A Coaching Power Tool created by Ann Voli
(Stress Management Coach, SPAIN)
The way to do is to be. Lao Tzu, Chinese Taoist Philosopher, 600 BC – 531 BC.
The horizontal orientation: the outer world of doing
We have become superb human doers. We take pride in our many accomplishments, our material possessions, our accumulation of degrees, positions, scaling the corporate ladder, in leading busy, busy, busy lives. Our whole sense of value has become rooted in our doing. There is no doubt that our endeavors have led to enormous breakthroughs in science and technology.
Things inconceivable a few decades ago are now taken for granted: instant communication around the globe; incredible apps on our IPhones; cloud computing; cures for many diseases. Yet in our western world of today, in the midst of the spectacular developments that we assumed would lead to unparalleled well-being, there is often a sense that something is missing. Why, surrounded with all these symbols of well-being and affluence, do we often experience a sense of emptiness, the uneasy feeling that something is missing? What is the meaning of life, what are we here for, why does happiness elude us?
The vertical orientation: the inner world of being
We are so focused on “doing” that we have forgotten to “be”. We have forgotten the importance of being rooted in who we are, not what we are, or what we do. In our hectic action and achievement oriented lives, we often lose touch with what truly supports us. With what gives us energy and meaning – that source within us wherein reside our values, wisdom, intuition, purpose, our “being” rather than our “doing”. We have forgotten the importance of being human beings as well as human doers.
In his book Create a World That Works, Alan Seale introduces the concept of the vertical and the horizontal dimensions – the being and the doing – through the metaphor of the symbol of the cross. “While the basic cross has been used to represent many things, it is most commonly used to represent a union of the spiritual and material worlds, of heaven and earth…. The cross is also a powerful metaphor for two fundamental orientations to living: the vertical and horizontal – who we are in the world and what we do in the world. The vertical plane of the cross represents being – who we, as individuals or organizations, are at our essence and the alignment of who we are with Consciousness. The horizontal orientations represent doing – action and accomplishment in the physical world……
As you find that vertical alignment, you step into the horizontal plane and move into action. When your action in the horizontal plane is informed by intuitive awareness, insight, and alignment with the big-picture view of the vertical plane, and rooted in meaning and personal motivation, you can accomplish incredible things.” Some spiritual healers teach that we are all connected to the spiritual energy of being through the crown chakra, located at the top of the head. (Chakras are energy centers invisible to the human eye, but can be perceived intuitively by trained energy workers). This spiritual energy, or life force, might be called God, spirit, nature, the universe, etc. It is what keeps us alive. If we were not connected, we would be dead. Acknowledging and opening up to this life force gives us tremendous power to act in the world. It’s like a washing machine plugged into the wall socket. A bit of electricity is always seeping in, even though the machine is on “OFF”. When the dial is turned to “ON” the power surges in.
Stephen Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, highlights the importance of the spiritual dimension, our connection to the vertical orientation, in order to be effective in the horizontal orientation of doing and action.
Our most significant life is our deep inner life. This is where we connect with our unique human endowments of self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination…..There is no balance in life without balance in your inner life.
Bridges from the horizontal to the vertical
So how do we move from the horizontal dimension of the world of activity to the quiet inner space of the vertical dimension? The bridge can be as simple as taking the time to stop every few hours, sitting down, closing the eyes and connecting with the breath for one or two minutes in order to calm the mind, return to the present moment, reconnect with the vertical and recharge our batteries. It can take the form of meditation, prayer, the practice of silence, mindfulness, communing with nature, reading inspirational literature, journaling, listening to music, contemplating great works of art, qigong, etc.
All of these practices help us to go within and expand our awareness beyond our daily outer world. With these tools and techniques we are providing a space for our busy, overworked minds to slow down and rest, freeing the wisdom and insights residing in the depth of our being to gently float to the surface of our awareness, like bubbles in a pond, previous to emerging into the horizontal world of action. In the hindu tradition, a daily spiritual practice which connects us to the vertical is called Sadhana. Kundalini Yoga teacher Yogi Bhajan suggests that at the beginning of each day we do ourselves a favor by tuning up our nervous systems and attune ourselves to our highest inner self. Ideally the practice should include exercise, meditation, and prayer. Here is an example of how connecting to the vertical can play out to create a life of deep significance. Susan was a successful and highly paid simultaneous interpreter. Although her job was interesting and allowed her to travel, she felt that something was missing from her life.
Besides that, the highly demanding job of translating from one language to another simultaneously was extremely stressful. At times she felt that she was very close to burning out. By chance she read an article about a breathing technique to reduce stress. In the hopes of learning something that would help her to manage stress, she signed up for the course. During the breathing exercises taught in the course she felt energized at a very deep level, something she had never experienced before. She felt a sense of connection with something larger than herself, a feeling of being at one and at peace with the world. Delighted with the results, she incorporated the breathing process and meditation she had learned into her daily routine. She enjoyed the deep relaxation and increased energy it gave her and also noticed with surprise how insights popped into her mind during the meditation.
One of the insights that continued to come up opened her to the possibility of becoming a stress management instructor herself. She followed up and within a year had left her job as an interpreter and was giving stress management courses, sharing her new-found energy and sense of enthusiasm and well-being with her course participants. The sense of contributing to the well-being of others fulfilled her need for meaning and for a connection to something larger, and of being of service. She felt as if she had found her mission in life