Monday, January 18, 2010

An (y)Earful

Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sounds of silence.

-Simon & Garfunkel

It has been a full year, 2009, and with wonderful experiences: Mexico City and Brisbane Australia (twice each); Yi-lan County Taiwan and Brighton UK and Honolulu (once each); the aikido class for professors attending the Organizational Behavior Teacher Conference '09 at College of Charleston; the sixth consecutive year serving the University of Nevada Las Vegas; the three Samurai Game® Facilitator Training Courses held here in Petaluma; the outreach program for Aikido'ka dojo and sensei Frank Blocksburg in Grass Valley, CA; two Allied Ronin Leaders' Retreats; the Samurai Game® facilitator certification of Jenaro Pliego ( (Mexico City), Dwight Min ( (Honolulu), Rev. Francis Briers ( (UK), and Paul Marshall ( (Australia); and the release of the new Allied Ronin program available to organizations and the public which culminated in La Jolla, CA, six weeks ago as 130 executives and managers attended "The Art of Practice and the Event Network dojo". The next delivery of this new program will be January 12 in Seattle, this time "The Art of Practice and the USS JOHN C. STENNIS Dojo" with120 US Navy personnel attending. Thank you, Andi Burgis of Challenge-U for your courage in setting up the January program.

All of this makes grist for a lengthy article, but not this month. Rather, I invite you to participate in something incredibly profound; at least I think so. Something I found online and watched tonight, twice actually. Something that was delivered almost seven years ago with a thousand people participating. Of course, a few of you may have seen it. But so what! It's truly worth experiencing again.

The mission of Allied Ronin is: To Create Effective Leaders. In that regard much time and practice is dedicated to the art of listening - through an entire set of individual and collective faculties and capacities. Influence is the essence of leadership; and no matter the endeavor, listening is foundational to effective influence. I am particularly grateful to five people this past year whose lives significantly impacted this mission: Madeline Wade, Lisa Ludwigsen, Susan Hammond, Richard Strozzi-Heckler and George Leonard - all Associates of Allied Ronin. Each of these people has, in her or his own way, generously and sometimes unknowingly served me in my ability to listen. Their efforts, words, practices and lessons have encouraged me to listen with much more than my ears, i.e. with my hands and feet and back and heart, with my breath, with my eyes, in my reflections, with my sensitivity to nature that surrounds me, with an occasional glance at my skin as it ages or the feel of my knees when they hurt, and to (as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel would say) the sound of silence. Take note: I didn't (and don't) always like what I was hearing from these five people. But here's the deal: one's like or dislike of what one is hearing is not what's at stake when it comes to listening. What's at stake is the fullness of life and the influence that that fullness has on the lives of others. This isn't theory; it's reality. You do understand that you are a leader, don't you? So the important question is: Do You Know You Are Being Followed? Ponder that a while, and it'll start to get under your skin. Then, take action on your answers, no matter what they are or how you feel about them.

Here is a link for you to hit. Spend the next 32 minutes of your life as a listener, and listen with all of your faculties. The presenter is an artist, a musician, Evelyn Glennie. She's deaf. But you wouldn't know it unless someone told you.

If you search Wikipedia for Evelyn Glennie you will read:

"[She] has been profoundly deaf since age 12. This does not inhibit her ability to perform at the international level. She regularly plays barefoot for both live performances and studio recordings, to better "feel" the music. Glennie contends that deafness is largely misunderstood by the public. She claims to have taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears. In response to criticism from the media, Glennie published Hearing Essay in which she personally discusses her condition."

A few last words before you hit the above link. What Evelyn Glennie is expressing in what you will experience during the next half hour holds an infinite number of possibilities when translated into all that we do in our work and play together. It has profound application to what we listen to daily, and not just with our ears. The mere fact that we do (and don't) listen she will call into question. Don't limit yourself to her music, which in and of itself is magnificent. That we hear others in our listening is paramount if we are to thrive. And so is that we hear ourselves - not only in what we say, but also in what we leave unsaid. Additionally, we ought attend to what our environment (the people, nature, our neighbors, friends, enemies and attachments) is expressing. We should train well, and strain well if need be, to listen to and hear what our insides are saying, and should attend to and feel that - not just with our emotions but with the very sinew that surrounds and holds those emotions. That to which we dedicate our bodies in the space of time we call life is important, but without listening we might miss it. The stuff of what Evelyn Glennie expresses has profound application to our every moment. And life is, after all, a string of moments.

The next half hour could be one of the most worthwhile half hours you have ever spent. If you find that not so, then call me (707-769-0328) and tell me I was wrong. I'll listen. In the meantime, enjoy!

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sounds of silence.

© Lance Giroux, 2010

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