Remembering Ernest E. Meadows
Ernie is a profound and powerful influence in my life. He continues to contribute to my awareness and I enjoy believing that I contributed to his. My boss, my teacher, my mentor and my friend was inspiring to be with because he challenged many of my beliefs about relationships, power and leadership. I found my interactions with him sometimes very difficult, frustrating and upsetting. The hardest stuff to deal with produced the greatest growth. He had clarity and congruence that was stunning to me. I wanted to rise to his example of accessing what is going on with me more quickly. Congruence was among the things I learned about from Ernie. Working so closely and successfully with someone so different from me is a treasure I continue to cherish.
Ernie had a generous spirit and a loving heart. It seems strange to write about in the past tense because it feels very present tense to me. In my mind's eye (and ear), I see his face lighting up glad to see me or I hear the incomparable sayings and stories he used to illustrate his point. Situations occur that conjure up Ernie and what he said in similar circumstances and I have to smile, even laugh.
Thanks Ernie. I love you and I continue to feel your presence vividly in my life.
I recently read an article that recommended listing the top five people in our lives. It was an exercise for the reader to express gratitude for having the opportunity to be with them during our lifetime. Ernie made my list.
Ernie was Ernie. By observing his behavior and listening to what he had to teach, I also learned how to become more of myself, how to be more of a follower of the experience of others, prizing them in the process. This education helped me to become more competent in my ability to connect with others, in a real way. This competency brought more effectiveness, efficiency and joy to my life, both personally and professionally.
Ernie once told me that he considered himself a teacher, and that he saw his teachings as a gift to others. I’m grateful I was a recipient of his gift. Thank God for Ernie.
Ernie Meadows was my friend and teacher and has positively influenced my life a lot. He made this influence both by his teaching#151;I was a student in his Leadership Programand, most of all, by modeling what he taught in his activities and relationships.
The most important influence he had on me was teaching to take responsibility for our experience and being. I myself call it a micro-revolution in my life. We Russians call a ‘revolution’ an event that dramatically changes a human life. I learned to take to myself the responsibility for my experience and make myself an active agent in my life. This replaced my being a dependent victim of external and internal reasons and influences. It gave me freedom and energy to act in accord with myself, to create my life in a best possible way in my conditions. My life has changed dramatically for the better.
I learned from Ernie the skills of empathic listening, congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. I use them not only in professional, but in everyday relationships. And I am very satisfied by my relationships. Ernie was right saying that this set of skills is necessary and sufficient for building constructive relationships. My experience proves it without a doubt.
Ernie has taught me to love. He insisted that love is not just a feeling, but a free and responsible choice to be with a beloved person. He himself loved Elsie, his wife, unconditionally. Elsie responded to him the same way. I was touched a lot by the tenderness and beauty in the loving relationships between Elsie and Ernie, which continued even after Elsie passed away.
By being authentic and responsible Ernie sometimes did not fit conventional norms of politeness. For an external observer, he might seem awkward and sometimes rude. Yet I know how really tenderly and attentively Ernie related to people, regarded them, valued communication and relations, even in situations of conflict. “If we were the same, there would be no use in communication. Our differences enrich and strengthen us,” he used to say.
He had a vision of incorporating a sufficient amount of the Person-Centered Approach into businesses all over the world to make the businesses more effective, efficient and humane. He devoted his life to that. And his vision inspires a lot of Person-Centered practitioners all over the world. He organized the Pajaro Group#151;an international community of specialists working towards that vision. And the work continues!
He was a real friend#151;attentive, reliable, responsible, supportive. I had a privilege to be one of his friends and was enriched by the relations. There are plenty of warm memories in my mind of our conversations on various themes sitting in front of each other (Oh, Gosh, how he loved and enjoyed to talk to people in his guest room!); trips together in the USA, Russia, and all over the world (sometimes quite emotional, like rescuing ourselves in South Africa from a furious mother-elephant, mistakenly decided we had attacked her baby-elephant!); his deep observations of the wonderful in nature, people, and culture. He loved and valued life, related to it with unconditional positive attitude (as he himself once said) and lived fully.
