Yesterday was a very difficult day.
I went to bed on Tuesday night with the election trend clear, but not knowing the outcome. I awoke at 6 a.m. yesterday to find out that the candidate that I felt scared by had won decisively. I understand that for many, this was great news, and I appreciate that there can be reason and caring behind this view.
I was in shock. I woke my wife, wanting to share the moment with her, but quickly headed out for day three of our Presence-Based Coaching retreat.
At breakfast, the group looked shell-shocked; some students were crying, others trying for humor, there was a sense of disbelief. Not everyone wanted the same candidate. Not everyone even voted. But together, we all felt the tsunami that crashed ashore Tuesday night.
I was working with my own emotions. Outside, it was cold and drizzly; inside me, it felt like all was lost.
9/11 had the sense of a seismic shift and the undeniable emergence of a world that I didn’t recognize. I had the same feeling the day Reagan was elected, when Kennedy was shot, during the Cuban missile crisis. In those seminal and traumatic moments, it seemed everything I knew was under threat. Yesterday felt the same: that deep existential dread. And, we were to be leading a coach training retreat?
By the end of the day, our group of 21 students and Sarah Halley and I had moved into a very different place. I think the container of our group and the structure of our retreat were strong enough to take the tremendous shock of the unexpected election results and use that energy to deepen our experience and forge something powerful and useful.
I want to share some of what helped; it’s generalizable. All of these had previously been designed into the program. And, we moved a lot around to serve what was needed in the moment.
Our practice, in PBC, is to be present and work with what is happening. These practices are personal and coaching-related. Yesterday they had new immediacy and relevance:
- Community: We began the day by sitting together. We stayed present with each other, and with ourselves. All had time to voice whatever they cared to say. There were tears, anger, shame, fear, gratitude, caring. One person had to leave the room and return. The process took a couple of hours. By the end, something had shifted. Community and connectedness are key ingredients for healing. It begins with feeling heard and respected.
- Meaning-making: In PBC, polarities are a lens for exploring tensions and competing commitments. We sense these dynamics within ourselves, in our relationships and teams, and in society. Yesterday, our students coached each other through a powerful somatic coaching exercise to illuminate and integrate polarities in service to what we care about. And, we understood, with greater compassion, the nature of the polarization that has rent the US in this election cycle. It is reassuring to have language and distinctions for interpreting and making meaning of disruptive events.
- Grounding and settling: We (including me) began the day feeling shaken to the core, fragile, raw. We took reflection time in the afternoon to be alone on the land. Trees were still growing, the sun poked through clouds, kingfishers swooped up the river that has been flowing here for a half billion years. It was deeply settling to simply be outdoors. No requests, no drama. Nothing in nature supports the illusion of permanence. When we are outdoors, it feels easier to relax, to accept whatever is true, to settle and ground in the faith that everything runs its course.
- Perspective-taking: Last evening, we did a coaching practice called the Grand Tour. This practice invites us into the perspective of big time, and we are able to sense ourselves as the inevitable product of everything that came before. We see ourselves as a unique person with an invitation to contribute to what happens next. This big context gives our commitments a new and deeper meaning. We are inheritors of our current situation. And, we each, in our little corner of the world, are an authors of what comes next. What we do matters.
These four themes provided the container for 23 humans to move through strong shock and grief, to come together, to practice some crucial coaching skills along the way, and to metabolize our shock and grief into intimacy, presence, and readiness for whatever is next. It was a privilege to share an extraordinary day with these extraordinary people. In the midst of shock and disruption, our process of being present together will stay with me and inspire me well into the future.
I know that this work isn’t done. I still feel waves of grief and fear. I suspect that some extraordinarily difficult times are ahead. And, I feel optimistic, awake, and ready.
All of us are in this together, whoever you voted for, or if you didn’t vote. Please share:
- How are you resourcing yourself internally in this new reality?
- How are you resourcing with others?
- And, what might you share that would inspire and support others?