The pandemic of Corona or Covid-19 is unprecedented and still feels a bit surreal. Is this really happening? Uhm, yes! It’s fascinating to see what happens, how you and I respond, how priorities shift all of a sudden, and how crucial values surface.

We see how governments and corporations halt the economy (by sending people home) to protect everyone’s health and avoid further societal disruption.
As a side-effect, we see how Covid-19 has accomplished more to reduce CO2 emissions within weeks than all climate conversations combined have done in years.
We see how it brings out the best and the worst in people – from offering free meals and help to hoarding toilet paper and attending parties because some feel immortal (and don’t care about the macro view of keeping the population as safe as possible).
We see how office workers have to work from home – and how virtual meetings become the standard while many gatherings are canceled.
We see our own response to the sudden outbreak. From disbelief, to anxiety, to getting used to it, to acceptance, to positive action: What can I do to make the best of it? What can I contribute to my team, my community, my family?

This is a wake-up call and a systemic primer for change. Corona affects our modern culture, and the cultures in our teams and organizations. I’d like to share some philosophical reflections by others that resonated with me – may they help you, too, when you’re struggling as a leader, consultant, or employee.

Wake Up

My wise colleague Graham Williams writes: One spiritual growth framework, often attributed to Ken Wilber, is that of Wake up. Grow up. Clean up. Show up. My own take on this overlapping framework, is: Waking up is a growing awareness, a raised state of consciousness that there is something bigger than ourselves, an interconnectedness between all people and things, an overriding power of love that continues our evolution. An entering into spiritual practices and growing in the knowledge of belonging, and even being ‘home’.

Grow Up

Growing up is our individual development, maturing (emotionally, socially, intellectually, in bodily and sensing wisdom), and adopting new practices as we go through different levels of understanding. Also, experiencing a measure of psychological growth, integration as a ‘whole person’, and adopting values that include non-dualistic thinking (with a bigger mind), and an other-orientation.
Values tend to shift away from the extrinsic (possessions, power, position, pleasure-seeking and perfection) to the intrinsic (purpose, presence, personhood, people and planet). There is no point, for example, in proclaiming Ubuntu social values if your practice of these is limited to your own ethnic, religious, social group!

Clean Up

Cleaning up happens as we grow up and transform, and requires some self-directed effort at engaging with and integrating our shadow side. Personality type analyses, such as Enneagram needs and passions, and Myers-Briggs under stress behaviors can be helpful starters to inner work. Cleaning up also requires working hard at converting our stated higher values into habits that bring them to life. One habit that is gaining traction is meditation – a form of which may be termed self-directed neuroplasticity), developing a contemplation-to-action balance, being ready, willing and able to serve others (people, other inhabitants of the planet and nature and the planet itself.

Developing self-compassion is a contributor to cleaning up. If you suffer (as many of us do) from not being content, a career going nowhere, relationship strife, non-stop financial pressures, being frustrated continually by Government incompetence and corruption, different parts of your life not being balanced or integrated, often feeling unhappy with yourself, inclined to blame yourself when things go wrong, a lack of self-esteem, not feeling worthy – then one thing to begin learning right now is how to show yourself acceptance, self-compassion, kindness, and to believe that you are good enough, likeable, able!

Show Up

Showing up is an outcome of the previous states and stages, a practical and meaningful engagement with life that reflects our waking, growing and cleaning up – that promotes and furthers the transcending of “me” into “we”, results in giving and serving, brings about unification and becomes love in action. Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12th Step is about showing up and giving.

  • Which stages are the most challenging for you at this time?
  • How can you help yourself and others and develop a positive culture of contributing and caring?

Freeze or Open Up?

Researcher Otto Scharmer also shares useful observations and questions. He says: If the coronavirus crisis has brought home anything, it’s that we — each of us, separately and together — can change the system. (…) Self-isolation and social distancing are not about you; they’re about protecting the people who are especially vulnerable. (…)
The coronavirus situation provides an opportunity for all of us to pause, reset, and step up. COVID-19, like any disruption, essentially confronts each of us with a choice:
(1) to freeze, turn away from others, only care for ourselves, or
(2) to turn toward others to support and comfort those who need help.
That choice between acting from ego or acting from ecosystem awareness is one that we face every day.

  • What’s your choice – now that the first shock is over?
  • How can you help your colleagues to open up?

Letting Go and Emergence

Each disruption also has two sides: the things we need to let go of, and the things that are about to emerge. Scharmer states: On the letting-go side of things, (…) we find that more than half the meetings we tended to fill our schedules with, may not be as necessary, as essential as we deemed them, after all. So why do we keep ourselves busy with stuff that is not essential? If we let go of everything that is not essential — what’s left? Whatever the answer is that emerges for you from this contemplation, keep it in your heart.

  • Ask yourself and your team:
    What if we used this disruption as an opportunity to let go of everything that isn’t essential?
    How might we reimagine how we work together?
    How can the current pandemic help us find or strengthen our shared purpose?

Bringing out our Best Selves

Gretchen Schmelzer writes: This can be our finest hour. She says: Imagine if we could make our response to this crisis our finest hour. Imagine if a year or two from now we looked back on this and told the stories of how we came together as a team in our community, at work, and across the world. Your contribution to the finest hour may seem small, invisible, inconsequential—but every small act of ‘not doing’ what you were going to do, and ‘doing’ an act of kindness or support will add up exponentially. These acts can and will save lives.

  • What are you doing and not-doing?
  • What are you grateful of?

In my next blog, we’ll look at some practical tips to enhance virtual collaboration.

© Marcella Bremer and Graham Williams, 2020. All rights reserved.