THE DISCIPLINE OF THE INWARD MIGRATION
Which made me think that probably the most important skill/quality/character trait I can learn as a leader is to be able to hold differing points of view at once, even my own, especially when it might disappoint my colleagues and peers. When I teach culture, I teach that defining our values isn't about othering, but about knowing who we are so that we can hold our point of view while hearing, contemplating, and having dialogues about differing points of view. And the only way I have found to truly understand my own point of view is by being still, quiet, and going withing. When I start teaching culture, we go all the way back through the history of how you developed your own point of view. That is important because there are often pieces from our childhood or our younger selves that we begin to repress when we grow and begin to find safety in our society. I was reminded of that during this interview with Noam Chomsky.
When I think of restoring personal integrity I think of the need to first be able to hear my own voice. There is a beautiful essay in Emergence by Alexis Wright that I return to often when thinking about why it is so necessary in these times to go within. Though here Alexis is speaking about the Australian Aboriginal culture and its ongoing destruction, I can't help but see a parallel to how we might approach staying grounded in ourselves when we are constantly bombarded with so much external stimuli:
This inward migration can be described as being locked in a prison of the mind. It can also be described as retreating to the dwelling place of stories: a return to country, going home to where the stories of our culture are kept in the mind—for the mind that knows how to read country. The inward migration is most often a solitary journey, a turning away from the bombarding speed of reality hitting your very sense of being and destroying your soul. Returning to the place of country held in the mind is a way of figuring out how to deal with the powerlessness we sometimes feel from having to continually hold back the end-of-the-world times and confront ongoing realities. It’s where we go to slowly pick things apart, to reimagine our world in new ways, and sometimes we come out the other side with a map of how to make some sense of our world
An inward migration can also be thought of as closing one’s country, closing the door, sealing off the home place in the mind from others. It is through an inward gaze that we go back to country in thoughts and in dreams. We return to talk with the spirits about how the deep feelings of culture can be thought through, cared about, and compared with our knowledge of the world. It is where we examine truth, and it is through our soul-searching that art and beauty can grow, regenerate, deepen the connections—just as country renews and fulfills its own stories.
This inward place is where we work with our own thoughts—our own sovereignty of mind, our own sovereignty of imagination—and where we keep our own knowledge safe. This is where we fashion, and refashion, and imagine the stories we want told, where we catch the essence of a story before it drifts away, or before it is overrun by the power of those other stories, created by the score in this country, to distract our thinking. In the inward place, we can speak the truth more easily, and often with humor, because of the ease we feel being in the family home of traditional country. This is also where we flourish by making new stories: bringing new sagas of the “all times” into our world and also dealing with the stories of consolation, redemption, and reckoning.