Experience of Forgiveness
by Mary Hayes Grieco
What does true forgiveness feel like? How
do we know if we have really forgiven someone who has hurt
The experience of forgiveness is so profound and refreshing
that there is no doubt about it when it happens. Forgiveness
changes us physically and emotionally, dissolving the stagnant
weight of resentment and flooding our bodies with fresh new
energy. It mends our tattered personal boundaries, and empowers
us to move forward with more hope and creativity in operation
than when we were holding our grudges. When we do the thorough
and gritty work that goes into releasing the trauma from the
past, we reestablish our connection with our spiritual Source,
and that Source gifts us with a palpable sense of light and
lightness. We find ourselves on new ground.
For the last ten years, I have been privileged to receive
the benefits of practicing unconditional love and forgiveness
as a spiritual path. "Unconditional Love and Forgiveness" is
a body of work I stumbled upon in 1986 when I met my mentor,
Dr. Edith Stauffer. Dr. Stauffer crafted an elegant 8-step
model of forgiving others, and another one to forgive yourself,
out of her spiritual studies and forty years experience
as a psychotherapist. The result is a tool that enables people
to directly tackle any injury, large or small, and find permanent
healing for it. Dr. Stauffer trained me in her work and since
1990 Ive enjoyed the lucky job of teaching others how
to forgive, in workshops and in private sessions. I want to
share with you some of the things I have witnessed along the
road about the experience of forgiveness.
First of all, nobody really wants to do forgiveness,
we just want to feel better. Its kind of like having
a tooth ache and recognizing the need for dental work. You
dont want to go to the dentist and feel more pain for
an hour, so you stay in denial for a while. But the pain persists
and you know that youll feel better if you do something
about it. So you muster the discipline to make that appointment,
go through the experience and get the job done. In the same
way, we often put off naming the fact that we need to do an
act of forgiveness, because then we have to go do something
about it! Maybe we want to do it but it seems hard and we dont
know how. Maybe we are afraid that if we forgive someone who
has hurt us, we will make ourselves too vulnerable and set
ourselves up for further hurt. Perhaps we cant forgive
because we feel that what was done is unjust, and we think
that forgiveness implies that we condone injustice.. (It doesnt.)
Or it could be that we find so much satisfaction in feeling " right" in
our judgement of another, and wed rather be right than
be at peace. Usually, people are ready to forgive when they
tire of the struggle and the story playing over and over in
their heads. The need for peace finally outweighs the need
to be right.
I once taught a short class which began with a woman defiantly
raising her hand and declaring, "I just want you to know
at the outset that I dont think its even remotely
possible to forgive my fiancee and my best friend for having
an affair with each other three weeks before our wedding".
She received supportive nods from the other class members as
she explained that shed already broken up with both of
them but she felt like a basket case and didnt know how
to go on. She didnt want to forgive them, but she couldnt
eat, sleep, or function at work, and she didnt know what
else to do. I encouraged her to take in any amount of this
workshop that she was willing to, and we heartily engaged with
the whys and wherefores of forgiveness for a few hours.
After we had all practiced getting in touch with our Higher
Power through a number of simple avenues, she raised her hand
again and said, "I want you to know that I think there
is a tiny shred of possibility that I can forgive them
and move on." "Good!" I congratulated her. "All
you need is a tiny shred of faith and a tiny bit of willingness.
Then when you do the steps of forgiveness, you will find the
healing youre looking for." And because she had
already cried and raged her fill, and she was so ready to feel
better, she forgave both of them and herself completely in
a total of two hours private work, and found permanent
relief from this hurt.
Permanent relief? I hear you say. Can we really get permanent healing
from the pain of our biggest wounds? We can. Forgiveness is a natural
and a transformative process--- like fire that burns wood to ashes.
