The Embrace

I close my eyes. Yes, I hear it. The steady rhythm of the ocean waves just beyond the beach house. I pause. I slow down my breathing. I notice my quickening heartbeat. I am stepping into vulnerable territory.

I am about to introduce a new piece of music to our latest cohort of ELIA: a radical and beautiful ten-month learning lab for deepening one’s leadership and capacity to influence change. I feel raw whenever I introduce new music. It is like presenting a newborn. This particular piece was inspired by this group of twelve, and this is our last evening after nearly a year together. It is a poignant moment. We have engaged in deep work with one another. We have drawn out the latent intelligence that resides in our emotional and somatic selves. I have fallen in love with each one of these leaders, and with the heart of the group.

Slowly, I open my eyes, turn to the group, and explain, “This piece is called The Embrace. It expresses holding and being held, just as we have done in this community, supporting each other in being the best we can be in challenging situations. My left hand plays the lower register of the music—a steady rhythm that holds and receives the upper register of my right hand. This steady rhythm is the presence we have honed within ourselves—the capacity to hold steady in intense situations, shifting quickly from a reactive state to a resourceful one. It is also the steadiness we have provided for each other throughout the practicing, simulations, vulnerability, and risk of bringing our leadership to a new level.”

I pause and take a breath, then continue to unfold the metaphor.

“This right-hand melody carries improvisational phrases full of surprise because of the predictability of my left hand. It is an apt metaphor for how the steadiness growing within and between us creates the conditions for greater innovation and experimentation, and then for testing those ideas. When I improvise the top line, the feeling of exhilaration comes through discovery, of unexpected turns, of playful contradictions—all because my left hand holds true to the pattern established.”

I pause before I begin the piece. I reflect for a moment in this pause, considering how we have built a strong container for just this occasion. And I think to myself that true resilience is vulnerability. With vulnerability comes aliveness. With aliveness comes an ability to respond. To the music. To what life brings. To those that hold us as we grow.

I hear the ocean waves as my fingers touch the keys. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but right here, I say to myself.

This blog was written as a thank you to all of you who participated in the ELIA 2017/2018 cohort. May there be many more!

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