The gift of going deep
English storyteller and mythopoetic Dr Martin Shaw says “human beings are made slowly”. Yet at all levels of our society, it seems we are seeking velocity. Our levels of attention, including our self-awareness, are tuned for instant gratification and immediate satisfaction. Partly through the ever-widening possibilities of technology and the insistent expectation of ‘growth over everything’, we have all been enmeshed in the cult of convenience, swept forward by the magnetic power of “what’s new now”.
Yet if there is one lesson to take from the past two years of covid disruption, it’s that when we are forced to surrender control to forces greater than ourselves, we will find comfort and refuge by looking deeper inside ourselves.
English philosopher David Whyte observed that when we’re under stress, our response is to speed up. But in this accelerated state, we’re not able to recognize anyone or anything moving at a slower speed. Reactions in slow-moving traffic are a good example. In this place, our awareness is turned off. Our deeper awareness that emanates from what could be called spirit or soul cannot enter the room.
So accelerated has our pace of life – or more accurately our daily expectations – become, that our feet no longer touch the solid comfort of ground. We are enmeshed in a whirl of external forces, from our business challenges, the latest covid cases, interest rates to the virtual and intangible metaverse.
There is no wise elder standing in the middle of the circle, striking their staff against the earth, calling our presence. Inviting deep attention. The state where we focus on the steady beat of our own heart. Where the clatter of the shiny things that have seduced our focus subsides. Where we are able to come home to ourselves, for respite, renewal and rebalance.
Organisational leadership now entails wider responsibilities. This includes becoming a trusted guide and caretaker of those who look to your leadership. And the invitation to return home to ourselves on a regular basis is the great imperative of our age. No matter how seductive the business results, how mind-boggling the techno-wonders, as creatures we need to build a relationship with our own depths. Through this, we are better-prepared to recognize the depths in others. And together, we may once again be able to find joy and purpose in re-connecting to the natural world.
As Martin Shaw puts it so succinctly, as a response to the suffering and divisions all around us, can we trade growth for depth? And bring this deeper comfort and fascination with what we uncover in our own dark, unexplored places back to shape a slower, more intentional, collaborative and forgiving world? By seeking out and embracing the stories that lie ignored in the core of our being, we slow our velocity enough to recognize the beauty inherent in ourselves. Mentally and emotionally, we allow our feet to rest upon solid ground, and receive the ancient bottomless comfort that looking within creates.
I invite you to try this. Or ask me to guide you. Here lies a different form of strength and wellbeing that will nurture your leadership.