If you burn a log to ash, you dont wake up the next day and find
a whole log again. Its been changed. In the same way, if you
work through an injury in all the ways that your whole being requires,
(i.e. the 8 steps of forgiveness) --- you will be changed. Your own
body will tell you that this is true. I once forgave my husbands
business for stressing us out for years and then going belly up anyway.
As I completed the last step of forgiveness, I literally felt something
go "sproing!" and pop off of my chest, leaving my
heart feeling light and free. I didnt know that I was carrying
my pain about that business as a burden on my heart until I felt it
Sometimes we hold onto our resentment towards someone who
we love because we feel that the resentment is the only bond
we have with them. A woman at one of my workshops hesitated
just as she was about to forgive her Dad for being incestuous
with her as a child. Even though there was nothing more to
say or do with it after seven years of therapy, she just couldnt
let it go . She thought she would feel like an orphan with
no father at all if she forgave him and stopped holding her
grudge against himit was her bond with him. I encouraged
her to turn her heart towards her Higher Power as a father,
and let her fallible earthly Dad off the hook at last.
When she did this, and she completely released all of her
expectations of her Dad, she became flooded with buried memories
of a good connection with him. She found her peace. This works
for forgiving Moms , tooturn to God the Mother and release
all your disappointed expectations of your human mother. You
will find a Divine Source pouring in the nurturing you crave.
Nobody has to remain an orphan in this world! In addition to
the healing about her Dad, this woman reported to me later: "Its
like all my senses woke up that day. I was numb before. Now
I smell flowers, and hear birds, and feel the breezes as I
do my work as a postal carrier. I came alive again that day."
From time to time I am blessed to witness that people can
forgive the unforgivable. One time I taught an Unconditional
Love and Forgiveness workshop at a retreat center in central
Wisconsin. On the first evening, a woman I will call Liz shyly
revealed that she sought healing from the trauma of having
been raped by an acquaintance a number of years earlier. Her
face was strained and grey, and her posture was tight and protected her
personal hell was visible to all of us. The compassion in the
room from the other sixty participants was full and warm as
she spoke, and I knew that I was meant to work with her that
Over the course of the next two days, I watched Liz gathering her will---
the first step towards forgiveness--- and seek in prayer and community
to find the strength to completely forgive this person for his terrible
act. She wanted to free herself of any further entanglement with him
or with that moment. On the last day of the workshop I helped her descend
fully into the hate and poison left within her from this experience,
and in the course of an hour, she forgave her rapist completely, step
by step. Sixty people sat patiently through her foul language and her
vivid imaginary castration of her assailant. Releasing your emotional
truth is the second step of forgiveness. As we moved on through the
third and fourth steps I found myself wondering, "Will this really
work? Can even this be forgiven?" It pushed the edges of
my own capacity to forgive, big time. However, we both persisted in
the process and--- faithful as the sun--- the light of forgiveness
began to dawn.
As Liz reached the final two steps of forgiving, and reached
to her Spiritual Source for healing, the hair on my arms and
head was standing up because the room was electric with Spirits
powerful restorative energies. It was clear to me that her
nervous system was being flushed clean of the habitual patterns
installed when she was victimized. Liz emerged from her journey
as pink and open as a full-blown summer rose. There was a remarkable
beauty and a healthy vulnerability in her face and body, and
she declared with certainty that the trauma was all gone! Everything
was silent for a few moments except for the soft weeping of
a few of the witnesses, and then there was such an outburst
of whooping and hugging and talking! I think that sixty other
people simultaneously decided that they too had the courage
to get to work forgiving people on their lists. If she could
If that wasnt enough to blow my mind, Liz told me later
how it was that she came to be in my workshop at all. She was
traveling across country from Idaho to Massachusetts in her
car, and at the eastern edge of Wisconsin she followed an impulse
to stop in a church to pray. She prayed again to be healed
of her hurt. As she left the church she noticed a stray flyer
on a pew that advertised my workshop on the retreat centers
calendar of events. An inner voice told her, "Go there!" So,
she backtracked two hundred miles to arrive at my workshop
just as it was starting and got what she needed. When
I heard this, it assured me once again that the Universe itself
is conspiring to help us find wholeness, and forgiveness is
a gift we all deserve to enjoy. We only need to be willing.
