As soon as we gathered on the screen, I felt nervous. Insecurity jumbled my words and hid others. The twelve faces in front of me belonged to the facilitators of Living from the Heart, and I was in charge of our biannual gathering. I had co-facilitated with many of them who have become dear friends, but facilitating facilitators on Zoom? Now that was a whole new level.
The new team from Washington State was joining us for the first time, and I wanted them to feel accepted and inspired. We had a number of things on our agenda, so I had to keep things moving and yet leave enough space for the Spirit and for people to process and express their thoughts and feelings.
I was touched and encouraged by what transpired over the two days we met. Although we finished early, no one wanted to leave. We talked about movies and books for another half hour until finally, someone said they had to go.
As we closed our time together, the facilitators generously expressed their gratitude to me for organizing and leading us. They appreciated being able to simply come and participate. I was glad to provide that for them and yet, knowing how beautifully they facilitate, I can’t help but wonder now if they were frustrated with me at times. I responded to questions too quickly and too often and could have left more space for others to contribute. These are lovely people, but they are also real and can get irritated like anyone else. What if I irritated them? What if in the feedback I discover it’s true: I’m guilty as charged.
That thought makes my chest tighten. An “Oh-No” rises up in me as if I’m about to go over a cliff into an abyss where the rubble of those who commit the unforgivable sin lie wasted.
Something in me can’t let that happen. But as I stay present to this fear, I discover a calmness in my body that allows me to step back and watch myself go over the edge, fall, and get up again. What if I did irritate some of them? They love me enough to let it go. They are mature enough to attend to their own discomfort. Whatever feedback I receive, it’s going to be okay.
As I sit with the intensity of my fear and the graphic image I used to describe it, I know that this present fear is rooted in the past. Something in my body still feels past hurts and braces for a fall. I put my hand over my heart and feel sadness and compassion. “It’s going to be okay,” I say softly to my fear. “You’re safe now.”
A few hours later, I go for a bike ride. There’s road construction and a flagger directs me to stop. While I wait for the oncoming traffic to pass, I watch him instructing a similarly dressed younger woman. When they direct me to go, I realize I’ve never witnessed that before. Why now?
As I pedal and think about the new flagger, God reminds me that I too am a beginner. I feel invited to receive grace, not only from my colleagues and God but from myself. Can I be patient with myself as I learn to facilitate facilitators and continue to be present to my body?
And might there be grace as well for that tender fear in me that may never leave?
O my Beloved, to You do I draw close;
when all my inner fears well up,
enfold me in your strong arms;
otherwise, like a fiery dragon,
my fears will consume me,
I shall live in my illusions.
–Psalm 7: 1, 2
Nan C. Merrill,
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness
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Events in the United States and around the world have made us more aware of the racism underlying our lives and culture. In this unprecedented time in history. we are called to recognize hidden racism and help the world become equitable for all. But how do we do that? Sounds True organization is undergoing an in-depth Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training in their workplace over the next two years provided by TMI Consulting and led by Dr. Tiffany Jana. I’ve been listening to a 3-part webinar series Sounds True made for their staff and customers in which Dr. Jana answers a number of questions about bias and racism. Dr. Jana is the author of a number of books including Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships across Differences, and the founder of TMI Consulting, a diversity and inclusion management consulting firm. You can listen to the webinar here.