Sunday, 28 February 2010

Celebrating Difference

This post is something of a divergence from the main theme of this blog, yet at the same time it is also central to it as this post contains, I guess, what in many ways is the essence of me. In making a post such as this public I am, in many ways, making myself vulnerable (yet again!) to criticism and ridicule, but as this blog is all about my spiritual journey, with all its highs and lows, vulnerability is an absolute necessity, because without it, there is no change, there is no development and consequently there is no growth. Risk is demanded, stepping out of comfort zones a prerequisite, and daring to move into the unknown, hand in hand with and trusting The One Divine Life central to any kind of progression.

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks and for no other reason than, once again, my professional life has been demanding more of my time and energy. I’ve been caught up in one of those periods where I’ve been finding it really difficult to ‘switch off’ at the end of the working day and time for personal meditation, reflection and spiritual practice has been really difficult because of this. I am never happy with this type of situation and I am always conscious of the shift this causes within me. I become uneasy with myself and become restless. I feel disconnected and separate and I really don’t like that feeling. It’s like I lose sense and connection with who I am and as a result I don’t relate well with all that’s happening around and within me because I am not reacting as me. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it does to me! Also, I find that I become overly reactive and I firmly believe that people of Spirit create, we contain the Creative force and therefore being pushed around by circumstance isn’t right and it isn’t comfortable.

Within all this there has been a personal challenge, and this challenge is all about who it is I take into my working day. Do I take my true self, the person I am, the person who is continually in this place of ‘becoming’ or do I take the person who is little more than the professional caricature? The person I am expected to be who wears the corporate uniform, speaks the corporate language and walks the corporate path? Whilst it is the latter that is seemingly demanded, it is the latter I am finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to conform with. I am more aware that ever I have been of the pure anger that this continual demand causes to rise within me and I am not sure how to handle or what to do with that reaction at the moment. It’s something that scares me in a way because at times the anger feels so real and so powerful that it feels like if I expressed it, everything around me would combust into flames! I know that sounds really strange and dramatic, but that’s how it feels.

The root of all of this is the celebration of diversity, or perhaps I should say, the lack of it. A key aspect of my professional role, and one that has been very recently reaffirmed; is to manage equality and diversity, both in terms of service delivery and staff management. I guess I have been given this role because it is something to which I am totally committed, both personally and professionally. Some assume my commitment comes from the fact that I am a gay man, with a disability, who walks a minority spiritual path, but people who think that actually miss the point. My commitment to equality and diversity comes from nothing other than a firm and passionate belief that each and every human being on this planet has the absolute right to reach their full potential without imposed restriction of any kind. We, all of us, have a right to be who we are and we have a right to become who we are called to be. No one has a right to stand in the way of that, be they family, peer, neighbour, politician, manager or institution. Difference, that wonderful thing each of us brings because of who we intrinsically are, should not be ignored, should not be tolerated, should not be whitewashed in some kind of banal, powerless, ineffectual thing, but should be recognised, celebrated, trumpeted, enjoyed and revelled in. Difference is what makes us real, makes us vital, makes us powerful, and when we bring this difference together, when we link arms, utilise all the skills, attributes, differences and unique experiences each of us have, then anything is possible and anything can happen. This is the hub of creativity, the more richly diverse any group of people the more effective and productive it will be, no matter what the objective. Restrict this, in any way, and that creativity is not only stifled, but the human casualties will soon begin to mount up.

I don’t want to have a professional me and private me. I want to be me wherever I am at any given time. For years I fought what often feels like a terrible battle to be accepted as an openly gay man. The consequences of this were immense and have involved losing family (thankfully temporarily), security, jobs and promotion, but I refused, on any level, to deny who I am.

My visual disability has also caused me difficulties, especially in terms of my professional working life, and this has bought me into conflict with managers and departments as I have asserted my rights under disability legislation when actually I should have had no need to do so – the support should have been there, but it wasn’t. ‘Best Practice’ can be decidedly lacking when you least expect it, and the shock of that can be disabling in itself.

And spirituality I have endured ridicule as my deeply held convictions inform the way I think, feel, act, interact, experience and contribute to people, life and the world generally.

