Spirituality, Leadership & Management: Wisdom at Work

The vision of contemporary business seldom goes further than competitiveness, power and profits. The upcoming Spirituality, Leadership and Management conference asks, is that enough to serve the long-term interests of our society as a whole or our planet, or even organizations themselves?

How could “Wisdom” – an old world term help us in dealing with situations that are entirely new – globalisation, climate change, the internet, mobile technologies? This conference will explore the emergence of new ideas and approaches to complex issues which modern business face.

A post conference retreat will be held in Central Australia with Frank Ansell . Frank is a traditional Nungkari, or healer, who has been chosen by the elders of his community to share their traditional culture and healing practices with others. The retreat will explore what indigenous culture and its wisdom may have to offer the modern world and its leaders who are seeking different ways to explore answers to the issues our society and workplaces are facing.

The retreat will be supported by Gisela Wendling and Sue Gregory.

Gisela brings a longstanding interest in building bridges of understanding and cultural exchanges between indigenous people and westerners, specifically as it relates to westerners becoming introduced to indigenous spiritual healing traditions. Gisela is a humanistic and transpersonal oriented psychologist, organisation development practitioner working with and in organizations and former university professor. Gisela explores the topic of creating transformative pathways in the Aboriginal culture in her blog: Limina Songlines

Sue has been coaching indigenous leaders and organizations as well as introducing the corporate world to the value of listening to ancient culture for innovative ideas to vexing business problems. Sue is an executive leadership coach and organization transformation specialist. Together, she and Frank provide retreats and programs for leaders to reflect on their practice and gain insights from several days in the desert as they receive healing and coaching. Sue’s coaching and facilitation business operates throughout Australia, and she delivers workshops internationally. Sue provides a context for people to suspend belief and learn from ancient traditions in a way that can lead to new insights for leaders and workplace issues.

If you would like more information on the conference:


Closing the Gap

How could I have been so bold? As I watched the aboriginal healer treating a person with a sore leg something strange happened. I watched my hand stretch out and tap him on the arm. Then the words came out of my mouth “Can I learn from you?” Where did that come from? Normally I would not be forward in such a way – but this was no ordinary moment. What I had watched was extraordinary.

The man’s face had visibly relaxed and the tension of pain had left his face. The Nungkari (aboriginal healer) had held his hand over the knee and with a palpable serenity, had begun singing to that knee. The feeling of letting go and relaxing affected those of us around the expo booth who were watching the event.

As an occupational therapist and qualified therapeutic touch teacher I have been teaching energy healing practises for health and aged care industries (Gregory, 2003, 2004, 2005). The effects of therapeutic touch, complementary energy therapy, are known to include relief of pain, reduction in anxiety and settling of agitation associated with dementia. Over the years I have combined therapeutic touch with occupational therapy in the treatment of clients with burns, arthritis, amputation, depression, dementia, to name a few, and taught the technique to nurses, doctors and health care workers.

Thus I was interested in the expertise of aboriginal healing practices that are 40,000 years or more old. I decided to experience them for myself by receiving regular treatments to gauge the effect. The experience of a one hour treatment left me in a deep state of peace that I have only ever reached towards the end of 3 week long mindfulness retreats. This profundity led to deeper questioning.

Occupational therapy philosophy takes into account the power of social and spiritual beliefs and values to influence recovery, healing, and wellness. So the question that arose for me was “How can occupational therapy work together with traditional aboriginal healing practices to better assist indigenous people? And how could non-indigenous people who appreciate a more holistic view to their health care have the opportunity to benefit as well?”

How could I as an occupational therapist support in some small way the acceptance of these ancient healing skills as a powerful ally that can contribute to modern health care practice? And in doing so support the sustainability of these practices in a culture that is fast losing their traditions?

Working in the capacity of occupational therapist, and an executive leadership and life coach in the NT, I have observed the impact of the western medical system upon on an ancient culture whose views of health and illness are steeped in an interconnectedness of dreamtime, spirituality, aboriginal law and belonging to country, These people have a resilience that has survived since millennia as the longest continuing culture in the world. Their knowledge of bush medicine and ancient healing practices has given them resilience to survive in intense heat, drought and extreme desert conditions. They have developed powers of the mind that western medicine is only beginning to explore.