Eight Steps of Forgiving Another Person
from Unconditional Love and Forgiveness
1. . Use your will. Decide to
move forward into a new attitude and greater freedom.
2. Express your emotional truth. Speak honestly. Vent
to your satisfaction. Entertain a few revenge fantasies if
3. Cancel the expectations you are holding in your mind. Break
it down into parts, shift them into preferences, dissolve each
4. Sort out the responsibility and re-establish your
5. Reach to your Spiritual Source for healing. Draw
healing light down into your body, mind, and emotions through
your crown chakra. (Top of your head.)
6. Send light and love to the other person, or to their
Higher Power, just as they are.
7. See the good in them or in the spiritual lesson
of the situation.
8. Note the changes in your body, emotions, energy,
and attitude. Take time to let it gently integrate into you
as a permanent change.
Paradox Of Seeking Purpose
"I am on a spiritual journey...I am seeking my purpose..." So
many times in recent years I have enjoyed the sparkle in the
eye of someone who is discovering a hearty appetite for personal
truth. There is a vitality to these people, a focused yearning,
a desire for insight and fulfillment that brings the very air
around them to life. Sometimes there is also a sense of anxiety
present, a feeling of having wasted time previous to this,
the gnawing fear that time is passing quickly and will run
out before this purpose is discovered and fulfilled. I feel
the urge to pat them soothingly and say, "Relax. It's OK. Don't
make everything such a big deal---you're doing fine."
And then I know people who are so relaxed and self-satisfied
that they are in effect almost asleep. They have cut their
little grooves with their habits and their schedules; they
have perfectly adapted themselves to the bumps and fissures
in their relationships, and they do not stray much from the
predictable patterns that have been established in their peer
group or in their own conditioned minds. They live like pleasant
zombies, and it's hard to tell some days if any one is home.
My hand twitches because I want to grab them by the elbow,
shake it, and say, "Who are you?! Why don't you find out? What
are you waiting for?"
Why does this bother me? Why do I notice it so much when someone
is in a taut or a loose posture in relationship to the issue
of purpose? Maybe because they mirror for me my own faulty
state of tension in relationship to living my purpose. Faulty?
Could there be a right and a wrong about this? Not really.
This is more a matter of aesthetic appreciation: one can live
one's life like a well-strung violin in the hands of a master
or a slack and dusty old fiddle lying in your grandfather's
attic. Each of these has their points of interest, but I prefer
the first way---the way of self-mastery. Because, simply put,
a human being who is fully living their purpose with relaxation
and focus is a beautiful thing to see.
Spiritual maturity is a state of being that can embrace the paradox in
life. For each and every truth you discern, there is an equal and opposite
truth that is operative in another situation or in the same situation
at another time. And there is a great Truth contained and balanced
between all of the lesser truths you can think of, a Truth that is
not told in words. A mature mind that expresses itself peacefully from
the center of this Truth, while maintaining a full awareness of paradox
is as precious as a full-blown rose, blessing its surroundings with
its pure essence. This intrinsic beauty is the "why" behind seeking
"Seeking purpose" is a paradoxical activity. It is both necessary
and unnecessary to seek it. The key to discovering and fulfilling
one's purpose is to just relax and love what you have --- no,
it's to get going and create what you truly want --- no, it's
to relax sometimes and get going at other times --- no, it's
to do them both at the same time in different areas of your
life --- and as the saying goes, nothing that you do really
matters but it's very important that you do it anyway." You
see the challenge here? There are paradoxical truths about
seeking one's purpose that we need to understand and live by
if we want our souls to sing well in the chorus of human expression.
So, you don't know what your purpose in this life is? Relax.
