Executive coach, public speaker, author and researcher
Cindy Wigglesworth is the bestselling author of SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence (2012) and is the creator of the SQ21™ Spiritual Intelligence self-assessment and CEO of Deep Change. Prior to 2000 Cindy worked for ExxonMobil for 20 years in Human Resources management.
John Mackey, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, calls Cindy’s model of SQ “the next frontier in leadership.”
My personal practice is…….
My practice has stayed similar for a long time. My guiding question is: ’What is the loving thing to do?’ This is a conscious intention I have set about living a high SQ (spiritual intelligence) life. Love, in the spiritual sense of that word, is a guiding principle for me.
I have a personal trainer who loves to make sure I leave with a certain amount of pain each week because I am using different muscles. She varies the workout so my muscles don’t get in a rut. I also use the metaphor of spiritual weightlifting in my work. I think it’s good to have a whole gymnasium full of practices.
In that regard, over the years I’ve studied the Course of Miracles workbook, a bunch of different meditation techniques, Tonglen by Pema Chodron, forgiveness, gratitude and mindfulness meditation.
Over the years I had to explain my core practices to people and I realized I could summarize it as a generic nine step process. Those nine steps are the core I keep coming back to. It helps me answer the question: ‘What is the loving thing to do?’ All my sub-practices can fit inside the nine step model. All are designed to help me shift from ego to Higher Self and answer that question.
How did you discover your practice?
When I get interested in something I get really, really, really interested…attending every workshop that catches my eye, reading books, etc. When I quit Exxon and started researching SQ* full time, I started attending all kinds of continuing education.
I would find out about things at my church, in the bookstore, by talking to people, listening to lots of personal growth material from Nightingale Conant or Sounds True in my car… and for years I have been an Amazon.com addict! Each time I found something that made sense and helped me, I added it to the toolkit.
Therapy has been a huge part of my spiritual practice too. It helps me understand my ego and shadow, see my reactivities and habit patterns, and challenge my own stories and interpretations.
I kind of am a personal development addict – what else can I say?
* SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence
Why do you practice?
I practice because I am much more at peace, less annoying as a human being, and I have better relationships.
Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning was formative for me. I read it in college. I mean it really rocked me. The need for meaning even – especially- in a concentration camp… My practice helps me answer my own question: ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ And it helps me show up as the best person I can be.
Sometimes I imagine myself on my deathbed. You might call it my deathbed practice. I consider from that perspective how my life turned out. I want to know I did the best I could with the tools I had to make a difference in my life. Or will I have regrets. I like Jeff Bezos’ idea: strive for regret-minimization!
How frequently and for how long do you practice?
Love, pray unceasingly. I love that phrase. To strive to live life in a way that prayer is always on the forefront of your mind – with gratitude, presence and loving awareness.
What’s something that gets in the way of your practice and how do you move through it?
It is very easy to get caught up in being a human-doing (vs. a human being). When I catch myself feeling tired and cranky, I know I’ve gotten off track. I can’t make a difference in the world by being a cranky over-doer.
A polarity map I work with places “being” on the left pole and “doing” on the right (see Polarity Management by Barry Johnson for a sample polarity map). There is an up side to each pole, and a downside that comes from overusing that pole. There is an upside to doing. But it’s downside is exhaustion, burnout, and some not very high SQ behaviors! Similarly “being” practices like meditation can be very clarifying. They relieve stress, reframe our lives, and sometimes “pop” us into non-dual awareness. Yet we can overdo the being pole as well. We can get detached, disinterested, and even uncaring. So for me, practice is not just about meditating (being) and it’s not just about running around (doing). Sometimes I need to stop doing in order to have enough time for the being.
Sometimes I need to re-engage with doing. But my bias is toward doing. So more often I have to catch myself over-doing and slow down. Awareness enables this really important dance between being and doing. With mindfulness, you can notice your body and it will tell you what is going on.
What supports you in staying committed to your practice?
Apart from friends and others who care about the same things, I think there’s something mysterious and magical in the call to growth and evolution. Some people have that drive strongly from birth. I’m not sure I can explain it.
I think God / Life / the Universe is up to something. We don’t have to understand it, just appreciate that it is. Like yeast in the grape juice making champagne….the yeast cells are doing something lovely that they don’t have the perspective to perceive.
We all have vague intuitions and strong callings. Where does it come from? I can’t answer that and I have decided that for me, pondering some questions withthe left brain can become a distraction from the path. My job is to let all that thinking go and follow the call.
What role does your practice play in your work?
It’s hard for me to effectively coach others if I’m not being authentically present with them. To the degree that I’m not practicing the nine steps I’m losing effectiveness and not showing up as the most loving person I can be.
A question I like to ask myself: ‘Am I present from my highest self or has my ego has gotten hold of me?’
Describe someone you know whose practice inspires you.
John Kabat Zinn. He is a mindfulness practitioner, teacher and researcher who has stuck with his vision for a really long time. He’s in the 20 – 30 year territory in believing mindfulness can be taught in a western secular way with proven benefits for pain and stress release.
There are many others….pick your saints and sages – Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Eckhart Tolle, and the mystics of many faiths.
A practice I’d like to explore is….
What I’ve gotten clear about is that nature in general is very important to my well-being. I like to schedule two to three trips per year to connect with nature. The ocean is my favorite nature meditation. It makes me feel so small and insignificant and yet part of something huge and beautiful.
Watercolor painting is also very soothing for me. I paint mostly nature scenes. It feels like a prayer of gratitude as I see the beauty with the slow gaze of a painter.
Anything else you’d like to share about practice.
On the worrisome side, I occasionally get worried when we glorify the practice as opposed to the reason for practice. I keep my radar up for exclusivity, or people who feel special or important around their practice.
I also have a significant caution around the trap of spiritual states. People can get hooked when they have a transcendent state experience. It’s like a drug high. But state experiences don’t, in my opinion, help you or the world if you use them to escape.
Learn more about Cindy at www.deepchange.com