I just read a quote from Brian McLaren’s new book, Faith after Doubt where he recalls meeting with an older author and spiritual leader he respected. In the conversation, the leader shared an insight, “I know a lot less now than I did when I was your age.” That insight really struck a chord with me and echoed conversations that I have had with my 89-year-old father over the past ten years. It seems to me that as I get older, the things that I was sure were true seem less and less true as I open my mind, widen my community, and create more space to wonder.
My Journey of Personal Rediscovery
Within my book, In Search of Safe Brave Spaces, I describe a journey of personal rediscovery which began in times of deep doubt and confusion. I shared that in this time of tremendous turmoil I was fortunate to be held and supported by a loving community including family and friends who created space for me to enter into a period of discovery which I labeled as knowing, growing, letting go, and showing up.
Of these four stages, the hardest and most impactful was ‘letting go’. ‘Letting go’ is about forgiveness, forgetting and freeing us from the patterns, blockers, biases and habits that hinder and inhibit our ability to fully contribute to the world. It requires both an inward and an outward reflection, and for me revealed many questions, challenges and gaps.
Discovering Barriers and Gaps in My Journey
In an earlier blog, I shared a personal goal of returning to ME @ 3, a place of wonder, openness and curiosity. A lot has happened between ME @ 3 and now. I am grateful for my experiences, teachers and mentors who have helped shape my journey. These people have informed me and have limited me through the narrowness of my personal path. The work of letting go, viewed through the eyes of ME@3, supported through tools such as Harvard’s Implicit project and informed through conversations with new friends of differing opinions and experiences, has helped me begin to see my barriers and gaps within that journey.
McLaren describes this well when he stated in his journey that ‘It was as if I had lived in two rooms in a house my whole life without knowing there were other rooms, even wings and even other floors waiting to be discovered.’
Discovering That Our ‘Truths’ May No Longer Be True
Discovering our ‘truths’ that may no longer be true and new rooms with different views can be destabilizing in the short term, especially in a world where confidence, knowledge and clarity are valued attributes. It can also be enlightening and freeing when approached with a spirit of curiosity and gratefulness.
As I began to widen my lens, learned to pause and speak less (this is still a work in progress), I discovered the opportunity of three simple words: I don’t know. “I don’t know” followed by “what do you see that I don’t see”; “what is true for you”; “what is your experience” and “tell me more” have been keys to open new rooms of understanding and awareness. In this enhanced state of vulnerability and curiosity, I enable safe brave spaces for others and within myself. When this occurs in my relationships it has helped me to be more present and connected with my wife, my kids, my family and friends.
The moments of peace, joy, and openness have been surprising and so important as we find a path out of these confusing and troubling times. Within my workspaces it has enhanced creativity, courage and confidence in the teams and individuals with whom I am partnering. As we move back into this next normal, both in our relationships and our workplaces, we know that many of us are experiencing social apathy. We have forgotten how to relate and connect. This combined with diverse and complex differences of personal experiences and impact of the crisis amplify the risk as we gather.
Equipping ourselves to develop the ability to ‘let go’ and the opportunity to express we ‘don’t know’ are two ways we can support each other in finding our best path forward.