eagle Newsletter, February 2023
How are you? How do you feel?
When we start paying attention to what is right inside, we can find what is right for us or not.
“Start exactly where we are and exactly how we feel, and where we feel the very troubledness in our body, we actually discover a part of us that lives at the center of the pattern trying to speak to the outer part of us that’s living in a strangely disharmonious way on the surface,” advises the poet David Whyte. He explains: “It feels troubling because of the disquieting difference between the way we’re living our life on the outside and the central revelation we carry with us at all times at our very core — the seed of our being.” But the gifted door is there behind these troubles, this discrepancy. A doorway to reconcile the world we carry within us and the world that is out there.
The Blessing of Winter
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we entered a time of stillness, with cold and humid temperatures. The days are short, and the mood may be stagnant. As if the freezing elements of nature are matching the worries of our world with too many tech layoffs, rampant inflation, global recession threat, and still the unbearable war in Ukraine. We have many reasons to feel frail as human beings and start shuddering. It is actually good news. When one is shuddering, the shudder helps to take away the numbness we feel when we choose to avoid what needs to be faced.
But winter has its gifts too. A time for rest and retreat. A time for consolation. A time for being. A time for rooting. The growth happens beneath the surface. In winter, we align our intentions and strengths for the blooming that will come again, soon. When I feel gloomy, I like to remember a sentence from French philosopher Albert Camus: “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” And suddenly, there is the buoyant “yes,” a burst of bravery, when expansion again feels very much possible.
Difficult times might feel harder with the constraining layers of winter. Still, what if we crack the thin ice on our surfaced lives and accept and learn from what is in the moment? Whatever is here needs our attention, especially the worst parts of our experience. Can we commit to healing what hurts the best we can and emerge not only undiminished but revitalized?
I think we can.
To uplift, here is a song I’ll always dance to, Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon.” Hit play and try to keep your body still. It’s impossible!
Now, let’s have our eyes on the horizon. Let’s continue designing our own framework for progression individually and collectively. It is time to regain the ability to say what we want, dance with what is, and cut what needs to be cut.
The Eagle’s Birthday
The February newsletter marks two years of its existence. What started during the pandemic as a timid way to help leaders with trends and management bullet points for safer business environments has fully bloomed into more thoughtful, provocative and urgent essays. I like to ask more questions than give answers, opening conversations in and out. With so many perspectives around, I prefer to use my voracious appetite for learning, eclectic intellectual and impassioned heart to live far from the opposites and share what I have learned in this spiraling journey of life. After all, as the poet Antonio Machado wrote: “You walker, there are no roads, only wind trails on the sea.”
The inimitable and mysterious evolution of human consciousness ultimately cannot be quantified but only explored indefinitely. My invitation here is to continue our rootwork on management, and to deepen our humanity.
Management is not only a topic we learn, it is something we are. That’s why it’s vital that we keep exploring ourselves the best we can. That’s why questioning is not only healthy but mandatory.
I like how the great Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue sees the question as a lantern. “It illuminates new landscapes and new areas as it moves. Therefore, the question always assumes that there are many different dimensions to a thought that you are either blind to or that are not available to you.” From there comes the grace of conversation and contemplation with more openness, imagination, and innovation. And thought, if we are not open to wonder, we limit, destruct, confine. We become very dangerous for ourselves and others.
What we do with the Eagle is dig the ground. We are living at an important and fruitful moment now, for it is clear to all that the “successful” business models given by culture and education are worn out; we can no longer depend on them. We have created the climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises we are in, and we have abided by the competition / enemy-making model, suffering its too many side effects: loneliness, emptiness, inadequacy, and fear, to name a few.
Motive is Everything. What is Ours?
We are at a turning point, we all know. Younger generations are counting on us. How do we want to use our gifts, skills, and competencies to create business environments that are not only business-preserving and -taking but life-giving?
What would it be to use our intelligence, compassionate decisiveness, goodwill, and generous leadership to work in our new business world (arguably already in motion) dictated by robots and AI? to impact our personal relationship with innovation, the sciences, and social media positively? to finally be uniquely oneself in this era of tribalism and technocracy?
I know these are hefty themes, but we are living in hefty times. From our way of thinking, creating, planning, organizing, acting, and controlling, we innovate — or not for the sake of our world.