You haven't missed the boat. Your purpose cannot leave without
you. You have time. In fact, unless you are out cold under
the bed with a bottle of vodka in your hands, there is a 95%
chance that you are fulfilling your purpose just beautifully.
(Even if you are hiding under the bed, who knows what God-like
role you play for the dust mites?!) Maybe you just haven't
noticed yet what it is you are doing here. Give up your anxiety
and relax into the effortless flow of expression that is simply you.
Accept the true limits of your particular personality and don't
try to be anyone else. Between the moment of your first breath
and the moment of your death, there is plenty of time for you
to fulfill your purpose.
You don't know what your purpose in this life is? What are you waiting
for? Get going! Today is a good day to start. Time is passing quickly.
There are ways of being yourself that you desire but haven't dared
to do yet. Don't waste this precious opportunity to be alive and experience
things that you want. There's nothing stopping you but false limitations.
You can use your will and your Higher Wisdom to discover and fulfill
your purpose. Our world desperately needs your gifts and service, freely
given. Don't hold back!
In fact, both of these directives are correct, in different ways, for
there are a number of levels to the subject of purpose. Everyone from
a mossy rock to a human being is fulfilling at least one level of purpose
by the mere fact of existence---I call this existential purpose.
You exist because you exist. You can add a few skills on to that and
leave society in a little better condition than when you arrived: that
is social purpose. This is about what job you have or
what career you pursue. You can engage with life as a classroom of
learning, loving, and service, and you have a spiritual purpose.
You can pair up with other people and share your complementary skills,
and you've got purpose in partnership, or symbiotic purpose.
You can choose to call on more of your unused brain capacity and advance
the whole thing farther along---yes, the human being alone has the
power of enhancing the evolution of our species. You can consciously
serve our collective evolutionary purpose.
The relaxing thing about this way of looking at purpose is
that you can do any amount of it that you choose. You can have
a wonderful career and be a fairly decent person and touch
some lives in a pleasant way, and never once ponder a greater
meaning than that. You can "hang out", and take the path of
least resistance, and be someone's loyal son. You can embrace
the new technologies of body/mind transformation and take yourself
higher and higher into the clear mountain air of consciousness
despite the fact that you have a mundane job. You can be born
with Down's Syndrome and live on government aid, and warm the
hearts of people around you with your innocent and loving disposition.
On this level, we are all doing just fine.
And yet, there is something about the nature of a human being
that insists on asking "Why?" and clamoring for more. There
is something creative wired into our genes that bides it's
time and eventually explodes outward in a surprising moment
of genesis that initiates a period of Divine restlessness and
growth . Who knows what or who governs these cycles of rest
and creativity? It's a mystery. I invite you to explore this
mystery.. . Relaxand get going!
"I don't know---it's just a gut-level feeling." "Just a hunch". "Only
woman's intuition." It's funny how deprecating we sound about
that quiet knowing that comes right out of our souls. That's
what intuition is---the prompting of our soul to go toward
the paths that will bring us the highest good in our lives.
It speaks to us in different ways. To some people it is the "still,
small, voice within." To others, it comes as a picture in the
mind in either the waking state or the dream state. It can
be a gut-level feeling, a sense of emotional comfort or discomfort.
It flows through sensitive and skillful touch, and also the
ability to move through the world with luck in timing. It is
the flash of full-blown knowing, that drops suddenly
into our consciousness from out of the blue, bringing information
Most of us repress the strength of intuition, and insist that
it be subordinate to the logical mind. We regard intuition
as an unsettling, possibly embarrassing second cousin to the
functions of logic, control, and linear thinking that we have
been trained to rely on. We ignore intuition's polite suggestions
for so long that it either atrophies into total silence or
it finds loud dramatic ways of getting through to us. Sometimes
we don't listen to what we know until our life pulls off the
road in some messy crisis that forces us to give up our reliance
to the logical "shoulds" in our minds.
