Spirit of Authentic Presence In Leadership And Life by Jackie Lowe Stevenson, CEO, The Spirit of Leadership, LLC was recorded October 8, 2015 at Pebble Ledge Ranch, Novelty, Ohio.
My name is Jackie Stevenson and I’m here at our Pebble Ledge Ranch, it’s an amazing privilege to live here. My husband and I are the caretakers and the stewards of this land and it’s a land that has been home to all kinds of life, it’s an open system of geese arriving to get ready for their flight north or south, a herd of horses that lives here as much as possible as a natural herd, and many people have walked here.
I’d like you to meet “Bud”, and Bud is one of the biggest hearted horses, you’ll ever meet. He’s just so amazing and he has this amazing heart and wisdom about him. He is whispering in my ear to remind people of their own abundance and when they live collectively in a herd, like he does, you are able to access that in a deeper way.
To my right is “Spirit” and Spirit is another wonderful member of our herd and she is a great teacher of discernment and she’s very clear on her “yeses” and “nos”. Part of abundance is knowing what to say “No” to that is not in our best interest, but more importantly, isn’t in the best interest of the whole system. So, Spirit asks us to say, before we make a decision, “What’s the impact? What do I need to think about? Is it in my best interest, but is it also in her best interest? The herd, my family, the culture and is it in our best interest of seven generations to come?” If not, then it’s not true abundance. If it is true abundance, then it’s going to be for seven generations to come.
So, people come to this ranch, and why would they come? Whether they are someone from a homeless shelter or corporate America, they come because I think people are hungry for knowing who they are. And part of knowing who you are, is, what is your purpose? What is it that you want to contribute? What is it that is your unique gift that no one else has that you can contribute to make this world a better place? And so people come with that question. And part of that is, Who am I? I think about that as our “authentic self”, or the spirit of our authenticity. So, part of that is, “Who am I?” as part of this larger world of abundance? And, “Who do I want to be?” not, who I should be, or who people think I should be, but actually, “Who am I to be?” Also, if we’re authentic, we aren’t so influenced by what other people think we should be, but we’re getting very clear about, “What is at the heart of the matter? Where is our passion? Where is our purpose? and, How can we bring that into the world in a fuller way?”
I think that the other part of being authentic is that we have this reality of who we are in the present, and we know there’s more. We know that there is something that wants to emerge within us that will tell us who we are becoming. We are always in a place of becoming. So, instead of putting a goal, and saying, “This is what I want. How do I get there?” We say, “This is who I am. How do I create the best conditions for my future to emerge?” The future that emerges is often better than anything we could have started with. And so the work is really about how do you create the internal conditions, the internal self, to be offering the most we have to offer and to build not only the internal conditions, but the external environment that allows that most successful, beneficial, abundant future to come forward? And if we stay completely in the present, it lets us know what is that next step towards that future that is calling us, that wants to emerge, that is really waiting for us there. One of the amazing things about the horses is that they live there. That’s why they’ve lived sixty million years because they live so clearly in the present, that the next best step will emerge in front of them, and then be waiting there for them. I think that’s often what they are, is they begin to allow that next best place to be, to emerge, and then they’re there waiting for it to catch up with them. So, that’s part of the gift they offer us.
So, one of the things that is so amazing to me in this connectivity, is how easy it is to be a global citizen now. With the Internet, you can really participate as a global citizen. What the horses have reminded us is that they do that all the time. They are part of a global connectivity, part of a global system, part of a global communication network. It will never “go down”, it needs no outer source. Their source for connectivity is all inner.
What they have is what we call the, “Hoof And Heart Wide Web”. They are connected to each other over long distances and they share information. And they share that partly through the resonance of their heart, of “Where is it safe for us to be?” “Where do we want to move collectively together?” And each horse has it’s own perspective and they share their perspective which then becomes collective wisdom and then the herd moves as one, towards a common purpose that’s in the best interest of each individual horse in the herd and the collective together. They do that through what we call the “Hoof And Heart Wide Web”. So they communicate through their hearts and their hoofs and horses have a heart that’s seven times as big as ours, but they also have four other hearts that each one lives in the bottom of one of their feet and it looks very much like a heart. Ands as they walk, it touches the earth and pumps life giving energy all through their body and keeps their circulation good as they walk. And we, at the sole of our feet, may be the same way as we walk on the earth with intention and awareness, we also can feel the nurturing and the benefit of abundance that is so generously offered through the earth.
