The fourth and most subtle meta competence is “being.” Our being is who we are at our essence, our innermost core self. It is the site of our internal presence (i.e., our internal state at any given moment). It is the seat of our wisdom, resilience and creative potential. It includes inherited genetic and epi-genetic characteristics as well as internal aspects that are developed over time, in response to our experience such as values, character, strengths, maturity, ego. While “being” is rooted in our internal experience, it manifests externally to the outside world through our external presence, persona and stance.
There are many different names for this internal essential being, our core Being. Daniel Siegel calls it our “knowing faculty.” 118 Eckhart Tolle calls it “your own deepest self, your true nature.” 119 Richard Schwartz calls it Self, with a capital “S.” John Prendergast calls it “inner resonance.” 120 Stephen Covey calls this “our deep inner knowing” and speaks to the opportunity of leading from this place:
The essence of success and happiness is attained when we are aligned with and operate from our deep inner knowing. Strong connection to our core is our most reliable compass in an uncertain and challenging world. Strong connection to our core is a tremendous source of power and creativity. 121 122
Doug Silsbee eloquently describes how a honed being meta competency supports centered, resilient leadership,
Being is our state, our sense of our self at a given moment of time, including our capacity to observe our state. States arise and pass. We are fatigued, irritated, hungry, sad, happy. When we become aware and make our being visible, we name/recognize/act upon our inner state. It no longer happens all by itself. We are a dynamic partner in witnessing, paying attention to and regulating our states. Centered is a neutral state: alert, relaxed, aware, ready. It is the absence of habit. It is the inner state from which, regardless of what is going on around us, we can be at choice. Resilience is the ability to be calm, centered in the midst of chaos -- being able to act from this more generative state. This is the basis for physiologically supported change. This is presence. 123
Being is the base platform from which leadership operates. When we are leading from a centered core, in fluid alignment with our being, we are able to see more, connect more and do more, which enables us to generate more effective ideas, actions and relationships in the external world. Individual leaders with a honed being meta competency operate in a state of flow, with their physical, intellectual and emotional systems in balanced alignment, enabling access to a greater field of information and the ability to operate at the emergent edge of creativity, where their actions can be more spontaneous, fresh, and dynamic. Organizations can also demonstrate a honed core: the vision/strategy, implementation, and stakeholder relationships are coherent, integrated and aligned with organizational purpose, values and desired outcomes; the collective is engaged, energized, generative, and adaptive. In emergent collectives, a honed core enables them to adapt with agility in a volatile, complex context, toward a shared “north star” (i.e., sense of ultimate purpose or destination).
Operating from a honed being meta competency enhances leadership performance in numerous, profound ways. The being meta competency is the wellspring from which the seeing, connecting and doing meta competencies flow, and thus a more evolved being meta competency contributes to the development of the others. At a very practical level, the being meta competency contributes to improved decision-making, creativity, relationships, reaction times, mental clarity, personal balance, intuitive insight, fulfillment, resilience, health, kindness and compassion, adaptiveness, cognitive function, self-regulatory capacity, emotional stability, attention level, motivation, perceptual sensitivity, and emotional processing capability. 124 Here are so examples of how an evolved being meta competency drives performance. When we operate from a honed core, we:
- Operate from a grounded, centered, calm, curious state. We are more able to purposefully focus our attention, act from intention, connect with others, notice vital feedback.
- Lead from a more generative, resourceful, creative state.
- Operate with equanimity, which enables us to stay Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized, and Stable (F.A.C.E.S.). 125 Daniel Siegel defines uses this acronym of F.A.C.E.S. to define mental health and locates it in the sweet spot between the polar extremes of chaos and rigidity. 126 It also describes the integrated state from which best leadership flows, including an ideal team or organizational culture which supports highest performance.
- Operate from greater spaciousness, and we are able access to more information – from our conscious, sub-conscious, and super-conscious. 127
- Are able to host a greater variety of perspectives. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” 128
- Are less reactive and more responsive. Less likely to get hooked, we can remain calm and discerning in the face of external challenges or our historic triggers. We are less likely to lead from fear or insecurity and less likely to let our ego completely take over.
- Are less distracted by the incessant bombardment of incoming information, requests, and invitations, and we are better equipped to filter out noise, discern the essential from the inessential, and focus on what matters.
- Hold more compassion for those who are different than us.
- Operate from a centered state that gives us the best shot of being able to gain the awareness of the many potent drivers of performance that operate outside of our awareness: the biases and heuristics that inform our thinking; the grooved habits that drive conditioned, automatic action; the underlying structures of conversations or relationships that cause us to engage in the same conversation again and again; the sense of psychological safety (or lack thereof) which encourages us to jump in or cautions us to hold back.
