Collectively, we have been through much the past few months. These past few weeks have been particularly heartbreaking, challenging, and difficult to witness. The causes and reflection of our collective pain is rising, especially pain experienced by people of color.
I’ve been reflecting lately on trauma. Individual and collective. Mine. Hers. His. Ours. Anyone who has gone through trauma can attest that there is a strength that arises through witnessing and bearing pain. This strength does not make the pain “ok”, nor does it make it more “bearable” – yet it is often an integral part of surviving trauma. Strength is what arises in order to hold all the pain. Assuming we are able to withstand the suffering and are graced with the ability to get through it – strength can eventually transform pain and turn it into resilience. Resilience is a form of Wisdom. It arises from a variety of sources, some expected and some unexpected.
When we truly watch, and hold ourselves in the midst of the fire – hold ourselves and our beliefs in that fire – we can bear witness to its causes, both individually and collectively. Bearing witness gives us the ability to see. Reality is seen clearest in its barest and most stripped down, naked form. When it is raw.
Sometimes, trauma is inflicted upon us. We have no choice in it. Sometimes, we are a contributor to trauma. We add to or generate trauma, for ourselves and others. When it’s the latter, the most difficult part is often the bearing witness to our own role in the suffering. If we can stand steady and bear witness long enough, we can learn to see how we are causing or adding fuel to the fire. Sometimes we may even witness ourselves ignoring the fire. We will witness all sorts of actions we are doing – anything and everything – but actually helping to put it out. This is Insight. And there is only one way to gain it: we must go through the fire, not skirt around it.
As business members, employees, owners, and members of our communities, we are all part of a collective that is creating something. What we choose to create – is our decision. Today. This moment. What do you wish to create? What insights have you gleaned recently? In what ways do you wish to show up? How are you helping to put out the fire? These are personal questions, and the answers get deeper the longer we sit with them.
Below are some tools that are helpful in listening deeper:
Three Steps to Deep Listening
- Acknowledge the Discomfort. There is always a difficulty in witnessing pain. Ours. Others. Our role in it. This ties to the concept of “Staunch Acceptance” from the book Resilience by Eggars and Barlow. We need to acknowledge the discomfort and accept this is part of deep listening. What discomfort is arising for you? Defense? Anger? Sadness? Apathy? And why? When we reflect on our businesses, consider what business practices, approaches, and decisions our organizations made that have been aligned with our highest values. Which ones have not? Bearing witness gives us an opportunity to explore our successes, and identify our pains. Identify what feels edgy and discomforting, and explore why.
- Study. Learn. Repeat. Listening and educating ourselves is one of the biggest steps we can take. When my daughter was born, I realized that I wanted to raise her strong and to teach her to be strong with others. I realized I needed to become more aware of biases that I carry pertaining to race – and I wanted access to tools that would be age-appropriate and accessible as we grew together. I reached out to a friend of color whose work had been on teaching and educating people in this space. I asked her for her recommendations on some of the best resources and tools on anti-racism for children. I needed to educate myself. I learned so much. I’m grateful to her and her willingness to share resources and her truth. I still have so much more to learn.
- Act on your New Knowledge. We are growing. We make mistakes and we learn from them. We apologize. We acknowledge our contribution to the problem. And then we act differently next time. We stand. We fall. We pause and reflect. We stand again. Stronger.
All the best,
Woodrie & The Team