One way to integrate
There was a woman on the bus this morning. She was wearing a t-shirt with a message that resonated:
Teach Everything You Know
I wonder how many felt the message from this shirt (which is, honestly, probably a tagline for a program of some sort, or maybe a school). I wonder how many people are being worked by that statement.
Teaching is an odd thing. For me, it raises questions of perfection and a certain level of knowing. As I was just writing in my journal about this, I found myself saying, “Perhaps teaching is one of the ways that I integrate.”
Perhaps teaching is a way to integrate.
Now I have two things working me today. Not bad.
Life: a (very) rough draft
And so our lives go.
The rockiness of relationship meets the chaos of health. Accidents bump up against graduations and births and promotions. We drift apart. We rediscover a passion we once held. We sit alone, accompanied only by a regret or two. We reflect on the brilliance that was a certain time in our lives. We forget a birthday. We remember a slight. A favorite song comes on while we sit in a coffee shop, quietly reminding us of a love that never materialized. An ache in the shoulder - or back or knee - reminds us of the years that have passed. We see a picture where we are facing away from the camera, but the grey that fills the frame is so unfamiliar. We feel our six year old self as someone we respect slips up, saying something critical of us. We forgive our parents. We cry ourselves to sleep. We wake feeling refreshed, looking forward to the day ahead.
Days weeks months years. Time flows ceaselessly. Interrupted only by sleep — including the occasional nap — and the moments that transcend all moments. The ones where god comes and sits down next to us. Feels our breathing. Puts a hand on our knee. Smiles gently and gives us a reassurance through a smile.
All of this and more. We live lives that were presented to us, making the best choices any of us knows to make. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit. Sometimes we aren’t humble. Sometimes we think it’s all about us. And sometimes we erase ourselves.
What, exactly, did we sign up for? And who is this mysterious “we” that did the signing up? A baby deer and an infant human have so much in common, but the deer has a leg up. Literally. Both will make their way into the world to live as only they know how. The infant will be shaped and molded by the stress and joy that their parents experience; by the conditions handed down from generations. By the unprocessed trauma experienced by an ancestor. The baby deer will stand immediately after birth. Will be shaped by their connection to the morphogenetic field, the millenia of memories handed down in an ongoing transmission to this new generation.
What is the difference? Perhaps one argument is that there isn’t one. Perhaps that argument would say that what shapes and creates us is the same thing, in different forms. That unknowing mystery that we can’t possibly comprehend opens us into itself and we have the experiences we have. Another argument might be that the difference is in capacity of choice — ability to hold and interact with complexity. From this place, the baby deer will grow, becoming a doe or a stag, will follow its hunger from field to field, in search of survival. Will mate. Will seek safety. Will live the life of every deer from today through all of history. Yet, the infant will grow into one of an almost infinite number of possibilities. She will make choices that branch from one possible future to the next. Living a wholly unique and individual life. One that is guided from the most personal place, the seat of the self.
Perhaps another argument is some combination of these. Perhaps another is that it’s none of these. Perhaps it’s irrelevant.
Ultimately, this is an inquirty that can only really matter to the mind. What happens, I wonder, when we try to feel into the inquiry? When we try to feel into what this life thing is? What messages do we get?
Life is the great mystery. It’s a wonderfully beautiful, messy, complex space. It’s an ongoing converation with no end. It is all questions and few answers. It is the pulsing of all things. It is what is happening right here, right now. In these words, and in your breath. In your body in the chair and the stories you have about what you are reading in you mind. It is the feelings you have about yourself and about the ones you love. It is no more the elation of your most precious connection than the resistance you have to the thing you most fear. It is the whole thing. It contains all of it. It fears none of it and none of it is bad.
This last bit is hard. Challenging. Not all things are good. But nothing doesn’t belong in the wholeness of the world. We know this because it is here. It exists. When we work to change those things, we end up with something new that is here. We add to this. We add to life. Life creates through us.
Life is us.
I offer this as a direct download, with very few edits. I’m not at all sure what it’s about, or where it is going to go. What I do know is that there are a number of things moving through me related to the themes in these words. So, I put them out there, gentley, trying to not question them too much. Whose are they? Who can really know. We are on this journey together, one way or another. In the meantime, I’m just glad to be here.
What motivates? How can we tell when our motives hold a purity? How can we be sure that we are aligned with a truth that brings with it the purpose of our being?
