Provision #582: Outside In

Laser Provision

Last week I wrote about the importance of connecting with the life that stirs and flows within. We all have dreams, energies, vibrations, rhythms, flows, inhalations, exhalations, circulations, imaginations, and other movements that are worth noticing, exploring, and appreciating. But it’s not enough to go it alone, from the inside out. We also need to connect deeply with others in ways that restore and enrich life. Sound inviting? Then read on to find the courage to make it so.

LifeTrek Provision

Last week I wrote Provisions from the comforts of home, on the east coast of the USA, as a diminished Tropical Storm Hannah moved through the area. It was an inside out kind of day. This week I am writing Provisions while flying to Los Angeles at 36,000 feet or 11,000 meters to visit my daughter, with Hurricane Ike raging below. People are on the move to get out of harm’s way and to unite with those who can offer sustenance, shelter, and support. It’s an outside in kind of day.

That’s the way life works. There are times for being alone, getting all quiet and reflective, and there are times for being together, getting all friendly and active. At their best, these times oscillate with healing rhythms • pulling back and pushing out from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year in ways that enrich and sustain life. 

Unfortunately, too many of us fail to experience these rhythms. We may snatch a minute here or there with ourselves or with our friends in ways that enrich and sustain life but we don’t make either one a habit. Instead, we find ourselves busy and pushed by the demands of modern life. The promise of increased leisure time, hailed by futurists in the 1960s, has not panned out. Carbon-based life forms with circadian rhythms (human beings) do not do as well as futurists thought they might with 24-7, silicon-based life forms (computers). In a world that never sleeps, human beings are losing our way.

Last week I wrote about ways to capture some inside out time, particularly at the start of the day. Instead of going straightaway to the newspaper, email, or what David Whyte calls “the blurred screen,” one can first take time to think, write, imagine, breathe, stretch, dream, notice, walk, meditate, and otherwise connect with what’s stirring on the inside. It really is a healing practice.

Especially since that morning time often leads to other times. Once we drink from that well we find ourselves going back for more. I have a friend who likes to describe his practice this way: an hour a day, a day a week, a week a month, and a month a year. That was his prescription for a life of service and ministry. By being extravagant with his inside out time, it enables him to be equally extravagant with his energy and time for others.

Yet inside out time is not the only way to recharge our batteries. Quality outside in time also does us a world of good, but that too gets compromised in our busy-busy, hurry-hurry world. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are the people I really trust?
  • How often do I spend time with them?
  • What is the quality of our connection?

If you are like many people, you may be suffering from a dearth of rejuvenating relationships. There may be a lot of people in your life, but few inspire, comfort, encourage, and enliven. Instead, they may demand, manipulate, reward, punish, label, diagnose, argue, analyze, demonize, or otherwise deplete our energy for living. One doesn’t have to go to a war zone to feel conflicted. All it takes is one negative comment.

Fortunately, there are ways to turn this around. David Bohm calls it dialogue. Marshall Rosenberg calls it nonviolent communication. Martin Buber calls it the “I-Thou” relationship. Eckhart Tolle calls it presence. And the greatest of these, as the ancient Paul of Tarsus once wrote, is love.

I appreciate the confidence of these teachers that any relationship can become life-giving when even one person shows up with the intention to connect with respect. It may be hard to sustain that intention when people are coming at us, but our persistence in listening for the authentic feelings and needs of others will eventually prevail. A rising tide, as they say, raises all boats. That’s certainly true when it comes to love.

To learn how to connect with respect, even with those who are hostile to us, it helps to start with those we trust. Appreciating • not analyzing • the ways in which they are similar to and different from us is a great place to start. Become fascinated with the way they make sense of the world. What do they do well? What values are reflected in their decisions? What are their hopes and dreams? What challenges are they facing? What are they feeling and needing? What would make their life more wonderful?

The point, here, is neither to psychoanalyze nor to problem-solve our friends. The point is just to understand and appreciate where they are coming from. That is what it means to connect with respect. And it feels so good when such a connection is made.

Now here’s the secret: the more we do that with others, the more others will do that with us. Empathy is self-reinforcing. By connecting deeply with others in ways that give and enrich life we realize more of ourselves and contribute, in small but tangible ways, to the healing of the planet.

So make that another one of your daily rhythms. In addition to inside out time, where you pay attention to what’s alive in you, take some outside in time, where you pay attention to what’s alive in others. Fly across the country, if you have to, or pick up the phone, to spend time with the ones you love. Listen to them. Ask more questions and give less advice. Don’t try to fix or figure out their problems. Just reflect back what you are hearing, with all due respect. That one act can make all the difference in the world.

Coaching Inquiries: Who are the people you love? How often do you spend time with them? How could you enhance the quality of your connection? Who could be for you an empathy buddy on the trek of life?

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

Thanks for the fantastic provisions. I purchased your class on listening and even though I had seen some of this before, I still want it. Thanks! 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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