Last weekend, I officiated my sister’s wedding on the cliffs at Shell Beach. This week, I was focused on getting our Co-founder Bootcamp handbook to the printer. Needless to say, the topic of partnership has been on my mind even more than normal.
I once wrote in an old blog that ‘relationships are the new ashram.’ Meaning that once you enter one, you’ll be meeting many opportunities to do your inner work, no trips to India necessary. The work – your work – presents itself in any relationship, not only in those of the romantical genre.
One of the more difficult things about relationship is this understanding that as individuals we have entirely different maps of reality caused by years of experiences that have imprinted our neurology just so, and uniquely so. No two human maps are the same. The hardware may be similar, but when it comes to the programming and the code, to each his own.
Because of this, when two people come together and share in conversation or a co-creative adventure like a startup, it is an interesting chiasma. Yet it’s in that shared space between individuals that a lot of magic can happen, like the D.W. Winnicott notes “It is in the space between inner and outer world, which is also the space between people–the transitional space–that intimate relationships and creativity occur.” A lot of healing can happen, too, if people come together mindfully.
In his book How to be an Adult in Relationships, psychotherapist David Richo reminds us that the word mindfulness is a translation of Sanskrit words meaning “attend” and “stay.” He adds that when we pay attention and stay with someone in their feelings, in their here-and-now predicament, and accept someone in this serene way, shifts occur in you, and both persons begin to discover the skillful means to more appreciative and supportive.
How mindful you are in the very relationships that are most key to your work and your life has positively life changing implications. By staying with and attending to what comes up for you, and the person sitting across from you, you’re creating space for awareness for whatever is presenting itself and space to actively choose another way to be.
Consider this soundbite of data on the human OS: Our conscious mind processes information at 2,000 bits per second, and our subconscious mind processes information at 11 million bits per second.
That’s a lot of information running what you say, think and do that you’re not even consciously aware of. It’s like riding on the back of an elephant, but not knowing you’re on the elephant. Relationship provides a mirror to catch a glimpse of what your subconscious is showing you, of what’s running in the background that you can’t see. (Paying attention to what stresses you is another clue to follow.) Becoming aware of all that’s presenting itself brings it onto the stage of the conscious mind so you can see it, learn from it, and choose to speak, think or do something different.
Learning to do that with yourself is one thing. Building that awareness with a partner is a wholly other barrel of monkeys. Yet, without this self awareness, and this relational awareness, our pasts become present and we can sabotage whatever it is we are wanting to create together.
There’s no need to find a relationship therapist. Start simply. In living and working with others, it helps to know some basic data from those you work with: What are you like on a good day? What are you like when you’re stressed? How will I know? What do you need in those moments? Then, be willing to pause and use that information in the practice fields of your relationship (or your organization).
Earlier this year, I worked with Zelle Nelson and Maureen McCarthy, founders of the Center for Collaborative Awareness, to learn more about the Blueprint of WE process they developed. (They sat down with Jerry in the special edition of the podcast this week.) The Blueprint of WE is like a contract from the heart about how you want to work together. What we appreciate about the Blueprint process is that it provides a way for you to build something from a place of hope – not fear.
One of the questions we muse on here at Reboot HQ is: What is it to lead from a place of love vs. a place of fear? After posing that question at an offsite, after a long pause, one of our client’s said: “It’s so much harder to lead with love.”
Leading from love takes proactive cultivating. It takes tending to. It takes mindfulness. Here’s why: the evolution of the brain is such that the base level of the operating system is fight or flight (survival) and that is where fear starts. All other levels of the brain were built on top of that, with love coming from the prefrontal cortex. Love, then, becomes accessible after traveling through the entire brain stack. Thus, if you react quickly, you react from lower in the brain stack (fear). If you can pause and be mindful by taking that space between stimulus and response, then your brain can get to love and respond from that place. That is potent growth.
In our very first newsletter, Jerry wrote about the vision of Reboot as a company and our “values built around transparency and authenticity, around owning our own shadows and taking the monsters in our heads down to size. That is, mindfully living with the ups and downs of life. That means our full selves showing up at the office, showing up for work, reporting for duty.” Not only do we live that as partners of this organization, we also hold that possibility for everyone and are dedicated to the proposition that implicit in work is the possibility of the full realization of human potential, that work does not have to destroy us, that work can be the way in which we achieve our fullest self.
Relating mindfully is key in expanding and realizing our potential as individuals and as organizations. In thinking about your relationships and what you’d like to create with yourself, your partners, and perhaps your organization, spend a few moments with this advice from James Hollis’ What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life: “All of us have to ask this simple but piercing question of our relationships, our affiliations, our professions, our politics, and our theology: “Does this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller?””