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Diane Dreher's Tao Leadership Blog

What Are Your Strengths?

To flourish, we need to respect our essential nature. Unlike machines, which can do the same repetitive task over and over, as human beings, we can't do this. We get bored, make mistakes, get repetitive stress injuries. But unlike machines, what we can do is learn, grow, and self-actualize. This is our essential nature.

 

To become most fully ourselves, we need to value our essential nature and our own personal strengths. I write about discovering our strengths in my book, Your Personal Renaissance, and ask all my coaching clients to take the free positive psychology survey at www.viacharacter.org to discover their own character strengths and use them to reach their goals.

 

You can discover your character strengths by taking the survey as well. You can also begin getting more in touch with your strengths with this brief meditation.

 

  • First close your eyes, take a deep mindful breath, and slowly exhale.
  • As you breathe a little more slowly and deeply than usual, feel your shoulders relax and any tension gently release.
  • Then think of a time in your life when you felt a sense of joy and vitality, feeling deeply and fully yourself.
  • As you visualize that time, notice where you were and what you were doing.
  • Take a moment to breathe in that feeling, to enjoy reliving the experience. What did it look like and feel like?
  • Notice what strengths you were using.
  • Was one of your strengths courage? Compassion? Creativity? Teamwork? Feeling a deep connection with nature, another person, or an animal companion? Was it curiosity? Learning? Perseverance? Or something else?
  • Breathe in a deeper awareness of your own personal strengths as you name them to yourself..
  • And think of one way you can use these strengths more often in your life today.
  • See yourself doing this in your imagination.

 

Now gently open your eyes and begin using your strengths more often to discover greater joy and meaning in the days to come.  

 

 

 

 

 

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The Strength of Bamboo

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

 

Combine the assertive strength of yang

With the heart of compassionate yin.

In this valley of possibilities

Live your life like a river,

Strong and true.

        Tao Te Ching,28

 

Transition times can be especially challenging. As we re-enter our wider personal and professional worlds after over a  year of Covid lockdown, we can feel confused, anxious, and even overwhelmed by all the changes and choices we face. It's something I've been experiencing lately.

 

Living creatively is an ongoing journey of personal development, which influences everything around us. The ancient wisdom of the Tao Te Ching combines the polarities of yin and yang in which wise leaders balance the Socratic wisdom of knowing ourselves with a keen awareness of the energies around us.

 

By cultivating the inner life, the Tao, like many spiritual traditions, helps us acquire balance. We become  more aware of our values and the energies within and around us. If we're too outer directed, we can get so caught up in external energies that we merely react—fight, flight, or freeze. If we're too inner-directed, we may never venture forth to deal with life's challenges. But by maintaining dynamic balance, we develop the strength of bamboo. Open at the center, bamboo is flexible--it bends with the wind and does not break.

 

In our busy lives, it takes courage and compassion to attend to our own needs and discipline to set aside contemplative time. But wise individuals are stewards of their energies and respect their own personal resources. They set aside time for reflection and renewal,  spending time in nature, meditating, taking a walk at the end of the day. They often pause throughout the day to take a deep breath and ask themselves how they feel and what they need.

 

 To experience this balanced awareness for yourself, try this brief meditation:

 

  • Close your eyes and take a deep breath,  slowing releasing it.
  • As you breathe more slowly and deeply than usual, find a rhythm that feels natural to you.
  • Now imagine your breath flowing in and out of the region of your heart, putting your hand on your heart if you wish.
  • As you breathe this way, imagine yourself standing beside a river.
  • See its water flowing by, sparkling in the sun,
  • Feeling that river of energy flowing through you as you slowly breathe in and out.
  • Now ask yourself, "How do I feel?"  And listen for the answer.
  • Next ask yourself, "What do I need right now?" Listen to your heart, your inner guidance.
  • Your need may be simple—a drink of water, a break to exercise, a time to listen to your favorite music or check in with someone you love, or something else.  It may be a new insight to take action on a project or decision.
  • What is it that you need right now?
  • Then, with a deep mindful breath, gently open your eyes and move forward to meet your need and bring greater balance to your life.

 

I wish you joy on the path.

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Finding Our Balance in Nature

 

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

Tao leaders live close to nature.

Their actions flow from the heart.

In words they are true,

In decisions, just,

In action, aware of the timing.

                           (Tao, Chapter 8)

 

Over 25 centuries ago in ancient China, Lao Tzu discovered the wisdom of Tao by wandering in the woods, observing the water, the wind, and the changing seasons. We can experience nature by walking in a nearby park or finding solace in our gardens as many leaders have done, including Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill.

Although spending time in nature seems far removed from our personal and professional responsibilities, it can provide us with greater insight into the cycles of energy within and around us, enabling us to make wiser decisions.

 

Psychological research has also revealed nature's profound effect on our physical and emotional well-being. Relieving stress, dispelling depression, and aiding recovery from physical illness, nature can strengthen and heal us on many levels.

 

So for today, you have a choice. You can step outside and breathe in the fresh air, look up at the sky and feel your spirit soar. You can take a walk around your garden or a nearby park and notice the signs of life around you, feeling one with the natural world.

 

Or you can close your eyes and visualize your own favorite natural space. Return to it in your imagination as you breathe in the healing power of nature, and breathe out anything you need to release. Let it go. Feel the healing energies of nature flow into your heart and you breathe slowly and deeply, relaxing into the process, one with nature, one with life.

 

Enjoy the practice.

 

 

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