I don’t have answers for these questions in this moment. What I think is likely true, however, is that the answers are like found in the felt sense. They present themselves in a grounded and visceral truth.
That, at least, is what feels true in this moment.
A day of nourishment. Connection. Inspiration.
Long in hours and spirit. Yet one of the fastest days of the year.
May the tip toward the next solstice bring a different kind of light.
I’ve been knee deep. Up to my eyeballs. Swimming in it.
No, I’m not up shit’s creek. No need for a paddle.
I’ve just been consumed.
The way I’m using my mind is a way I’m not fully used to. Not to this extent anyway.
It’s been good. Feels satisfying.
I suspect that will be even more true when the finish line is crossed.
Well, the first finish line, anyway. This is more like a decathlon than a marathon.
I’m good with it.
I feel alive in it.
The step two mystery
From where does understanding emerge? How is it that wrestling with a blank page can end up leading to form? Content? Meaning? I don’t know about your process; all I really understand is that something seems to happen in mine.
There’s this cartoon. Two scientists are standing at a blackboard. There are lots of scribbles on the board. On the left are a bunch of equations. In the middle it says, “Then a miracle occurs.” On the right, more equations. One can assume it’s a resolution. One of the scientists says, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.”
It feels like that.
I’m often amazed how much can happen “in the background.” Now, I’m not claimming any kind of brilliance here. I think we all do this in one way or another. I think what can be really potent is to get clear about where we need to rely on that step two.
What are the miracles we need to call forward? How can we lean a bit more into that step two mystery?
Today has been an
ebb and flow — the
shadow over –
energy is the source
of aliveness (yet
another way to see
it). Eyes closed,
mind races. Sitting
with a friend, how
do I concentrate
again? Sleep is
maybe the most
states. I’ve come
all this way. It’s
okay to rest.
I know what I did last weekend…
Sometimes the very thing I do to get myself re-centered, such as taking a long weekend away, ends up completely disorienting me. Is it fair to blame my frazzled-ness this morning on that? On pulling myself out of routines, waking to no alarm, staying off of email and the internet (mostly), and relaxing in an air conditioned house? Or am I simply deflecting from something more relevant? A question I could ask is, what am I avoiding looking at?
Nah. I think I’ll blame the weekend at the lake.
The right thing
My wife sent me this video of Jon Stewart laying into Congress for not properly funding a program that supports the health care of 9/11 first responders. It’s a powerful testament. He holds nothing back. This isn’t the first time Stewart has gone in front of someone and said it like he sees it.
Sometimes we have to tell truth to power; to stand in front of our Goliath and fling our slingshot. Sometimes what’s asked of us is the right thing. It may be small. It may be calling a time out in a meeting. It could be saying something to our boss. It could be telling our racist uncle that his hate isn’t welcome at Thanksgiving. We’ve all got our moments for this. We’ll all be called on to do the right thing.
Beyond a reductive view
Who among us isn’t in search of the easiest way to solve our problems? The question is, is the easy way really the way?
I just closed an email I received from a professional network offering a session with a facilitator that promises to help “master 21st century leadership.” I’m sure it’s a fine workshop, and I’m sure there’s value to be found in it. I have no doubt that there are tools and strategies that I could use in places in my work. While all of this is true, the title, and description, of this workshop tell me one thing: it’s another example of reductive thinking.
Mind you, I don’t think this is the fault of the person who put it together. No, she’s doing what she can to 1) help consultants learn from what she’s learned (I assume) and 2) make a living. I won’t make any assumptions about what order those are prioritized for her. I’ve never met her.
Spend any time on LinkedIn and you will find that the world is full of these kinds of workshops. The Seven Secrets to Modern Leadership. Five Keys to Leading Today. Three Leadership Secrets for Success. None of these are real. I made them all up just now, but they sound real, don’t they? There’s a reason for that: the world is full of workshops just like them.
Here’s the thing. The fact that they are everywhere isn’t an indicator that they work. It’s an indicator that we think they will work. Rather, that we hope they will work. Again, I’m sure many of these workshops have value. Some value isn’t the point. The real point is that we tend to look for simple, clear solutions to the problems we face. We want to be given a key, a secret, something that will allow us to step into a situation and change it. Fix it.
The problem is, that’s not really possible.
