Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

by Simon Goland, June 13, 2010

Today’s Reflection is about a rich and profound journey of the past two years.

They have graduated a week ago, and despite my many thoughts and feelings about this completion, I am having a hard time writing about it. It is as though words will not adequately describe the richness of the experience of this almost-two years journey. Yet, they needs to come out, to verbalize the finality of this phase, close this chapter, and give freedom to the emotions that are percolating within me. After all, I started crying about a week and a half prior to their graduation, thinking about what they meant to me, the tremendous richness of the experience, the gratitude of being able to witness them throughout the program, and the gifts I wanted to give them, as a token of thank you and a guiding light in the next leg of their journeys.

“You are in the center of your relationships. Your relationships do not exist separate from you and cannot exist or change without you.” – Ron Short
Bainbridge Graduate Institute (https://www.bgi.edu) is located near Seattle, on Bainbridge Island, with a unique – and first of its kind – MBA in Sustainable Business program. While I have been teaching and facilitating many courses and programs, short and long, with various universities, colleges, and organizations, my heart is clearly with BGI and what they stand for. The key course I teach there (as I teach several courses) is Leadership and Personal Development, or LPD for short. It is a two-year course that continues throughout the whole two years of students’ lives at BGI. I get to witness their complete journeys, from who they were when they started, and till the moments of completion, when they declare who they are and what they stand for in the world through a Leadership Theology exercise, when they present their final Entrepreneurship projects to panels of judges, to the last round of hugs, and to the graduation ceremony.

While I have taught and facilitated many different groups over the past 13 years, this one was different. Still is. I am not sure whether there is one specific ingredient, reason, or secret that made this group so special for me. It probably doesn’t matter either. What matters is that I have been, and still am, digesting and assimilating the lessons I have taken from this very diverse group of individuals, who have challenged and questioned me, accepted and supported, explored and inquired, and shared themselves in a rich, real, and authentic manner.

“When you see that the other exists in you, you begin to take responsibility for your perceptions – for what you ‘know’ and how you know it, and for the way you see others and the world. You begin to act as the creator of your experience.” – Ron Short
They have grown, matured, evolved, gained their voice and self-expression, connected with their passion, shared laughs and tears, inspired, challenged, supported, and learned to show up, fully and authentically, in the world. And as I think about them now, stepping “out there” to make a difference and do good meaningful work, I feel more hopeful about our collective future. I know that, after a period of much-needed rest, they will unleash their passion and commitment to a just and sustainable world for current and future generations, harnessing the power of their hearts and the energy of love. Then, as Teilhard de Chardin said, “Then, for the second time in history of the world, human beings will have discovered fire.” This is what brings me hope for our collective future.

And I feel deep gratitude and humility from knowing that I had the honour and privilege to walk along them for this period of time, collaborating on this rich and intense learning journey of their degree.

“Our biggest, yet least visible, problem is that we think the world is outside of us.” – Ron Short
There is another, perhaps more subtle, twist to this experience for me. Harmonic Resonance, as well as Ron Short in his beautiful “Learning in Relationships” book point out that there is a mirroring effect between me and this group. In English, it means that we, the students and I, have grown together over this period of time and the co-created learning experience. This is where I can look in the mirror and say, “You know, Simon, given this experience and the fact that you were a part of it, you are clearly doing something right and growing in the right direction. There is still some hope for you… .”

And then, at the end of August, I start with a new group of incoming BGI students, for another 2-year journey.

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.