(Mindfully) Exercising Liberty
Morning iPhone

Morning iPhone

I've been at home for nearly two weeks.

In many ways it has been something of an epiphany.  Exercising Liberty, our gorgeous Golden Retriever, has been part of a new routine that I plan to keep on my daily agenda.  Each morning we have walked through the woods and across the fields; striding out in the morning air and enjoying the golden light (even if the iPhone struggled a little...) has been a joy. Liberty has really enjoyed the walks, meeting me with keen anticipation as I have put on my boots and picked up her lead.

I've been really curious about my own response to our morning walks too. The exercise has been great and much needed, but it also felt difficult to 'switch off' and relax into the moment. To begin with, I was marching along while listening to podcasts and other recordings that meant I could justify the 50 minutes that it would take me to walk my route each morning. It wasn't until I listened to a Tara Brach interview by Tim Ferris that I remembered about how 'Type A' personalities tend to treat relaxation as just another item on their 'to do' list...

In 'On Dialogue', David Bohm says that, 'When we see a "problem," [...] we then say, "We have got to solve that problem." But we are constantly producing that problem - not just that particular problem, but that sort of problem - by the way we go on with our thought.'  He goes on, '... what I am trying to say is that thought is the problem.' 

For me, it has become clear that the problem is not my burgeoning 'To Do' list and how I should apply myself to the various tasks.... I know how to DO that stuff - and I'm good at it.... And so I rely on my organisational skills to get things into order and then I work ever harder. As you might expect, the solution to the problem has neatly held the problem in place. As Bohm says, getting myself out of this kind of routine means that I need to reflect carefully on the thought that produces the problem in the first place.

Gradually, I began to slow down and take each moment of the morning walk with Liberty more mindfully; simply enjoying the moment rather than constantly planning how the rest of my day might work out.  As I've taken time to consider how the problem of the 'To Do' list actually works, I have learned to 'see' the routines, fears and coping strategies that embed the issue into my psyche.

And, slowly, I've changed my walks too. 

Sometimes I might catch up on a podcast. Sometimes I'll listen to music. Or poetry. Or simply enjoy the morning, the light, the dew on the grass and the boundless energy of a two-year old Golden Retriever.

But mostly, I concentrate on how I am thinking, how I can be choiceful about my day and how I can best apply myself to my work and relationships.

Of course, in our often brutal modern world, this is a tremendously privileged position to hold.

But, it feels like a very appropriate way to be exercising Liberty.


Steve MarshallComment
The Deathly Compromise

Kathy, one of my colleagues spoke quietly to me. "I have a message from Chris. She says, 'Tell Steve. Tell him. Beware the deathly compromise.'"

The words were incredibly poignant. At that time Chris was very ill with the brain tumour that would later claim her life and the intention behind her remark felt crystal clear to me. Chris knew her time was limited whereas I was behaving as though mine was infinite. Business was good and I was taking on more and more exciting projects where I might be able to helpfully effect some kind of change. Yet all was not well.

As one of my faculty friends at Ashridge, Chris had always been able to see deeply into my creative process and knew the compromise required of the big consulting projects was that development of my own work was put on hold. The recent absence of blogs here on the VI website is a symptom of that condition. I have been doing helpful, valuable, even lucrative work. But it's often not my work.

It wasn't the first time that Chris had pulled me up. A few years previously she said to me, "I've come to realise that supporting others in their creative work is not the same as supporting ourselves in our creative work."  Again, the words resonated loudly with the challenges I faced.

When Chris and Geoff asked me to photograph their wedding a couple of years ago I was absolutely delighted. It was a phenomenal, joyous 'hand-fasting' and, at that time, the implications of Chris's illness were still unclear. Last week, over 200 friends gathered at the wedding venue again last week to celebrate Chris's artful and highly energetic practice. Chris's life and work had been curated  into a beautiful set of artefacts by another Ashridge friend and colleague, Chris G. As before, there was singing, dancing and merry making - there were even a few versions of Chris hanging out with us to keep a check on the proceedings - making sure, perhaps, there would be no compromises.

It was all fabulous. Just like Chris.


Steve MarshallComment
Changing minds...

Here are a few of the characters from our latest course in organisational change.

Our AMOC participants are all on their way to the graduation ceremony next Spring; it will be a fantastic moment for all of us...

But what we all understand is that real change requires more than a snazzy grad certificate. 

Over the last two years, these folk have put themselves through the mill. By now they will know quite a lot about the psychological, social and, even, philosophical aspects of organisations and change. But much more than that, they have worked hard in support of each other as they too have changed. This is something that is key to the Ashridge philosophy of relational consulting and intervention; that change is mutual; we change together - rather than as distant individuals who have been subject to a compelling PowerPoint show.

Organisations can be notoriously resilient towards any efforts to change them (of course... they're made of ...wait for it...you and me!) and it takes a special individual to come alongside us and offer the kind of credibility and authority that we can trust. In my view, this kind of presence has little to do with any form of technical skill but is the result of practitioners seriously putting themselves on the line as they inquire into their own 'stuff' in a sustained and disciplined way.  Only then, when you and the group you are part of, have grown and changed, does it make sense to consider an intervention into a complex, tricky, resistant client organisation.

My work with AMOC is a favourite part of my 'portfolio' and, if you are a change practitioner, or have the ambition to be one, it could be for you.  We are busy recruiting our next cohort so, if this kind of thing appeals, drop me a line or apply on the website.  

There is, however, a health warning. 

AMOC is about changing lives as well as changing minds.


Steve MarshallComment