When love comes to work

December 6, 2018 Leave a comment

This week, my boss told me she loved me. It was not problematic, in fact it was beautiful. It was following a few days we had taken as the IISC network to get clear on our next strategic steps, considering how we are part of a movement of racial equity change makers.

While we have spoken for several years about how love is a central part of our collaborative change lens, we are doing an ever-better job of embodying it, first with ourselves and then with our clients.

Cornel West tells us that justice is what love looks like in public. He and others have revitalized a tradition that is more holistic and does not segregate love, both in the feeling state and the action state, from our work for equity. Many have preceded us who carry that wisdom. In gatherings of activists and change makers, I hear people yearning for our full humanity, to be able to have emotions as we work, to feel whole in our beings, to feel like we each belong. In our work spaces, especially when we are working at our life purpose, we yearn for satisfying and impactful spaces where we are paid what we need, can bring a wholeness, and can enjoy people and art.  One of our labor foremothers in Lawrence, Rose Schneiderman, put it this way– “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”

Over the past five years, we have been trying to center love. We do that in light ways, by using the word, and by bringing a variety of practices to our IISC and client spaces: intentional breathing and meditation, appreciations, embodying joy and love as we start a day, reclaiming space and time for fun and playfulness and relaxation. While these can be light touch, they are also not to be underestimated. Too frequently, we and others, make it through many a work day without any of this.

And this year we have been committing to dipping our toes in further. Some of the ways we are experimenting with and aspiring toward love at IISC:

  • We prioritized a small group of practitioners to imagine what equity work with love at the center looks like and how that differs from an organizing or facts-based strategy
  • We let each other know that everyone belongs and that everyone is loved.
  • We take pauses before entering difficult work or conflict settings
  • We try to start our own and other gatherings from a place of vision and abundance
  • We are embedding more practices into our training and consulting and coaching work

Love is definitely an emotion and can be expressed in words. It can also be felt more fully if it is in everything we do from how we interact throughout the day, to how we design spaces, to how we use time and build in pauses, to how we deal with mistakes and conflict.

This week, as we gathered around what might be heady material, editing our theory of change and planning our next strategic steps, we used half a day to get to know each other and our cares through honoring ancestors, building an altar, and talking about our fears and anger. And this intent was spread throughout our time.

One activity that many found deeply connecting is described blow. I am calling it “Greeting with love and joy.” It was intended to ground, to center joyfulness, and from there to greet one another in silence and with a depth of connection.

These are some of the ways the activities and spaciousness made me feel vulnerable, more willing to share more truth, more open to hearing others and more open to seeing them fully, less reactive, loved.

Love surely is the answer to many questions. And it is not easy. We need to honor the time it takes, and we need to take seriously how to prioritize and integrate love, especially during times of conflict, and in all our work, including finance!

We are curious how love comes to work for you. What are some examples? Where are you feeling challenged?

 

Greeting with Love and Joy

This activity starts with time in a standing meditation to get grounded and connected to the world around us, to “gather” some elements we might need and to recall a time of joy. We then spend time in silence, connecting to others in the gathering, by walking around and stopping to gaze at another person from that place of joy or love. We end with some music or a chant to allow people to shift back into sound and return to the circle.

Guided breathing to center and to gather elements.

Ask people to stand with legs shoulder-width apart and either eyes closed or gazing down. Lead them through a series of deep breathing:

  • into their centers.
  • into their length, grounding into the floor and connecting through the head to the sky, gathering an element from each place.
  • into their back bodies to feel supported by ancestors and into the front body thinking about their commitment to the work.
  • into their side bodies to connect to people on either side of them and in the broader community.
  • back to center to imagine a moment of joy or love, to envision the sound and smells and feel that so they can carry that into the next piece of the activity.

Walking activity

Now let that picture and feeling of joy expand in your body from a kernel in your belly, out through your body, and to begin to expand beyond you.

Walk around for a minute with your eyes mostly down, feeling your joy in your step.

Now, raise your eyes and with the joy throughout your body, stop as you encounter another person. As you encounter each person, you are invited to pause for 10-30 seconds, as you are comfortable, and gaze directly into their eyes. You are bringing your joy & love to the greeting, you are seeing them in their joy, and you are receiving the love and joy in how they are silently greeting you.

Continue this for at least 5-10 minutes so that people can greet most others in the room. Consider integrating virtual participants by having multiple video stations so that participants in the room can stop by those stations to gaze at their colleagues who are remote.

Invite people to return to the circle/their seats. I ended with a short song/chant that I know as a way to bring sound back to the room and transition out of this intense moment of connecting. You can also ask people to journal or share feelings or an appreciation after they return. The intensity is both in insisting that we are connecting from love and in the silent but powerful eye gazing.

 

 

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