Blazing New Trails: Awe

Howard and I took our year-old grandson, Danny, to a neighborhood coffee shop. After charming half of the room with his bright smile, he looked up. His eyes widened and mouth fell open as he threw up his arms, reaching toward the twirling ceiling fan. He couldn’t believe his eyes—the slowly turning fan was unlike anything he’d ever seen.

Danny, as usual, had no words for the amazing sight he witnessed.

At 65, I’ve experienced my own full-bodied delight and awe at themiracle of thirty-five people from Be Present, Inc. and Wisdom & Money, ages of 6-79, all gathered together at the Trailblazing Boards of Directors Meeting in early February.  Be Present has always included people of all ages fully participating in all aspects of the work, including Youth Advisors on the board. In addition, all board meetings are open. This meeting was opened even wider with the full collaboration of two organizations.

It took fifteen years of a growing partnership and six months to land at the threshold of the Trailblazing meeting with an agenda in hand.

A team of the leadership from both organizations met on conference calls for six months to craft the agenda. Initially, I could see absolutely no way we could cram everything into two days of meetings. Both organizations were in powerful growth moments with a full slate of things that needed to be discussed, plus we wanted to include storytelling about our individual and shared history. All in a two-day time frame.

I questioned our sanity to try such a crazy thing.

Margherita, my friend and Be Present’s Chief Operating Officer, reminded me that we were in the midst of an innovative practice of partnership and collaboration. Innovation requires stepping into the unknown with trust and has nothing to do with figuring it all out logically. Her words reminded me that I do know something greater than my fearful, whirling mind: we know how to hold the nuance of individual organization decision making inside a collective/collaborative design.

The wind of creativity blew away my attempts to figure it all out.

Together we crafted a beautiful agenda. One we were willing to hold lightly as both organizations knew that in reality, WE are the agenda. We shared a willingness to stop to address anything that emerges. Period. No matter how beautiful our plan.

Two days before we began, I received the email that could have subverted our partnership (which I described in an earlier blog). We needed to adjust our agenda, freeing up time to open up what had happened within both the Joint Leadership team and the Wisdom & Money Board.

Back to the drawing board. Through conversations, phone calls and creativity we combined a few sections and shortened another. While it was true that some of the topics we had hoped to cover would have to wait, we were willing to take a risk to see if a potential rupture could be transformed in ways that would strengthen our partnership.

That is the work that we do. Even if it means changing the agenda on the fly. I’m learning not to panic, but to step into the next unknown with agility.

By the time we gathered for the closing of our Trailblazing Boards of Directors meeting, our agenda had transformed into something extraordinary that defies easy explanation—truly an Alchemy of Spirit.

All thirty-five of us felt the magic we had created together. We headed home having experienced the power of effective and sustainable partnerships.

The twirling of Spirit toward justice, equity and transformation is happening around the globe, including in our midst last February at the Stone Mountain Inn. On land where the Ku Klux Klan ignited racial hatred and burned crosses of terror for forty years, we gathered together across all our differences, and the Spirit fanned the flames of transformation within our partnership.

Powerful as our week together was, however, a meeting alone isn’t enough.

Sustaining the partnership we experienced requires a commitment by the individuals and organizations to keep aligning our values and actions. Every moment. For every person. No matter how hard we worked on the agenda. Partnership means we have each other’s backs as we individually and collectively walk out of the addictions in our culture that are caught in generations of injustice, disrespect and inequality.

It takes time. It requires risk.

I look forward to the day when I can tell Danny about the wonders of the work that started long before he was born that will support the world he will one day inherit. When he hears these stories, I hope he still has enough of his child-like delight to throw up his hands with me in awe at what is slowly turning in our midst.

Looking ahead to our next joint organizational program offering, we’re in the process of creating a training centered around a core practice of both organizations—the Be Present Empowerment Model—and two additional two core practices of Wisdom & Money—Wisdom/Contemplative prayer practices and money practices. We are exploring using a format developed by Be Present—an 18-month training where we gather for a long weekend quarterly followed by an open conference where we share our learnings. We are in the midst of the early stages of planning, but this part we know: our Trailblazing Training in the Boston area will begin in 2020. Stay tuned.