Sangha is the Sanskrit meaning for community.
I just got back from two extraordinary Sangha weekends filled with super heroes who welcome adversity as an opportunity to positively change the world .
Both weekends were about connecting to a larger community of global leaders.
Both were inspiring, confronting, and life-shifting.
Both were colorful, juicy, and insightful.
Both were far away from my normal surroundings of San Francisco—one in Washington D.C. at the Institute for Peace and the other on the West Coast at the Stillheart Retreat Center in the mountains above the Pacific Ocean.
Both weekends illuminated what matters most.
Here are the three things I learned:
1) We are all dancing super heroes
2) It starts with yourself
3) The power of space
We are all dancing super heroes
What is your work? What would you say if you had 18 minutes to speak on whatever you wanted? At the TEDx Women’s conference, women from 15-70 years old spoke about what made them frustrated, the different kinds of questions they had to ask themselves , and how they found the courage to create a change. I was especially moved by the session about “Stops and Starts”: The space between disruption and moving on.
Bob and Lee Woodruff shared their inspiring love story of how they persevered through the aftermath of Bob being nearly killed by an explosion in Iraq. Through laughter, courage, and resilience they got to the other side .
Then there was Lourds Lane. She told her story of how she found herself through a violin, rock & roll and her grandmother. When she was little, she would drown out her father yelling and hitting her mother with music. What most inspired me was her courage and persistence to keep finding what made her happy, where she was real. She was a rock & roll girl at heart and never strayed from that path, even with the momentum of a Harvard degree under her belt. She sang and rocked her violin saying that we can all be super heroes with special powers if we want to be.
Being a super hero showed up a little more quietly for my west coast retreat. I was still called to be my own wonder woman, but the dance showed up inside my heart. As I sat quietly, I could feel the flutter in my heart—and this time it wasn’t because I just drank a Red Bull (none allowed!). It was the flurry of excitement, of anticipation, of knowing that I was dancing on the edge of my path. In fact, I wasn’t as far off as I had thought…none of us are far from it—just a little lost sometimes in the morass of our daily lives. If we just take the time to look within, we’d realize how close we are to our path—and most likely, realize we’re already on it. Yet, we resist the path because it’s so much easier to be confused than to take action. I realized that my path was and continues to be all about how we leverage work as an opportunity for growth. Jon Kabatt-Zinn, one of our leaders for the weekend, shared that there are many doors in to the same place. Sometimes I think we see others go through one door and think that’s the only way. Then we stop dancing. Being a super hero is about picking a door and opening it. Once inside, there’s a lot of dancing going on. I danced as I realized yet again that “work is the retreat” and that’s my path. That’s my door to keep opening.
It Starts with yourself
Charlotte Beers was another great speaker at the TedX women conference. “She is fierce”, as my friend, Janet, said. I loved how Charlotte talked about her work:
That’s what I get excited about. How can we use work to help us grow personally? Charlotte went on to say that we should all keep a journal to get to know ourselves. We can’t wait for someone else to say who we are.
Back on the west coast, 20 executives from Silicon Valley gathered in a circle silently, letting the ‘to-do’ lists, the daydreams, the ideas bubble up and then settle back down again—nothing to email, nothing to tweet, nothing to say. Google and Facebook executives, former CEOs, entrepreneurs who made millions, investors who had everything in life, but realized that all that “stuff” didn’t make them happy. We all want to change the world but we were reminded once again that it starts with us. I want to make an impact in the world, help others use work as an opportunity to grow and learn, but first, maybe what I can continue to focus on is showing up for meetings on time (been working on this one for awhile!) and spending 10 minutes in the morning meditating. Jon Kabbat-Zinn reminded us that “nothing is different out there than here”.
The Power of Space
The theme of the conference was “The Space Between”. It was perfect for me as I’ve been inquiring a lot lately about polarities. How can we live more in the “and” of our lives? How do we be powerful leaders and have down time? The idea behind the theme is that the world is not made up of polarities, but of spectrums—not structured like a line, but of a web. We can have challenges and opportunities, fear and resilience, not knowing and knowing. And we can face these challenges if we create the space to address them. We can have busy days if we create the space to think in between meetings. We can have big goals if we make the space to take the small steps to achieve them.
Eve Ensler ended the session with The Rising: the space between seeing and doing; between knowing and responding; between staying in the dark and seeking the light about her passion for breaking the chain of violence.
Lots of space was created at the meditation retreat as well. Jon talked about how musicians always take the time to tune their instruments. We know that when we’re listening to a symphony, the artists didn’t just rush to their seats and start playing. They took at least 20 minutes to tune, listen, situate themselves in the right position. We need to take the time and create the space to “tune” more so we can make the kind of music we’re meant to make. One person shared how she “tunes herself by reading something inspiring like this classic Jon wrote before she opens her email each morning.
Sanghas on the east and west coasts.
Two life-shifting weekends
Inspiring leaders changing the world…
one dancing breath at a time.
for your superhero dance of inspiration today, watch this