Mastering Presence

with Diana Chapman

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Line Model

Are you above the line?

Diana Chapman

Master Trainer, Conscious Leader, Co-founder, Author

Lessons Learned

In any moment you are either above or below the line. It is important to be able to locate yourself.

Above the line is a state of trust and openness that is accepting of what is actually occurring.

Below the line takes many forms: resistance, defensiveness, disempowerment, control.


Lesson: Mastering Presence with Diana Chapman

Step #1 Line Model: Are you above the line?

We use a model in conscious leadership that's really simple. We just have this line. And we say in any given moment, either you are above the line or you're below the line. And it is binary. Either in the moment I'm open, I'm curious, I'm willing to learn, or I'm below the line and I want to be right, I'm not very available to your perspective, I'm closed, and I might be defensive. They're two very different contexts and at any moment you're either in one or the other.

And some people say, "Well, can I be a little bit in both?" and we would say, "You might be jumping like this back and forth, but you're always in one at any given moment, and then you could flip from another."

It's important to be able to locate yourself, "Where am I?" When we're gathering as a team, one of the things we have with our clients now is when they start a meeting, they just give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down in relationship to the topic we're about ready to talk about. I'm here or I'm here. And so, it gives everybody a sense of "where are we?" Then people who are here below the line are invited to get open and curious so that the conversation can have a different flavor, a different context.

When I'm below the line, it could be very subtle. It could be, "Yes, I'm just waiting for you to finish so that I can go on with what I know is the best way, and I'm not really open to what you're saying," and I could be polite that way. Or I could be quite intense and really dramatic. "What the hell are you doing? Why did you do that? That was absolutely the wrong way to go and you're fired!" There's a whole range of how aggressive or how subtle we can be below the line.

You can also be below the line in a way that you're looking upset and I don't know how to be with my own emotions, so I might lean forward and say, "You're fine, it's okay, we'll handle this, it's okay." And that's a below-the-line way of trying to control and be resistant to what's occurring rather than, "Oh, I notice you feel sad as you've been given the news that we're not going to be able to give you a promotion this year. I want to acknowledge the sadness and recognize I can see that this is a loss for you." So above the line is open and spacious and is accepting of what's actually occurring, rather than resisting what's occurring.

Below the line can also look like, "I'm scared, I've come to the meeting late, I'm afraid that you all are going to be upset with me so I apologize. Sorry, sorry everybody, it was the traffic." And I can be in a disempowered place, rather than above the line where I might say something like, "I want to acknowledge that I didn't take into consideration traffic this morning and I showed up ten minutes late. I want to recognize that that may have been a cost for some of you on your time, and I feel some sadness about not keeping that agreement with you."

Above the line has this quality of it's really a place of trust. It's the sense of "I get to learn here." You can't really do it wrong. There is no sense of good and bad and right and wrong above the line. There's just "Here's what's happening. What do I get to learn?" What's happening is something that is not my preference, so I get to learn how I co-created that and what I can do differently to make sure that those results don't happen again. There's a lightheartedness to it, there's breath above the line. There's possibility. There's a sense of, "everything that's happening here is an invitation for me to learn and grow," so I don't have to see the world or things that are happening as problems anymore. Everything is an opportunity. And in that way, life gets a lot more fun. It’s like, "Wow, okay, I get to learn stuff here." And there's also a sense of real self-acceptance above the line that I'm a human being, I'm doing the best I know how, and if I knew better, I'd do better.

So there's this sense of easy forgiveness for ourselves and for one another, a lot more empathy, and compassion. It's easier to be in connection with others above the line. It's easier to tell the truth above the line because I don't have to try to apologize or control your feelings. For me, what I most appreciate is that sense of life is so much easier when I don't have to live in the world of problems and people to blame and who's going to solve them.

When most people learn about our motto, Above and Below the Line, the mind immediately is going to go to categorizing. That's what the mind does. And so the mind is going to say, "Oh, above the line is better than below the line," and often the mind will then start to put it into a right/wrong way of looking at it. And what I've learned is, for people who've spent a lot of time in the world of "life is happening to me, below that line," they're going to need to see it as bad or wrong in order to really shift out of it. That's just the mindset that happens there and I've learned not to try to shift or get people to see it differently. It's certainly how I saw it in the beginning too. It was that motivation of "this is wrong" that got me to start to spend more time above the line. And then once I got more above the line, I looked back and said, "Oh, it wasn't wrong at all." But that's just the way I had to see it at the time.

So we don't look at it at all like being above or below the line one is better or worse than another. But what I am standing for is wanting to recognize there are costs, pretty significant costs, that are below the line that when we don't face them, cause quite a bit of suffering for all of us. It's not bad that we suffer. It's not bad that we destroy things that might not want to be destroyed. But when we're conscious, we would prefer we not go those directions, or when we're conscious, we would prefer not to suffer. So we will say most of you, if you're interested in learning more about above and below the line, you will go into that contrast for a while and then it will shift.

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