Dear Ernie! I loved, love and will love you! And thank you for everything!
This is a story of realizing my developing love for Ernie. It took me awhile, I knew him nearly forty years.
Early on I appreciated and admired his creative appropriation of Person-Centered ideas toward people and relationships. He intensely concentrated on each person’s purpose to achieve his or her own desires. This differed from the contemporary stance of many established Person-Centered practitioners, who declared their purpose was to help clients and others. His take on human relationships seemed to me to have unbounded application to the people whose life experience is a world primarily competitive and usefully cooperative. And for me he was one such person.
In my relationship with Ernie, he was often a generous man and he was a man wary for people who might tread on his sovereign self#151;most particularly those who were self-convinced of their own innocent care of themselves and others. His certitude was that most of us have relinquished our sacred self-responsibility, and as a result, we as well fail in our responsible behavior in relation to other people. We do not know ourselves, and in consequence don’t seek to know other people either. We operate on false assumptions about our self-in-our-relationships until moved by our own fears. When surprised in my own fear I am unmasked -- my actions are often re-actively ineffective, irresponsible, unethical and destructive of self and relationships. And then I am at loss, often blaming other parties and certainly unable to redeem my loss.
Each person’s sovereign self was Ernie’s bedrock conviction -- he lived it, he taught it. Through internal searching and finding conviction on his own for what he truly wanted from a situation at hand, Ernie manifested his own sovereignty -- his will -- declaring his intentions (but never his “reasons”). Not infrequently did his resultant acts surprise or dismay his intimates, his friends or his colleagues and clients; his active pursuit of those wants almost seemed without regard to others’ objections or judgments. But he was never ignoring, neither was he unconcerned about the other people. In fact he sought to hear their positions, thoughts, and feelings#151;he wanted to learn, and more, he wished to be met. His aim and hope was that the other could develop her or his own sovereignty.
My own living in relationships, conceptions about caring (and self-care), individuality and freedom and community show me actual and ethical differences to those that Ernie lived. But he was resolute -- to experience fully his love for me, required me to enter with him the world of his absolute conviction, trust and faith, rather than dwell with some version of love I might recognize, want or expect. For me to be-with, to develop new intimacy with Ernie, required of my awareness greater willful responsibility. Through his way being-Ernie, this remarkable man taught to those fortunate among us, valuable skills of living and loving in-the-world-as-it-are.
Ernie was Ernie.
Unique, complex, generous, stubborn and, at heart, a teacher.
I struggle to find words to adequately describe him, but he would not want to be pinned down by my words, or by others’ descriptions of him anyway.
All of us have maps#151;templates through which we view the world and make sense of it. Ernie was so rooted in his own integrity that sometimes it was hard to fit your point of view in, much less change him. He was buttressed with walls of explanations about how people were and how the world worked.
We worked together a great deal in the 80’s and drifted apart following that. In the same moment, Ernie would be solid and forceful and very generous, giving his time and attention to those who sat and talked with him, devoted to teaching and to discovering. I often think about things I learned from him and I know others do too. There are people who would say they cast off in an orbit away from Ernie and as many others who stuck close and made many worthwhile discoveries with him. And, yes, I did both.
Ernie was supremely Ernie.
John Thomas Wood
I met Ernie Meadows in 1975. After a vigorous workshop with one of his leadership sessions, I wrote this poem: thank you Ernie for your friendship, leadership and wisdom: I will miss you.
Today I have come to myself!
Of telling people
What I thought they wanted to hear
TodayI told it like it was.
Some others didn’t like it too much,
But my integrity, finally, is intact.
After so many years I am willing to give
The right answers to the right questions.
No more half-measures.
I’m born again from avoidance
To telling it like it is
In spite of the possibility of error
I refuse to withhold my common sense
And break off all contact with reality.
I am taking off my mask…
I no longer need to be perfect.