Leadership & Coaching

Stacking Rocks and Finding Center

I recently went on an intensive/retreat—and one of the mornings, I went to the river with a senior leader (I’ll call them “A”) of the retreat to stack rocks. I instinctively went to add rocks to an existing short stack, when A emphatically encouraged me to knock it down, with their Central European accent. Knock it down! Dese are only temporary! Don’t be afraid to knock it over..!

And like that: “Kerplunk!” and “splash!”—the river thanked me for returning the rocks. Luckily, I was in the rain forest near Arenal (in Costa Rica) and the water felt refreshing, instead of the cold sting I would have otherwise expected in January. 

“Ha!” I exclaimed, astonished at my joy arising. I so rarely give my creations back to the earth. Since the advent of computers and the diminishing cost of hard drive space and the expanse of server farms consuming real earthen materials and electricity yet called “the cloud”, I haven’t had to exercise the muscle of real-time editing and letting go. Before I breathe again (this is all happening instantaneously) I feel the weight and sorrow of my photography passion suffocating in the shift from film to digital—and not because of the image quality, but because of the infinite space to continuously capture and never process. Never a need or invitation to knock down the rocks. I’m so grateful for A’s incessant invitations.

I’m also fascinated about the rocks’ energetic lifecycle. A rock needn’t generate to move from standing. It simply needs to surrender to gravity. (And I think to myself: I must lookup potential and kinetic energy, though I won’t. I’m enjoying a week off of my phone and media and I won’t remember this until I sit to write this in the future—which is the present “now” vs the past “now”. It feels good to break rules, but I digress.)

As I picked up rocks, wanting to be an advanced stacking on my first go-of-it, I do my best to feel for their center, to feel for how they want to sit and want to be stacked. Several tumble with gravity, back into the river and some balance. I’m also feeling for my own center, sprawled somewhat precariously across a boulder near what some living in the Plains would call a waterfall. And I play with feeling for a rock’s center of gravity, as I feel for my own—balancing rocks as I balance my own body. I’ll later share this with A, and relate it to an essence of coaching. So much of what I’ve been practicing across multiple trainings is how to center and ground myself while helping someone else find/sense/connect to theirs. 

Writing this now (February 15), I’m as enthusiastic about the practice as I was a month ago. Yesterday, I adventured around my new home and stopped at Lover’s Leap and the public access beach/boat-ramp across the river (and only 23 minutes by car). I found three large rocks piled neatly on top of each-other and decided to leave the bottom two as a foundation. And then I began listening for the rocks who wanted to be stacked, wanted to be reminded of their potential. 

As I look at the picture I took afterwards, I’m surprised at the zig-zag across the vertical. Balance isn’t about finding a stationary, dead-middle. It’s simply the center of whatever shape we’re in, in the moment, and can look to be “left” or “right” of “center” (in quotes because changing your viewpoint will change what direction looks “heavy” or “light”). In this, the rocks remind me that I needn’t be symmetrical or neat to stack and be in connection with others. In nature’s poetic beauty, it’s the asymmetry and rough edges that invite a stable connection and towering community. 

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