Contemplative Leadership

Len at New Reformation writes about the need for leadership to be less active, less change-seeking, less driven, and more restful, meditative, borne of contemplation and silence. He’s talking about church leadership specifically; I think the argument could be broader. He says:

“The only way forward to a new kind of church is to become people of restfulness and contemplation. So long as we are driven to bring change, driven to be effective, we will only recreate the driven, oppressive, addictive and compulsive systems we have always known. The greatest hope of influencing change is not our compulsive activity to shape a world different than the one we know, but to become the change we seek. That means becoming still … risking the quiet and empty spaces.”

This reminds me of something that seemed to be a theme in Judith Lief’s book, Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality, which is that we have nothing to prove. She mentions it several times:

  • In the case of a woman who has a severe stroke that changes her life circumstances and her perspective, and finds herself “in that rare place where there is nothing to lose and nothing to prove.”
  • In talking about compassion, Lief says, “It is a relief when we have nothing left to hide and nothing in particular to promote.”
  • Again concerning compassion: “True compassion is like the sun, which effortlessly radiates warmth. … For the sun, shining is not a project, nor is the sun on a mission of mercy.”
  • Speaking of patience and the need sometimes to slow down: “Patience creates a sense of safe territory, so we no longer feel we have to hide who we are from ourselves or others. … By developing patience with ourselves, we are also making room for others to express who they are. We are establishing an atmosphere in which no one needs to prove anything.”
  • Speaking about being present to others: “Presence is a powerful force. It settles the environment so that people can begin to relax.”
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