It can seem like it is on occasion. We can get a hit from these new skills and start finding places where they align. But, as the adage goes, when all we have is a hammer, nails abound.
How do we master 21st century leadership? I’m not sure we can. I’m really not sure it’s the best question. How do we learn to navigate incredibly complex and messy situations with grace, humility, vulnerability, and integrity? That feels closer. What does it mean to enter into emergent situations of great complexity, volatility, and ambiguity? How do we develop the capacity for agility through uncertainty?
These questions point to a level of operating that moves beyond the reductive view that we have been told we should occupy. Yes, it means more work. Yes, it’s harder than simply applying the 5 Core Leadership Strategies for Today’s Leaders. Yes, it’s deeply uncomfortable. And, yes, at the moment, it’s much harder to market.
It’s also possible that this kind of learning is what’s really behind the reductive titles that we tend to see. “Meet people where they are,” is a common piece of advice given to those who are looking to make offerings. I get it, I really do. At the same time, I worry that if we don’t actually stand up and say, “Enough. We have to get honest here. There are no quick answers. There are only shape shifting issues for us to navigate. How can we best learn to do that?” Than we’ll never get past this.
I’d hate to be stuck here forever.
Wholeness is a result of intention. Of purpose — as in, on purpose. From this perspective, it’s probably fair to say that most of us are fragmented. Fractured along lines drawn for us by others. From our educations, where we were told what we need to learn, to our online lives, where FOMO can rule the roost; from our careers — create a deep expertise, or have little to no value — to how we spend our evenings. Must see TV, anyone?
And beyond, of course.
I’m realizing that this is probably coming across as being pretty negative. I get that. My intent is really to call something out. That thing is that to have intention in our lives is to have a deep freedom. And it’s something that’s not taught very well. It’s not something that is baked into how we are raised. How we are taught to be together.
I’m learning some things about this as I engage in this whole digital declutter thing. Taking things that are habitual out of my life leaves a space to be filled. What will fill it? Well, ideally, something held with intention would fill it. I’m finding that this adds an entire layer to this little experiment. It’s a layer that takes a bit of extra work. A layer that will require a new kind of effort. Today I haven’t been very good at this. I’ve largely fallen into some old patterns, albeit with some new constraints around them.
This is the beautfiful thing, though. Every moment is an opportunity to start over. This is one of my favorite things in the world. Each moment a beginning. Each moment a new offering. Regardless of the last one. Even if I (we) was (were) perfect in that last moment. THis one is another opportunity to make an offering of intention. For it is truly a prayer in many ways. It’s a prayer we send with our energy. Our attention.
All we have.
Today II — the hard stuff
I find myself wanting to write about the radical compassion that Amanda Palmer talked about on Friday night. But. I’m typing with my fingers, and feel it’s a topic that I’d want to put some good thought into. So. Maybe tomorrow. Or Tuesday. Who knows.
For now, what I’ll say is: if we want to heal the world, we have to heal the many relationshipswe have with it. This is going to mean an awful lot of forgiveness. It’s going to be hard. But it’s going to change things. That’s what leading with love is all about.
The hard stuff.
I’m going to be seeing Amanda Palmer — aka AFP — this evening. I’ve been looking forward to this tour before she announced it. I’ve been listening to her music quite a bit over the last couple of years and her writing on The Art of Asking was profoundly important to me. My wife and I missed her a bit over a year ago as our travels overlapped. I knew I’d want to see her the next opportunity I had. It turns out, it will be in a setting unlike what she’s ever done. Solo. No opener. Just her and piano, and ukulele. And hours (I think she played 5 hours in Denver last weekend). And with intention.
She’s coming to town to tell us her stories about abortion. And miscarriage. And death. Loss of all kinds. She’s coming to make us sad. At least, it can seem that way.
A friend of mine was telling me about an interview with AFP he heard the other day. “She was articulating what I’ve been thinking for a long time,” he said. “We need to heal. We need to address the deepest wounds within us. Nothing less is needed to change the society we live in.” Yes, I thought. That’s what this tour is about.
It’s not simply about hearing some sad stories and moving songs. It’s about catharsis. It’s about healing. It’s about coming together to face the darkest parts of our lives and the world. It’s about holding each other. We can witness our own loss in her. She will be a projection screen. We will lay upon her what is alive within us. We will process what’s in us.