The biggest blocks to using intuition successfully are fear
and doubt. This is a historical problem. Intuition, like other
aspects of the feminine psyche, has been delegated to the basement
by the two major belief-making machines in the Western culture---religion
and science. In its darkest days, the Christian Church waged
a centuries-long campaign against the feminine. The Burning
Times in Europe consumed the bodies of up to nine million women
who were accused of the crime of witchcraft. A woman could
be accused of being a witch if she was an herbalist, a midwife,
or a psychic, careers that had long held honor in the prior
Goddess-based religion. She was suspect if she was sexually
attractive or a bit too "uppity". People were now expected
to be obedient to the Church hierarchy and go to priests for
mediation with God. No more listening to your own inner voices---they
were most likely evil, the prompting of Satan. The Church established
a deep climate of fear that we still carry in our collective
mind. On a subconscious level, we are afraid to listen to our
inner voices because they might be evil. We are caught in our
own doubt about our basic goodness, and our fear of getting
in trouble if we seem abnormal in any way.
The culture of scientific materialism grew up in reaction
to this crazed church. Early scientists saw the need for a
discipline of knowledge that could not be polluted by superstition,
politics, or ungrounded mysticism. Science will allow only
what can be seen, measured, counted, predicted and proven. "Truth" is
what can be demonstrated in controlled, repeatable experiments.
This is fine and necessary in certain spheres, but the scientific
method can't embrace all that makes a human life worth living.
How could you prove a poem? Why should you measure a dance?
Predict unconditional love? Ridiculous. And yet, somehow we
let the religion of scientific materialism run our lives too.
We are afraid of being thought "crazy" if we make decisions
that do not lie within the bulging bell curve of "normal".
We are afraid to step out of the linear march of our culture's
conditioning to follow the call of the heart into some different
experiences. We remain caged in self-doubt.
Your intuition is trying to show you only one thing all
of the time: how to be happy as you. It's there to
make life easier. Your intuition will help you understand
and unfold your purpose here, and solve everyday problems.
It needs to be reinstated on the throne next to the logical
mind, where they can work as partners. Your intuition receives
vision for a life direction that will make you happy and
will use your unique nature to the fullest. Your planning
mind makes a strategy. But it can't make an airtight strategy,
because there are always unknowns. Your intuition works through
these unknowns, bringing ideas and resources into play right
in the present moment. Your logical mind organizes information;
it balances your checkbook. Your intuition balances your
life. It tells you about health needs, connects you with
good friends, and helps you with timing. It leads you into
situations that elicit your joy. Together the intuition and
the logical mind create a fulfilling and effective life
Intuition operates in large and small ways. A number of years
ago my intuition showed me in a dream that I needed to relocate
to a different city as soon as possible. My logical mind was
appalled and embarrassed---I had no reason to go there, and
I had school to finish in my home town. I had a lot of friends
and family who would be sad and mystified at my move. But it
was a strong feeling, so I did it. I met my beloved husband
in a grocery store on my first venture into town. We fell in
love instantly. And my health improved dramatically. I had
been sick with a variety of complaints for almost two years.
Now I discovered that I had been a creature at odds with my
old environment, and I was more relaxed and healthy in my new
My intuition helps me with smaller challenges too. While driving
around on errands my little voice said, Go home right now! My
logical mind told me I needed to go to the store first. Really,
right now! Go home. My logical mind whined as I turned
toward home, prematurely, as far as it was concerned. As I
entered my front door, the phone was ringing. It was a person
I had tried to get in touch with unsuccessfully for two weeks.
We made a quick little transaction that eased my current work
project, and I went back out, smiling.
to Strengthen Intuition
Acknowledge that it's there.
Even if it is atrophied from disuse, your intuition can
be awakened and brought into your life. Talk to it. Say, "Hi,
I know you're there. I'd like you to be working in my life.
Please become active for my highest good."
Notice how your intuition speaks to you.
