Return to Wholeness
By Peggy McAllister
“Leave the familiar for awhile.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out.
Greet yourself in your thousand other forms,
as you mount the hidden tide and travel back home.”
Years ago, I worked on a global project that offered many clients and their teams’ new insights and transformational processes. And after three years of intense focus and engagement, I found myself running on empty. I was working with colleagues I loved, offering meaningful work to receptive clients, and yet something was missing. I was not enjoying my life. So when the 3-year contract was up for renewal, I knew it was time for me to bow out.
Thinking I would take a month out for R&R then start again, that one month turned into five months of deep soul searching. I slowed way down and asked “What am I here for? What is this life about?” I moved in and out of a process of letting go, letting come, and surrender to the unknown. I began seeing with greater clarity the Peggy I had believed I needed to be, to be “OK” in the world, and in doing so, I also discovered the mechanisms that were holding that identity in place. Then like a snake shedding its skin, I was able to release many of the mistaken notions, and open instead to what was here that was truer, more whole than those limited ideas that had formed my outworn identity.
Six months later, I witnessed myself facilitating a process for clients, and for the first time in this life, I was allowing all of my Self to be used in service to something that mattered. No more holding back or living in my safety zone. And with that, I experienced this remarkable sense of awe. Of flow. Of being fully available and present in a way I had never imagined possible. The feeling of “This is what I was made for!”
These days as I talk with practitioners all over the world, it is clear that many of us are experiencing a compelling and increasingly non-negotiable Invitation, to live and work in greater congruence with all of who we are.
At the same time, we often find ourselves wrestling with the hypnotic pull of our old Reactive safety mechanisms/identities…to be the responsible one, the heroine who saves the day, the smartest guy in the room, the most successful one, the helpful one that everyone likes.
So we dance in the tension between the safety of our old familiar habits of identity, and this Call to step beyond those limited boundaries; back into what feels more true, more alive. In essence, to live as all of who we are.
This journey, from the safety of a mind-created identity and back to our essential whole self, is what I call the Return to Wholeness.
As Bob Anderson and Bill Adams tell us in Mastering Leadership, such evolutionary passages involve disintegration and reintegration, death and rebirth. They require that we step beyond the edge of everything we have imagined ourselves to be, to rediscover who we actually are. Even so for many of us these days, this is the only choice that makes sense anymore.
Here are three key practices I have discovered that will offer solid support for your Return to Wholeness journey:
1. Practicing Presence
Having a daily practice that trains your mind and nervous system to re-inhabit the present moment is key to moving back into Wholeness. The Reactive mind (and the identity it has fabricated) has no power when we fully inhabit the Present moment. It can only exist in an imagined past or future. However, the Present is exactly where we can experience our whole, essential self.
Being present allows us to bring conscious awareness to the mostly unconscious mechanism that has held our Reactive Mind in place. Each time we are able to stay in the present moment, noticing the thoughts and sensations as we experience our Reactive mind, its power begins to ebb.
Whether you commit to a daily meditation practice, or walking consciously in nature, or martial arts, the key to living increasingly from our wholeness is building the muscle of staying present in the here and now.
As we move into the Integral level of development, discovering our Purpose can’t be separated from living as who we are.
“We each have a contribution that is solely ours to make. Our task in life is to move toward an ever more complete expression of that purpose. Leadership is fundamentally about realizing our higher purpose and taking actions that make that purpose real in the conditions of our life.” Excerpted from Bob Anderson’s whitepaper “The Spirit of Leadership.”
One of the practices used during my 5 months sabbatical was to sit in silence, becoming as centered as possible, and to drop the question “Who am I?” deep into the Silence within me. Then I allowed myself to be curious, and wait. I might ask myself this question 15 times in 20 minutes. And what I have discovered is that even if no words come (they often don’t), this curiosity about Who I Am actually offers a deeper experience of this Self “I am.”
While there are solitary parts of this journey, we are not meant to do this all by ourselves. Whether it’s being part of a community of like-minded folks who are on similar journeys, or working with a coach, and/or tapping into the love and support of family and friends, this waking up is both a personal and a collective endeavor.
These days, I am walking with many clients who have accepted this Invitation to relinquish the mind-created identity that has served them until now. At times our work together is an honoring of the dissolution and death of what has been. At other times, I serve as a midwife to support them in welcoming what is emerging. And always, I am in awe of what happens when we trust that, no matter what the appearance, all is well. Everything we need is right here. And we are all walking each other home.
Peggy McAllister is the CEO of Essential Leadership LLC. For over two decades, Peggy’s clients have benefited from her ability to engage with leaders and their teams in transformational processes. As Executive Coach and Facilitator, she has offered hundreds of leaders across the globe, simple yet profound tools for achieving radical and sustainable new insights in their leadership, team functioning and business results, using The Leadership Circle™ processes as a key foundation.
Peggy’s work is deeply rooted in the sacred, weaving together her graduate training in psychology and counseling, with 40 years of yoga, Qigong, tai chi, meditation, and other body-mind practices.
Join Peggy and an intimate group of your peers this fall for the 2019 Return to Wholeness Retreats, co-sponsored with The Leadership Circle™. It is an integral-level journey into your Leadership Circle Profile, designed to intimately come into relationship with your Edge, to learn how to step beyond it and experience your inherent mastery in a more generative and powerful way.
Click here for the September 11-14 retreat in Ireland, or the October 16-20 retreat in Oregon. 2019 Return to Wholeness Retreats