Monday, December 07, 2015

I want to share an article I wrote for our local newspaper recently, in response to the multiple terror attacks.

Choose Love Not Fear

            How do people of faith make sense of the horror of terrorism attacks in Paris, Lebanon, Syria, Russia and so many places around the world? These are questions I am dealing with right now, especially because I have friends in Paris, and because I had a wonderful trip there a year ago, where my only concern was pickpockets.  The spiritual principle for me in this context is “Choose love, not fear.”  For me, God is love, and fear is an expression of not trusting God’s greater good. 
When I find myself fearful, which happens more than I would like to admit, I try to remember to choose love, and not give into fear. The descriptions in the news of the actions of the terrorists in Paris did evoke fear in me.  It made me wonder if I would ever want to go to Paris again. Or New York.  Or London.  Or any other place that I imagine a terrorist might want to attack.  And I can easily slip into thinking of the shootings in theaters, churches, schools, and the Oklahoma City bombing.  Or closer to home, I think about the student who killed a professor in his office in the building next to where I used to work at the University of Arkansas.  It’s so easy to be afraid.  But that is not what spiritual traditions teach us.
            In the Bible, every time an angel appears to a prophet or to someone like Mary, the angel says “fear not.”  Melinda Martin, a minister’s wife in Texas, went through her concordance and found that “fear not” is listed 80+ times, and other similar phrases such as “be not afraid” are used 30+ times.  Some examples are:
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified (Matthew 28:5).” 
“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John (Luke 1:13).”
The Hebrew Bible offers this spiritual guidance:  “Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh (Proverbs 3:25).”  What an interesting phrase “Desolation of the wicked.”  A definition of desolation is “a state of complete emptiness or destruction.”  The etomology of the word is from Latin, desolare, ‘to abandon.’ But who or what is abandoned when a person or group willingly causes desolation?  Perhaps they have abandoned God, or feel abandoned by a materialistic society, or perhaps they have abandoned their own soul. I can read it this word as ‘de-soul-ation,’ even though this is incorrect etomologically.  It might be correct theologically.  Somehow these individuals have lost their own soul in the willingness to create terror and havoc among their human brothers and sisters.
Can my understanding from this perspective lead me to more compassion for people who commit heinous acts?  I wish I could say I was there, and I hope to get there someday.  I still find myself in grief and feeling empathy for the innocent victims of these acts.  Perhaps over time, or as I evolve on my spiritual path, compassion for terrorists and other perpetrators of violence will come to me more naturally and more quickly. 
After 9/11, the Dalai Lama said, “Terrorism cannot be overcome by the use of force because it does not address the complex underlying problems. In fact the use of force may not only fail to solve the problems, it may exacerbate them and frequently leaves destruction and suffering in its wake.  Human conflicts should be resolved with compassion.  The key is non-violence…I would also like to point out that talk of nonviolence when things are going smoothly is not of much relevance.  It is precisely when things become really difficult, urgent and critical that we should think and act nonviolently.” 
In response to questions about the Paris attacks, the Dalai Lama has a very interesting perspective on how to take spiritual action.  He said during an interview, “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”
            I am not an expert on international relations or on Middle East history or in any other field that would allow me to offer suggestions to leaders about how to solve this problem.  I don’t have the answers.  What I hold onto is the belief that humanity is evolving, as Teilhard de Chardin explains so eloquently, and that there is a very large body of evidence that we collectively are getting less violent each century, decade and year.  Steven Pinker, a professor at Harvard University, has documented the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present and says, “we are living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.”  It’s difficult to believe this if you spend a lot of time reading the news, but the fact is – violence sells.  However, it is not the way most humans conduct themselves in the world.
            The news is not likely to guide us in seeing acts of kindness and compassion in the world, so its up to us individually and collectively to see and foster compassion where ever we can – to choose love, not fear.  Fayetteville has been designated as a Compassionate City by the International Campaign for Compassionate Communities. Compassion Fayetteville focuses on documenting daily acts of kindness.  “Seek and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).”  “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).”  There are many opportunities every day to choose love not fear.  By paying attention to this choice, we can move towards more love in the world.  That is the best way I know of, in this moment, to combat terrorism.  It’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got.