Do you hear a little voice, almost like the rest of your thoughts, but
not quite? Do you see pictures in your mind? Do you know things,
but doubt that you know them because you don't have actual "proof"?
Does your body give you cues about whether certain people are trustworthy?
Discover which of these modes is strongest, and focus on that one.
Take Some Risks.
Start small, but start following those little hunches instead of your
conditioned brain. See where your own energy wants to go, not
where you think it should go. Do some things because it feels
right, not because it makes sense. Follow the "spiritual impulse". Trial
and error. Good discrimination between the intuitive mind and the
conditioned mind takes time and practice. Don't doubt everything just
because you're wrong sometimes. Decide to be accurate with intuition
and keep practicing.
Become willing to flow more in your life.
Let your life be easier. Cultivate an appetite for synchronicity and
surprise. Being in control all of the time is exhausting and unimaginative.
Let the creativity of the Universe into your life and enjoy it!
(now the ears of my ears awake and
the eyes of my eyes are opened)
- e.e. cummings
New Spirit of Leadership
Todays leaders must know how to steer calmly through
a sea of chaos and future unknowns, and elicit the creativity
and the strengths of the people around them. The new spirit
of leadership is informed by three critical cultural trends:
spirituality, wholistic awareness, and the recognition and
valuing of strengths traditionally associated with women and
the feminine principle: intuition, compassion, humility, selfless
service, community building and the wisdom of the circle. The
paradigm of leader as invulnerable warrior is changing; the
world today needs leaders who can be patient gardeners able
to foster healthy systems with an eye to the health of the
world as a whole.
Mary Hayes-Grieco is a respected voice in the
development of an inclusive spiritual philosophy that has practical
applications. She is the author of The Kitchen Mystic,
published by Hazelden, and The Kitchen Mystic
Series: Tales and Tools of Practical Spirituality,
a four-part audiotape series published by High Bridge Audio.
Mary was the creator and host of her own radio show in the
Twin Cities, a weekly program focusing on issues of spirituality
and wholistic lifestyle that aired from 1986-1994. Mary is
an instructor at The Management Center at the University of
St. Thomas Graduate School of Business. As a trainer, Mary
provides inspirational on-site seminars for companies that
wish to develop an inclusive spiritual dimension in their company
culture. She also works in private practice as a counselor
and spirituality coach. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota,
with her husband and two daughters.
New Spirit of Leadership
"I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together,
a new spirituality. This new concept ought to be elaborated
alongside the religions, in such a way that all people of
good will could adhere to it. We need a new concept, a lay
spirituality. We ought to promote this concept, with the
help of scientists. It could lead us to set up what we are
all looking for, a secular morality. I believe in it deeply.
And I think we need it so the world can have a better future." -
The Dalai Lama
"May you live in interesting times," the Chinese
saying goes, and it is not always clear whether this is meant
as a blessing or a curse. We undoubtedly live in interesting
times, and as all of our business and social institutions undergo
radical transformation, a new model of leadership is emerging.
Todays leader must be someone who can steer calmly through
a sea of unknowns, and elicit the flexibility, creativity,
and character strengths of the people around them. The new
spirit of leadership is informed by three critical cultural
trends: spirituality, whole-person awareness, and the recognition
of personal strengths traditionally associated with women and
the feminine principle. The classic model of leader as invulnerable
warrior/king is becoming tempered by a new one that is emerging:
an open-hearted leader who thinks like a master gardener in
a world increasingly concerned about sustainability and the
impact of the work place on the human soul.
It is true that the movement for spirituality in the workplace
is in an embryonic stage, and the numbers are only just starting
to trickle in to assure us that spiritual integrity and the
bottom line are indeed the compatible dance partners that we
hope they are. A recently completed research project by McKinsey & Co.
shows that when companies engage in programs that use spiritual
techniques for their employees, productivity improves and turnover
is greatly reduced. The first empirical study of the issue, A
Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, published in October
1999 by Jossey-Bass, found that employees who work for organizations
they consider to be spiritual are less fearful, less likely
to compromise their values, and more able to throw themselves
into their jobs. Fully 60% of those polled for this book say
they believe in the beneficial effects of spirituality in the
workplace. According to the books co-author, Professor
Ian I. Mitroff of the University of Southern California, "Spirituality
could be the ultimate competitive advantage."
