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Introduction: At Work as it is in Heaven

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

I know what you're thinking…another Bible-toting, gospel-spreading, religious zealot telling you what you need to do to get to heaven. The title may lead one to believe that at least. But this book isn't about religion. It's about work. Specifically, it's about changing how we work; how we lead, how we show up, how we create and why we create. It's about bringing the same person we are at home to work, and if we don't like that person, it's about creating space at work for personal transformation and taking that person, created at work, home. It's about inspiring people to believe in and pursue the highest version of themselves…at work. It's about taking this place that we spend more than half of our waking hours and transforming it into a place of healing, connection and creation. It's about changing the paradigm of work from being a 'means to an end' to being a true force for good in the world. It's about inspiring the possibility that God's will can be done at work "as it is in heaven".

I started this book while attending a week-long yoga retreat on the Mexican pacific coast. Three days into the retreat, I had six yoga practices and one temezcal ceremony under my belt. If you've never experienced a temezcal ceremony, let's just say, it's not for the faint of heart. The day prior, a dozen or so from our group traveled 40 minutes down the road to visit a shaman woman. Lupita was well known in the area for facilitating powerful healing experiences through prayer, chanting and singing all within the confines of a heated dome-shaped structure called a sweat lodge. I'd never heard of a temezcal ceremony before but my husband and I and the rest of our group were open to the experience. Even with the presumption of self-awareness that comes with being a yogi (a term not all of us identified with anyway), we all agreed that our western culture wasn't exactly known for methodologies for acknowledging, much less expelling, limiting beliefs and pent up emotion. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were here to heal. And the ancient shamanic ceremony did not disappoint.

Two hours later, we emerged from the sweat lodge purged of emotional weight many of us didn't even know we were carrying. For those of us that were aware of our emotional baggage, we had no idea how heavy it had weighed on our hearts and minds. Having been cracked wide open, we emerged slightly dazed with hoarse throats, faces flushed and caked with a mixture of sweat and tears. Our emotional and physical bodies were exhausted from the purging process. It was a profoundly personal process that we all shared together…raw, vulnerable, uninhibited. We came with open hearts, unleashed massive puddles of emotional baggage on the sweat lodge floor and left with new constitutions and new connections. We'd all experienced that together within the confines of a small domed hut and in the process, we effectively shattered any sense of feeling like we were in any part of our life story alone.

The next morning, I sat on the beach and stared out over the white sand and rolling ocean waves, the sun gently warming my skin. I watched the birds flying in formation just above the still water that preceded the waves. If I watched closely I could see each bird barely tip a wing to tread the water. Then they'd soar just in front of a cresting wave as if to dare its own speed and agility against the wave's. At the last moment, they would gracefully glide up and out of the wave enjoying a light dusting of sea spray. Their coordination in movement seemed instinctual. They all seemed keenly aware of what the bird in front of them would do and how their own movement would impact the bird behind them. It all seemed effortless and majestic and rooted in trust. The whole retreat experience up to this point had me feeling deeply connected; to myself, my purpose, other people around me, the plants, ocean, birds, even the sand. I felt open, receptive and inspired to create (this book, for starters). Like so many others, I had resisted and feared the idea of being 'cracked wide open' and now here I was open and free, feeling more authentically connected to nature and more importantly, other people, than I'd felt my entire adult life.

By the last day of the retreat, I'd come to see the other women as extensions of myself. After seven days of sharing our stories, our traumas, our joys, I felt deeply connected to the souls around me. And I thought to myself, this feels like heaven on earth. I know there are a number of pre-conceived definitions of heaven but for me, heaven is a place of deep inner peace that is born from an awareness of our connection, our oneness and our limitless potential. Alternatively, hell is an idea born from a place of separateness, isolation, aloneness and lack. You don't have to agree with me on these definitions. But can we agree that we are all deserving of the deep inner peace of understanding our connection to each other? Can we agree that we're all in this together and that it serves us to acknowledge and support each other through the experiences of life? And can we agree that the places to facilitate this type of awareness need not be limited to spiritual retreats, sweat lodges, churches, ashrams, synagogues, ancient Mayan ruins, 12-step programs, yoga classes, mountain tops, beaches or filthy, dark alleyways where addicts hold space for the misery and understanding of their shared addiction (after all, human connection isn't always dressed in bare feet and beachy boho pants)? Can we agree that there is really no reason that facilitating this type of deep human connection need stop at the front door of the workplace? Can we agree that in fact, it is arguably the very best place?

Perhaps you've noticed that people hold different expectations for work now. It's like the pandemic lit a match in a dark room where people not only became aware of their deep unhappiness at work, but more importantly realized that they were empowered to change it. As our awareness of how our work and workplaces were not filling our cups, our courage and resolve to do things differently grew, is still growing. Research shows that people want meaningful work. They want to understand how their work serves a bigger purpose and they want to understand how their own purpose aligns with something greater than themselves. They want authentic connections with their peers and leaders at work. They want to deeply trust and be trusted. And they want to create! Humans are hard-wired to create. Our awareness of this truth has been dulled through years of toiling through mindless work in superficial workplaces that have expectations of us that are not only completely misaligned with our innate gifts, but also fall far short of our true potential. So we drag ourselves to work, feign productivity, leave our good ideas locked away inside of us to fester, create anxiety and maybe even physical illness.

Or that's how we used to work. The tide has shifted. The watershed has arrived. We are all busting at the seams to give, share, connect. We are ready to get clear on why we're here and we're ready to pursue our higher purpose. And we desperately want to do this at work. Why? Because that's where the magic happens baby! It's where the wisdom and gifts of the collective come together to create things we can't create on our own. The potential of the whole of US is vastly greater than that of any one of us. Work is where we infuse into the world the essence of our collective highest contribution and in so doing, we create a better world, for ourselves and all of humanity.

Idealistic? I don't know. Maybe. But I am of the opinion that life is too damn short to be anything other than wildly hopeful and optimistic. If seemingly unrealistic ideals serve to ignite the hearts of just a few of us, I'll take it! I want to live in a world where people are inspired to know the fullness of who they are and bring that fullness to work. I want to live in a world where people pursue their highest potential together…at work.

This is a call to action. For leaders that heed the call and are inspired to encourage and create space for personal transformation and connection at work, the opportunities for unprecedented innovation and productivity are limitless. This book is for you.

For those that aren't quite sold, I invite you to keep reading. I dare you to open your heart, just a sliver, and hear what speaks to you. I dare you to consider the pent up potential that you just might unleash…in yourself, in others, in your organization. This book is most especially for you.


Teri Swope is CEO and Founder of SwopeLight Consulting, a leadership coaching/consulting firm. She has 27+ years of experience developing leaders and organizational cultures.

Her leadership style is inspired by the teachings of Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, Stephen Covey and many other mindful, heart-led authors and leaders.

“At SwopeLight, we believe there is tremendous untapped potential in organizations; potential for deep human connection, collaboration and innovation. We believe in inspiring leaders to pursue the highest version of themselves. We believe conscious leadership is the key to this inspiration and to accessing an unlimited well of creativity and innovation.”

Teri has a B.B.A in International Management from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She holds leadership certifications from the Inner MBA Program from MindfulNYU - New York University/Sounds True/Wisdom 2.0 as well as The Leadership Challenge program.


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