March 18, 2021
By Bianca Briciu, PhD
Love in the public domain has been regarded with suspicion as the manifestation of a weak and problematic sentimentality. Have you experienced workplaces where you felt safe, valued, nurtured and supported as a full human being? The workplaces that see their employees as whole persons create more connected and innovative teams. The moment we see others as full human beings, with potential and skills, weaknesses and traumas, the moment we stop seeing them only for that which they can offer us or our organization, we create a new kind of relationship that I dare to call love. Leading with love and vision opens the flow of each person’s capabilities and creativity. Leading with love is a partnership-based practice that cultivates mutual respect and caring, supportive relationships and creativity.
I landed in a teaching position at the School of Transformative Leadership and Spirituality exhausted and scarred by the tough, competitive world of a job marketplace in which I did not fit. I wanted to find ways for cultivating our capacity to love that moves beyond spiritual contemplative practice. The newly developed School had opened up a container for exploring this question both as a scholar and as a person. It was the only academic workplace I had encountered so far that created a partnership-based dialogue between the intellect and the heart.
In the midst of the isolation brought on by the pandemic we created a global weekly virtual space for open-hearted presence.
I started a community based project called The Revolutionary Art of Love with different strategies to cultivate love for the self, for partners, for co-workers, for strangers…We explored love as a human capacity for open-hearted presence, the missing partner of the open mind. Activist Valarie Kaur sees love as a revolutionary force for justice in the world, a choice to enter the ‘sweet labor’ for others, our opponents and ourselves. It is a way to train our consciousness to see others as fully human, without filtering their humanity through our interest, pain, fear or anger. (See No Stranger, A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, One World, 2020)
In the beginning the project was organized as lectures and discussions that revealed the deep emotions of participants. As I listened to their stories I realized the need to create an integrating, witnessing practice of people’s inner experiences. The project morphed into the practice of compassion circles, with two other partners who contributed with their expertise in psychotherapy: Sergio Michel, Ph.D, from Mexico and Alisa Gunzelman from Germany. In the midst of the isolation brought on by the pandemic we created a global weekly virtual space for open-hearted presence.
The structure of compassion circles is based on the deep sharing practiced in experiential psychotherapy and empathic, compassionate group witnessing. Participants shared that the practice allowed them to open their hearts in a safe space of connection and resonance. They felt supported through their struggles and difficulties. The slow process of opening the heart that has closed due to trauma and experiences of hardship is an experience of opening up to life. Like a blooming flower, it can only open in optimal conditions that each one of us can create by leading with love.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
Bianca Briciu, PhD, is assistant professor at the Providence School of Transformative Leadership and Spirituality, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada. She is currently engaged in research on the development of empathy and compassion as transformative psychological forces. Her passion is the integral development of persons through the addition of emotional and spiritual intelligence to intellectual intelligence. She is the creator of Emotional Balance. Her work with transformative adult education is based on a process of emancipatory critical thinking, self-awareness and ethical, compassionate engagement with the world.