Letting Go, Bringing In

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and former member of the IISC Board of Directors.

Winter Solstice is just around the corner. I find it’s a good time to reflect on the past year, and look toward the year ahead. Every year at each of the Solstices, I scan my life and consider what I’d like to let go of and what I’d like to invoke.

Letting go can be tricky — I can easily get attached to my ideas, habits, routines, stuff. It can be challenging to take stock and admit that I really don’t need the absolutely cute painted pinecone given to me years ago by someone now in her 30s. Yes, it’s still meaningful, but it’s dusty, I haven’t looked at it since last Winter Solstice, and that child (now a grown woman) probably has no recollection of even creating it. It can go. I can take a picture of it in my heart and offer it to the fire.

Stuff is one thing, and ideas are another. I can become quite enamored by a shiny new idea or project, and letting go of it when the time is right can be much more difficult — especially when my ego is involved. Just because I was clever enough to have dreamed up something that worked, doesn’t mean that it must last forever. All things have a lifespan, even ideas and dreams. Our task as leaders is to allow for natural waning, and to let go when it is time.

Norma Wong, a very smart teacher, defines habits as unconscious patterns of behavior. She says that there are no “good” habits, because if we are on autopilot, if we aren’t present and in the moment, then unconscious behaviors don’t usually serve us. I think that’s wise. So I’ve been looking at my daily life, am waking up to the patterns that support my well-being and am letting go of habits — my repetitious and unconscious behaviors. This has been harder than I imagined, but well worth the effort. I feel much more engaged and focused, and less willing to do things just because that’s how I/we’ve always done them.

And then there are relationships. I’ve come to see that there is a rhythm and pattern to relationships as well. Sometimes it is time to let a relationship go or lie fallow. Doing this has nothing to do with its past value — it may just be time to turn our face or attention away from what may have consumed us, but is no longer important. This is not to say that a person is no longer important, but our need for the particular kind relationship we have had with them has shifted.

Letting go regularly is a good practice. It helps us leave the past in the past, and to move forward unburdened and clear. When I am unburdened and clear, it is that much easier to see what I want to bring in to my life.

Which leads us to invoking. I love the process of imagining what’s possible and then putting my heart and will toward it. This is where being clear about purpose and having a strong and compelling vision for one’s life and work is helpful. Invoking, or bringing in, is a powerful leadership tool. I believe that the universe lines up behind us when we are aligned and committed. It is much more likely that we’ll get what we’re wishing for when we’re clear about what it is.

This season I’m invoking an end to war. I’m invoking peace in my beloved city of Oakland, in Afghanistan, in Israel and Palestine and wherever people are taking up arms against one another. This means I am invoking peace in my heart. I now, publicly, refuse to be at war with anyone, including myself. I have a feeling that this invocation will take me places I can’t now imagine, and I’ll learn a lot. We’ll see…

What, as we turn the year, is it time for you to let go of?

What do you want to bring in?

I’d like to end with gratitude. Thank you for being on this journey working toward our common good. Thank you for your work. Thank you for supporting Rockwood, for being a partner to us in our work. Thank you for taking the time to write me feedback over the years. I so appreciate your companionship. Have a wonderful winter season, and may your Solstice be restful and fulfilling.

From my heart to yours,

December 2012

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  • Sara Oaklander says:

    I realized when I read this that I had been looking for something to guide me through this particular time of the year. Thank you, Akaya.

  • Eileen Mayko says:

    Thank you for this Akaya. Your message certainly resonates now but is one that should be kept close year round.

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