I recently had the opportunity to teach Presence-Based Coaching at the Irish Management Institute in Dublin, and my wife joined me to explore Ireland for few days. One of our highlights was visiting Skellig Michael, off the coast of the Iveragh Peninsula.
It is a fascinating place. The trip out takes about an hour, passing Little Skellig, a dramatic rocky crag covered with 70,000 gannets nesting, calling to each other, feeding young, and wheeling in the powerful updrafts.
Skellig Michael is only slightly more hospitable looking; featuring a few patches of green amongst the rocky crags. It was settled by early Christian Celtic monks in the sixth century AD, who rowed leather covered boats across miles of open ocean to build a monastery.
At that time, this was the very edge of the known world. What an act of imagination and commitment! These people consecrated their lives to eking out a subsistence existence of fishing, growing a few crops, building a monastery from the abundance of rocks, and praying.
I stood in awe of this vision, and of the commitment of these early monks to something large than themselves. Visiting Skellig Michael was humbling and inspiring, and provoked me to consider what I'm really committed to and how these commitments would hold up in the face of long-term formidable obstacles.
Since then, I've been very challenged by a very delicate business conversation that, from a traditional view, could be perceived as a powerful conflict of interests. We are moving through that conversation because of a mutual commitment to surrendering our attachments, and seeking the common ground in order to reframe a potential conflict into something more harmonious. We have been called to rigor, flexibility, and grounding in what is important to us both. It continues to be a rich conversation, and tests us both to stay in our hearts and in relationship when our practiced habits could cause us to move in a very different direction.
While few of us will feel called to spend a lifetime on a rocky crag schlepping rocks and praying, it is inherent in the nature of making commitments that we will be tested. When we allow ourselves to really sense another's deep commitment, it evokes something new in us as well.
• What do you put yourself on the line for?
• What are your unshakeable commitments?
• What practices keep you connected and committed to what is most important?