Last week, round about session 3 of my ALIA Module: Leader as Shambhala Warrior, as we were going back into creative process yet again, I recall sitting there thinking: “Can we be done yet? I’ve had enough. I’m ready to move on to the “real” work of the module.”
Immediately I chuckled at my own thought and the awareness that came with it. Just a few weeks before, a colleague and I had been in that same question with a client about the status of the long term shift process we were in. We told the client, we have reached the point where some of the people will begin to say: ” We have our document, can we be done now? Can I get back to real work now?.”
This raises two things. The first is our concept of “real work” as something that does not happen in a conference, training or retreat. If it’s not real, is it imaginary? Un-real? If it’s not real, why do we do it? I love challenging this notion when it arises – this is real work too. For myself, when I’m in retreats, I now think of the outside world that does come knocking and “real” work happens in both places and many others in between.
The second thing is that when we encounter in ourselves or others this question of “Can we be done now?” it’s a pretty good indicator we’re in the groan zone. The groan zone is a place that feels a bit murky because we lack some clarity in the moment about where we are and where we’re going – or how we are going to make use of what we’ve been learning or experiencing. We may be tired or challenged and just want to get beyond it — or usually get back to wherever we were before we started. And this is the opportunity in the groan zone. Stick with it just that much longer and the opportunity for emergence and for clarity is primed.
What happened when I was in the groan zone last week around the creative process? Well, we were being led, through exceptional leadership displayed by Jerry Granelli, to become a “blues band”, writing our own lyrics and actually singing them out loud while other people witnessed us – or really, while we witnessed each other. I don’t sing. I don’t know musical form. I can’t carry a tune. I don’t write music lyrics. The day we were asked to just hum the blues form, I felt a visceral reaction along with my sharp intake of breath… and then, I did it! I told Jerry, he had butted me up against my fear. He laughed, in a gentle and wonderful way. I told him the good news was that in previous years, that would have been my terror I butted up against.
Last week, we had marvelous and thought provoking teachings from Meg Wheatley and Jim Gimian and I will write more about that in future blogs. We knew though, as we were at “band practice” at 9:30 one night, that this band experience was bonding us into a community as we supported each other in writing our lyrics and setting them to the blues form and that this was the thing we would most easily and fondly remember as a collective.
In all my years of attending ALIA’s Shambhala Summer Institute this one stands out in my memory for the bond created within my module.
I traveled through the groan zone, pushed the edge of my learning, wrote my lyrics and sang them… sang them first actually (not because I volunteered though), finding a place of greater ease, peace and playfulness within myself and understanding the groan zone at a whole new level.
Thanks Jerry, Meg and Jim and my band mates! Be warned – you now just mind hear me singing in places other than to my young children – like on the street when I’m out walking and “shape shifting, shape shifting in a soulful way…”.