The past month I was privileged to travel to different places in South Africa for work. What was significant to me was the diversity I experienced. Every place had a different landscape, energy and feel to it. The food, people, cultures and ways of living differed.
In one of the workshops that I facilitated, we counted that between the group of twelve we spoke 11 different languages. For none of us English was our first language. The variety of accents contributed to the richness of the conversations we had. It reminded me of Nancy Klein’s component of the ‘Thinking Environment’. She states that diversity adds quality because of the differences between us. I could not agree more.
I realised that we don’t always celebrate diversity. We don’t invite it enough into our lives. Sometimes I find myself in places where it feels as if everyone had gone through the same cookie presser. Everyone dresses the same and talks about the same things. If one looks at David Rock’s SCARF model one can understand why it is like this. People tend to like people that are like them. That is the way the brain is wired. We feel more comfortable when we can relate to people.
Yet, in reflecting over this past month I’ve learned more in the uncomfortable moments than the comfortable ones. The situations when I was challenged to leave my preconceived ideas and open myself to the amazing diversity of our country. I would like to challenge you and encourage you, even if it is only slightly, to step out of the comfort zone and experience the gift of diversity.
Learning: Diversity contributes to the richness of life.
Healing question: How am I celebrating and inviting diversity into my life?
What a relief when I read the words ‘ life compress chaos and orderliness together’ in the book The way of the wizard by Deepak Chopra. I like to think of myself as someone that easily goes with the flow but if I’m really honest, I can be a bit of a control freak. I like it when things are going according to the plan and everything is in order. But life is not always like that. At times life is uncertain, messy and even a bit chaotic. Flights get delayed; thunderstorms damage internet routers; meetings get cancelled, we get sick, etc. Life can throw all our plans upside down.
The problem is that all the plans we make and the rules we set in order to make things perfect only create a false sense of control. When it does not work out ‘according to the plan’, we get stressed and struggle with the “whys” in life. Why don’t things work out for me? Why is life so hard? Why do I struggle so much when others seem to have it easy? We start to beat ourselves down. This reaction can create a downward spiral, it triggers our nervous system and we become less creative.
When in fact, it is just the way life is. Real life is unpredictable. Feeling off balance or uncertain at times is part of life. The struggle starts when we don’t want to accept what is real and work from that place. Deepak Chopra writes that ‘if you want to be in the flow you cannot struggle against it at the same time.’ This was a big ‘aha’ moment for me as I always thought that I’m only in the flow of life if things are running smoothly in my life. Now I realise that the waves that crash on me and the times when I feel that I’m gasping for air are part of what it is when learning how to surf.When I’m stumbling it does not mean I’m not in the flow of life. However, the way I respond to the uncertainty or unpredictable things that happen in my life influence how I experience life.
I’m not saying that from now you can just sit back and don’t make any plans. Structure and order is also part of life but it is not all that life consists of. Observe how you are trying to control your life and how open you are for other possibilities. Next time when something unpredictable happens, acknowledge that life is uncontrollable, surrender to it, trust that things tend to work out (even if it is not according to your plan), celebrate the situation you are in and be open to what comes to you. Ride the wave!
Learning: The flow of life is like surfing; there are times when you surf the wave and then there are times when you need to paddle to get to the next wave.
Healing question: How can I ride the wave of life with more ease?