Halifax, Nova Scotia, June 2012
I am sitting in the Vancouver airport, on my way back to Auckland. I attended the ALIA summer leadership program last week. As part of taking on a new role of clinical director at the rehabilitation centre, I asked that I have some leadership training and this programme looked like a really good fit for my background in holistic medicine as well as the recovery philosophy of rehabilitation. ALIA grows out of the Shambhala tradition of mindfulness and meditation, but adds a philosophy of active engagement and participation in the world. Thus, there is a blending of mindfulness, creative arts, social activism, entrepreneurship, and creative, ethical business practices.
I was really impressed with the people teaching and attending the programme. In fact, it would be hard to say which was more valuable, the ideas or the people – if pressed, I would have to say the people. Still, there were some good ideas about change in organizations. The sub-track that I choose was “How the World Is Changed,” which was based on Frances Westley and Barbara Zimmerman’s book, Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed. One of the most useful aspects of this model was looking at different stages of personal and organizational change and the traps that people can get stuck in. The shifting focus between individual, organization, community, and world was very similar to what I taught in my Being Fully Human class, so it was interesting to see how these holistic, interlocking dimensions were conceptualized in different ways at ALIA. I don’t have my notes right now, but perhaps I’ll put a few quotes and models in another entry of the blog at some point. I found it very energizing to meet a wide array of professionals from different fields, all very socially aware, idealistic, and committed to facilitating growth and change in the world. I only met one other doctor at the conference, and actually, I feel it is probably more fruitful for me to have had this leadership experience outside of a narrowly defined medical/psychiatric practice. I think it is 11:30 PM, Halifax time, where I started out this morning, but it is only 6:30 PM here in Vancouver. I am grateful to have had a few hours break here before getting back on another plane.
It was very interesting getting a Canadian perspective on social change. While there were people from New Zealand, Australia, and the States at the conference, the tone of the conference was very Canadian and I feel I have gotten a small feel for Canadian culture from this experience, which is a benefit I hadn’t counted on.
One aspect of the conference that I studied and appreciated was the challenge of bridging mindfulness, social activism, and business as the conference committee worked to create experiences that were personally transformative, as well as intellectually educational. My own work, for instance in my book, Creating a Holistic Medical Practice: A Guide for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine, I try to take concepts that are more from the fringe and to bring these back into more mainstream culture. This is quite a challenge, because if too watered down, the energy is lost, but without some degree of translation toward the mean, readers would be lost. (By the way, I am still waiting to hear from a literary agent about whether they will pick up my book or not. I continue to check my email every day looking for their decision!)
All in all, I would say that ALIA is a positive force for change in the world, it is a great crucible out of which many good things will grow.