One of the things I would like to offer is an opportunity to invite you to be a part of the “Hoof And Heart Wide Web”. And I’m going to let you know how we can do that.
So, are you ready? Okay! Here we go! It’s very easy. All of you have had the experience of bringing someone to mind that’s very dear to you, someone into your heart. It might be a grandmother that passed away several years ago, it might be a great-great-grandmother you’ve never even met, it might the spirit of the tree, it might be a good friend that you haven’t seen for a while, maybe it’s somebody you just saw that morning and is no longer in your physical presence.
As you bring that person into your mind’s eye, into your mindfulness and into your heart, there is a connection that is there that is always available and that is part of that connection to the heart. As you take that person in your heart and you appreciate who they are to you and the beauty that they have to offer, and what they mean to you and the purpose that they’ve offered in your life to be part of something larger than yourself, thank you Bud, I’m getting coached here, by the expert of the “Hoof And Heart Wide Web”.
As you connect with those people and you can do that right now, really bring one into mind, you might bring them into your heart, and feel as you offer gratitude for them, the gratitude for the difficult lessons they might have offered you, maybe gratitude for the challenges, but also the gratitude for the ease and privilege of knowing them, and growing with them and being with them and having them in your life and you in their life. As we bring them into our mind’s eye, feeling your heart swell, offering them gratitude, sending them a message back from your heart to their heart and then there’s this connection. Maybe they’ll know it and they’ll know it’s you and maybe they’ll just feel a special blessing or a special warmth or a special glow about the day that something happened important, even if they’re not quite sure what it was. And then you, also, can receive that back. And now you are part of the “Hoof And Heart Wide Web”.
So, anytime you’re feeling inspired or uninspired and you would like to make that connection, just go into your heart, go into your mind’s eye and think of that person and send out that message of gratitude and they will come forward to you. That is what the horses are here to teach us, is that we’re all a part of that “Hoof And Heart Wide Web” not only with the human world but we’re part of a living system, an amazing living system of nature. As you connect to that Heart Wide Web, you’re connected to the earth and all her wisdom and energy and intelligence. You’re connected to the bird’s that are singing behind us, to this beautiful sunshine, you can find the connection to the “Hoof And Heart Wide Web” in all of nature. And you simply need to tune in, to be aware, and to be be choiceful about the relationship and that relationship will then speak to you.
I’m about to take a journey and I would love to have you join me on this journey. And, if you look this way, we have one of the horses who’s going to lead us into this journey. So, the journey, any journey, begins with preparation. Before we enter into this field of dreams, part of the preparation for this journey, is to leave behind any of the assumptions, any of the what would keep us from going full heartedly into this journey, and to leave behind anything that keeps us from being abundantly, authentically, who we are.
So, maybe I’m going to leave behind “I’m not good enough” or maybe I’m going to leave behind the fear of dreams not coming true. So I’m going to leave anything that might limit me, here, and when I come back, if I need them, I can pick them up. So, I’m going to leave behind, and I invite you to leave behind any of the assumptions that have you be less than who you are when you’re at your best and join me on this walk.
So coming through the portal, leaving our assumptions behind, we can be really present in the moment. We’ve left the past behind, of whatever patterns of life that may have limited us, we have left behind any fears of the future, and we’ve taken with us anything that we need from the past. Maybe some of our ideals, our values, our heritage, and we’ll take that with us but we’ll live in the present with open mind, open heart and open perspective. We’re going to walk out into the field a little bit and have an opportunity to explore what it might mean to be fully present with who we are.
So, we’re going to walk and join the herd. The herd lives as a collective, they live in an open system as much as possible as an open herd and we have taken off, any of the world, human, harnesses, halters and allowed them to live free. Our hope is that by having them live free, and us being part of that herd, that we also can take off, take away, take the barriers away from whatever allows us to live free to be in contact with ourselves to be in a good relationship with ourselves, and in preparation, to be in good relationship with others, those we love, those we care about and especially, those who challenge us or might create, for us, difficulty. We’re going to join the herd, moving out into the field and we’re going to see what we can learn from them.
So, when I think about authenticity, when I think about what it means, to me it means you are more of your full self. You can be who you are when you’re most comfortable, when you’re most at home with yourself and when you feel like you understand your purpose and the meaning of your life, and you live in alignment with that. You live in that holistic way, that your mindfulness, your thoughts, your emotions, your physical embodiment - how you walk in the world - and your spiritual place, the values with which you live, are all in alignment.
