Monday, February 28, 2011

Creating Stability

"Our American friends were absolutely petrified. We were all as one in a moment under the table." -- Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive talking about the Americans he was with at lunch on Tuesday in Christchurch as part of the NZ-US Partnership Forum

As I said in the last post, I was in Christchurch during the huge earthquake that hit. Here is a link to another, more personal, look at what we can take away from that experience, and what I took away. But here I want to focus on the world of professionals and modern life.

I love the quote above as much because of who said it as what he said. I think the first sentence is almost humorous, having been with several Americans who did not know what to do in an earthquake and all of us trying to get them under a table (I grew up in CA), though I was not with the man who said that at that moment. But the second sentence is what is really important.

It seems so long ago that I posted about "The Downward Spiral of Email," but it was less than two months ago. That post was about an article in the American Bar Association e-Journal about lawyers attacking one another by email to the point where one attacked the other’s child and his intelligence. 

Since that post, Gabrielle Giffords was shot, I moved across the Pacific, and a major earthquake led the Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive in the largest NZ city to say, “We were all as one in a moment under that table.” In the not-to-recent past, such a comment would have been only heard from a hippie and ridiculed by the business/legal community. But then stability was lost and a new paradigm opened.

Lawyers and other professionals have a tendency to work very, very hard, at the expense of their health, their families, and their happiness.  The stress and need to win, especially for lawyers, leads to the ability to see the “other” side as somehow lesser, as someone to whom you can send nasty emails. The stress also leads to disease. Sometimes people get very, very sick.

How many times have you heard about someone who worked 60-80 hours per week, got a deadly disease and realized that life was not about the work? How many times have you heard about people being in a natural disaster and realizing that life is worth more than all their possessions? How many times have you heard about tragedy and disaster and sickness bringing people and communities together?

Disease, disaster, and tragedy are wake-up calls. They force us to see life in a new way, and we realize, perhaps without acknowledging it, that the definition of yoga, “to yoke/unite” is really what matters. We must all come together as one. We must live our lives to help each other. The US-NZ Partnership Forum was, in many ways, a trade conference. The main delegation consisted of business and political leaders from both countries discussing how to increase cooperation between the two countries.

It took an earthquake, however, for one of those leaders to stop and say, “we were all one.” But he went on to say, “for a moment.” Why? Do we only wake up to our oneness in disaster? Do we only learn to care for ourselves and others when disease and tragedy strike?


We have an opportunity, with all that is happening in the world, from Gabby Giffords to Christchurch, from Queensland to Libya, from Egypt to Wisconsin, to carry our unity and oneness forward. In fact, we have an obligation. We can choose to go down the spiral of nasty emails, or we can choose to recognize that our health and our lives and our togetherness are far more important than anything that can happen in the courtroom or the boardroom. It might be petrifying for a moment, but once we are all under the table together, we are one, and we can hold each other in that space and grow together, in business and in life.

After all, it is always about community. What can you do to increase your community today?

Namaste and Blessings!

© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved
This blog is not affiliated with Fulbright or Fulbright New Zealand, and all opinions expressed herein are my own.


  1. Another great piece. Thanks for bringing light and clarity into what can sometimes seem to be an awfully dark world.

  2. Great post, but I'll quibble a bit. He said, "in a moment" not "for a moment". I agree with all you said, but in fact, he wasn't suggesting we become a community for a moment, but was noting that we became a community in that moment. The key is to take each moment that brings us closer to being a community and use it to keep that moving in a positive directions. Thanks, as always, for reminding us about the importance of stability and community, and how important both are in our work and in our daily lives.

  3. @Stan - thank you for the continuing support.
    @Phil - thank you for pointing that out and for the perspective. It is absolutely correct and vital. It is so interesting to me how two people read the same words and get such different, yet similar, reactions. Thanks!

  4. Rebecca -
    I'm glad you are safe in light of recent events on your side of the world. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. It serves as a timely reminder that "work", while necessary, is but means to an end. Relationships matter more than money, and character matters more than cars. Too often, it is easy to overlook the larger issues in life while focusing on the minute details.

  5. Thanks, @eidrunner247. I agree that we too often lose the forrest for the trees, and that is even easier when we are busy and stressed. I hope it does not continue to take tragedy, disease, and destruction to pull us out of our ruts.