I guess all of these factors work together to develop within me a real empathy with people who experience less than they deserve at the hands of individuals and corporations. I think what I need to learn to manage within me, and it’s something that I don’t always find easy, is the emotional reaction this brings. My power and ability to empathise can be somewhat overwhelming at times, and it is this that I need to learn to channel in a productive way which ultimately results in positive outcomes for all concerned.

So I feel as though I am at some kind of watershed. In some ways if feels terrifying, in other ways it feels exciting, but I am consciousness of a huge amount of strength that resides within me at the moment. It’s like I am at a crossroads and this crossroads is about me asserting the true principles of equality and diversity, both individually and corporately, not only through usual working practice, but through truly bringing my complete self into the working arena. I want people to have a sense of the spiritual me as they encounter me. I don’t want people to view me as someone described me the other day; his words were that I was “the conscience of the service”. I want to be more than that. I want to be able to affect positive change for people through positively changing the way people are managed, bringing real cultural change and positive outcomes for the service. Sounds lofty and worthy, doesn’t it? I don’t want it to sound like that, I want it so sound real! And I want this to come from who I am, the true me, the real me, the spiritually connected me, the me who knows where he sits in connection with the Universe and who brings that power and reality into every aspect of his life.

I don’t want to be some kind of corporate robot who is little more than part of a huge machine. I want to bring the wonder and richness of true humanity into everything that I do through my appreciation of my own divinity and that of each person I work with, support, manage and encounter each day.

It’s an impossibly tall order . . . or is it? I just need to know where and how I take it from here!

7 comments:

Nicole said...

You are a very thoughtful and mindful person. It sounds like you've had a lot of time to really think about what it is that you want in your life. It also sounds like you have the perfect job in which to assert your spiritual self in whatever endeavors come your way.

I get the feeling that you just want the freedom to be comfortable with what you do. If you could go through each moment of life with the same mindfulness that brought you to your conclusion, your wish of fully integrating your spiritual self would be granted very soon.

Good luck on the journey!

Andy said...

Thanks Nicole, your comments are always so thought provoking, thank you.

Yes, this aspect of my working role is a wonderful one to have, I just need to have the commitment from the organisation to be able to make it a reality.

Maria said...

This was especially interesting to me today because I just received my annual review packet. I am trying to decide if I should lie and say everything is peachy, or if I should be honest about changes that need to be made for me to be here long term. I am leaning toward lying because I have zero hope that my thoughts and feelings will be heard, but I know this comes at a psychological and spiritual price. thank you for providing food for thought.

Sleepy Kitty said...

Andy,

Your words never fail not to set me thinking. As I sat reading your post, I couldnt help but find parallels in my own experiences of equality and diversity in the workplace.

It doesnt seem like a tall order but one that will take time and dedication of which you have spades. My workplace has come to accept my beliefs and my disability over time although we still have the odd 'oops, did I say that? are you offended?' moment.

The point is, that it is achievable. Speak their language and then teach them yours and with work and luck, both sides will benefit.

Sleepy Kitty said...

P.S.

I was inspired to write my own post, thanks to your words.

:)

Simon said...

Hey..

just to let you know I have given you an award. If you check in to 'Songs from the Wood', all will be explained.

Blessings
Si

Silver Fox said...

I love your sharing! What you say here so reasonates with a struggle I am in. And I wonder how can I 'dance' with this. How much is this dance internal or external.
I work for a local authority in a department which has been privitised. I work in Education Welfare. Where the work I do comes under Statutory remit.
And I find myself asking how much power and choice do I have working within the system.
The environment I work in does not expect us to wear the code of black suite and tie. So I and other's don't.
For the most part this confuses the parents. I know this as I have parents who have said to me I am not what they were expecting. Who am I? And I ask this myself. Am I being a trickster. A shapeshifter?
Even if I step outside this job would I not still be part of the system?
How do I subvert the system?
And when I work shamanically/magically I have the experience that there is no inside and outside. That is the domain of the ego. Which has it's place but is not the total. All.
I am lucky as I have a line Manager who manages to BE herself and be powerful in a gentle and assertive way. And is authentic and will not do what she finds unfair. But if she went for a job interview for the post now...i doubt she would get it.
Being a priest/shaman/witch it is I think necessary and part of the role to shapeshift. And to do this 'one' needs to have a connection to spirit/self/divine...
I too at times feel loss/lost but I think this is part of the learning.
Thank you again.