Leadership, Discomfort, and Activation

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“If you’re comfortable, you’re probably making the easy, wrong choices.” - Scott Sonnon

Lately, I’ve been feeling extreme discomfort. Changes have been coming in my work and my Work for a long time. I’ve been training, taking steps in the right direction, and yet, I have not made a big shift that will actually free up the time, energy, attention and grace necessary for the larger, deeper change to activate. My ego has been resisting this, fearing the bigger risk, not wanting to break free from the shell of comfort.

Now, this current shell of comfort was created by risks I took in the past but as with all things, it has become my new status quo. Something – something big – has to give. I’ve known it for a long time now, and even while doing the planning and practice necessary to shift the magic, I’ve also been dancing around a core piece. This core piece is linked to the part of ego that wants to retreat and keep things small. As a consequence, though I love teaching, I crashed hard after my last weekend away. Time to face the necessary. Time to take a deeper look at the equation of Want + Need = Desire. What is the larger Desire that is my true Will?

What does this have to do with my title of leadership, discomfort and activation? We cannot be leaders if we are always seeking out comfort. We have to lead first within our own lives. We have to lead our personality parts toward the greater magic only activated by the whole. Our spirit must be the teacher of courage. Courage is the ability to break free from homeostasis and grow.

Fortunately, we can practice this at any time and with any activity. This morning, after reading this fantastic essay by Scott Sonnon, I went to attend to my yoga and meditation practice. Those of you who read this journal regularly know that I have struggled with daily yoga, having been a self-professed yoga hater. I’ve worked with the extreme discomfort of holding poses, of stretching, of getting moving first thing in the morning, all in the service of supporting my larger work in the world. This morning, I added back in something my friend the trainer Carey Rockland had me try a year ago: handstands. What put this in my head today, I’m not sure, but part of me needed to rise to the challenge. I picked a wall. I planted my hands. I failed to reach full height before feet bouncing back down to floor. I tried again. Failed. Tried again. Failed. I reset my intention. Placed my hands in the right spot in my mind’s eye. This time, I lifted, my heels touched the wall, my arm muscles engaged. I was in a full assisted handstand, which I held for as long as I felt able. After I returned to a normal standing position, my heart was pumping, and energy was moving through me with a powerful rush. I channeled this into some of my energy techniques – running the cosmic loops from feet to crown, out and down and back up again. I found my stable center. I tried again and planted my hands almost perfectly to lift easily into a strong position.

Feeling the full power of this action running through my body, I returned to my meditation bench, to sit in silence as unseasonable dark clouds moved by the window. When I was done, I thought of Sonnon’s essay, and the very real importance of discomfort. Without struggling for years with the excruciating discomfort of meditation practice, I would not know so many parts of myself, nor would the core of stillness in my belly be such a stabilizing force. This challenge I’ve been facing lately? It wouldn’t even be on the table.

We cannot lead if we always seek out comfort. We cannot teach if we do not seek to know. Without being up against challenges, large or small, we do not test ourselves and therefore cannot inspire each other through our art, our words, our music, or our actions. This is where leadership fails: when those in positions of power establish a status quo and set up systems to maintain it. That is no longer leadership, it is complacency, which is a small, slow death.

How can we inspire ourselves and each other? How can we rise to the challenge? How can we look at the world, at least sometimes, upside down, just to get a new perspective?

11 Responses to “Leadership, Discomfort, and Activation”

  1. David Salisbury

    Leadership has been way harder than I ever thought possible, despite the warnings of my many wise teachers. Its always different when you experience it for yourself. Ive found however, that through the bumps, I learn better leadership of myself everytime I overcome a leadership obstacle within the community I serve.
    As without, so within I suppose :)

    Reply
  2. Ellie Di

    I, too, have been feeling like I’m constantly on the verge of Something Big but can’t seem to make it work. The worst of it is that I’m clueless as to how to delve into the roots to find out a) what it is and b) what’s keeping me from it. I’ll be meditating a lot more over the next few weeks to see what arises. I want to put myself into a leadership position because I feel I have a lot to offer, but this Big Thing is thwarting me even as it draws me forward.

    Reply
  3. Rob BrightStar

    I love that.I’m always standing on my head to get a new view of things,or just looking at things sideways,laying on the floor.
    People think it’s crazy…or I’m crazy when I do this…maybe they’re right,but it helps me.
    It’s good to shake things up every few days,to get a new perspective.

    Have an awsome day!

    Reply
  4. Ariana Dawnhawk

    “We have to lead first within our own lives.”

    As soon as I saw the title of this post, I figured it would resonate with my own process lately. And it did. That sentence encapsulates an important bit of my own process lately, and resonates with my Current.

    I thought of you this weekend during a yoga class (at a kink event, no less), when the instructor talked about the importance of letting ourselves be vulnerable from a place of inner power. I instantly thought of you talking about a “strong will and an open heart”. At that event, I also had a chance to seriously challenge myself and my skills, and it paid off.

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  5. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    So much here is resonating with my own experiences and thoughts at present…though I’m very far from doing handstands, or really anything even vaguely yoga-related at present! ;) Our battles are similar, I suspect, even though what weapons we’re learning to use are different, if I may use a rather bellicose metaphor.

    Incidentally, when I wrote/revised the blog entry linked here earlier today, I thought of you…if you have not encountered Marguerite Porete previously, I think you’d like her a great deal.

    Reply
  6. Alex Iantaffi

    Thank you. It was inspiring to read your words at the end of a challenging day. I am learning the borders separating self-care from comfort, and yoga is a main ally in this work for me. Thank you for doing the Work, and sharing it. The weekend spent at your class has stirred the necessary level of discomfort for me by the way, and I am so grateful :)

    Reply
  7. Harlequin

    Hi Thorn,

    One thing that struck me about this post is that it’s not necessarily about challenging ourself with new things (such as handstands!); rather, if we expand the parameters of what we are already doing, we can further access life force.

    For example, I have done sitting practice for about three years now as part of my Feri training, but I’ve only ever done a maximum of ten minutes. Now, because this felt comfortable to me, I stuck with it. Yesterday after reading your post, I decided to try 20 minutes. Wow…the difference was huge. I felt a lot more connected to the Non-dual and actually got a couple of messages through from the Gods.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  8. Thorn

    Hello all, sorry to have been away from these comments – I’ve been reading them but have not had time to reply.

    Challenging ourselves to shift perspective is so important, however we manage to do it. I really like what Sonnon wrote about our comfort zone and think that so many of our issues around leadership stem from avoidance of that sort of discomfort.

    I have written a bit (in KtL and EvoWC) about the necessity of increased practice during times of transition. It does open up a lot for us, helping us all toward the greater opening and effectiveness so many of you are speaking to.

    Reply
  9. matt

    I love that Scott Sonnon is a resource for you. Handstands…been working on them for three years or so and I am just getting the sense of them now. I cant hold them in the middle of the room for more than five or six seconds. But the process of allowing (seemingly) continual failure be part of my practice has been invaluable.

    Allowing for the practice to just be practice and not having the raised stakes of success tied to it allows for inner and exterior leadership to manifest. There is just something about being upside down.

    Reply
    • Thorn

      Matt, my handstands still need a tiny bit of wall assistance, but feel powerful nonetheless. Practice is key to learning and learning is key to leading.

      Reply

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