Sacred Communication Workshop: Lead, Follow, or Get out of Your Own Way


Yesterday I attended what must be the sixth in a series of workshops held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Park Forest on the subject of Sacred Communication.    Although the title sounds like it is talking about the way one addresses the divine, the actual subject matter is how you address yourself.

When I moved here to the Chicago area last year, it was with some trepidation because I had lived in the area for decades.    Feeling a little bit like Rip Van Winkle, I wondered if it was possible to generate an entirely new network of friends and colleagues.    I was looking for work in my new career of being a project manager, and while doing that, I was also trying to recast myself not just as an employee of a company, but as a leader, in such a way that would gain me success that had so far eluded me where I used to live in Orange County, CA.

But you know that saying, “lead, follow, or get out of the way?”   Sometimes the biggest factor that prevents us from being successful is within ourselves.    The Sacred Communication, which is like spiritual gardening, promised to help me not get in my own way, so to speak.   When I say “spiritual gardening”, I mean it is analogous to planting a garden.

First you till the soil, then you plant seeds, but you also remove weeds, prevent bugs from eating the fruits of your labors, and there is a lot of constant work that needs to be done so that the new plants get enough sunlight, water, and nourishment from the soil.    In a similar way, you have to till the soil (do introspection), plant seeds (visualize your goals and make concrete plans to achieve them), and then monitor the growth.   Weeds (thoughts whose origin is fear) can choke off the growth of the seeds, so you have to remove them, not just once, but CONSTANTLY.

In this latest workshop, the leader of the workshop, Henrietta Byrd, asked two important questions.

1.   What do you wonder about?

People responded with something that was of paramount concern to them–for example, I was wondering about what my next success was going to be after I completed the project I am currently working on.    However, after we named our individual areas of concern, she said, “now, when I said ‘wonder’, did you interpret that to mean what you ‘worry’ about or whether you ‘wonder’ in the more neutral sense of ‘speculate with your imagination’?”

Because if we were WORRYING about the outcome of a particular situation, then this is essentially taking the form of “IF something negative happens, THEN how will I deal with it?”    Now, this does not mean that you shouldn’t plan for the future so that you have a plan B to fall back on if plan A doesn’t materialize.    However, planning for a possible negative outcome is not the same as DWELLING on it.   If you dwell on the negative, your mind will create ways for that negative outcome to happen.

So if you dwell on the positive, your mind will likewise starting thinking of creative ways of how you can get from here to there.   Once you have fixed a positive goal in your mind, and you are doing all you can to achieve it, then LET GO and trust in life that the goal will materialize.

So I am concentrating on doing what I am doing and achieving the goals I have set out for myself, but with an attitude of wonder and not of worrying about what my next project will be.

2.  What have you had enough of?

What are you so sick of in your life that, if you had a chance to, you would get rid of it and have no more of it from here on out?    I don’t mind sharing that, in my case, it was “excuses”, which translate for me as the belief that the reason for my not achieving my goals is something or someone outside of myself.

Once Henrietta asked this, she then said, “okay, so you want to get rid of that.   What concrete steps are you going to take to do so?”

There are some problems which because they are difficult to solve, I find myself avoiding because of the emotional charge I attach to them (“I can’t solve it because I am not good enough/smart enough, etc.”).    Once I realized that I was using this as an excuse not to solve these problems, I realized I needed what I call an “ego-bypass operation”, meaning that I need to make it less about me as a person, and focus instead on principles that will help me deal with the problems.

So I came up with a little slogan to help me out:  “I’m eager to go to the problems that scare me, and treat them instead as puzzles that dare me.”   This slogan has two parts to it:   going to the problems that scare me, which means that I will no longer tolerate avoidance behavior.    And then when I go to the place that scares me, I will use the calming techniques that Pema Chodron recommends in her book “Go to the Places that Scare You”, because this allows you to face reality and detach yourself from fear.   And if you detach yourself from fear, one thing you can do to propel yourself in the right direction is to attach yourself to the same problem, but with a different emotion, that of curiosity and delight.    How can you delight in problems?

Well, for one thing, I LOVE puzzles:   logic puzzles and cryptic crosswords being some of my favorites.   If I approach a puzzle I can’t solve, I don’t go away in anger or in self-recrimination.   “Oh, gosh, I’m so stupid!”   No, if I were stupid, I wouldn’t even TRY to solve such complicated puzzles.    If I solve the puzzle, yes, I do feel a little bit of an ego boost.  But if I can’t solve it, I don’t just give up.   I put it aside TEMPORARILY, after I have made a decent attempt.   And then I come back to it–and it is amazing how what the solution to what was though to be an unsolvable problem now taps you on the shoulder and says, “here I am!”    That’s because your subconscious often times continues working on the problem after your conscious mind has temporarily thrown in the towel.

Well, why not deal with the various problems of my life like puzzles?   Rather than eagerly avoiding them, I would start eagerly tackling them.   Not just because I want to solve the problems, but because the process is FUN and makes my mind sharper for having done so.    So this is an example where I am trying to get out of my own way, and work towards solutions that will propel me forward.

And if I do that, I have trust in life that I will be rewarded.   This is not just blind faith, either:   I started these Sacred Communication Workshops about one year ago when I had NO accomplishments here in Chicago under my belt.   Now, in the one year since then:

  • I volunteered as a project manager for the Chicagoland Chapter of the Project Management Institute’s Professional Development Day Project for 2013, which was a very successful event for the chapter.
  • I got a part-time project management position in November 2013 which ended in April 2014.
  • I then got a full-time project management position as a Chief Project Manager for the Professional Development Day Project for 2014 (based on my work last year).
  • As a Vice President Education for my Toastmasters Club (Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club #1451), I helped our club achieve the highest level of achievement at the club level, the President’s Distinguished Club award, for having achieved all 10 goals in the Distinguished Club Program.
  • As an Assistant Area Governor for Area S56, I worked together with Felton Armand, and helped our Area achieve the highest level of achievement at the Area level, the President’s Distinguished Area award, for having more than 50% of the clubs in our Area achieve the level of Distinguished Club or higher AND having sponsored the growth of a new club in our Area (Richton Park)
  • I have been selected as Area Governor for my area for the upcoming Toastmasters year (July 2014-June 2015).
  • I have been elected as President of my home club Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club, and have been elected as the Vice President Education for my second club, the PMI Chicagoland Toastmasters Club.

I have been asked to be in a leadership position both professionally and at my church; I am applying for those positions, but will not mention what they are specifically until I actually achieve them.   But these opportunities are coming unexpectedly, and so I am truly in a position of not worrying about success, but simply wondering, what direction is it coming to come from?

And I achieved this by, as the title suggests, getting out of my own way and not preventing my own success.    I hope you can ask yourself the questions Henrietta asked us, and take some quiet time out for reflection.   As Maya Angelou said in her last public statement on Twitter before she passed away, “listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

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