Fearless Freedom

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I decided to do a little experiment with this post, and include a recording of me reading it. Some people love to read, others love to listen. So to all those listeners out there, this is for you. Click on the bar below to play. And for others, read on!

 

I write it in bold across my diary.

I say it in my head, out loud, repeatedly.

I let the words rest on my heart, to move me.

It was one of my yoga teachers, Cara, who planted them there last Saturday. ‘Fearless Freedom’, she said, ‘they are our words for the year’. Our practice together was an exploration of what it means to move from that place- with an intention to flow with grace and ease; to let go of what we know to discover what we don’t; to act through power with an unfaltering, unquestioning belief in our capacity for joy and our right to it from the inside out. Our practice was our offering. Our practice was prayer.

They are two beautiful words. Fearless. Freedom. Together they pack a powerful punch. I have been sifting through the words over the last few days and it feels like they are here to stay. As signposts; as maps.

I am making some big decisions at the moment, those big life altering ones, and fear has been visiting, frequently. It is the kind of fear that keeps me small; the fear that makes me doubt myself and the fear what swells procrastination to the point that it too becomes powerful.

So what to do?

‘Fearless Freedom’, I say again to myself. What would ‘Fearless Freedom’ look like right now? What would Fearless Freedom do?’ It is as if Fearless Freedom is personified, taking a life of its own. I learn that it is a warrior at heart. It knows its own answers. It locates the cracks of courage within, sounds them out so as to amplify them, one little step at a time. Courage comes when given space to rise.

The question alone is the key. ‘What would ‘Fearless Freedom’ do?’ By asking it, I am finding that the fear itself is diminished and possibility is allowed back in. You see, the questions we ask of ourselves make a difference. We ask bigger questions so that we get to expand into them. The bigger the question, the bigger the response. Then, with warrior words alight within our hearts, there is less room for procrastination, less room for the small, questioning self. Words matter. Questions matter.

So, when I ask myself, ‘What would Fearless Freedom do?’, my inner self talks to my outer self, telling me it looks something like this:

It means writing the email to the person you admire.

It means asking for help.

It means saying no when your gut tells you so.

It means saying yes, over and over, to the dream, the vision, the place of possibility.
It means go.

It means doing it, even if you don’t feel ready.

It means placing value in what you offer.

It means showing up, repeatedly, even when part of you wants to retract, calcify because right now it feels safer. Deep down, long term, you know it is not.

It means I believe in you.

It means let fear be your ally, keeping you moving, onwards.

It means I love you.

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Fearless Freedom.

Let’s wave that flag and let the questions fly.

May the responses carry us, unfold us, unfurl us, yield us to the warrior within. Let them define us, refine us.

Fearless Freedom.

Let the words enter us, to move us, to clear our way, to make us believe again. Let them be our offering. Let them be our anchor. Let them be our prayer.

I say ‘us’ here. For the ‘we’ matters too. Together we can pack a powerful punch. Courage comes when given space to rise, and it is easier as a pack. So I’ll take your hand, if you’ll take mine.

Fearless Freedom.

Amen.

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It is mid-summer here in the northern hemisphere. Dublin has been a delight with lingering summer evenings and awash with blooming roses and fresh colour. It is one of my favourite times of the year, as the light invites us out to play.

The Power of Play

Play, I have come to remember, is an integral part of learning and leadership, yet is all to often dismissed as ‘silly’, ‘a waste of time’, ‘unfocused’, ‘misguided’ or ‘unprofessional’. But play is where we make connections, get our brains and bodies moving in new ways, engage our imaginations, nurture the senses, allow our inner child to be given an airing, and invite in fun and laughter. Play is a rich field, ripe for learning.

When times are busy, play is often the thing which we push back on first (or at least I do!). ‘I’m too busy now’, ‘Just a few more hours at the computer…’ But have you ever noticed how much more enriched your thinking and learning is after you take a break, and even more so, after you play?

I say ‘I have come to remember‘ intentionally. No child needs to be convinced about the power of play. I wonder now instead, how did we forget? To ‘re-member’ is to recall the experience back into our bones- to literally reconnect it to our members. Our bodies never really forget. 

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Living with an 11 month old dog has taught me a lot about play. Little Finn insists on it. When I have been sitting for too long and ignoring her, she literally drops toys at my feet. Play is a non-negotiable for how she engages with the world and is an integral part of how she expresses her being. I am not sure what is happening in her doggie brain when she is at play, but I have a sense of what is happening in mine- an enlivening and an enrichment of the intimacy in which I engage with the present moment, which in turn shifts my neurology. When I return to my work after some time playing, I am more focused, re-invigorated and generally more productive.

But play is not just important for the fun or the productivity, but also because of its ability to connect disparate things. 

Over the years I have been fortunate to work with and interview hundreds of creative and social entrepreneurs- people who are stepping up to make a difference in the world- from social activists, to artists, to medics, to designers, to writers, to sustainable farmers – all people who have a vision and are working to actualise their leadership in their own unique ways.

I asked myself, ‘What behaviours do all these people have in common and can these be learned over time?’

In examining their traits I started to see a pattern emerging- a set of learned skills and practices that can be reinforced and augmented. These are what I call the 12 Paradigms of Creative Leadership and together they not only help people launch new ventures and develop creative processes, but vitally help to sustain them. These paradigms include presence, purpose, perameters, pattern recognition, power, perspective and centrally, play**

Play is like the weave through it all; a way to deeply connect us to our imagination, intuition and inner insights. Importantly, it also acts like our very own personal labororatory, giving us permission to experiment, fail, try again, test new ground and alter our moves. Common to all the creative and social entrepreneurs I have met, it is through play that some of their best innovations and ideas happened, often unplanned or previously unassociated. It was when playing that their ‘a-ha moments’ landed.  Play was the prism for insight.

Play as a Gateway…

As a photographer, many of my favourite images have been taken because of play. When I travel I carry a  colourful hand puppet with me. Often when waiting in queues or travelling on buses, and when there are children around, the hand puppet will pop out and together with the kids, we start to play. That hand puppet has led to the most amazing encounters with children, their parents, and their communities- crossing cultural and language barriers and immediately breaking down any tension or fear. Through it I learned to count to ten in Hindi, Bengali, Swahili, Xhosa and Malayalam and taught many children how to count to ten in English, Irish and Mandarin!  I have been invited into people’s homes as a result of that puppet, which in turn led to conversations and many opportunties as a photographer which I would not have had otherwise. Play has been a gateway and a saviour.

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Having play as one of our central paradigms can re-orientate our priorities , quickly shift perspective and lighten the load when we need it the most. Play can revitalise and re-energise, sparking new connections and generating insights. Play can open doorways and opportunities. Play can be just for the fun of it too. But maybe we need to remember to do it more often, insistent dog or no dog at our side.

So, as the summer lingers and the light cheers us on, let these words be that familiar knock on the  front door when you were a child, uttering some welcome words: Are you coming out to play?

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** Come October 5th I will be launching a new online course, See Deeper, Act Bolder, in which I will be faciliating learning through the 12 Paradigms of Creative Leadership. Each week we will cover one or more of the paradigms, engaging creatively with each theme. Our cameras, journals, paint brushes, and blank pages will be used as learning tools, taking us on a journey into our own inner vision and possibilities, so that we can each see deeper and act bolder.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

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