As my friend said, this is a step. It’s not the only step. It’s a step. I think it might be more important than we realize. I was just listening to spiritual teacher Thomas Huebl speak about meditiation and mystical practices. He talked about how even though they can certainly be solo practices, they have the potential to truly be collective practices. Social practices. By coming together with intention, we open to something larger together.
Am I putting to much on a concert? Maybe. But isn’t it better to hold the highest possibility? This isn’t to put any pressure onto AFP. No, if anything, it’s to help ease the pressure on her. We are all in this together. This is for all of us, and it is by all of us. Together, we begin to heal this piece.
What do you think of when you think of democracy? What does it look like? How is it implemented? What is its purpose? There are a lot of countries that call themselves democracies. It looks different in all of them.
So, what exactly is democracy?
What is anything, really? Is it what we think it is? Perhaps it’s more than that. Perhaps meaning comes from the many hands on the one elephant.
Perhaps meaning isn’t what we think it is.
I’m open to what life brings to me. This is the the prayer I’d like to send out. Let’s move through it together. We are here, so why not? Let’s let the personal part of it resolve. Let it go. It’s not about what we are calling us, this grand unfolding. I get it — I’m not awakened. Not immune to the trappings of my story. I’ll contract again. Yet, here, int his moment, I can say with an honesty that mapped to my integrity: Here I am. I am ready. Hineni. I am here.
I feel God all around me. This mind, the pressure on my ankle, my knee. The grip of the pen. I hear God in the plane flying above. See God in the sniffing of my dog. This is life. It’s the most important thing. The only thing. And it’s within all of the unimportant things — as it’s all important. A wounded one’s apartment. A lost one’s rage. A sacred one’s shutdown. A sensitive one’s overwhelm. God envelopes it all, for God is those things.
This life is one grand expression — one we find by working. My fear of my whiteness, and the ways racism moves through me. Let me be more direct: the ways in which I am racist. The fear BIPOC folk have of my whiteness, and the arem they are caused. Let me again be more direct: the ways I harm them.
This is all God.
Where God is the name given to Is-ness. To Life itself. To the All That Is. Where God is the invitation to more. Where more is the expansion of our lives. And where each breath brings new connection to Is-ness.
This is a prayer for this moment. May it unfold for each of us — in our own way. May it take root in our souls as a healing. And may it bring peace to those afflicted by the perturbation of existence.
May it be so.
This being human thing
Maybe what we want to do is get good at feeling lost.
Rob Bell said something along those lines on one of his recent Robcast episodes. It reminded me of something that a friend of mind once said to me. I was telling him how I wasn’t feeling confident about something, and he said to me, “Maybe being confident doesn’t feel the way you think it feels.” It also reminded me about something that I said to a different friend. “I’m not interested in just feeling happy all the time. I just want to develop the capacity to fully feel whatever is coming through me. To be fully present with my life.” Of course, this was in the midst of a difficult time when I had just gotten done telling this particular friend that I thought I was permanently stuck, and wanted to feel differently. “Does that include feeling permanently stuck,” he quipped back. D’oh!
All of this points to a kind of expertise that we rarely talk about in our world: the expertise of living a human life. It’s something we all share. If you can read these words you are living a human life. A human life may take place in a variety of contexts, and our experience of it may be influenced by a variety of different factors — examples coming to mind are race, sex, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. — yet, at the base level, the level that includes how we are feeling, the energies that flow through our bodies, it is the same thing. But we don’t talk about it much. We certainly don’t look at it as a place we can find common interest. And we don’t necessarily get taught how to navigate it in a way that opens us to the fulness of the potential swirling within us. This potential lives in our capacity to navigate the things we don’t like. The things that don’t feel good.
How do we get so big that we can feel these things flow through us unimpeded? How can we see the benefits they bring? How can we learn to be with everything as it moves through us? As I’m writing this, I’m seeing that there is something here to more deeply explore. For myself, and for all of us. What would it look like to continue to dig into this being human thing? Where might it take us?
More on this soon, I’m sure.