Measurement issues aside, we need only look around us to see
the hunger and the interest in the business community to transform
the consciousness within our company cultures, and to walk
this new talk. It is exciting and encouraging to see how many
of our colleagues are willing to exercise some faith as we
try new ways in our business dealings. We all know that with
the advent of the global market, computerization, and the world
wide web, to name a few, conventional business wisdom must
take a back seat at times to somebodys current "best
guess". Evolution is calling, folks, and we arent
going to outgrow this chaos very soon. The smart leader makes
friends with chaos and works first on something he can eventually
master: the ability to leading from his whole self and his
own inner serenity. In other words, the smart leader is deeply
grounded in his own spirituality.
Now, before I go any further, let me make clear what I mean
when I say "spirituality" and what I mean by "spiritual
tools." I notice that when I teach classes at a local
business school, a wave of discomfort ripples through the group
when I start to use the word "spirituality." People
are so afraid that were talking religion, and very concerned
about keeping church doctrines and our secular work places
separate. This is understandable, but I think that it is high
time and eminently possible to come up with a definition of
an inclusive secular spirituality that has practical applications.
Bringing spirituality into our work life informs our work with
new meaning and brings an uplifting element into our daily
experience. Heres my definition of spirituality in the
"Spirituality in the work place is the disciplined
practice of actions and attitudes that promote good will,
calm, creativity, and excellent service."
Who can argue with that? Most people dont.
Todays new leader may or may not hold an officially
designated leadership position in your department or organization.
Look around. The leader is the one who keeps a strong personal
center when things are flying out of control. She is the one
who is holding a firm personal and group intention while she
works, and she models an attitude of faith and productivity
within that intention. In addition, we can recognize leadership
in action in someone who:
- fearlessly asks "whats going on?" and
wants to know the answer
- listens to people well, and empowers them to do what they
need to do
- helps to foster an atmosphere of respect and good will
- perceives real needs in the people around them and humbly
seeks to serve those needs whenever practical
- guides the balance between goals and process, action and
- thinks outside of the companys and the cultures
addiction to forward momentum, speed, and "bigness"
- deals skillfully with the "shadow" side of things:
grief, uncertainty, and power struggles.
- sees his challenges and the group challenges as an opportunity
for learning and character development
- employs spiritual tools as well as traditional tools to
We have already been using spiritual tools in the work place
for a while now, though we havent always named them as
such. What is a mission statement? A group affirmation of
an intention. What is "servant leadership?" An
attempt to infuse the role of leadership with the spiritual
quality of humility and the practice of selfless
service. What are employee appreciations at a meeting?
A small ceremony of honoring someones excellent
service. What is 360 feedback if not an attempt to get back
to the wisdom of the community circle?
The little special spot on your desk with a picture of your
family and your favorite stone or poem is an altar,
and the extra touch when creating a "special" meeting
room for an important meeting is the quiet establishment of sacred
Id like to see people use even more spiritual tools
in the workplace: a private prayer for a sticky problem,
the liberal use of an increasingly refined intuition,
and a centering exercise for the individual or the team
at the beginning of the day. Dont forget one of the easiest
tools of a clever leader: the conscientious passing of good
rumors about the place: "Did you ever notice how Dave
is always so punctual? I love that about him..." And
how about a helpful mantra to repeat to yourself while
youre in a difficult communication process involving
someones mistake? "No guilt/no blame/no guilt/no
blame/"..... These are the actions and attitudes that
create good will, calm, creativity, and excellent service:
spirituality in the work place.
