Doing difference differently, are we ready?

Reflecting on our last retreat at Flock Hill, I can’t help but feel how time is demanding us to be still.

There is no easy or simple – and dare I say, even appropriate – way to ‘move on’  from the tragedy in Christchurch, and here on Easter Monday, fresh attacks once again made on a group of people gathered to pray. It seems appropriate, therefore to stay, in conversation, in action, in situ.

It seems appropriate to not move on.

207 worshippers were murdered in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and as a nation still grieving for attacks on this whenua on the 15th March 2019, it seems more than ever that a deep cry is coming from the bowels of Papatuanuku.

In the in-between
Breadth of tragedy,
My heart, yours too
Breaks again into unseen stars.

There is a shattering, a deep heaviness and it was holding that weight (amongst many others) that I joined my colleagues for the third of our Leadership New Zealand retreat.

I am so grateful for the chance to re-connect with Ōtautahi. I have been visiting her almost every two years over the last decade and felt humbled to have the chance to walk her streets, honour her dead (both from the Earthquakes and the Mosque  attacks) and to connect with the living. It was the right way to enter Te Waipounamu before continuing our journey to Flock Hill.

Immersed amongst the misty peaks and the autumn colours, I found this place extremely special.

Perhaps it was a crackling fire
An opening, deliberate of heart
My brain, finally, stretching
How do we feed?

As a nation of growers,
How are we raising this nation
In symbiotic relationships that
Hold and Heal?

The energy in the room over the three days changed remarkably – due in no small part to our speakers, John and Milton, who are both deeply committed to sharing knowledge about farming; and didn’t we all learn a truckload – and Barry Brailsford.

Barry is an enormously special human. No small coincidence that his book, Songs of the Waitaha, has been on my bedside table for the past year or that he has worked closely with Whaea Rose (Dr. Rangimarie Pere) whom I also hold in the highest regard.

Barry is a storyteller, a fine orator. Keenly aware of place, of his place, our place and our learning space, he spoke on a range of ubjects: the land, the knowledge of the ancestors, the challenges, the awakenings. However, one of the most beautiful words he uttered were these:

“I unbind you of the fault and thus, may I be unbound.”

A statement so simple, but it sat with me in a very precious way as I let a wave of emotion flood through me. I feel confident saying that while it may not have been that particular statement, there were many other quiet and confident remarks that were resonating with my colleagues in the group.

It was fitting that then, with appropriate tikanga set in place by Barry, we did finally, venture to Castle Hill.

At one point, while I sat in the hollowed amphitheater of the ancestors I couldn’t help but think

Here is our daily ritual
Unfolding in sight
The ridge on high
The creek below.

Here the performance
Begins afresh
Circled crowds
Gathered in communion.

Chalky grey mammoths
Protectors and teachers
Creators. Creatives. Creating.
We are all. 

It was another piece of the puzzle. Another alignment with the other sacred sites that have made themselves known to me and a deeply satisfying sense of peace. Leaders as healers is a concept that might make boardrooms shudder and bureaucrats scrunch their inner wisdom into condescending nods and eye-rolls. But there’s a reason. Leaders as Healers repurposes existing euro-centric knowledge and demands a re-alignment. It questions purpose and meaning in a life lived according to a linear clock, one that is dictated by needs that are increasingly becoming irrelevant in the face of a world keening at the unfolding tragedy across the land.

But those in the boardrooms, at the decision-makers tables, in the privacy of the closed doors – there are people ready to make a difference.

Genuine. Actionable. Substantive. Difference.

This is change that translates into greater inclusivity of not only the presence of tangata whenua, tangata pasifika and other tauiwi communities – including the other others –  but actively including the breadth and knowledge that these communities bring.

Before Notre Dame there were
Temples in Belize.
Churches in Syria
Ancient mosques in Palestine
…. and more

Before Notre Dam there was
Poisoning of the waterways
Fracking of the land
Moving of the mountains
… and more 

Everything comes back to the land. Sacred land and her sacred people.

The question is: are we ready to start doing difference, differently?