Robin Alfred and Robin Shohet of the Findhorn sustainable community in Scotland, teach a five-point holistic definition of spirituality, offer examples of organisations that practice spirituality at work, demonstrate how to develop emotional and spiritual intelligence in any organisation, and introduce the concept of a quadruple bottom line.
Spirituality in an occupational context involves;
1 Working to realise the highest potential in each employee
2 Seeking to embody spiritual values in all that we do
3 Making space for personal inner barriers
4 Acting to embrace intangible identity
5 Acknowledging a holographic principle.
Origin of Findhorn principles
Near Findhorn, a traditional fishing village in northern Scotland, at the Moray Firth and Findhorn Bay, a social and business experiment has been going for 40 years, started by Peter and Eileen Caddy and their friend, Dorothy Maclean, aided by three children. They decided on co-creation.
The village co-create their lives based on cooperation between the human, natural and spiritual realms. The experiment led initially to an ‘unintentional’ community, then to an eco village, a model for human settlements based on ecological, economic, social, cultural and spiritual sustainability.
The Findhorn Foundation has been demonstrating links between spiritual, social, economic and environmental aspects of life and business for 40 years. They offer a setting within which people can become more conscious about work, relationships and the natural world. Spirituality is not merely the next frontier for business to colonise.
Business culture lacks holism
David Whyte explained the need for spirituality at work; “All the overripe hierarchies of the world, from corporations to nation states, are in trouble and are calling, however reluctantly, on their people for more creativity, commitment and innovation. If these corporate bodies can demand those creative qualities… they must naturally make room for their disturbing presence in their buildings and their borders”
A crisis of meaning has been developing in the Western world, despite increasing levels of affluence. All types of people, from disaffected teenagers to boards, MDs and CEOs, are asking ‘now what?’ Some even ask ‘so what?’ as stress levels and competition increase, and failure, and fear of failure, haunt even the most successful.
Some answers are from the East, like meditation and spiritual practice, some from the land, like organic farming, and some from within each of us when we bring creativity, intuition and passion to work.
How to identify spirituality
News reports like “Souls restored in the workplace’, ‘Why God is moving into the workplace’ and ‘Green shoots of business emerge at Findhorn’ grope at trying to describe that which lives ‘between us and within us’.
Spirituality in a workplace includes five dimensions;
1 Working towards the realisation of the highest potential in each individual. To do this means working from a paradigm of collaboration rather than competition.
It involves seeing the potential for good in each person that we relate to, be they client, colleague, manager or competitor, and enabling each of us to be the very best that we can be. It means working from a basis of trust instead of mistrust, and seeking to support and develop, rather than undermine and sabotage, one another.
This is a lifelong journey. While the words are easy and may even appear trite, we will give some examples below as to the kind of practical steps we have seen being taken in organisations that are serious about grounding ‘spirituality’ at work.
2 Seeking to embody spiritual values (love, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, honesty) in all that we do and in all our relationships.
People hang on to grudges; take secret delight or comfort in someone else’s perceived failure; conspire to hide the truth from colleagues, customers, competitors and ourselves; and daily fail to act with full integrity.
Seeking to embody what we might term ‘spiritual values’ should not become yet another goal to measure ourselves by, something else to pass or fail at. Rather it is a response to the call to live more in harmony with our true nature, something that we feel good about when we do it, and that leaves us with a clear conscience.
This is not something to measure empirically. It is something we know when we are doing it.
3 Making space for all that stops us – we might call this working with the shadow, and the ‘inner critic’ or judge.
Paradoxically, as we reach for the heights of 1 and 2, we need equally to plumb the depths and dig in the dirt for the tools that will help us. Failing to do so will render all our best intentions merely that – intentions.
The Earth Summit series generated vast tracts of paper promises that became merely aspirational. One of the many reasons is the complete failure to look at our ‘shadow’; to examine barriers that stop us from achieving all that we set out to achieve.
Barriers may be political, personal, biological. They must be brought out into the light, and unpacked and examined or they will surely defeat us and our best efforts.
If we fail to look at it, the hurts and disappointments inside it fester away, brewing a more and more potent and poisonous mixture. If we stop from time to time, set the bag down, open it up and look at what is in it, we start to release its power over us.