- Build resilience -- the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, adversity, trauma or challenge across four domains: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. 129
How to Develop the Being Meta Competency
Mindfulness practices are a powerful way to build a honed “being” meta competency. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” 130
Doug Silsbee describes the power of mindfulness practices in this way:
Through the quality of our attention and the rigor of our practice, we cultivate our inherent capacity to self-regulate and stabilize our state. We learn to witness the urges that precede action, which enables us to be at choice and resourceful, no matter what is going on around us. What we direct our attention to fills our awareness, energizing specific pathways in our nervous system.
We develop ourselves by practicing centering consistently when the stakes are low. Then, when the stakes are high, we can readily access our most resilient, creative, resourceful self. By developing “executive control of attention,” we can choose to tune into the “frequency” (employing the metaphor of a radio channel) that is most helpful to us in any given context – whether it is external perceptions, internal sensations, emotions, language and cognition or relational awareness. 131
John Prendergast provides a very practical approach to getting started:
The first step is to have an intellectual openness to the possibility that there are other ways of knowing than the rational mind. …the next step is to begin to listen to our body. If we are willing and able to carefully listen, our body can sense when we are aligning with what is true for us. As we learn to recognize and understand the body’s subtle sensations, and then act on them, our self-trust will grow tremendously. 132
He also writes of the potential of connecting to this inner knowing:
Your inner knowing is quietly awaiting your attention. I invite you to slow down, sense into your body, and start listening in a new way. Trust your own direct experience and find out for yourself what it feels like to be in touch with your inner knowing. Discover how your life begins to move as you inwardly align. It is the most important experiment you can do. 133
Though mindfulness practices, we can purposefully change the neurobiochemical pathways in our brain to change our experience, emotions, behavior, outlook, and health. By purposefully directing our attention, we use and thus strengthen specific pathways in our nervous system. These pathways determine our emotional and physiological states of being. They influence what we notice and what we ignore, as well as the narrative we wrap around this information. The neurobiochemical pathways that are purposefully, consciously laid and deepened during practice provide the basis for new habits. The deeper these grooves become, the more likely these new habits will become our automatic response, when our subconscious rules our behavior. Our enhanced presence and resiliency, in turn, enhances our ability to see/do/connect in service of achieving the results that matter most. This is the fundamental connection between mindsight / mindfulness practices and leadership development. Scientific research shows how mindfulness specifically supports positive shifts in our experience, emotions, behavior, outlook, and health.)
Mindfulness practices have additional synergistic benefits, as they engage all four meta competencies, using “being” as the gateway. By cultivating attention (seeing), deep breathing (doing) and positive resonance (connecting), we increase our presence and resilience (being). When we are “present” we can see, do, connect more. Jack Kornfield says, “Mindfulness weakens unwholesome states of mind (i.e., greed, hatred, etc.), makes them less likely to arise, makes them weaker when they do arise, and makes wholesome, compassionate states of mind more likely to arise and stronger when they do. They fertilize the garden of your mind.” (Specific mindfulness practices support the development of all four meta competencies.)
Being as Gateway to Spirit
Your being, your own deepest self, your true essence, is a gateway to an even more expansive Being. 135 Leading from one’s core, in alignment with forces bigger than ourselves (e.g., a sense of higher or noble purpose, connection to a larger whole, or divine intelligence, etc.) invites flow, intuition, inspiration and creativity. 136 Why? Because your being is the nexus between oneself (and humanity overall) and an infinite reservoir of creativity, intelligence, beauty, love, peace, unity and joy. Through deep presence and stillness, our being connects us to the expansive Being, and we can gain access to the infinite, underlying, causal, intelligent, creative force of the world, the source of intuition and inspiration and the playground of innovation. 137 Discontinuous insight, growth, and progress can be achieved by tapping into this meta context. This is essentially a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth that is consistent with many religious traditions, but exclusive to none.
Thomas Huebl uses these beautiful words to describe the enormity of the higher power of Being, 138
It is the site of origin, stillness, connection to divine space – from which movement originates. It is authentic, in the flow, cohesive, integrated. Being yields becoming, creativity, development – and belonging. Through stillness and inner space, we access higher intelligence.
It is something bigger than my thinking, bigger than my emotional and physical world. It is a gateway to all understanding. One instant is eternity.
