Here we are, in this liminal space. Some have named this time The Great Pause. The Pause itself has been sparked by the coronavirus, itself a liminal being existing at the border between chemistry and life.
This space in between.
Between sleeping and awake.
Between separation and connection.
Between members of the team in front of me.
Between me and you.
Between life and death.
The threshold, the edge, the transition – a place where we are able to hold multiple realities and possibilities, all at the same time.
“Honour the space between no longer and not yet.”
• Nancy Levin
In-between places and times are fascinating. It’s in that suspended time, that tension between one place and another, that I believe we learn the most. Between is a place where we learn to integrate the old with the new. A place of pure essence, pure potential – the oneness – out of which there is opportunity to let go of something that no longer serves us and let come something new to grow and develop.
Can we, both personally and collectively, learn something from this Great Pause caused by a pandemic virus impacting the world at this particular time and in this particular form?
What if I were to sit down and have a conversation with it, using the organization and relationship systems strategies I apply everywhere else?
Indeed, over the past few months I have engaged in metaphorical conversation with the coronavirus.
First, I shared my feelings and my wants, following the Third Entity structure of dialogue. My personal feelings about the coronavirus have shifted. What began with mild concern and curiosity about disease in a distant place became bemusement at the amount of attention it was taking and the fear it created. Next came mild irritation at the inconvenience it caused.
“There are things known and things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
• Aldous Huxley
Now, I feel a deeper respect and gratitude. Okay, you’ve got my attention.
The virus has brought a collective global experience, showing up as disturber, insisting on the implementation of innovations such as remote working workplaces. We must put in effort and develop skills to connect more emotionally with colleagues.
I wonder how it might feel for the virus – if a virus could feel – to have to play the role of baddy. Being cruel to be kind, sacrificing some for a greater wake-up call of others. A deep sadness.
As I engage more deeply in this conversation, the virus shifts from an ‘it’ to a ‘she.’
My wants are less easy to voice. Do I want her to stay or go? At first, I want her to leave. She is inconvenient, and I certainly don’t want her to kill anyone. I want her to stop making me have to make decision after decision, on both the personal and professional front.
As talk of opening up after sheltering in place has come into play, my feelings have shifted. I want her to stay longer. I am not ready to come out of the family cocoon. She hasn’t been here long enough for us to collectively gain the lessons she has come to share.
“Be slow. Let this distract you. Let it change how you think and how you see the world. Because the world is our work. And so, may this tragedy tear down all our faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas.”
Then again, did she really need to bring the dis-ease of Covid-19 with her? I want to know. Is that really necessary?
What does she feel? What inner roles does she want to play, and which does she feel forced to play by the system?
When I stop long enough to listen, I hear her speak of her inner roles of messenger, disrupter, awakener, connector, challenger of the status quo, equalizer. She connects and brings us together.
Yet she also plays the role of killer and awakener, revealing cracks in systems.
I am uncertain how she feels about the roles she plays. Does she feel like a pawn, cast in a role that the world has chosen for her? Perhaps she wants to leave, tired of the role of killer-awakener, but cannot depart until we ourselves begin to kill the greed and selfishness, until we take on the role of awakened.
I imagine that she’s happy that she has disrupted us into some new roles, so we can apply innovations like working from home. Once we begin to disrupt ourselves instead of waiting for an external disrupter, perhaps then it will be time for her to leave.
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.”
• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In this conversation, I pull back to view myself and Corona sitting at a table sipping tea. I look to the space in between, to our shifting and changing relationship. I imagine stepping into the voice of that relationship, our Third Entity, listening for what wisdom might emerge.
Voice of the relationship, what is like to watch this conversation? The voice replies that there is sadness in witnessing the misunderstanding, and compassion for the growth.
Voice of the relationship, what do you know that these two don’t know? The voice recognizes that the world is our collective work.
Voice of the relationship, what do you want? The voice responds that we need to be conscious and intentional of the roles we each play, and how we play them together in doing this world work.
What is the lesson that comes from engaging in these micro-conversations with the coronavirus? We can choose to be in conscious and intentional conversation not only with people, but also with events and situations.
During this Great Pause, this space in between, ORSC philosophies, tools and skills help me to unfold deeper meaning, as well as the possibilities that might emerge from this experience. The time of Covid-19 will eventually pass. Coronavirus will become a ghost that haunts our spaces and impacts our choices. Even after her departure, she will remain with us as a time spirit for centuries to come.
What story will humanity collectively tell of the lessons of the Great Pause?
WRITTEN BY: Kerry Woodcock, Ph.D., who leads change for a world of change, coaching pioneers and influencers to amplify the power of relationship and lead over the edge of change. As principal of Novalda, Kerry develops change leadership capability in organizations and social systems. Kerry is privileged to be CRR Global’s Canadian partner, bringing the magic-making ORSC training across the country.