An organisation that seeks to bring spirituality into its workplace will also make space for this. In terms of SWOT analysis, this can be seen as the focus on ‘Weaknesses’ and ‘Threats’ alongside ‘Strengths’ and ‘Opportunities’.
We need to deepen this practice and look too at our personal and relational shadows, at our inner critics and the voices in our own heads and hearts that tell us we are not good enough, that we can’t do it, and that collude with our sense of inadequacy.
‘Shadow’ issues inhibit our progress and sabotage our best efforts when we do not acknowledge our fears. The higher the rank the more destructive it can be to not acknowledge fear – the work force is left carrying the unacknowledged fears of their bosses.
Fear can take on many forms – fears of making or acknowledging a mistake, looking a fool or being sacked, and, less obviously, being competitive, being secretive, playing safe, gossiping, bullying, contributing to a blame culture, workaholism and excitement.
The last two can be particularly insidious they are often seen as virtues, but they may actually be covering up fear.
4 Acting in ways that acknowledge, embrace and enhance the presence of something beyond the physical here and now, beyond that which we can perceive with our senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing.
In an organisation where the dimension of spirituality is thriving and apparent, we see:
• willingness to live in the realm of chaos and uncertainty in place of the known, familiar and expected
• honouring of the intuitive and of ‘hunches’ in place of rule-governed behaviour where everything is justified in terms of pre-set criteria
• managers who say ‘I don’t know’ instead of fearing for their jobs if they appear ‘ignorant’ or unable to solve a problem.
We read and hear words and metaphors that look to nature as a teacher, and that pay attention to natural and seasonal rhythms by, for example, planning more internal work on purpose, mission and vision in the winter months where the days are short and the focus has traditionally been on introspection; and more outward, goal-oriented activity in the spring and summer.
We feel the presence of mystery and surprise, and relish the joy of spontaneity and the wonder of paradox.
5 Acknowledge a holographic principle. This is an invitation to see the world as deeply interconnected and to understand reality as comprising nests of holograms.
When an issue arises in my work I can choose to look at it as if through a microscope – what exactly is going on with this issue? That may be helpful. I can, however, also choose to look at it from a ‘macroscopic’ perspective. How is this problem a reflection of bigger problems in the company?
Seeing my life and my work as taking place within a multi-layered hologram, where the seeds and blueprint at one level are present in the next and in the previous, gives me far greater perspective. It means that I can expect that as I solve ‘my’ issue it will have an impact on the rest of the company, and in some small way even on the world.
In an organisation which embraces a willingness to see and ‘think’ holographically (which might also be termed ‘systemically’ or with reference to ‘the field’ within which I operate) we expect to see an emphasis on resolving conflicts and dealing with issues rather than letting them fester; an awareness of trends in the organisation and how they might reflect world issues; less scapegoating and more awareness of the roles (both official and unofficial) that we currently occupy and how to move beyond them.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Spiritual Intelligence (SQ)
Linked to the five aspects of spirituality at work, are the twin concepts of EQ and SQ. Daniel Goleman coined the phrase Emotional Intelligence when he noticed how some people seemed to become successful and popular without being particularly bright or learned.
This is the intelligence that understands body language, senses moods, develops empathy, and cultivates self-awareness, persistence and motivation. In essence it is an ability to recognise a situation and feelings, and to respond to that by adapting behaviour.
Danah Zohar formulated Spiritual Intelligence. She saw that, beyond IQ and EQ, there lies an intelligence that sometimes chooses not to adapt and behave ‘appropriately’, and stands against the mainstream.
There is an intelligence that seeks to find meaning and value in our work and lives, looks for, and creates, vision and purpose. This intelligence is transformative and creative.
How to introduce spirituality at work
We offer four examples of ‘spirituality at work’ in brief case studies that demonstrate the development of EQ and SQ in the workplace.
Case study of holographic principle at work
We had been working with part of a [large multinational] for over a year. It seemed to us that there was a difficulty in the relationship between the key manager and initiator of the project and the woman to whom he had ostensibly delegated management of the project.
There was an unclarity in the relationship that was dogging the whole project. Accountability was poor, commitment levels low throughout, and when we met with all 20 project staff there was often a tension present which was felt by all but acknowledged by none.
