“After all, the true seeing is within.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch
Last month when I published my summer reading book list, I talked about Mark Nepo’s, The Book of Awakening, a journey in mindfulness. I read this book daily and stumbled across a passage this week that is so profound I was inspired to write about it.
One of the things that has become much more challenging during the pandemic is really connecting and seeing one another. Simple things like greetings, handshakes, hugs, coffee dates, water cooler check-ins, all of the easy ways our days used to intersect, have become so rare. It is not impossible to forge authentic connections virtually but it is much more challenging. Mark Nepo’s passage on page 428 is called, “I See You.”
“For centuries, African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way. When the one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush, he exclaims, “I See You!” and then the one approaching rejoices, “I Am Here!”
This timeless bearing witness is both simple and profound, and it is telling that much of our modern therapeutic journey is suffered to this end: to have who we are and where we’ve been seen. For with this simple and direct affirmation, it is possible to claim our own presence, to say, I Am Here… And after all isn’t art in all its forms the beautiful trail of our all-too-human attempts to say, again and again, I Am Here.”
Take a few moments to answer the following Reflection Questions:
- Who are the people in your life who have validated you by seeing you and letting you know they see you?
- How did the people you mentioned in question #1 see you in a way that helped you build your foundation of self-worth that anchors you today?
- What are some things you do every day that help you see within? Do you take 5-10 minutes every day to reflect on your leadership? How would you rate your ability to regulate your emotions effectively?
- What actions do you take every day to see those you lead? How effectively are you able to shut off other distractions when you are meeting with someone or when they simply walk into the room? What steps do you take to build trust and encourage candor? In what ways do you acknowledge those you lead for their contributions?
- How do those you lead answer your ability to see them by showing you they “are here?” Do those you lead initiate communication with you? How well do you pick up on different individual voices telling you they are “here” in their diverse ways? What are some things you might do to deepen your capacity to see others?
The best part about seeing others and being seen is that it is not scripted. The value in this act is in the effort. What are we doing every day to look within, acknowledge others, and listen for their resounding replies? Celebrate the moments each day when as a leader you say, “I see you,” and you are listening closely enough to gather, “I am here.” Yes, celebrate but don’t let that diminish your effort. As long as leaders authentically practice seeing others, and the effort is visible, more and more people will let you know they are “here” and that has always been a treasured gift, but particularly in the world climate today.
When you see others and they know you see them, it is as if they know you see yourself and that is why you can see them. This is when the real magic happens as people will follow you with renewed energy around the next corner knowing you have done the work internally and you are reaching out authentically. They won’t follow you blindly. It is quite the opposite actually. They follow you because your eyes are open wide enough to see within and to acknowledge their presence from that place. A simple and yet powerful exchange, “I see you. I am here.” It has little to do with these six words and everything to do with what you do with them.
Simply reading this passage by Mark Nepo this week heightened my awareness and I move through the world differently because of it. I hope you know I see you and I am here …