Sunrise Meditation: Patience, Teamwork & Shared Leadership

For many years, I have started my mornings with a half an hour of mindfulness mediation.  I started this practice as a way to combat all too frequent migraine headaches.  It quickly became apparent that daily meditation reduced both the number and intensity of my headaches, so it has become engrained into my daily routine.  Added benefits include increased patience, and an increased ability to handle stressful situations, especially when I supplement my morning mediation with regular mini-meditation stress reduction techniques throughout my day, as needed.

Last week, I had the wonderful pleasure of joining my friend, Lenny, on a sea kayak trip in the French River Provincial Park.  One of the challenges of being out of my home environment is how to keep up with my daily meditation.  Fortunately, as with my family at home, I happened to rise earlier than Lenny each morning and had the opportunity to engage in some unique mediation settings.

During the first 2 mornings of our trip, my meditation was enhanced by a beautiful sunrise. P1030631

While meditating, I was able to reflect on Lenny’s gracious comments as we started out on our trip that he was glad that I patiently waited as he methodically organized our gear for our week long trip.P1030617While in earlier years, I was not well known for my patience, meditation has helped me appreciate the beauty of my present circumstances and allowed me to stay patient while that beauty unfolds each day, especially when surrounded by the stunning nature in Northern Ontario.

Lenny has far more experience sea kayaking than I do, and he also knows the area very well, having paddled there previously.  In addition, he is an excellent navigator, enabling us to navigate the thousands of small islands and channels in the park.  I gladly ceded my typical leadership traits to become his follower as we paddled about 100 miles throughout the park.

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On the 3rd day of our trip, we ran into some challenging moments.  Despite being informed at the visitor center that there were no portages on the French River, we ran into 2 sets of rapids that our sea kayaks are not designed to handle, requiring us to completely unload our gear and carry both our gear and our kayaks across the rough terrain.  At the 2nd portage, I believed I could shorten this process & make it easier by roping my kayak (fully loaded) through the rapids.  Lenny was skeptical, but at this point my leadership skills kicked in and I was able to navigate my kayak by rope safely through the rapids, garnering me a small round of applause both from Lenny as well as some Canadian paddlers who were confronting the same rapids and portaging behind us.

By the end of that day, we reached the mouth of the French River as it enters the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. Unfortunately, by that time the rain began to fall and the sun was going down, requiring us to find a campsite for the night.  Lenny’s navigation skills enabled us to find a good campsite, but we were still faced with the challenge of setting up camp and cooking dinner in the rain.  At this point, we turned into a highly efficient team.  Lenny quickly set up his tent, while I quickly set up a tarp to give us a dry area to cook dinner and keep our gear dry.  On 2 mornings, I meditated while standing under the tarp to keep dry.

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Towards the end of our trip, we entered the Key River, and my patience coupled with our teamwork and shared leadership enabled us to navigate the entire distance successfully even arriving at our destination at the end of the headwaters of the Key River a day early. Lenny commented a few times that he was glad that my meditation improved my patience.  P1030648

This enabled us to enjoy an incredibly beautiful day trip in Lake Superior Provincial Park.  P1030658Readers may wonder how this experience fits into the systems change theme of my blog.  Quite simply, this trip reminded me that patience, shared leadership, and teamwork, are critical to achieving any meaningful systems change.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

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Systems Change Consulting: Top 10 blog posts to-date

After nearly 2 years of blogging about how to accomplish progressive systems change, I thought my readers would be interested to know which of my posts have drawn the most views. Here is a list of my 10 most viewed posts, each of which is hot linked so you click them and read them.

#1.  Wisconsin’s New Law on the Seclusion and Restraint of Children: posted Nov. 7, 2012, but still getting active views because the information is still current and the problem persists.

#2.  Putting an End to the School to Prison Pipeline: posted Jan. 9, 2013, and also continues to get active views due to the intractable nature of this problem.

#3 (tie).  When Right and Wrong are not the Answer: posted July 23, 2014, my plea for peace in the midst of the Gaza crisis resonated around the world including in the Middle East amongst both Israelis and Palestinians.

#3 (tie). Why I Decided NOT to Run for School Board: posted Nov. 30, 2012, holds the record for the most views on the day it was released.

#5. Why Special Needs Vouchers are Still a Bad Idea: posted Nov. 20, 2012, is still read due to the school privatization movements never ending fight to strip rights from children with disabilities.

#6. Doing the Right Thing: Dropping Racist Mascots: posted May 23, 2013, another issue that just won’t go away.

#7. The Giving Tree Builds Community: posted August 16, 2013, because systems change requires community building.

#8. Stop Paternalizing Children with Disabilities: posted May 7, 2014, critiquing Louisiana’s efforts to dumb down the education of children with disabilities.

#9. Marriage Equality: Dancing Together Builds Community: posted Oct. 23, 2013, on the cusp of perhaps the most significant cultural change in my lifetime.

#10: Solving the Achievement Gap: posted Nov. 13, 2012, focusing on yet another intractable problem.

There are 82 other posts, so if you’re interested in the others, just go to the home page on my blog, where they are all available in chronological order with the most recent post on top.

I will continue to provide helpful tips on how to accomplish effective, progressive, systems change. For more information on the services I provide, please visit my web site, Systems Change Consulting, which also has contact information.

Soul has no Color

Last night, my wife & I had the privilege of watching the incomparable Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, 72 years strong, perform an incredible concert.  Her opening act was comedian Jonathan Slocumb, whose job was to pump up the crowd for Aretha.  In honoring the Queen of Soul, Slocumb reminded the Wisconsin State Fair crowd, which came from all walks of life, as depicted here, that Soul has no Color.” 

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The comedian’s profound statement, which he based on one’s soul being internal, and therefore not based on skin color, reminded me of my 9th grade Social Studies teacher, who happened to be an African-American teacher in a high school filled with mostly Jewish students.  When it came time for her to teach the section on race, she started by saying that she hated teaching that topic and though she would follow the curriculum by teaching us about the then current definitions of Caucasoid, Negroid, & Mongoloid so-called “races,” she wanted us to understand that she believed there was only one race: the human race.  For many years after that profound and unforgettable lesson, whenever I had to fill out forms to identify my race, I checked the “other” box and filled in the blank, “human.”

Needless to say, race and racism are complex issues, often encumbered by ever shifting definitions of race.  Prior to Loving v. Virginia, when the Supreme Court struck down anti-interracial marriage laws in 1967, as unconstitutional, many states defined race (particularly African-Americans) by percentage and these definitions varied from state to state.  Indeed, the landmark case of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the Supreme Court established the concept of “separate but equal,” was based on Louisiana’s definition of a “black” man which included Homer Plessy who was classified as an “octoroon” since his ancestry was 1/8 black, and therefore he was forbidden to sit in the “whites-only” section of the train.

More recently, one must wonder why there was so little outrage when the data was recently released revealing that the life span gap between whites and blacks, while narrowing nationwide, increased significantly in Wisconsin.  As the City of Milwaukee’s Medical Director aptly put it,

What you have here in Wisconsin is an environment which is not healthy for children of color, and this is the main driver of differences in life expectancy.

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Thus, while there are certainly racial disparities all over the place, many of which are abhorrent, and must be addressed through systems change, I yearn for the day when we can look beyond the color as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so well, 

I have a dream that my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Because, soul has no color.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.