This world is alive. I don’t just mean that it is full of an abundance of life. Surely it is. I mean that is a living and breathing organism, just as sure as you and I. It watches. It sees. It hears. It feels. It knows the secrets of each of us and follows our lives like the little miracles they are. This world is a companion, a guide, a teacher. A leader. It will show us the way, if we ask — and listen properly for the answer. Every move we make is a part of the world’s unfolding. We can add or detract. Serve or harm. We can be led or we can be arrogant. Sometimes we are each of these things in a single day. In an hour. It doesn’t amtter what our take is, what our story is. The world is here. It waits. It loves. It holds us, even as we strangle it. It’s the most unconditional love.
This flowed out of me into my journal this morning. I found myself drawing a very crude image of a mountain, seeing in my minds eye something with the glory of a Mt. Fuji or Mt. Rainier. There was this strong sense that this was true. I could feel in that moment a presence. The world itself was with me, almost sitting next to me on the couch.
To me, these words generate more questions than anything. I can imagine wrestling with the very notion of this. I don’t have trouble thinking of the world as an organic thing. It’s the conscious part that I wrestle with. Wrestle with is the wrong way to phrase it. It’s more like I feel I have an intellectual understanding of this, but seem to lack, in most moments, the visceral understanding — save a handful of moments like the one this morning.
But I think the questions might kind of be the point. Indeed, perhaps it’s questions our mind can’t answer that start to open our senses and the physical responses.
How scarcity serves us
“If you have all of the books, you have none of the books.”
John Roderick, podcaster, musician, philosopher king, said something along these lines once. He was referring to how we live in a world where we can get everything we want at our fingertips. There are very few restrictions (so long as you have the means, any way). There was a time where you could have as many books as you could fit on your bookshelf. Or, at least, in stacks in your house. Even Powells Books, which is the largest brick and mortar bookstore in the country, has a limited supply. It might be huge, but it’s not all of the books. The internet brings us all of the books. And the music. And the TV. And the…well…everything.
I’m especially thinking about this regarding music. I have access to all 50 million songs in the iTunes library. I pay what I think is a fair amoutn for this. I can experience just about anything. And so sometimes I find myself walking away from music because I’m overwhelmed. Or I listen ot the same thing over and over and over. What am I losing by having it all?
I think we lose some of what limitations can offer us. Scarcity, like anything is useful in certain contexts. The abundance of all things can flood the system, making it all have zero meaning. When I had physical media, there was a ritual to it. There may have even been ceremony at times. But in a world of digital media, where it’s all invisible, it feels like it’s lost something. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to get rid of many books, and to fully make the switch to e-books. It’s kind of a last frontier for me.
This is an interesting time. I’m starting to walk back a fair amount of the way I’ve held life over the past 15 years or so. Moving toward less digital. More physical. More presence. More meaning. To be clear, I’m not saying these things are bad. I’m saying that I’m looking to find the intentional mix that works best for me. Scarcity and abundance. Physical and digital. Being and doing.
It’s an unfolding that’s always moving.
This week has had a fair amount of space in it. And each day has contained at least one thing that has gotten me very inspired, or stretched me, or given me a new perspective. I somehow managed to arrange for several very cool conversations to happen. It wasn’t planned, but maybe it should be.
What would it look like for me to intentionally create these kinds of experiences? For me to intentionally put these kinds of things on my calendar?
It’s funny. When I started to type, I really didn’t know what I’d say. But now, I’m here. With a new practice to enact.
Every day an inspiration. Every day a connection. Everyday.
My friend Olivier wants to turn Marie Kondo’s name into a verb. To Kondo; or, to live only with what sparks joy. I want to Kondo my digital life.
I finally picked up a copy of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism. I’m a bit surprised by what it ended up being. I’m not sure why, but it’s a lot easier to read than I thought it would be. As I moved my way through part one, where he outlines why and how one might choose to declutter — read: Kondo — their digital lives, it ocurred to me, “Hey…June has 30 days. I should d05o my declutter in June.”
Oh, in that first section, he talks about literally doing a 30 day declutter. It looks like this: take any and all digital tools that aren’t 100% required for your life off of your phone and ’puter. Get this. For 30 days. Then you slowly add back what you feel, well, what would Kondo the hell out of your digital life. So, I’m steamrolling my way there. June is very soon. So I have things to do.
It does not mean that I will stop posting here. While this isn’t required from a standpoint of being necessary for work, it is from the stanpoint of keeping these writing channels open. Yes, it’s the key in my life at this point. Who knew.
I suspect I’ll write more about this as I get into in.
Wish me luck.
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