Being outdoors, being inoors
In August In Balance offered two different routes into connecting with self-care and compassion. The first was an invitation to take advantage of a free and inspiring resource available to us: nature and the outside world. Anyone who wanted could join a week’s worth of daily hosted walks through some of the beautiful public parks in Brighton –either a short lunchtime walk or a longer route. Encouraged to ground oneself in the environment by paying attention to the sights, sounds and feel of being in nature, we explored some generative listening. The intention was to hold a grounded space to listen without interruption or commentary while we shared what was most important to us.
The second offer was a session that used mindfulness to explore different ways of understanding and approaching our experience of the world creatively. The aim was to explore how we can grow our capacity to respond from a place of a generative and open focus on what’s arising (being), with the performance and outcome focus of getting things done (doing).
Though interest was high for the hosted walks, when it came time to set out fewer people than expected joined. Those who did commented that they found a rich experience in being more present to what was around them:
“Being invited to walk in silence was about listening to everything and seeing things I wouldn’t normally see, feeling things like the crunching of the ground under my feet and the smell of brambles seemed different as I walked past. I found I wasn’t thinking about anything else other than my immediate environment.”
The generative listening conversations invited a quality and deeper authenticity of conversation than it seemed would ordinarily arise between colleagues. For my part I noticed a stronger connection to people I now understood a little better. One colleague, upon hearing from others, made an observation about their stress and anxiety levels and suggested perspective and rest –a timely act of compassion!
The ripples beyond
The creativity session was well attended and, after a tentative start, people really showed up to share what was coming up for them as we moved through different mindfulness exercises designed generate new thinking. Someone commented on the quality of the space:
“It felt like a free, safe space where we could respond as much as we liked without pressure, in a playful way without needing to have any particular outcome”.
As with the uptake of the walks, it seemed that the shorter, closer to work opportunities were more popular. It is making us consider how you balance the richness of being able to take more time, and balance that with meeting people where they are and fitting this more accessibly into their working day. The creative session seemed to speak to people and inspire and we wondered what the impact might have been if we had offered follow up sessions to help integrate their insights. Something one of the participants shared about the enabling and open nature of a more creative mode has stuck with me:
“Sometimes we can be fearful of expressing thoughts and feelings we cannot explain”
That, to me, has really underlined the importance of creating spaces where people are more able to be open and present. It is vital to develop our ability to see reality as it is and to be able to find new ways to work with it, rather than always being caught up and mindlessly perpetuating what already is.
How do you measure care and compassion?
We have been considering very seriously how to understand the impact of the In Balance work. Following these activities, someone committed to taking a morning walk to enjoy the nature around her. Another two colleagues had a conversation about creativity. Do these people feel a greater sense of care for themselves having had a chance to connect more deeply with their inner and outer world? Do they feel a greater sense of compassion having perhaps understood each other a little deeper? How do you understand the ripples of change? Over how long a timeframe? Are these impacts enough? How could we make in even greater impact?
How do you balance an appreciation of the value of being and quality of presence within a system that is driven by doing and focused on outcome? We don’t have any answers, but a feeling that perhaps to pursue this work is to commit to sitting in the tension between these two things and continue to hold the question: how do we know this is making the difference we want to make to inspire self-care and compassion?
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