Dr. Judi Neal is the Chairman and CEO of Edgewalkers International, a consulting firm focused on workplace spirituality.  She is the author of four books, including Edgewalkers, and Creating Enlightened Organizations.

Friday, July 31, 2015


I often get asked if I think everyone in an organization should be an Edgewalker?  My answer is no.  An organization full of Edgewalkers would be chaotic.  Edgewalkers are the explorers and bridge builders, and they are drawn to be on the boundary of the organization.  It would be like having a Native American tribe full of scouts, with no one to watch the children or skin the buffalo.  If everyone was an Edgewalker in an organization, there would be no one to take the orders, keep the records, answer the phone calls and do the other work that keeps the engine running.

Those tasks are the role of the Hearthtender.  In every well-functioning organization, you have people who have a strong spirit of service and who have a gift for managing the details of the day-to-day work.  Hearthtenders are not drawn to change the way an Edgewalker is, but they welcome change if it makes their jobs more efficient and makes it easier to be of service to customers, whether those customers are internal or external.

I used to work in the organizational development department of a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Arizona.  One day people from Corporate got the bright idea that they could save money and please the stockholders if they held a layoff.   They got rid of most of the administrative assistants.  It was clear to me that they had no understanding at all of the huge role administrative assistnts play in getting the done. As you might expect, things quickly came to a standstill.

Two weeks later, all of the administrative assistants were back on the job.  The leadership had developed a new appreciation for the importance of the Hearthtender role.

I am collecting data on the typical distribution of each of the five Archetypes of Change in organizations - Edgewalkers, Flamekeepers, Hearthtenders, Placeholders, and Guardians.  My suspicion is that Hearthtenders will be the largest group by far.

If you are a leader trying to create transformation in your organization, it is very important to consider the worldview of the Hearthtenders, and to frame the positive benefits of the change in a way that appeals to people who value efficiency, a sense of personal connectedness, and the opportunity to be of service.  Most organizational change is pretty disruptive, and Hearthtenders will resist change that gets in the way of them doing their work in an effective way. 

What ways have you found to get Hearthtenders on board?  Do you have a story of Hearthtender resistance to change - one with a happy ending? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Edgewalkers as Visionaries

Each month I host an open teleconference on some topic of interest to Edgewalkers.  The purpose of these teleconferences is to help grow our Edgewalker community and to support and inspire people who feel called to live on the edge of what's possible in the world.

This month's topic was "Edgewalkers as Visionaries."  Visioning is one of the five qualities of an Edgewalker, and Edgewalkers literally have visions.  They are deeply interested in the potential of the future and have a longing to contribute to a better world.  This longing is natural in all human beings, but is definitely more pronounced in some people.  Often it is the result of some difficult and life transforming event that resulted in personal suffering.  The Edgewalker is motivated to help prevent that suffering for others by some positive action in the world.

In our call this month, we explored the question of "What enhances your ability to be a visionary?"  Caring about the future, and believing that a better future is possible is essential.  One resource that inspires the possibility of a better future are the audio programs on  Or read John Renesch's book "Getting to the Better Future."  Or view the Stephen Pinker video on "The Myth of Violence,"  Edgewalkers look for evidence of the evolution of human consciousness, with the belief that what you pay attention to grows.

Many people assume that visionaries are impractical, but Edgewalkers are known for their ability to have visions and then to manifest them. Tom Anderson describes a vision as feeling like you are receiving a direct electrical charge of electricity from a power plant, and that the only way you can communicate it to others and move forward is to step it down through a series of transformers.  Others speak about the manifesting process as one of breaking things up into smaller, manageable steps.  A critical factor is having a community or a coach that helps you clarify your vision and holds you accountable for actions that you say you will take.

I would love to hear from you about any examples of a vision that you have been able to make into a reality.  

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Liminal Time

I have never seen times as uncertain as these. I lived through the sixties, and there was an uncertainty, but there was also such a sense of hope and creativity. Something is different about the mood of humanity right now. There is so much more fear and dread. There are also more extremes. Look at the weather, sports, politics, terrorism.