Motive is everything. What is ours? Where is it, exactly, that we are headed? What does make sense? Who is it that we want to be? We cannot carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. The engine of history can feel as though it has a mind all its own. But life is held in common; we, individually and collectively, still have our hands on the wheel. So? What is our intended destination?
“We shape our selves to fit this world and by the world are shaped again,” wrote Anglo-Irish poet David Whyte in his beautiful poem “Working together.”
Whether we know it or not, we exist and grow because we exchange, because we move the gift of presence. And the knowledge of this is as crucial to the condition of our fruitful life, including the professional one.
Moving Beyond the Friend Versus Foe Pattern
Unfortunately, in work and in life, I have seen so many interpersonal relationship difficulties. More often than we would like to admit, not driven by reason but by tension/insecurity, we doubt, stereotype, and reduce others. Using just a small amount of partial information, we make assumptions, limit, judge, assess, and decide. We misunderstood the complexity of human beings. We think we know their story. Most devastatingly, we deem ourselves as separate. No need to listen. No need to learn. Do we see the pain of contradiction and separateness that comes with these postures?
How about becoming curious in our search to relate to people? Seeing coexisting potentials within them? Again it starts within, exploring our internal terrain. Then, we realize they are — as we — unknowable and multilayered. We begin to relate, reveal, connect and heal. We see ourselves in them and them in us. All this can happen within a split second without their knowing. The energy changes. The smile comes. The freedom of expansion. Everything belongs.
Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. It is time to leave behind the strong one. Let’s stop pretending to be okay when we are not: It isn’t sustainable or supportive. How about giving ourselves permission to soften and not to be the one to carry it all or do it all? Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.
Of course, fear plays a major role in our decision to relate or not. A dense pattern of fear sitting in our subconscious can make us see threats where there really are none. The mind is wired for defensiveness, which makes it challenging not to make assumptions. Assumptions are validated by a society where the opposition, the contradiction, and the foreign often are rejected.
But perhaps the greatest burden to our need to relate resides in how we define ourselves, mainly by contrast and distinction from what is unlike us. Me versus the others. From our peripheral identity, gender, race, role, rank, image, system, and tribe, we separate ourselves from others.
With such hostile programming, how can we understand that the negativity we see in a person or a society is really due to blindness, ignorance, and unconsciousness? Sadly, more often than not, it pushes us into enemy-making, tragic polarizations, and painful misalignments. We belittle and entrap not only others but ourselves to fixed and mainly predetermined affiliations.
Fortunately, even deeply rooted habits can be undone. We are so much more than what we learned to be. What would it be like to recognize the impermanence and mutability of our thoughts, our feelings, our values, and our very cells? Why do we grasp so tightly, with so much certitude and self-righteousness, our fragmented identity? Can we break free from any unfulfilling identity template and expectation and reclaim the beauty of the multitudes we each contain?
“The more you know about another person’s story, the less possible it is to see that person as your enemy,” wrote Parker Palmer. When we meet each other across differences in our shared world with openhearted, compassionate curiosity, we find multiple ways to relate. “The world’s otherness is the antidote to confusion,” Mary Oliver wrote in her moving account of what saved her life. “Standing within this otherness… can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.”
How would it be to go behind our frightened hostility against otherness and understand instead what works and what does not? What is optimal, and what is destructive?
I know, easier said than done. We all have been wounded in our relationships at work and in life. Feeling betrayed, mocked, and injured by others can be absolutely devastating. Pain is pain. And, obviously, because of our own circumstances and feeling tender, we raise our selfish fears; we have all been doing the classic thing that people do: rather than open and relate, we shut down. Sometimes the possibility of confronting the loss, betrayal, or shame feels impossible. I think there’s a bit of a compounding effect there: The more we face toxic behaviors and traumatic events, the more we swear off making new relationships in work and life for fear of more struggle, more grief, and more loss. If we don’t pay attention, we can stay there forever, in contempt for others’ lives.
Yet as anxious as we can be, confronting a new face at work and in life, when we show up, when we choose love over fear, when we do not turn away in the face of the hardest thing, we learn, we evolve, we grow, we mature, and we transition. The goal here is to offer light, space, curiosity, and acceptance to the ones that need it the most — including ourselves.
We all go into cycles of abyss and dissolution, when we are moved to a growth edge, toward the unknown, toward a deeper and more creative experience of life. Despite their discomfort, these big moments carry major significance along our journey.