This state of flow moves into a state of interconnectedness, where we reduce the separation between inside and outside. Then the flow is not just in us, but it's with everything around us also. 139
Accessing Being is like accessing the gigabyte of data of potential development that are waiting for us … to be touched, to be felt, to be inspired by, and to be downloaded as creativity into the world that we know, and beyond that. 140
When felt sense and rational capacity work together, when we feel life and think life, our system is balanced enough to receive intuition We can use this connection to not only support our own development and performance, but humanity’s collective elevation." 141
Eckhart Tolle eloquently describes the relationship between the essential you of being and the higher consciousness of Being:
Your natural state of oneness with Being is … a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible… that is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form.” He continues, “Being is the eternal, ever-present One Life beyond the myriad forms of life that are subject to birth and death. However, Being is not only beyond but also deep within every form as its innermost invisible and indestructible essence. …Your own deepest self, your true nature. 142
John Prendergast writes of the subtle “gifts” of connecting to this greater Being through our inner knowing:
Recognizing and living in accord with our inner knowing does not guarantee an easy life or objectively successful outcomes. It does not ward off accidents, illness or death. It does allow us to deal with these events with more inner space, grace, and creativity. Discovering and following the sense of inner knowing does not make us omniscient, rich, powerful, or famous, nor does it make us a master of the universe. If anything, it turns us into a humble servant of something that is unimaginably greater than our separate self. It does not put us in control of our life; it invites us to surrender what apparent control we have and to let go into a greater wisdom and a deeper love that is concerned with the whole of life. 143
Many wisdom traditions include teaching about how to access this deep silence through our emotional and physical bodies, through contemplative practices. Huebl speaks of connecting “through breath, through the heart center, through the deepest silence.” 144 He writes,
The stillness of meditation connects us to ‘true emptiness.’ True emptiness is not the absence of everything, but rather fullness of possibilities. We gain access to something beyond our senses, to knowledge or information, intuition, and insight that is beyond our sense. 145 Every moment is a gateway. The first layer is the synchronization of my sense perception with awareness. Our breath reconnects us to our sense perception, our felt sense of our current experience. 146
Tolle suggests a powerful tactical practice:
Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment? …Don’t analyze, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel the energy of the emotion. If there is not emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body. It is the doorway into Being. 147
In your natural state of connectedness with Being, this deeper reality can be felt every moment as the invisible inner body, the animating presence within you. So, to 'inhabit the body' is to feel the body from within, to feel the life inside the body and thereby come to know that you are beyond the outer form. …an inward journey that will take you ever more deeply into a realm of great stillness and peace, yet also of great power and vibrant life." 148
While the connection between the being meta competency and the Being of higher consciousness may sound abstract and divorced from the realities of leadership, nothing could be further from the truth. Operating while connected to this higher consciousness enables leadership to “see, do, and connect” with fluidity, cohesion and coherence – in service of highest performance, as it relates to achieving the most important outcomes. It increases the opportunities for brilliant bursts of flow, inspiration and intuition. It enables leadership to access bigger fields of energy, information, creativity and collaboration.
Key Points Summary: The “Being” Meta Competency
Our being is who we are at our essence, our innermost core self. It is the site of our internal presence (i.e., our internal state at any given moment) and the seat of our intuitive wisdom and creative potential. While “being” is rooted in our internal experience, it manifests externally to the outside world through our external presence, persona and stance. Being is the base platform from which leadership operates. When we are leading from our core, in fluid alignment with our being, we are able to see more, connect more and do more; we operate from a grounded, centered, calm, curious state, which enables us to generate more effective ideas, actions and relationships in the external world.
Operating from a honed being meta competency enhances leadership performance in numerous, profound ways. Operating with equanimity, it enables us to operate with greater spaciousness, access more information, focus our attention, act from intention, connect with others, host a greater variety of perspectives, avoid getting triggered and distracted, be more compassionate and resilient. Related directly to performance in the external world, it contributes to improved decision-making, creativity, relationships, reaction times, mental clarity, personal balance, intuitive insight, fulfillment, resilience, health, kindness and compassion, adaptiveness, cognitive function, self-regulatory capacity, emotional stability, attention level, motivation, perceptual sensitivity, and emotional processing capability.
Mindfulness practices are a powerful way to build a honed “being” meta competency. Though mindfulness practices, we can purposefully change the neurobiochemical pathways in our brain to change our experience, emotions, behavior, outlook, and health. This provides the basis for new habits that become our automatic responses, when our subconscious rules our behavior.
Your being, your own deepest self, your true essence, is a gateway to an even more expansive Being. It is the nexus between oneself (and humanity overall) and an infinite reservoir of creativity, intelligence, beauty, love, peace, unity and joy. Through deep presence and stillness, we can gain access to the infinite, underlying, causal, intelligent, creative force of the world, the source of intuition and inspiration and the playground of innovation. Discontinuous insight, growth, and progress can be achieved by tapping into this meta context. This is essentially a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth that is consistent with many religious traditions, but exclusive to none.
© 2021 Carolyn Volpe Cunningham