Maybe the sixties were the warm-up act for what is occurring on the world stage today. The vision of a better, more peaceful, more sustainable world is not lost, it's just buried under the news of Al-Qaeda's leaders being killed, tornados and earthquakes destroying cities, and the economy going down the tube. There is a native American story about a grandfather telling his grandson about two wolves that are fighting each other. One is filled with fear and greed and violence and the other is filled with love and connection and gentleness. The young boy asks, "which one will win." His grandfather answers, "The one you feed."

The news and our daily conversations have been feeding the fearful, angry wolf. Our NGO work and our spiritual work feed the loving gentle wolf. We are in a liminal time where it is hard to see which wolf will win. Collectively we can begin to explore ways to withdraw energy from the fearful angry wolf and start feeding the loving gentle wolf.

Join me on June 21st, the Summer Solstice, as we explore the edges of liminal space and the bridging of world views. Call in number: 1-712-451-6100, participant code: 575735#. This call is free, although long distance charges may apply. The call is 7-8pm Central Time.

Photo courtesy of Janet Dey

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Edgewalkers in Denmark

Peter and Kirsten Mikkelsen Pruzan, together with Debra and William Miller, wrote a wonderful book titled "Leading With Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business" (Greenleaf 2007). Peter is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, and his wife Kirsten is an eminent journalist and former newspaper editor at Berlingske Tidende, a major daily newspaper in Denmark. Along with Debra and William Miller, Peter and Kirsten are devotees of Sai Baba, and deeply committed to their personal spiritual paths, as well as to helping organizations become more enlightened.

I have been blessed to know all four of these very special people and to spend time with them at conferences and on their occasional visits to the U.S. Someday I hope to be able to go with them to Sai Baba's ashram because of the wonderful stories they tell me about their guru and about the community.

Peter, Kirsten, William and Debra are all Edgewalkers in every sense of the word. They have all spent considerable time in India, and William and Debra now live there fulltime. They have had meaningful experiences in more than one culture, and see themselves as global spiritual citizens. They have all had successful mainstream professional careers, and while deeply committed to their spiritual paths, feel very strongly called to be in the world and to make a difference in business.

I want to share with you something that Peter wrote in response to my last post on this blog:

With the term "Edgewalker," Judi Neal has captured the essence of the challenge that many people I know (including myself!) regularly face: how best to straddle the realms of our spiritual and more mundane worlds? To mention just one such group of Edgewalkers, I have had the privilege over the years of knowing highly respected business leaders who seek "success" both in their organizational-leadership role, where they are responsible for the performance of a corporation, and in their self-leadership role, where they are solely responsible to their true selves. Many such leaders have shared with me the excitement that results from balancing success in both of these worlds - the so-called ‘real world’ we live in, and that world which transcends this world of people and companies and cities and mountains and artifacts and ..., but which they know from their own experience is their ‘really real’ world.

A more nuanced picture is provided by referring to two types of Edgewalkers I know: those who know they are Edgewalkers, and those who do not know they are - or who are not willing to or are afraid to accept that they are Edgewalkers. This latter group includes a number of my wife Kirsten's and my dear friends from Denmark, where the culture does not promote a spiritual approach to life.

Personally, no matter where I am, whom I am with and what I do, I am highly aware that I am straddling these two worlds, the world within and the world without. However, the moments of greatest joy are those when this awareness vanishes and is replaced by a state where I simply am - when the 'edge' vanishes, when there is no separation, and all there is is love and peace. My own experience, as well as that of others I know, indicates that while this state of ‘edge-erasing’ is a gift that cannot be ordered, it is somehow a result of conscientiously ‘edge-walking’.

I love the distinction that Peter makes about the "real world" and the "really real" world. If you are interested in learning more about corporate leaders who straddle the "real world" and the "really real" world, I highly recommend their book "Leading With Wisdom." This book is based on interviews with leaders all over the world who, in their own words, share how they integrate their inner life and outer life.

