Collaboration Begins as an Inside Job

“Collaboration is one of the finest, finest gifts of artistry.” – kd lang

I was preparing for a meeting the other day about a collaborative venture, eager to explore the possibilities of a synergistic approach to a common interest. In preparation, I marshaled all the facts at my disposal, as well as my available tools and insights, then I made my lists. I gave thought to the skills, resources and experiences of the individuals involved — noting how well they mesh and the power they bring when combined for possibilities far beyond the disparate pieces.

This is the very definition of collaboration, bringing together skills, ideas, tools, resources, insights and experiences in mysterious and marvelous co-creation.  Make room in the mix for a bit of mystery and — voila — a new and remarkable something comes into being!

Upon further reflection, I came to understand that collaboration is not simply  an outward, logistical combining of the efforts of two or more people. For me, collaboration begins inside, as part of my inner work. My daily body-mind calisthenics involve aligning my attention, breath and body for a few minutes as often as possible. Rather than compartmentalizing my physical efforts as distinct from my mental or emotional efforts, I choose to practice weaving them together. This full collaboration of my mind and body brings me back to the fullness of myself, all resources at the ready. Resourceful and alive.

Believe me, I know this is not always easy.

In today’s distracted, planning-for-the-future or living-in-the-past world, it requires discipline to bring ourselves fully present to this moment. Now and here. If you’re like me,  it is more common than I care to admit to look up and realize that twenty minutes have passed. Poof. Gone. Nothing constructive accomplished or gained, no real enjoyment or value,  precious moments squandered.

I recognize that when my attention is fragmented or far away from the present moment, my mind and body are not collaborating and my best resources are diminished. Like a skilled athlete who consciously ties one arm behind her back or hops on one leg, distraction is an unnecessary if not purposeful handicap. In that context, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Who would intentionally sabotage them self in such a significant way?

And yet, disconnection and distraction are rampant.

Science shows us that the brain is far less efficient when we multi-task. Yet, the impact of multi-tasking plays out in nearly every aspect of our daily, common lives. From distracted driving, work-place inefficiencies, relationships without depth, to poor workmanship, a lack of focus peppers nearly every aspect of common life.

So what is the anecdote?

Focus. Being present here and now. Mindful attention. But, ask yourself honestly, can you actually do this anymore? Does it feel daunting to commit to doing just one thing at a time or not ‘doing’ at all for even a few moments each day? I find it challenging but infinitely worth the effort.

Back in April, I wrote about the skills that I believe will distinguish leaders in the future. Specifically, calm, focus, attention, listening and self-awareness. As I read the headlines and move through my day, I am more convinced than ever that we are collectively losing the mental muscles of focus and attention. These vital tools are being replaced by empty numbing, surrendering our discernment and self-control to whomever yells the loudest and to the latest addiction – the perpetual scroll.

Does it really matter? What is the toll?

In our numbing and distraction, we unconsciously give away precious pieces of our very lives. In addition, our relationship with self suffers, as do our relationships with others, our ability to solve problems, our ability to think critically and think for ourselves.

I believe we are at a cross-roads. It is time to pay attention, my friends, to reclaim our best inner resources. It is time to begin the great inner collaboration, bringing focus and attention to the present moment and to our many endeavors. As we marshals our strengths, our unique gifts and our many resources, we  come face to face with our one and only life and choose to be a participant.

How do we begin?

Look up. Look around. Take a breath. Then another. Notice your surroundings. Feel your body in the space you occupy. Notice your thoughts. Be still for a moment. Be, here and now. Lend your attention to the symphony of the present moment, your energy a lovely note in the orchestra of Life!

This is your life. This moment. This breath. Claim it. See it! Bring your whole self to it. It’s time…

Shaking Hands


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