Five Pathways To Authentic Presence
For me, there have been five pathways that have helped me to find my way into that alignment. One, is certainly the wisdom of the collective and the horses and herd have been an amazing teacher of the benefit of living as part of a collective that lives in harmony with itself, with each other, and in harmony with the environment. The horses also have some wonderful lessons about what does leadership look like in the collective, how do we have shared leadership in this living system? What does this system leader look like who not only watches out for himself, and the herd, but for the whole of life? And so, how important it is if we are going to live authentically, if we’re going to live true to our purpose, and who we can be when we’re at our best, to live as part of a conscious awareness, in a relationship, in a responsible way, to this living system, of the collective.
The second pathway for me, has been what I call the pathway of positivity. There are many ways to look at the world: you can look at a glass half full, you can look at a glass half empty, or you can look at a glass as always full and overflowing and there is no half full and half empty because there is always water in the first half and air in the second half, so how do you always look at the fullness of life and come from that place?
Also, a strength based approach, that has to do with looking at what people do well and what works and what lasts and help them strengthen, help us strengthen the part of ourselves that feels alive and feels vibrant and has something to contribute. So as we build on our strengths, our challenges and the things that are less adequate become less relevant. It also lets us know as we build those strengths we can address those less developed parts of ourselves as well but we do it from a positive view which doesn’t mean that everything always feels good or is happy in that sense, but it’s joyful. There’s a difference between happiness, which could be moment to moment, coming and going, and joyfulness which is about an appreciation of all of life, the sorrow, the grief, the moments of happiness, that all of it, that when we have meaning in our life, even under the most dire conditions, we can be joyful. And I think, for me, that is what positivity is, is to make meaning of our life, and when life has meaning and purpose and a joyfulness about it, in a particular positive way. And it also keeps us from being stuck because it moves us through the difficult channels of life that we all go through back into the light and then there are times when we enter back into the dark but we do that with the flow, like the moon that is full and then becomes dark, or the night and the day, and we join that rhythm of nature.
Which takes me to the third pathway for me, which is the natural world which is an amazing living system. One of the ways I think about that, and when people come here we help them think about, is their ecological identity. That most often people think about, “Who am I as a human being?” Which is really important, who am I to my family, my society and my values? But we can also think about, “Who am I as a member of this natural world?” We’re part of nature, we’re part of that family. If I really see myself as part of that family, then I will be able to take better care of the environment in a natural way because I have a relationship, a family relationship to this living system. So, for me, that was the third pathway.
The fourth pathway is what I call the eight intelligences. We often use our cognitive intelligence, we might use our emotional intelligence, we might use our bodily intelligence, listen to the wisdom of our body, we certainly can listen to our spiritual intelligence, our values. And then we have what I call our “social intelligence”, which is what we learn as part of the collective, our intuitive intelligence, which is part of that sense that begins to know without knowing, and we have part of what I call our “natural intelligence” which is that nature based intelligence that we’re born with as part of that natural family of life, nature’s family of life, and then the eighth one is what I call, “beyond our wildest imagination”, that there’s a certain intelligence that we don’t yet have, that’s what is that “emergent future” has, that we know it’s there and if we knew what it was we wouldn’t be able to live it because it must stay a mystery. That is the magical, mysterious intelligence that can be cultivated when we know it’s there and we don’t expect to know what it is. So, those are the eight intelligences, that’s the fourth pathway.
The Fifth Pathway: Indigenous Culture
And for me, the fifth pathway is indigenous culture. I’ve had the really wonderful blessing of living with Bedouins in the Israeli desert and with Native Americans in the United States, and what I realized, in living with them, is that all of us at some point were indigenous, we lived connected to the land, we lived as part of the living system of the land, we lived tribally. It is in all our DNA and in some way I’m curious about how we might learn from these indigenous cultures, how to live indigenously once again, and remember from our bones, what it is to live more tribally, to live more collectively, to live more in harmony with nature and our environment and with each other. So, I think there’s a way in which as we claim our “indigenous” nature, we claim our indigenous responsibility, we’ll know where we belong, we’ll know what land we belong to, we’ll know what place we belong to, we’ll know what is our place, and what is our responsibility, and what is our gift to offer? And again, as part of that indigenous world we’re looking at gratitude and respect for our elders, our ancestors that came before us, and we’re also looking with gratitude and with appreciation for the generations yet to come and so the decisions we make in the present honor the past and preserve the best of it, and honor and celebrate the best of the future and what’s to come and that helps us to be more authentically who we are in that spirit of authenticity.
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