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Posted by on Mar 4, 2011

Where Eagles Dare

I wrote a blog last year about the Eaglecam – an ingenious and beautiful streaming video site where fascinated observers can see the laying of eggs, hatching of eaglets and development of the furry young birds into flight-ready, majestic beauties.

I noted then that part of the birds’ flight readiness plan is “branching” — a hopping to and from different branches, accompanied by the first flapping of wings. This builds muscle and eventually leads to full-out flight. I compared branching to new behaviors for leaders trying to change what they do, and how the first efforts can be partial, faltering or inelegant.

The Eaglecam is back (hatching is estimated at March 12), and this time, I want to take another angle on it, and people, and wisdom. This angle is perhaps deeper.

There is something undeniably, intrinsically mesmerizing about these nature observations. Like people who watch a nature show on the Discovery Channel, those who first see the Eaglecam are captivated by it. There is real juice in this experience. When we show it to visitors they don’t want to stop watching.

So, what is it about the Eaglecam that is so compelling?

Certainly there are all the elements of a story there. Mom and Dad build the nest, mate, and eggs are laid. There are daily events: Dad goes out for a while (it is never clear how long he will be gone. Hmm.) and comes back with a fish, rodent or other food. Mom and Dad take turns covering the eggs and keeping them warm. (Guess who pulls most of the hours there?) How are predators kept at bay? Will the chicks fall out of the nest? Plenty of drama.

While we all are encoded for stories, I believe there is something far beyond this that actually explains the fascination.

The Eaglecam evokes intrigue with nature; a marveling at the intelligence built into the ecosystem and in each part of it – the eagles, the tree (and yes, the geniuses who figured out how to put up a webcam nearby so we could see all this).

How do the Eagles know where a good nesting place is? How do they know the time of year to mate? How do they know what to use to build a nest that will withstand high winds? How do they know where to get those materials? (There is no Home Depot in nature.) How do they distinguish the different sounds from each other? (“Warren, go get some food!,” versus ”Get back here to the nest!”)

At the same time the Eaglecam came back on line, I was reading the book published by many of the leadership coaches in the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program, On Becoming a Leadership Coach.

Several of the articles in this book surface the point of leaders accessing a kind of inner wisdom, which we all have – although a whole lot can get in the way.

This is the innate, genetically embedded inner knowing that regulates everything from breathing, to emotion, to the progression of crawling to walking to running, to knowing what to do in a high-stakes situation.

This a deeper knowing – a knowing beyond knowing. It is a quiet sense of sense. It is more than facts and figures, spreadsheets, presentations and databases. This is a quietness, clarity and conviction that actually comes from the same place as the intelligence used by the Eagles to keep the species going.

This is resident wisdom in each part of the system, allowing it to do what it needs to do to contribute to the whole.

The problem is, the busier you get, the more stressed you become, the faster you run, the harder it can be to access this wisdom.

So how do you understand the answers already inside you, when there is so much on your shoulders?

I will nominate just a few practices, but before you can act on those, you have to make a decision: do you want to take the time to access this wisdom?

There are many competing priorities that keep many, many people keep running full-out, multi-tasking, breathless and scattered. (When people respond to the question of “How’s work?” with the usual responses of “really busy, crazy busy,” or “insane,” you know something’s happening out there that might get in the way.)

• Just notice. This means to simply observe what is, without judgment, interpretation or explanation. Cutting off the explaining machine means you start to see things more clearly, with less of an investment.

• Meditate. Without going into the somewhat mysterious, but increasingly neuroscientifically validated process and rationale for this practice, meditation opens up a space that hurry-up thought often crowds out. In the space between thoughts, new knowing can emerge.

• Introvert. Whether your preference is introversion or extraversion, looking inside is an introverted process. Carl Jung said, “He who looks outside, dreams. He who looks inside, awakens.”

• Access emotion. Whatever you’re feeling, ask yourself what this emotion is trying to tell you. There is a message there. (Emotions themselves also manifest inner wisdom and intelligence.)

• Get quiet. Talk less, breathe, listen, sense.

Whatever process works for you, you will know when inner wisdom shows up. It manifests as a connection to something larger. You know without knowing what’s right and true. It has a character of real solidity, and quiet conviction.

You may find this wisdom, for example, in acts of generation, creativity, generosity, genuine helping, forgiveness and compassion.

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