Friday, April 3rd, 2020
For most of us, it’s now been a few weeks of sheltering in, with all but essential workers (who we can never thank enough!) eating, sleeping, working, care taking, and socializing in the confines of our homes. The internet has exploded with tips for how to work from home and how to tool up organizations for remote operation. There’s a lot of pressure to just keep doing what we do, but now from home.
It’s a lot of noise with not a lot of depth. This is pretty much our status quo and should not come as a surprise, since why would our whole society transform in a hot minute just ‘cuz a pandemic came to town?
There has been an automatic and mostly unconscious, yet willful, neglect of the depth.
It’s time to attend to our depths, virtually and collectively. I’m talking about our work meetings. I have been experiencing, as well as hearing from clients and colleagues, about terrible, multiple, back-to-back, business-as-usual Zoom meetings. We are exhausted, and we’ve hardly begun.
Before overscheduling our days with virtual meetings that replace every single in-person thing that was on our calendars, let us first consider what our purpose needs to be, as a society, as an organization, and for a particular meeting at this current moment.
Let us not compartmentalize what’s going on OUT THERE, with what’s going on IN US.
For most of us, our NOW is so different from our now a month ago. We are living with immense uncertainty, and for most folks, uncertainty invites a range of emotions, including despair, anger, grief, and anxiety.
Much of our work together, right now, is to deeply attend. The only way that any work will effectively get done during this time is if we are present with each other. Jumping on calls and getting right into business is not going to hack it. Just think about how YOU are feeling right now. How easy has it been for you to focus, to commit to whatever it was you were doing a few weeks ago? What else is grabbing your attention and spirit? Tons, right? Now multiply that by a couple of billion-fold, and you know how we’re doing as a species.
This is the time to redefine what “getting things done” means, what your core purpose is, for your organization, project, and meeting. “Getting things done” must now include doubling down on strengthening our practices in collective care and reflection. It includes checking in with one another and asking next-level questions that invite thoughtful responses, ones that allow us to hear how we each are and reflect that back to ourselves.
This is a listening time, a sensing in time.
Some of the thoughtful, heartful questions I’ve been offered and have used include:
What is unfolding?
What are you noticing?
What are you sensing?
What are you learning?
What is stirring in your heart?
What are you dreaming about?
What are you letting go of?
What are you inviting in?
It’s also really nice just to be asked: What’s next for you? What are you doing after this call, or for the rest of the day?
Also, we need to thoughtfully consider what technology to use before automatically scheduling our next video call. Many people have been scheduling video calls that were normally phone calls! BC (Before COVID-19), folks engaged in conference phone calls way more than they did video meetings. Most of my retreat planning with groups was via phone. The conversations were often quite deep, with individuals sharing their intentions and collectively sensing in together what the core purpose of an in-person meeting would be. There was often silence, and we could each roam the jungle of our minds and hearts from the privacy and comfort of our homes and offices. We listened and shared while we drank tea, walked, stretched, leaned back in a chair.
It’s harder to do these things on Zoom. It feels like we are performing for each other, and we’re aware of being watched as much as we are watching. The novel technology of video conferencing and where we are as a species works against going deeper together. It’s exciting to see each other, for sure, but as a person who did not come of age with connective video technologies, I still feel an incredible thrill, frisson really, at seeing someone I adore, live, on a screen. It’s magic, miraculous, and the mere fact of THAT subsumes everything else, and it hardly matters what we’re talking about. It’s why my Mom always preferred FaceTime with me and her grandchildren, over a phone call. I always felt we had more substantive things to share by phone, but she wanted our FACES!
Honestly, I think we need less, right now, of each other’s faces, and more of each other’s souls, spirits, hearts, and thoughts.
We need folks to be embodied right where they are, sharing wisdoms from the moment they’re in right now, not parking in front of a screen and looking at a bunch of little Brady Bunch squares, further splitting themselves off from their realities.
I do think we can use the video technologies thoughtfully. I just think they’re harder to use and require more learning by most of us. We have less practice with them, and the phone has been with us longer. We all know how to “reach out and touch someone.”
Finally, it’s important to know when and how to end a meeting. I’ve been finding that I can tolerate about half as much time on a virtual meeting compared to the length of a regularly scheduled in-person meeting. I’ve also been finding it hard to say goodbye to people, knowing that we’re both going back to our self-isolating worlds. Some phrases that have worked for me include, “It’s been great talking, and it’s time to attend to my body now,” and “This has been really lovely, and it’s time for me to move on.”
And with that, I think I’ll go have some tea!
 I did discover recently –I may be rather late to the game!—that with Zoom you can turn off seeing yourself while still having your camera on so others will see you. This does help.