Listening to the Leader Within

When I wrote my first muse for the newsletter on leadership in February, I was in the midst of a four-month course focused on authentic leadership at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Having completed the program in May, I wanted to share a few lessons that I learned on what it means to be an authentic leader. Everyone can be an authentic leader, whether you’re running an organization, a team, or a household; working for change in your community; or simply aspiring to live by example.

Authentic leaders are people who take fundamental responsibility for themselves and their lives, are completely present in every situation, and are willing to share their aspirations and dreams with others.

The authentic leadership model consists of three components:

Authentic presence means making sure your authentic self is fully present. Try contemplative practices such as yoga, meditation, and journal writing to develop self-knowledge and to practice being present and authentic. (Thank goodness these practices are already part of my routine, and are part of the TranquilTeens program, as I already had so many new things to try coming out of this program!)

Skillful communication begins with the assumption that we are fully responsible for all interactions. Awareness of our emotions creates an environment of care and empathy akin to emotional intelligence. My teachers emphasized two important ways to communicate: inquiry and advocacy. Inquiry is a powerful way to invite others to be collaborators. Advocacy is a way to use “I” statements to convey how one perceives a situation and shares facts.

Effective action is motivated by service and focuses on using compassionate and strategic approaches to change. This final premise of the authentic leadership model is based on servant leadership where the leader seeks to serve first and lead second.

Overall, an authentic leader is motivated to serve, invites feedback and learns from it, promotes open communication, envisions new possibilities, fosters a culture of appreciation, and is committed to self-knowledge. I loved this four-month program—especially its contemplative slant—and hope that we are able to continue affecting authentic leadership through our efforts with Tranquil Space Foundation. We hope that we are helping to shape a new generation of do-gooding, creative, authentic leaders! Namaste.

Creativity Corner

Summer. The word alone conjures images of fresh lemonade, turquoise swimming pools and bare feet in green grass. Yet thanks to DC’s legendary heat and humidity, how many of us groan and grumble our way through the season, sealing ourselves off in air-conditioned spaces? This year, I decided to treat summer the way I had as a teenager: a chance to slow down, and enjoy a host of sensory experiences, from the shockingly sweet taste of popsicles to watching fireflies emerge at nightfall. And I noticed something funny: I didn’t mind the heat as much as I usually do. In fact, I enjoyed the sensation of the sun on my skin. By embracing the season’s rhythms and offerings, I was able to deepen my enjoyment of it.

Each season offers its own sensual gifts, but it’s up to us to accept and savor them. With fall right around the corner, now’s your chance to reflect on how you’d like to experience the months ahead. Here are some ideas to get you started:

– Host a harvest party. Choose recipes featuring seasonal produce, such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes and, of course, apples. Plan a fall-inspired activity, such as making your own holiday wrapping paper using apples you’ve carved into stamps (turn to trusty Google for a how-to).

– Celebrate coziness! On a chilly evening or weekend afternoon, make hot apple cider on the stove, and savor the aroma that fills the house. Pour yourself a mug, and curl up under a blanket to read or watch a favorite movie.

– Make a living collage. Choose a space to showcase seasonal items that you gather as fall settles in: particularly striking leaves, a snapshot of late afternoon in your neighborhood park, a scented candle, acorns, and whatever else you encounter. Look at your collection to remind yourself to savor the season’s unique characteristics. (A variation of this: create a journal/scrapbook for each season.)

Have fun, and notice how creatively and mindfully engaging with the season affects your mind, body and spirit.

Got favorite ways to savor winter? Email them to us at creativity@tranquilspace.com, and we’ll feature them in the next issue!

The Heart of Yoga

Open your heart both on and off the mat. Invigorate your giving spirit with this heart opening asana – Setu bandhasana (bridge pose).

What are the benefits?
This pose opens the heart and stretches the chest, shoulders, and upper back. It also strengthens and energizes leg muscles, like the quadriceps and hamstrings. Setu bandhasana increases spine flexibility and stimulates the thyroid.

How do I get into the pose?
– Lie flat on your mat with your arms straight down by your sides, palms facing down.
– Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat. Bring your heels as close to the bum as possible. Check the distance by seeing if you can reach your heels with your middle finger.
– Inhale and press your feet, arms, and palms actively into the floor and lift the bum off the floor slowly, moving your pelvis up toward the sky. The goal is for the thighs to be parallel with the floor.
– Exhale and shimmy your shoulders under your back, clasp the hands below your bum, and lengthen through the arms to help you stay on the top of your shoulders. This should open the heart more as well.
– Keep your thighs and feet parallel and the legs active.
– Lift your chin away from the chest, toward the sky, but keep the back of the neck long.
– Inhale and exhale here for about 1-2 minutes.
– To come out of the pose, exhale and roll the spine slowly down onto the mat.