It was not easy to find a way into this, and not wise to bring it up in front of the whole group where it would continue to be denied. Through working hard at building trust and at our own relationship with the team in general and these two individuals in particular, we finally had a chance to talk with the two of them.
After some gentle probing, the two agreed that there was an issue between them. They had had a brief sexual relationship some time ago which had ended uneasily. There was still attraction present but given their new management/subordinate relationship they felt it was impossible to talk about it and so it sat between them unexpressed, unacknowledged, uncompleted and impeding the project’s progress.
We contracted a one-hour evening session with them at the end of which they contracted to meet and talk further about it within the next month. This in turn led to a much easier working relationship between the two of them, and, holographically, the energy within the project started to flow again.
By adopting a holographic approach to the situation, and seeing that if one key relationship was blocked, the whole project would be similarly blocked and affected, our intervention could be targeted at the most effective point. Seeing the issue as both personal and systemic.
It existed between these two individuals AND this may say something about gender issues or blocked energy within the project, AND attraction in the workplace and between people with different rank within the organisation is a common, societal issue) helps to make it safer to deal with.
Case study of EQ and body wisdom
The first time we worked with [this] organisation, we were asked to deliver a three-day course in ‘Developing Personal Power and Effectiveness’. On the last day, in the morning, we felt moved to work on the dynamics in the group and suggested a ‘sculpt’ – a non-verbal process whereby one individual volunteers to work and stands in the centre of the room.
They arrange, one by one, each of the others in the team as they, the volunteer, experiences them, arranging posture, distance, body language.
When all are set in place, the facilitator asks the person to survey the room and share how it feels. S/he might also ask the other participants how they feel to be placed in this way in relation to the volunteer. The next phase involves the volunteer moving each of the others into the place and posture they would ideally like, and finally there is an opportunity for everyone to talk about that too.
When we offered this, the team leader boldly volunteered to work and arranged everyone as he experienced them. Some difficult relationships became very clear. We focussed in on one of them – a challenging relationship he, a white male, was having with a black female staff member.
Slowing the process right down, and taking, literally, very small steps towards one another, noticing when it felt authentic and good and when it felt impossible, they were enabled to look deeply at their relationship – at what they wanted, what stopped it happening and what steps they might take to move things forward.
It was a deeply healing and moving moment for all of the team, and for us. The next day, the team leader sent us an e-mail saying that this had been a life-changing experience for him. For the first time in his life he felt he went to work and found friends instead of colleagues.
The body carries a lot of wisdom. Working non-verbally, and slowing the process down so we can hear the wisdom of the body can enable us to access information which would otherwise be unavailable. When such work is done in the presence of team members, the transparency involved can create a radical reframing of relationships.
Emotion completes quadruple business bottom line
In this paper we have attempted to define what a practical spirituality at work might look like and to demonstrate, through a series of examples, how we might seek to develop the emotional and spiritual intelligence required to activate it.
To be at the cutting edge of business the organisation needs to be working to a quadruple bottom line. John Elkington gave us the Triple Bottom Line, and the other researchers cited above added the last two. Businesses need to be:
• economically viable
• environmentally sustainable
• socially responsible
• emotionally intelligent
• spiritually intelligent.
The organisation must understand its purpose in the world and translate that into meaningful work. It will live more comfortably on the edge of chaos, and welcome paradox and uncertainty, intuition and creativity, collaboration and co-operation.
It will see itself as part of a huge web that makes our world, striving to be in right relationship with all of its parts, and playing its own unique and humble role in society.
• This post is an extract from a referenced paper presented at the International Conference on Organisational Spirituality at University of Surrey, Guildford, England.
Findhorn Foundation Consultancy Service was founded in 1998 as outreach education to share experience of developing emotional and spiritual intelligence, with businesses, organisations and other communities.
Findhorn has worked with Greenpeace International, Health Services, NGOs, colleges, communities, community development organisations, Shell, BP and Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Gill Emslie uses skills from various schools of transpersonal psychology including Process Work.
Robin Shohet is co-author with Peter Hawkins of Supervision in the Helping Professions. He is writing a book on moving beyond a blame culture in health service.
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