To a degree, at least in the Northern Territory, Nungkari’s are employed in health clinics to provide healing support for indigenous clients. To a large degree, they work unpaid in their communities and hence have to seek others means of employment. And, thus, an ancient tradition is at risk of being lost. If there were sufficient interest and recognition, could nungkaris to continue their healing practices? Could more for employment be created?

With these questions the idea was born to pilot a service combining life coaching with traditional indigenous healing. Sue Gregory and Frank Ansell have created a unique program of modern occupational therapy stress management and life coaching methodologies complemented by ancient traditions of hands on healing, bush medicines made of local herbs, smoking ceremonies and visits into country of places of stillness and peace.

Our offerings so far have included people coming to Alice Springs for a week of individual coaching and healing sessions; healing and leadership retreats where people camp out on the land; and conference workshops such as the International Coaches Federation Australasia conference.

Our experience has been a closing of the gap. Our clients have responded to this unique approach. They express a greater depth of happiness and inner strength. They feel equipped with powerful self-healing strategies that give them know how to care for their body, mind and their spirit. They describe themselves as more well rounded human “beings’ (not “doings”) who have gained a peaceful approach to life and work that has been transformative as well as life changing.

As two human beings Frank and Sue have both developed a greater understanding of each other’s culture and are continuing to learn. As an occupational therapist and life coach I am humbled by the wisdom and compassion indigenous culture has to offer to modern health care.

This is a journey that we have just begun and one we hope will lead to involving many others – both indigenous and non-indigenous to promote healing on many levels. If you would like to learn more or be a part of what is evolving we are happy to send you a free e-report with more information at


Gregory S & Verdouw J 2005 Therapeutic Touch: Its application for residents of aged care Australian Nurses Journal 12:7 23-25 .
Gregory S 2003 Therapeutic Touch in Aged care (DVD), www.healthyoutlook.com.au/products
Gregory S 2004 Power in your hands (DVD) www.healthyoutlook.com.au/products

Wisdom – Common Sense?

On our journey into the desert the other day, Frank Ansell the aboriginal healer, and I did not know where we were going. Instead we stayed aware to the present moment, listening to the rocks, trees and breeze- staying open with the senses, allowing the mind to rest its opinion on where we should be going and what we should be doing.

Thus, in the still moments, arose a feeling to head up a dry, white sandy creek bed columned by miles of river red gums. As we rounded a bend of high cliffs of red granite a strong tingling sensation arose. Looking up, there, glistening in the sun was the diamond spray of fresh spring water hurtling 100 meters over a cliff in the midst of this dry, rocky terrain. We tracked through the scrub to its base, at which was a pool of clear, permanent water.

The stillness was compelling and we sat in silence. We began to reflect on the meaning of wisdom, particularly as Frank and I will be involved in a post conference retreat on aboriginal wisdom for the upcoming Spirituality in Leadership and Management conference “Wisdom at Work.” Download Detailed Program Information: Journey into Aboriginal Wisdom.

Wisdom, (according to water hole philosophy!) is the ability to be totally present in the moment where we are in touch with the multiple energy fields of sensory information of sounds, visual impressions, taste, feeling and touch which are within and around us. If we are unaware of them and stuck in our own thoughts and feelings , we may not be able to pick up on the sensory information around us that is necessary to make a wholesome “common sensory” decision or, put simply, to survive in the desert. When all the senses are alive and awake there is a deep inner knowing – an intuitive body felt sense of what action to take.

Perhaps wisdom indeed is ‘common sense’ – still, clear seeing with all the senses wide open. Rocks, trees and the breeze on dry white sandy riverbeds know about wisdom, and, when we are silent and still, we can learn from them. It is the land that heals us.

Indigenous wisdom: Healing leaders, healing organisations

Coaches, facilitators and therapists gathered in Sydney(organsied by Gisela Wendling, www.liminalsonglines.com) to  explore how ancient, indigenous wisdom and healing practices can assist  leaders and  modern organisations searching for more wholesome ways of being at work.  Frank Ansell, traditional aboriginal healer (nungkari) from Alice Springs and Sue Gregory, leadership coach, have been exploring the intersecting edge of healing and coaching. They were invited to facilitate an experiential session and there  were many questions.

As  leaders, facilitatots and coaches, how can we combine the pace of  “being” as we “do” in the world?   How can we heal inner blockages that hold back our personal  potential or hold the the workplace in a frozen, choking grip of stuck beliefs? How can we dissolve tensions  and  bring our minds and hearts to a balanced, compassionate way of being in the midst of life’s hectic activity?