The second informing influence in the emerging style of leadership
is that of whole-person awareness. It is beginning to dawn
on all of us that we cannot expect to perform with integrity
or live til a ripe old age if we are functioning as a walking/talking
head for 8-10 hours of every day. If we are ever to succeed
at collectively creating a sane and sustainable culture it
is because we as individuals are willing to take a stand and
each claim our right to a sane and sustainable life style.
A human being is a complex creature made up of a body, emotions,
a mind, and a soul, and we must insist on health for all those
levels. So lets have those Casual Fridays, the chair
massages, our team retreats, and lets re-frame that "sick
day" into the "wellness day". Theyre all
steps in the direction of acknowledging our whole selves. The
greatest challenge of all still seems to be the balancing act
of work and family life, and so many of us struggle with the
discouraging sense that we are only performing half as well
as we should be in both of those arenas. We need to exercise
compassion and forgiveness towards ourselves and others as
we navigate through all the double binds our work and family
responsibilities put us through.
We also have to take a stand against the kind of discouragement
that occurs for us in our ever-changing jobs. Were lucky
if we can keep up with the demands of learning how to use all
of the new tools at our disposal, much less get to the jobs
those tools are supposed to enhance! When I am feeling discouraged
by my own clumsiness in dealing with all of my computers
options, I pause for a moment of compassion to view my situation
through the lens of a useful metaphor. I choose to think of
myself and my generational peers as biological mutations in
our species--- clumsy specimens of a transitional form of human
being. We carry all of the limitations and conditioning of
the previous era and all the hopes and potentials of the coming
one. No wonder we feel clumsy and schizophrenic sometimes.
Whether we think of our human worlds transition in terms
of Globalization, or the passage into the Information Age,
or however you want to frame it it is clear that we
are in a huge transition, a birth of sorts, and most births
are painful and messy. And I may add, totally worth all the
The third influence on the new spirit of leadership is the
increasing value placed on personality strengths that have
traditionally been associated with females in our culture.
People in leadership, male and female, are drawing more and
more on those skills that girls and women have been allowed
to develop as part of our gender training. These skills include
the use of intuition, the ability to initiate and maintain
healthy relationships, "emotional intelligence",
humility in service to the needs of others, and sensitivity
to the emotional and spiritual needs of the community.
Another way of looking at this "feminization" of
leadership is to say that the classic militaristic model of
leader as the invulnerable warrior-king is evolving to include
an ecologically sound model of leader as a gentle master gardener.
The warrior conquers the land and the gardener cultivates and
nurtures the land, working, within the circle of life, season,
and current soil conditions. This is not to say that we should
completely abandon the classic paradigm of the tough and focused
leader we certainly need him at times. Rather, we can
add the feminine skills of the gardener into the picture to
round him out --- to make him whole --- and to consciously
choose these different modes of operating as each situation
"Change is inevitable; growth is optional", the
saying goes. We can enter this new millennium kicking and screaming
about how hard all this is, or we can enter it with a smile
and our sleeves rolled up. Chaos will be our companion for
a while, and uncertainty the very air that we breathe. The
opportunity of our times is at least as great as the peril
of our times. If we choose to sturdily embrace our individual
responsibilities, and express leadership from the counsel of
our own souls, we will be effective and open up possibilities
that previously only starry-eyed idealists hoped for. Right
now--- this very minute--- we have available to us every bit
of information and technology and resource to insure that unnecessary
human suffering will come to an end. Right now, enough of us
share a vision of living in right relationship to ourselves,
to each other, to the Earth, and to our Divine Source, that
we can create a collective future that shines with health.
It only takes a committed minority to bring about such a change.
My millennial birthday wish is that each of us will find our
own sphere of leadership, and engage with it fully, like loving
and patient gardeners. Lets step forward together with
a true community spirit, and let humanity take its rightful
place as one of Gods favorite experiments.
"This is how we are going to live for
a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest
- Marge Piercy