2018: The “Aha”s

2018 has been quite an year, with a lot of perspective shifts.┬áNot immune to the spirit of reflection that comes from the year ending and my birthday being close together, I decided to do the exercise I end all my facilitation sessions with: listing all the “aha” moments from 2018, and some of the biggest lessons it brought. Here they are –

1. “wholehearted and half sure”

I first heard this beautiful phrase in a talk by Diane Moore, and it’s one of those guiding light-like things that has just stayed on as a mantra of sorts. A reminder that at every moment, I want to be present in every situation with everything I know, including the little nudges from my shadow side, yet be aware at the same time that there is a lot I don’t know in that situation.

2. The idea of active surrender as an act of growth

We spoke about this at length at one of my favourite collective sensemaking gatherings, speaking about how do we let go and find compassion for ourselves without using it to make excuses. To this dilemma, Devin offered the idea of seeing it more as “collaborating with life”, letting life have some say, letting time take some responsibility while doing my part.

3. “Think of balance through the metaphor of dance rather than walking a tight-rope”

This was one of those ideas that came up during a therapy session that shifted my perspective majorly – I realised that this whole time, I had been talking about balance like it were something that required a lot of focus and practice, like walking a tight rope, and failing at it would mean falling off the rope. To think of it through images from dance allows for a lot more freedom in movement, and losing some balance still allows the opportunity to start again.

4. “Give, receive, process”

Speaking of balance, a mentor told me that it was important that my calendar had the balance between giving, receiving and processing – be it information, love, time, emails… It’s been interesting to pause
when I am overwhelmed and think about which of these I am missing, and make more effort towards that. Works like a charm!

5. “The lack of self-care is terribly near-sighted”

I have had my fair share of lecturing about my time-management all my life, but this exclamation really pushed me to think. I started to pay attention to when I was romanticising busyness, I began to see time through a lens of abundance and it’s certainly changed my relationship with time.

6. “For a good relationship, make sure you trust the intentions and impressions the other person has for/of you” (~Will C.)

This has to be one of the simplest truest sentences about relationships I have heard, and pretty much sums up all the heartbreak this year has brought.

7. So many of the lenses I have about examining the world are masculine, western/individualistic and positivistic.

Early this year, I was in a salon gathering discussing #metoo, which triggered me more than I expected to be, in ways I did not anticipate. At some point, the conversation turned to what #metoo looked like outside the US, and this hit me. For example: My definitions of power, even in my feminism, came from a rather masculine perspective. The idea of self as we understand it in the human rights context is a rather western/individualistic idea that need not be universal. Similarly, the way I think of “data”, despite my inclination to qualitative methods, comes from a positivist lens, scouring for empirical evidence. The last year since this realisation has been a lot of effort to pay attention to these lenses, and begin to at least imagine what an alternative could be, and that has changed so much of how I interpret the world – it has given me a more expansive understanding of the self, it’s been wonderful to change my relationship with tenderness and softness, and has me believing more.

8. “Make sure your vulnerability is not performative – does this only look vulnerable or does it also feel that way?”.

I have been experimenting with vulnerability for a while now, and thought I had some decent understanding of it. Then in a debrief about one of the collective sensemaking gathering, a friend challenged a lot of what I claimed was vulnerability. Asking this question has allowed me to continue digging when it got uncomfortable, and has been its whole kind of epiphany (which I have written about here).

9. Most of my anxiety and sadness came when I wandered from the present

I am a persistent daydreamer and ruminator. And while I still enjoy that – I do think a lot of my work stems from this – it has been extremely useful for me to come back to the present when I feel anxious or depressed and not use daydreaming and overthinking as enablers.

10. “Trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders in hard. It hardens us. We become aggressive, impatient – pushing, manipulating, charging forward… Our hearts soften as we feel the world carrying us” ~ Jason Garner

When I moved back to India and was figuring out what I wanted to do, I was nervous, angry, scared, annoyed. And then a friend sat me down late one night and challenged all the assumptions I was making about my work and definitions of impact, and asked me to examine what my current definitions served for me. That conversation has stayed with me and humbled me as I made decisions since. I read this quote much after, but it summarises the things I have since learned.

11. “When in doubt, turn to wonder” ~ Parker Palmer

This definitely has to be one of the most beautiful sentences I have read. And I hope to bring more of this spirit into 2019.