Assessment : Seven Paths to Fearless Leadership
“We have plenty of people who model material success and achievement for us… What we need more of are those who model enlightenment, real freedom, the mastery of being.”
The material in this article comes from The Way of Harmony: Walking the Inner Path to Balance, Happiness, and Success (Avon Books), which has drawn wide praise for its clarity, its inspiring stories, and the practical way in which it shows readers how to embody self-realization within the context of success in the world of relationships, work, money, and daily life.
In addition to The Way of Harmony, Jim Dreaver is the author of The Ultimate Cure, a book about transformation, and Somatic Technique, a guide to mind/body integration. He has been teaching in the fields of healing, stress-management, personal mastery, and leadership development for twenty years.If you would like more information about results-guaranteed training, retreats, and personal coaching in the Seven Gates and the path to Fearless Leadership.
Jim Dreaver. 450 Pitt Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472, USA. Tel: +1 707 823-1640
The Way of Harmony
Imagine being able to reduce, even eliminate stress, anxiety, and fear from your consciousness. Imagine being able to solve problems, resolve conflicts, and make decisions effortlessly, while at the same time enhancing the flow and focus of your own creative energy, and that of your organization, so that you maximize performance and results.
The key to making this happen involves a shift in the way you see reality. In The Way of Harmony I call this shift the core insight, an idea which has its roots in many wisdom traditions. It is seeing that you are not your story, your personal history. The world between your ears that you “think” is who you are, and that gets expressed in the mind and body as conflict, stress, and fear, is not who you really are. The more you learn to be present, expand your awareness, and see the inner drama for the self-created illusion it is, the more it drops away. Without the psychological and emotional holding, your body relaxes, your mind clears, and you awaken to your natural wisdom, love, courage, and joy.
This article focuses on what it takes to bring enlightenment from the mountain-top into the market-place, which is the next step in the evolution of leadership training. Specifically, it explores seven gates of personal mastery that you must pass through if you are to translate the core insight into reality, so that fearless, enlightened leadership can become your “way” in the world. The effectiveness of this material in bringing about transformation has already been proven. Make it your own, and it will work for you.
The First Gate: Presence
As you learn to be relaxed, centered, and grounded in the present moment. you begin to free yourself from all forms of mental and emotional conflict. Presence is the source of your physical energy, power, and charisma. The following exercise is the key to being supremely present, and to successfully opening all the gates that follow. Master this one through regular, frequent practice, and true fearlessness will one day be yours.
Expanding Awareness: Whether sitting or standing, close your eyes, wiggle your toes, feel your feet on the ground. Breathe down into your belly. Now visualize the focal point of your awareness as being just behind and above your head. From this place, see and feel the length and breadth of your body within your awareness. Notice your breath, your bodily sensations and feelings, arising and falling away within your awareness. Notice the thoughts and images in your mind coming and going. Notice how sounds come and go against the background of this silent, expanded awareness that is your natural, relaxed state of being.
Everything arises and disappears within your awareness. But awareness itself, this sense of inner clarity and spaciousness, is always present. It is who and what you fundamentally are. Be present, then, as this awareness. Bring this quality of clear, present-time awareness to the task before you.
The Second Gate: Balance
This gate is about understanding the nature of rhythm and change, of ups and downs, and learning to dance harmoniously with whatever is The dance happens naturally as you become sensitive to energy itself, to the underlying flow of mood, sensation, feeling. Most of the stress people experience is because they live too much in their heads, in their story. They are not in touch with their felt, present-time reality.
Energy Awareness: Start paying more attention to what you sense and feel, rather than to judgments, opinions, thoughts. When you are with people, take a few moments to tune-in. Open up to the deeper energy that’s present. Become aware of awareness itself. Listen for the silence behind the words, beyond the surface activity. This will help you get out of your head, into your body, into the moment. As your sensitivity to energy increases, you’ll be more in the flow. Then you’ll know when to be soft, and when to be strong; when to move forward, and when to pull back; when to speak, and when to listen.
The Third Gate: Detachment
Holding on to negative memories and energy from the past, and worrying about what is going to happen in the future are major causes of fear-based reactions in the body, and especially that tight, knotted, or sick feeling in the gut that signals stress. Developing a more meditative, present-time awareness helps with the letting go process, and brings clarity to the mind. When you release attachment to the outcome of your thoughts, goals, and plans, you actually have a much better chance of manifesting them in reality, because your creative energy is no longer being stifled by the fear of loss.