Using ancient practices of song and smoking ceremonies, since the dream time the nungkaris have worked directly with vibration to settle the minds and bodies of people who are stressed or in pain. Their skills helped establish the resilience of the people to survive extremes of desert heat and lack of food in droughts. Frank described the traditional role of the nungkari  in aboriginal communities, who used the skilled art of intention to balance both individual’s health and the wellbeing of the community .

Principles of these practices are very relevant to a stressed modern world marked by extreme busyness, hectic schedules and constant pressure. For example, thoughts and emotions have a vibrational quality that one can learn to feel. If we check in with ourselves regularly we  can sense  whether our human energy field (that is, the space immediately around us) is agitated or calm and flowing. When we are agitated other people may experience this as a sharp, tingling sensation, heat, or anxiousness. When we are more relaxed the quality of the vibration is smoother and more harmonious.People are attracted to this vibrational quality and want to be around us.

This same vibrational quality of vibration or “atmosphere” can be felt when walking in the door of an organisation. The  feeling of a place can give us  hints about the quality of the culture. If the vibrational quality is “sharp ” or “prickly” then there may be a toxic toxic feeling where people’s body’s close  up in protection, shutting down stunting communication or forward strategic direction. When we become skilled in using our intention, we can learn to use our minds to change our own vibration to  a more wholesome state – one  that is calmer, more open to and adaptive change. Not only this, influencing change in our own  vibration will have a ripple effect on  the vibration of others in a process known as entrainment, thereby helping the work place as a whole. This is why the “presence” of leaders, facilitators and coaches is so important.

When we learn the ability to monitor and change our  vibrational state we become more resilient. This gives us more ease  for  leading others and creating organsiations where the cultural feel or vibration is one of flow and cooperation, rather than toxicity and stuckness.

To demonstrate this how this can be done , Frank sang ancient healing songs that supported people to slip into  a vibration of profound stillness.  He also showed the group how he uses bush medicines to  enable to people to change their vibration to being more relaxed and  balanced. Sue provided a modern interpretation which provided participants with skills to take away.

The day session finished with a smoking ceremony. Smoking ceremonies have been used since millenia to “clear the spirit”, enabling people to feel refreshed and renewed through the letting go of stuck thoughts and tired, stagnant energy. In the modern world, nungkaris are asked to offer “smokings” in homes and work places to clear built up, congested energy, leaving the building refreshed and reviatlised.

Some of the attendees chose to have an individual healing session with Frankafter the event to experience for themselves a a traditional aboriginal healing.

Sustainable Organisations & Leadership Style

Members of the CEO Leadership Forum are today asking how their style can support the emergence of people’s contributions to their organisations for long term sustainability .

The open space session began with a review of self organising systems as a means to create more involvement of staff and stakeholders, as opposed to the traditional top down hierarchical systems often imposed by external regulators.

The CEO group is exploring questions such as “How can social media networks help?  How can we broadly network in the community? What mechanisms can we employ to increase the level of volunteers? How do we instigate change effectively in light of imposed change? How can we enable people to see change as opportunity? “How do we get more staff “connected” and participating? What are the key elements of sustainable organisations?”

Creating a culture of trust was seen as a huge contributor to gaining active participation where people embrace change. Setting the scene with clearly defined expectations and constantly working to these was identified as means to moving  through natural resistance and influencing the grapevine positively.

Creating a plan for change and providing leadership – breaking the change  into key components, developing  communication strategies, creating communiques, and involving people on the floor so they own the process and sustain the organisation were noted as important parts of the strategy.

Currently members of the Forum, who are from the aged care care sector and Carers Tasmania, are discussing issues such as the introduction of the Poisons Act , the need or leadership skills at all levels of the organisation as an enabler of change. Each came up with shared actions to support each other and their paths forward, riding the challenges within their industries. These leaders operate in an environment of conflicting requirements of 3 levels of government and the needs of the people they provide services to – all natural chaos theory – the ideal environment for self organisations systems that support sustainability.

Welcome to my blog where I will share insights into how you can energise your self and your workplace through creating passion and drive by learning how to control your mind, change your beliefs, and using your intention and intuition.
- Sue Gregory