SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual intelligence by Cindy Wigglesworth

Michael McElhenie

Cindy Wigglesworth. SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual intelligence. New York: Select Books, 2012.

Michael McElhenie

Michael McElhenie

Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. If you scour the planet, I am probably the least objective reviewer of Cindy’s incredible, ground breaking book. I have had the great pleasure of knowing Cindy for over ten years, have shared part of Cindy’s journey as she developed the SQ21 concept and was a member of her research team. And, more importantly, I have profound, on-my-knees respect for her dizzying intellect and amazing presence. See! There is no way in hell I can be objective.

Are you still with me? Good. Objectivity is over-rated anyway.

SQ21 is chock full of Cindy’s field-tested, pragmatic wisdom. As a teacher and group facilitator of utmost talent, she involves the reader from the very start – asking us all to reflect on leaders we most admire, and finding through our own experiences, the skills of Spiritual Intelligence. She defines SQ as “ the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace regardless of the situation” – cutting through the pervasive religious veneer. And what we find when the thin skin is removed is something that ALL can relate and aspire to – core actions and ways of being that move us stepwise to our higher selves.

When Cindy is not catalyzing reader self-reflection, she is opening a window to her own developmental process – truly a gift to all who receive it, and an ironic one as well. Every time I am at a social gathering with Cindy, I overhear her telling others how much of an introvert she is. I am sooooo glad she chose to extravert herself in this book, however. From the very start, Cindy discloses – in courageous and humbling ways – her own life’s developmental challenges and successes, and brings SQ21 alive with warm-your-heart stories of her own spiritual growth journey – spurring all readers to dive deeper into their own. This book certainly did that for me.

At one point in SQ21, Cindy invokes a swimming metaphor. Cindy describes developing our spiritual muscles with “the right effort at the right time” culminating with all the separate skills (mechanics of the stroke) coming together into a smooth, powerful performance. Having recently begun serious swim training with a coach (after a 30 plus year hiatus), I’ve been feeling Cindy’s comparisons in the pool – with every pull, kick and flip turn calling me to greater effort, faster times and higher self.

Of all the skills, number 20 – Being a Calm and Healing Presence – spoke to me the most, as if Cindy lovingly, yet assertively threw down a gauntlet at my feet. In a recent conversation with my dear friend Adam Leonard, we discussed the challenges and joys of being a calm and healing presence, and how our opportunities to “step up” can happen at the strangest times.

Like at the Jack-in-the-Box drive-through: My order was not overly complex – just no cheese. After paying at the window, the pleasant young lady made several trips “to the back” to hasten my order (ahh, the stories we tell ourselves). Five minutes, ten minutes passed; are you freaking kidding me! She scurried to the window once and avoided eye contact. In my head, a phrase kept repeating, “There is no reason I should be waiting this long for a friggin fajita pita.” “NO REASON!” She appeared again – just the tip of her hat from behind the metal food sorting shelves. “NO REASON!!” Another five minutes passed. Looking through the sorting shelves, I believe I saw her sleeve zoom by. “NO REASON!!!” And then she appeared to me again, this time from someplace above my head; in her uniform with outstretched arms, she was struggling and needed my help, and I found a reason.

“Here’s your order sir.”

A barely audible “thank you” came out first as a wave of compassion consumed me. I added, “Can I give you some feedback?”

“Uh, sure, I guess,” she said.

I smiled from somewhere down deep, “When you have to leave someone waiting for longer than a few minutes, stop by the window and tell them what’s going on. That would be very helpful and kind. Is this something you can do for us?”

“Yes … yes, I can do that,” as tears welled up in her eyes.

I felt nothing but love for her, “You’re doing the best you can do and you need to know that. And, you can do even better and you know that too don’t you?”

“Yes, I know,” she said as she sniffed and rubbed her nose, “You are so nice. That is the nicest feedback anyone has ever given to me. Thank you.”

“Thank you, and have a great night,” and I drove off with a peaceful heart.

Cindy (as the voice of God) was at Jack-in-the-Box with me that night. And, Cindy’s work in SQ21 is genius. The kind of genius that shows up everyday, if we are willing to receive it.

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