And Peter makes a very important distinction about people who know they are Edgewalkers and those who don't know, or are afraid to own that part of themselves. While society desperately needs Edgewalkers - those who look towards the future, who are visionaries, who want to make a positive difference in the world - society tends to insulate itself from ideas and approaches that are considered too radical. Yet these difficult times call for radical solutions, not business as usual. There is a price to pay for being an Edgewalker, and one can get easily marginalized, so it is understandable that people may be afraid of being on the leading edge. The tribe might reject you, and we all need our tribes to survive. And in fact, Edgewalkers are trying to improve the life of the tribe. Or in some cases, are trying to save the tribe.

Several months ago I had asked Peter and Kirsten if they knew of any enlightened organizations in Denmark that might qualify for the International Spirit at Work Award. Peter responded that while many leaders have a deeply spiritual approach to the way they run their organizations (see for example the interviews with Lars Koling, former CEO of Oticon and Niels Due Jensen, Group Chairman of Grundfos Management A/S in their book), a more open and public approach to spirituality is still not acceptable in Denmark. This is true in many cultures around the world, including most of Europe and China.

At the same time, just because a culture does not support a spiritual approach to life doesn't mean that people in that culture don't hunger for a greater sense of purpose, meaning, and connection to something higher than themselves. I spent a week in Denmark taking a meditation course with a Danish friend of mine who is part of a spiritual community near Arhus. I met people from several countries at that meditation course, and continue to be in touch with some of them. My friend, Anne Nygaard, who invited me to the course, has taught meditation in corporate settings such as the world headquarters of LEGO. Walking between worlds may not be mainstream yet, but it is just below the radar.

Finally, I want to respond to Peter's last paragraph about when the edge between the two worlds vanishes. All spiritual and religious traditions provide paths to this non-dual, oneness experience. It is an experience available to everyone and it can come from years of spiritual discipline, from a life-threatening experience, or from a moment of grace unbidden. Wherever it comes from, or however it comes, once you have experienced this at-one-ment and allness, you never quite see "reality" the same way. You have seen what is "really real."

Click here for more about Leading With Wisdom.

Click here for more about the Global Dharma Center.

I wonder what organizations would be like if more of our leaders spent time not only Edgewalking, but going beyond where there are edges, and operating from the wisdom that flows from that place of Oneness.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Edgewalkers International

The concept of Edgewalkers truly seems to be one that is embraced internationally. And this makes sense given the way we are increasingly becoming a global society.

Several years ago, I was in beautiful Mallorca, Spain running a 3 day Edgewalker workshop with  Kimberly Hunn. 14 incredible Edgewalkers from California, Washington D.C., the U.K., Switzerland, German, and Spain joined us on a journey of exploring leading edges and what it takes to live to the edge of all your possibilities. We began with a cross-cultural experience where participants walked through a local Mallorquin village called Andratx (pronounced "An-dratch"). They were instructed to interact and connect with people in the village and to observe themselves as they were "walking between worlds." As you can see from this photo at an outdoor cafe, it was a very positive experience.

One of the most important things for Edgewalkers to do in order to keep their edge is to take time for silence and reflection. In each "Walking the Leading Edge" workship, participants are given the opportunity to walk the bridge between the everyday material reality into a non-material reality. I often talk about walking between the two worlds, but Tami Simon, CEO of Sounds True, told me in an interview that her experience is that there are not two worlds but one reality, with the invisible or spiritual world integrally interconnected. The bottom line is that it is important to take time to see and experience this interconnection between seeing only the physical or material aspects of reality and a form of seeing that allows you to know both the physical and non-physical aspects at the same time.

In Mallorca, we had the privilege as a group to go to the top of a mountain outside of Port Andratx where each participant could spend time in nature contemplating their own Edgewalker journey. This is something any of us can do, and should do, on a regular basis, but often in our busy lives we don't take the time to listen to what is calling us from the future.

Nature is a powerful teacher, and I encourage you to take time by yourself on a regular basis to be in someplace that nurtures your soul and allows that inner monkeymind to settle down. When you let go, for a short while, of the daily to do list, and the thoughts about what you should do, and what you wished you had done, a deeper wisdom has room to rise up and be recognized.

