Stewardship

All five stone-monolith-1529055of us on the Expanding Inward facilitation team served on the staff of the Diana’s Grove Mystery School before the Grove closed a handful of years ago. Mystery School offered a good deal of really solid philosophy around community-building, leadership, and personal/spiritual growth – but, the most foundational piece that came out of that tradition was the Cornerstones of Community. I think a longer discussion of each of the five Cornerstones (Choice, Thinking Well of Self, Thinking Well of Others, Stewardship of Self, and Sacred Wound) might be good fodder for another blog post someday — but for now, there’s one that seems particularly relevant to my own work in this moment.

Sometimes the Cornerstones are slippery, and Stewardship of Self is the one I am challenged to stand on these days. I have heard a number of different interpretations of what this Cornerstone means, but my understanding of the intention is this: If you are truly a “steward,” or caretaker, of your Self — and that includes your body, your skills, your dreams, your talents, your energy, your health, your spirit — then what does that service look like? There are so many facets to Stewardship. For me, it can mean making sure that I have enough rest to be able to facilitate an important session effectively. It can mean avoiding dairy products on a day that I need to have a full singing voice. It can mean taking professional development classes to enhance a particular skill set so I can be more effective at work. It can mean a focus on maintaining healthy boundaries in my relationships so that I can be a more effective priestess and leader. It can mean any number of things — but the common thread in all of these is that I am focused on being in service to my Self so that I can in turn be in service to the communities I am a part of. I believe that Stewardship of Self is one of the most essential components of healthy leadership.

And, I have been struggling with this lately. There is just a lot going on that directly affects me on an emotional level, and I am finding it a challenge to keep my footing on what feels like increasingly unstable ground. Taken on its own, any one of the things I am dealing with would be hard, but manageable. However, for better or for worse, I am dealing with a whole slew of challenges at once, and my reserves are draining fast. I realize I am being vague about what’s going on. Talking about these things are in a public forum feels … well, too public right now. I’m going to err on the side of protecting my heart. I am a big proponent of vulnerable leadership – but I’m also a big fan of boundaries, and that feels like the better way to steward myself right now.

If I am going to be perfectly honest, at the moment I think Stewardship also means allowing myself to feel sad and address that sadness. I think an aspect of being a steward to my Self is that it requires me to acknowledge the depth of my emotion and give it the space and focus it needs so I can return to the areas of my life that bring me joy and feed my passion with a clearer head and heart. I can be a more effective leader if I have taken the time to give some attention to the parts of me that need it. That’s not to say, “Once I have dealt with all my emotional challenges, I can then be a leader.” My emotional challenges aren’t going away any time soon, and they’ll be replaced with new ones. Hooray for being human. But, Stewardship of Self requires me to have a conscious awareness of my limits so that I can avoid letting my personal struggles get in the way of my service. In my experience, those struggles will come out sideways if I avoid my work, and that doesn’t help anyone.

I’m curious. How does this concept resonate for you? How are you a Steward for your Self? How are you in service to the gifts that you have to give to the world? How do you recognize when it is best to retreat and when it is best to move forward? These are all questions that are up for me as I work to find my way back on to this Cornerstone.
For me, it all comes back to service — and if service is my passion, then Stewardship to the Self that can be in and of service is my duty.

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4 thoughts on “Stewardship

  1. Paulita November 19, 2015

    I am…
    Caretaker of my body
    Caretaker of my skills
    Caretaker of my dreams
    Caretaker of my talents
    Caretaker of my energy
    Caretaker of my health
    Caretaker of my spirit
    Caretaker of my Self

    Thanks — I needed this.

    Reply
    • River Roberts November 19, 2015

      Beautiful, Paulita. So mote it be.

      Reply
  2. Jenny November 21, 2015

    I’m juggling commitments right now, and trying not to be overcommitted. I’m mentoring/teaching for a group of awesome hard-working women who are learning professional skills. Curriculum was not what we needed, so I did curriculum development. Group goals weren’t clear, so I helped initiate discussions on that, which led to many leaders stepping forward and creating real community and teamwork. All of this meant I was focused on being in service to these learners, and to the larger community that includes the other mentors… and it takes a lot of energy and time.

    I’ve had to pay attention to what other commitments I make (or more importantly, don’t make). I’ve had to step back from other types of leadership and make space for other volunteers. I’ve said no to relevant but time-consuming other forms of this same leadership, so I can stay focused on doing a good job with what I’ve already got. And sometimes that disappoints people. But it’s better than dropping all the balls I’m juggling.

    The upside is, I’ve been able to sustain this level of leadership and mentoring for a year and half now, and it’s paying off in the lives of the people who show up to learn. I can see my impact. I can see all of our combined impact. And that makes it so worthwhile. And I couldn’t have done that if I weren’t also taking care of my health, saying no to some things, and noticing and continuously balancing what I need for my own growth and what I need to be able to provide for others.

    Time and presence make such a difference in teaching and learning. And to provide my time to others, I have to reserve my time for me. And to be a solid, reliable presence for others, I have to be very present to myself and my own needs, both personal care and long-term career growth. Not one or the other, but… both-and.

    Reply
    • River Roberts November 21, 2015

      I love this: “The upside is, I’ve been able to sustain this level of leadership and mentoring for a year and half now, and it’s paying off in the lives of the people who show up to learn. I can see my impact. I can see all of our combined impact. And that makes it so worthwhile. And I couldn’t have done that if I weren’t also taking care of my health, saying no to some things, and noticing and continuously balancing what I need for my own growth and what I need to be able to provide for others.”

      That is exactly why this Cornerstone is so important. It’s about knowing how to be in service to yourself as much as in service to others. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply

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