This month’s reccies have a bit of an inner (more spiritual) flavour to them. As leaders its crucial we fill our well, and nourishing the spirit is part of this. As you know if you’ve read Lead In, I believe that noticing our mindsets, beliefs and habitual thinking – and doing the work to elevate these – is the game. (Whereas focusing only on the outer situations – our conditions and circumstances – is exhausting and not sustainable.)
I hope you enjoy these recommendations!
This reading of spiritual teacher Ram Dass’s book Polishing The Mirror has been a lush and moving experience for me. I listen while when I’m walking my dog through the forest where I live, and I find myself stopped, transfixed. It’s as though I have a warm and loving voice who knows me speak to me alone. It’s quite glorious.
Dass was a Harvard Professor in the early 1960s, a psychedelic pioneer and then a spiritual teacher. Polishing The Mirror speaks of his long life as a spiritual seeker, and his stories are really thought provoking. One particular part that really hit home (maybe because of Steve’s mum Wyn’s recent passing), is about preparing for death – at any stage of one’s life, not just when we’re old.
We’ve all been asked at various workshops and retreats – ‘what would you do if you only have one year to live?’ – and I’ve always felt that question contrived and not useful. I felt that the answer – spend more time with family / go on a big adventure and explore the world etc didn’t give me access to the practice that preparing for one’s death might. It always felt theoretical.
Instead, Dass talks about this preparation in terms of focusing on, like a laser beam, to complete what you’re here to do. It’s had me thinking – what might that be for me? What is important enough/spiritually urgent enough to me, that I would forsake some other priorities for, to focus on and do? Another way of thinking about this is – what is the essence of what I am here to contribute to the world? And how might preparing for my death put this essence toward the top of my priorities instead of a ‘when I get to it’. I’ve been sharing some of this with clients and it’s a fantastic way for really great people caught up in the ‘doing’ to get to the ‘being’ of what they are about.
While we’re talking about Ram Dass, a piece of music I recommend this month is this beautiful meditation set to music called Sit Around the Fire by Jon Hopkins, Ram Dass and East Forest. I sometimes listen to it in bed before going to sleep. Enjoy!
Dr Kristin Neff: The Liberating Power of Self-Compassion
As a leadership guide, coach, and human living in the world, I study a lot of the research around compassion, and Dr Kristin Neff, PhD, is a seminal figure in this space. I’ve listened to this interview a few times and love the personal warmth, practical advice and deep love she imbues when she shares. Neff is an author and associate professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas. She is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, conducting the first empirical studies on self-compassion nearly 20 years ago.
Compassion is a critical element for leaders to understand and practice. It can feel at odds with what we’ve been taught is effective, as there is a prevailing narrative that being compassionate is a bit ‘soft’, and leading this way has ‘people take advantage’. This is not the case. As the in-depth research with 35,000 executives by the Potential Project showed, Compassion is one of the 3 key elements leaders in the 21st century must master to be able to lead themselves and their organisations through challenging, complex times.
I hope you enjoy these reccies from me. Which was your favourite? What things do you read, watch or listen to that empowers your own journey as an open hearted, brave leader in 2022?
Till next week,
With much love