A while back, I was guiding a mindful leadership session with a group of experienced leader-meditators. It was late afternoon, the ending of a work day, and we slowly moved from sitting practice to mindful yoga and then to a reflection on the following line written by David Whyte: “There comes a time when you find that you’ve promised yourself to things that are just too small.” Perhaps not surprisingly, this group of people found as many insights from that line as there were people in the room.
As the sharing unfolded during a period of inquiry and dialogue, I was struck by a few of the questions left for the group to hold. For example, have we in fact “promised ourselves"? Is that promising a conscious choice or is it more a matter of an offer too good to pass up? We were exploring the places in which we found ourselves, our life work, our family and our communities. What had we promised ourselves to, is it still what we want, what were the factors that led to the promise?
And one leader who also said that she had not promised herself to anything or anyone. Do we actually have the capacity to promise “self”?
Another rich area of inquiry involved the words “just too small.” What makes us label anything as too small? Too small for what? Is our quest for something bigger just another thing that drives us? Is that true even if it is more altruistic?
Or is the “too small” something we realize as we examine what we might do, as leaders, as influencers? Is it possible to bring the discipline of mindfulness training to the everyday work and in seeing with a bit more clarity and compassion, enlarge that which is “too small”?
So many unanswered, wonderful questions arose that day and evening. We are privileged to lead, and burdened by the weight of wanting to do it well. But, if we are present, it is possible that when “there comes a time,” we can meet it with an expanded repertoire of responses learned through the work of cultivating our capacity to be mindful leaders.