Self-awareness is, again, key to recognizing where we are, asking for help and choosing not to get stuck in avoidance or rage but staying fluid, active, flexible, and changeable in all of our interactions and relations. In the face of disaster and terror, we can still find a mutually human and friendly consideration available to us and others. Self-awareness always brings a new sense of possibility and honesty to the table that can help us connect deeper with another individual.
The Pyramid of Togetherness
The World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness — the Harvard Study of Adult Development — has established a strong correlation between deep relationships and well-being. Good relationships lead to health and happiness.
The trick is that we first need to unburden ourselves bravely into our openness to connect and then nurture those relationships. But we know, too, that most relationships don’t start off with people having a strong base of emotional maturity. But as we do the work and as healing becomes an integral part of our global culture, it will become more common in the future.
Right now, it is more about being open to growing together in a nourishing and sustainable manner. To conclude this newsletter, I would like to propose a pyramid of togetherness inspired by the work of Janice Caudill, psychologist, and Dan Drake, therapist, both experts in rebuilding relationships after attachment injuries.
I think work is one of the most wounding places for relationships. What I have noticed so many times as a management consultant is that, when the foundation of truth crumbles, safety erodes. Without safety, trust dies, and without trust, vulnerability becomes locked behind protected walls. Of course, without vulnerability, togetherness withers. The organization stops working in a productive, innovative way.
What we want in our workplace and elsewhere: Togetherness.
As you can see, togetherness or healthy attachment is the highest point on this pyramid. It is built on the foundation of vulnerability, trust, safety and, ultimately, truth. With these components, relationships can flourish in health, respect, service, reverence, honor, joy, love, empowerment, cooperation, development, creation, and so on. So many vital qualities to build strong and sustainable businesses and workplaces.
As humans, we have an innate need for connection and a desire to be known for who we are, to be seen for our authentic selves, and to form healthy attachments. When we share ourselves with authenticity and receive the same in return, we go together and reinforce each other. It is the greatest achievement in our relationships. Togetherness involves many components, including choice, companionship, depth, shared vision, love, hope, faith, and mutual authenticity. It is a zone that involves mutuality, give and take, communication, respect and boundaries.
Togetherness requires vulnerability to develop, and vulnerability is an active process when we share parts of ourselves, often the most hidden parts. I see vulnerability as an active choice, a step we willingly take in the quest for connection. When we choose to be vulnerable, we take the risk to know and be known at the deepest part of our core and to experience the discomfort that comes with that effort. Without vulnerability, without sharing our feelings, experiences, hopes, dreams, fears, regrets, pains and joys with another, we can’t let ourselves be known by another or have the capacity to truly know another.
When we choose vulnerability, we build trust, and trust invites further vulnerability to the surface. We need to trust the person with whom we are being vulnerable. Can I share my full self without this information being exploited or without being rejected or abandoned? Can I trust that what is being shared is real? Can I respond with compassion without it being used to manipulate me, or without fear of the expectation that my pain should be over? Mutual trust permits vulnerability to thrive.
To allow trust and vulnerability to develop, we must feel safe, physically and emotionally. Safety is the fertile soil that allows trust and vulnerability to continue to build on each other.
Ultimately, to provide a context of safety to develop, we must have the truth. Most of us want to connect with the expectation of truth. We assume that our connections are who they say they are, that they are presenting us with true and accurate information. Truth is a foundation upon which safety, trust, vulnerability and togetherness are built.
In order to build and maintain this pyramid, we need to embrace humility, be open to feedback and practice self-awareness.
Humility is necessary because, without it, growth is not possible. It is important to recognize that, when we communicate our truth, we do it in a way where we simultaneously understand that our perspective is important, but is not dominant or flawless.
Then it opens space for valuable feedback because, through mutual honesty, we create a safe and vibrant home together.
Finally, with self-awareness, we build inner fortitude and mental agility. We take time to look inward, recognizing our mental movements and seeing our own patterns and how they emerge from influences of the past; we are unafraid to feel the entire range of our own emotional spectrum and can recognize their impact on our thoughts and actions.
Relationships can be challenging, I know. But we should never let bad experiences stand in the way of humanity’s insistent longing. Life is in the minding.
May we remember that the change we seek in the external world first needs to exist within us.
As always, I thank you for taking the time to do this reading with me. I am so grateful to journey alongside you. Please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas, suggestions, or comments.
Your presence is my purpose.
Be safe and be watched over until we meet again in March.