Facing Your Fears: Get centered, then look at the situation, whether real or imagined, that is triggering fear, and affirm to yourself, “Ah, I welcome this as a gift. It is showing me where I am not yet free.” Then you simply picture, in your mind, the worst thing happening. You visualize experiencing the loss, or failure, or whatever it is you’re afraid of over and over again, until it begins to lose its charge. Until you realize that no matter what happens, you will always be okay, and the true beauty and freshness of life will always be here. Like the samurai warrior, you learn to die before you die, and this is the source of your freedom.
The Fourth Gate: Heart
Stress and fear tend to close the heart down. We become judgmental and critical, and life starts to feel empty, joyless, meaningless. One of the key traits of fearless leadership is an awareness of the fundamental interconnectedness of all of existence. The Expanding Awareness exercise brings you into the experience of this. As you become more sensitive to your own and others’ feelings, to the underlying concerns, worries, and fears that all people have, your natural kindness, compassion, and generosity are liberated--and, with them, deep inner strength and courage. An open heart, balanced with common sense and good judgment, makes you the leader that everyone wants to follow.
Releasing Blame: Blaming those who have hurt, wronged, or betrayed us causes our heart to harden, makes us feel like a victim, and just perpetuates our own suffering. People do hurtful things because they do not feel loved, they are not at peace within themselves. Understand that, focus on being fully conscious and present in your own life, and it will be easier to let go of blame, resentment, and anything else that interferes with your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
The Fifth Gate: Truth
Fearless leadership requires self-honesty. You’ve got to be willing to look within and examine your personal demons, whether they manifest as self-doubt, guilt, resentment, judgment, arrogance, or in some other form. As you face them, breathe into them, and see through their essential insubstantiality (as “real” as they seem, they are in fact just part of the story you’ve been telling yourself), you start to get free of them. Then it becomes easy to speak the truth, because you’re no longer caught up in trying to defend or justify your ego. You are able to facilitate authentic dialogue with others. They will feel free to speak their truth, and in this way you gather the energy and talent of the entire group, or team.
Be A Listener: The best way to invite honesty and to attract people to your cause, is to be interested in them. If you are really present with them and listen to them, you will establish the level of trust that makes them want to open up, share themselves, and bring all of who they are to the table.
The Sixth Gate: Vision
As you become more present and learn to witness your thoughts, rather than being caught up in them, your awareness naturally expands, becomes more multi-dimensional, so that it is easier to process endless amounts of information without being overwhelmed. You break free of the box of either/or, black/white thinking. Paradox and uncertainty are no longer seen as threatening, but rather are viewed as opportunities for exploring new possibilities, and for engaging in fresh, creative thinking.
The key insight here is understanding that what you see is what you get. Think fearful thoughts, and you’ll create situations which just reinforce your fear. But pull back your mental projections, drop your conceptual filters, your story, and you will see reality with stunning clarity. You will use thinking as a tool for communication and creativity, but it won’t be a source of worry and anxiety anymore. Then it will be much easier to make the right decisions, and to manifest your goals and dreams in reality.
The Seventh Gate: Realization
True fearlessness comes with what has traditionally been called enlightenment, awakening, or self-realization--or, as I call it, mastery of the core insight. It is knowing yourself at the deepest level of your being. It is knowing who you are beyond all your beliefs and ideas about who you are, beyond the “story” you have created about who you are.
When you no longer hold onto any image or concept of “self,” because you have seen that it is all a fabrication anyway, there is nothing in your consciousness anymore to resist the flow of life in the present. Your ego and your personal history are available when needed, but they don’t get in the way. Changes, of the kind which throw most people into crisis, cease having the power to upset you-- other than momentarily--because your well-being no longer depends on outer conditions, whether economic or anything else. It comes from within, from the fullness and radiance of your own being. When upset does occur, you remember to breathe and be present, and you recover your clarity and equanimity quickly.
The authenticity, spontaneity, and sheer goodwill you then bring to each moment will inspire the highest and best in others, and in this way you create a fearless organization.
© Jim Dreaver, 2000