This January has been a gift. A month of holidays, friends and family. Also of time: to breathe, to focus on rebirthing daily routines, like exercise and cooking, as well as embracing special moments, be it meeting a brand-new baby, or taking myself out to lunch just because I had the freedom!
One true blessing this month has been the course I just completed. I anticipated taking a January session to free up the months ahead, but after dropping a class in the fall, it felt more like an imperative, as I often mandate that I “stay on track”. In this case, it was to graduate on time. Who would have guessed that my honoring my boundaries in the fall, a.k.a. not taking 3 intensive quantitative courses at once, would lead to a needed experience (ok, aside from my very wise Spiritual Director, who nearly predicted something like this 3 months ago)?
“Moral Courage and Your Purpose”, sounded ‘easy’ in my first reading of the course description. Yet, I soon found myself drawn back to class website. By the end of the semester, I was desperately needing to be led in exercises I often undertake, but never connect to the larger picture, of how to be a good leader.
Why? Well, it’s no surprise that this fall was a tough one for me. Undergoing a huge life transition of becoming a full-time student after 5+ years of full-time work was a major shift. Add in the newness, the unfamiliar terrain and course material, I really felt lost. Who was I, now that I didn’t have my work successes attached to my name? How strong were my relationships, now that I am always pressed for time and on a completely divergent schedule? Was this what I wanted? Would I receive the education and experience I felt drawn to? Would this be worth it?
Days before this class began, I realized I had lost my sense of self. My confidence wavered, as I no longer felt sure of myself. So when I walked into the classroom and saw: “Identity, Integrity Your Impact” on the white board, my soul sighed in relief.
The course balanced introspection (what is my identity- the one defined by me, not what others see at first glance; what are my non-negotiable values) with broad questions of moral courage (when do you speak up and when do you sit down). Conversations flowed from the root belief so many of us have: fear of offending. Think about it. How often do you censor yourself, silence your inner thoughts, to remain ‘politically correct’ despite knowing you have a burning point or question? This does not mean you need to shout it out and debate everyone. However, why can’t we respectfully bring these ideas out? To borrow from Indian wisdom and yoga’s mantra, why can’t we have a discussion on differing view points while “the light in me honors the light in you”?
Speaking of which, this evening I stretched out the long forgotten mat. My teacher’s theme for the evening was “being real” to ourselves. *DING DING DING*! It was a page from our (text)book! I shared with my teacher the wonders of this class and she wanted more and more conversation about my experience! Leaving the studio, I reflected on one of the many songs played, but that I heard in a different way tonight:
“It’s better to say too much
Than to never to say what you need to say again
Even if your hands are shakin’
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closin’
Do it with a heart wide open
A wide heart
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say”
John Mayer has got a point. Pluralism can be a vehicle for our own moments of moral courage, i.e. to speak our truths. If we can come to others with an open and kind heart, asking questions, and bringing our true selves to the table, that we can truly utter the words that lie at our core.
Who would you rather be true to: this idea that PC’ness rules the day, or to yourself? For just because you have a thought on something you may not inherently be a part of a culture, a dynamic, a family model, does not mean you are domineering, or what many of us in human rights work fear: an imperialist.
For me, this has been a great lesson in how to operate as a leader, one with courage to speak out, question the status quo as well as remain ‘real’ to myself. These last few months have shown that when we start in a place of self-awareness (what I need), we can open our hearts up to truly wonderful gifts.
*Thank you to all my colleagues in the class, and to Irshad*