This is Stefan, a German engineer living in Switzerland, who rode his motorcycle to the workshop. He has a deep spiritual life, and found that sitting on the mountain gazing over the Mediterranean created the space for a powerful, uplifting experience that will guide him in his journey in profound ways.

In our workshops, we are not always able to provide people the opportunity to be in nature, but we always provide time for one form or another or a short Edgewalker Quest. In London I facilitated an Edgewalker retreat (See details on the Edgewalker website.) In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to walk through the city while holding a questions in their hearts and minds about their own leading edge. They will be asked to look for signs and metaphors as they walk through the city, basically becoming urban shamans.

A new kind of human is emerging on the planet today; one that would prefer to build bridges rather than walls. One that sees all the people on Earth as brothers and sisters. One that wants to live by deeper values and create sustainability for organizations, cultures, and all sentient beings. These Edgewalkers do not think of themselves as Spanish or Chinese or American, they think of themselves as Global Spiritual Citizens.

There is so much strife and conflict and need in the world, and we need Edgewalkers to serve as global leaders of positive change. Often an Edgewalker feels alone and not valued, frequently marginalized by mainstream organizations. But times are beginning to change and people are beginning to understand that we need totally new ways of thinking and being if we are going to be able to solve the personal, organizational and planetary issues that we are facing.

For many years, the International Association for Spirit at Work  held an annual conference to honor organizations that have learned to bridge the worlds of bottom-line success and spirituality in the workplace. The leaders of these organizations are pioneers in Edgewalking. Over an 11 year period, we identified 47 organizations representing over 39 countries, that have an explicit commitment to nurturing the human spirit.

These international organizations and their leaders provide evidence of early signs of a new more sustainable and holistic way of doing business.

Business is the most powerful institution on the planet. Therefore business has a huge responsibility in helping to solve the myriad of complex problems that we face in the world today. We have created an organization called Edgewalkers International to provide training, coaching, and consulting services to organizations that want to be on the leading edge of this new paradigm shift. Please contact us if you want to be involved.

I invite you to make comments below. What signs or examples do you see that provide evidence that Edgewalkers are emerging in many different countries? Why do you think this is?

Saturday, January 03, 2015


It takes courage to be an Edgewalker and to walk your own unique path. The pressures from society and from organizations to conform are tremendous. What helps people to resist these pressures and to stay true to themselves? Passion. Edgewalkers are passionate about something greater than themselves. They have some sense of purpose or mission that pulls them toward their own future. Edgewalkers have a calling, and they have the courage to answer that call.

My friend Martha Finney co-wrote a book called Find Your Calling: Love Your Life. She defines calling as that thing, that dream, that calls you, and no matter how much you ignore it - it won't go away.
My personal passion is music. When I was a little girl, I remember sitting in a vaudeville audience with my beloved grandfather. I was four years old. When the singers came on stage, I jumped from my seat to run up there to sing and dance with them. My grandfather had to hold me back.

I go to guitar camp in New Hampshire each year, where I take classes on guitar playing and songwriting. In Greg Greenway's songwriting class one of our assignments was to think about the moments in our lives that were the happiest. One of my happiest moments was when I was playing with my band, the J.J.Diamond Band. Greg asked us to write a descriptive paragraph about this happiest moment. Here's what I wrote:

The basement smells damp on this hot sunny afternoon. Like little ants we scurry around setting up our microphones and plugging in our guitars. Underneath the chaos is the steady thump, thump, thump of the drummer warming up. We always begin rehearsals with a song that we know well as a way of getting in resonance with each other. The groove begins and I look around at the guys in the band. I love each one of them so much. As the chorus comes and our harmonies rise and blend, I feel like I am rising out of my body, and I just disappear into the bliss.

Passion is fairly easy to understand when we think about the arts. Humans are driven to creative self-expression. It is our nature. It's less common to think of the workplace as a place where people can express their passion, but it does happen, and I think it is happening more and more as organizations come to understand the value of employee engagement.

What are you passionate about? What can you not not do? Do you think passion and creativity are connected? If so, how? And what is the shadow side of being passionate about something?