Defragmenting

So much of what delights and troubles you
Happens on a surface
You take for ground.
Your mind thinks your life alone,
Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor,
Yet it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye’s affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.

-John O’Donohue, For the Unknown Self

I’ve been living with the podcast conversation between Jerry and Yancey Strickler for a few weeks now in preparation for writing the newsletter-post for it. My first listen was at our Invitational Bootcamp weekend where I carried Strickler’s notion of self-coherence with me, and it bumped up against all the conversations happening within the cohort around living a divided life in some way or another. These notions co-mingled and tumbled around in my mind. My hunch was that if they were pieces of laundry, they were similar enough to be washed in the same load, on the eco-warm cycle. 

Coherence is the quality of forming a unified whole. In the words of our friend Parker Palmer, we find a hidden wholeness when we our inner life and our outer life matches. In the words of Jerry, this is part of the art of growing up. In the world of my 1200-pound horse-friends, they are concerned with your congruence. How attuned are you to yourself and your place in space? How does that affect how you are showing up in your life and in the world? 

Our bootcamps inevitably offer space for participants to sort through not just the unsorted baggage and the long, black bag of shadow stuff they drag behind them but also to take stock of what’s here, now, and what’s emerging or wanting to emerge: What needs space, and what’s been crammed into the interstices our lives as we move through the day-to-day year over year? We begin to see or track how parts of ourselves were truncated or stuffed into disparate spaces, seemingly separate from who we are or want to be. It’s as if we go through a period of defragmenting and see just where all the files went missing, or were simply misplaced or stuck in areas that seemed convenient at a time, but left us operating at a lack of vitality. Often, it takes good looking and good listening through enough of the noise in our minds to hear that clear voice, our heartline, of what we know to be most true for us in that moment.

But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,

-Mary Oliver, The Journey

Often, as a camp unfolds, and stories are shared like a bold offering and the cohort listens as witness to the realizations of misalignments and the pain that causes. We begin to see how certain aspects of what we learned or what once got us here, won’t get us there, and even more so: Who am I now without that old pattern? What would I really like? What’s true in me now?  

When we can re-organize around that inner voice, that connection to our heartline,  things true-up inside and outside of us. We find our hidden wholeness and find the reassurance to be our wholeness in the world. We make decisions that are aligned with who we are, and the future that’s calling us into it. That alignment, to me, is self-coherence. It’s a hard-won place. 

The same way that the life you are living is a compounded result of all of your actions, the company you work for is created by your everyday actions. As Jerry notes in this conversation, if there is no self-coherence you will find yourself working in a non-coherent structure if you’re not careful. Somehow, it can feel like magnitudes of misalignment. One decision made from a place of incongruence, will ripple out the same in effect and create discord and tension (as opposed to, say, beauty and truth and ease). 

Yancey talks about the problems inherent in solving only for what he calls “now, me” without considering the three other compartments of the “bento box” that add layers and nuance to the decision at hand: “now, us” “future, me” “future, us.” The opportunity he calls us to is to think beyond our immediate self and into and for a larger realm of possibility and way of being with each other and ourselves. So instead of rushing to 1-click on that impulse purchase, or subscribe our mind to whatever channel of content we commit our attention to, or when we face larger decisions, there’s an opportunity to think perhaps, in orders of magnitude. How important is this decision in the realm and consideration of our next 10 seconds, the next 10 hours, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months, 10 years? How does this affect me, now, and me in the future? How does this affect the larger community of which I am a part? 

There is a keystone move here not only in the realm of personal change and business but also for the future of the planet. A shift of this magnitude is an evolution in thought, which marks a significant transitory moment that begins, most literally, right at home in each individual heart. 

You have to know who you are, first and foremost. I mean, really know who you are – beyond the masks and personas and costumes and titles you front to the world. Who are you at the pulsing, breathing, vulnerable core of your humanity? Who are you and how are you related to your place in space? This latter question bears deeply ecological undertones: If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are. Where does your water come from? What is the flora and fauna surrounding you? Where does your food come from? How are the oceans, the coral reefs? Who are you in the interconnected web of life? How does the beatbeatwhisper of your heart move in and out between your inner landscape and the landscape around you?

Without digging down deep into that territory, one may forever resort to a superficial interaction with life, living out unexplored choices fueled by unexplored short term gains and never getting into the heart of what’s here for you, fully emerged and continually in the process of becoming part and parcel of your own life. Without doing that work, we can try to amend and save the environment all we want, but we will still fall short because without true-ing up our hearts to ourselves, which makes us true for our place in space (and purpose) in this larger world, we will perpetuate all that we aim to fix or clean up around us. 

Congruence, or rapport with self, is a potent vehicle for arriving there. I take a tip from my 1200 pound horse friends who organize their herds this way. And, I could argue, that the survival of the larger herd of us (now, and in the future), depends on this subversively simple move. 

A deep ecologist at heart, I believe that self-actualization is one of the key shifts towards a more ecocentric worldview — a worldview that includes rapport with self and rapport with life. When the inner and outer self comes into alignment, there’s an undeniable truth there. (Sometimes, in the human experience, dropping down into those truths when they show up for us can feel inconvenient. Oh, all those feelings I had? All the ways my identity is wrapped up in saving people or making a ton of money because I grew up with none? How entangled I am in guilt and shame in my relationships? All of those things come as realizations that can feel fairly inconvenient at the time according to your operating status quo.)

When we are out of alignment with our self, or out of rapport with ourselves, our life reflects that. We live divided. We struggle with challenges that don’t seem to really go away. We fail to meet life in our full truth–in our wholeness. Ask yourself: Where am I aligned? Where am I out of alignment with myself? Defragmenting our lives means to step into alignment with ourselves, into the future that’s calling us into it, and into our rightful place in the world amongst all the other beings. The planet, and all in it, would thank us for that.