“If we, as leaders, are to cast less shadow and more light, we need to ride certain monsters all the way down, explore the shadows they create, and experience the transformation that can come as we “get into” our own spiritual lives.”
~ Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Sister Michaela introduced me to Parker Palmer’s work in the late 90s, when I was consulting on an organizational culture-change project for a Catholic health system. Sister M. was on the executive team.
That we were using Palmer’s “Leading from Within” as a reflection and discussion-starter gives a clue that it wasn’t the typical ‘change management’ jargon-filled, substance-free chit-chat. As far as I was concerned — then, and most assuredly now, after my own rockin’ deep-sea dive and Heroine’s Journey — this was a very fine thing.
We know that there is no change outside of us until there’s change, or more accurately transformation, within us. As within, so without, as the timeless-wisdom goes. “Know thyself,” was the inscription at the famed temple of the even more famed Oracle of Delphi.
There is no “knowing thyself”, no wisdom, and thus no wise or inspirited leadership — whether one holds that title or leads by doing the Hero Journey and living an authentic life — without diving into the depths of the false conditioning and subterranean “monsters” that, when ignored, project themselves into homes, communities, organizations, and beyond in ways that produce the toxic, inhumane effects that we too often see in the news headlines.
Perhaps that’s why, with real transformation, there is no “back there” to return to, so changed is the terrain in which you now exist.
It’s a true Hero’s Journey, and the whole point of it is to find something that the world desperately needs because the lack of it has created a parched and toxic wasteland. The elixir we dive into the depths to retrieve is part of what’s needed to help the desert bloom once again (Isaiah 35).
And once these pearls of great price have been retrieved, we encounter the lesser-known part of the Hero’s Journey called The Return — vital if we’re to share the wisdom we’ve gained from the Journey, yet also often more challenging than the descent itself. More on these super-important yet less-discussed Hero’s Journey stages soon. In the meanwhile …
Given that we are living in the midst of epically transformative times, the Hero and Heroine’s call is and will be ringing more insistently — the invitation (though sometimes it’s really not a choice) to transformation, and thus to be catalysts and light-bearers for the times.
It’s not safe. It’s not comfortable. It’s not “normal,” because the prevailing “normal” is serving us rather unwell.
There’s no pre-existing map, but for bits and pieces of long-forgotten wisdom and the occasional lantern left by one who’s walked the path before us.
But these are the times that are given to us, and our hearts and souls yearn to rise to the occasion, and light a few candles and shine our own lamps along the Way.
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Love on the Way,