At Ease

It is a difficult truth of the human condition that to feel at ease, to be filled with a sense of peace and calm, is to actually be on the edge of another thought entirely: how soon will this leave me? When will I feel “normal” again, anxious, uncertain, doubtful…easy prey for the vicissitudes of the voice in the head?

I won’t say that it doesn’t have to be this way. We have already lost that battle. Millions of years of inherited protectionism have guaranteed that.

Instead, I suggest that in those brief moments of relief, when our defenses have momentarily dropped away and we feel ourselves as whole and alive, we take a picture and put it in a scrapbook titled “possibility.”

That way, we have proof that we were there, an invitation to return again and again.


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On the Great Wall – June, 2002

Your Natural Best

It’s Wednesday. You’re busy. Your week is flying by and you don’t have time to read this post.

Pause.

Take a breath. (Count to 4 on the inhale and 4 again on the exhale. Repeat if you so desire)

D  e  e  p       b  r  e  a t  h.

Ok, then, just a quick thought experiment before you get back into the mix. Do you have just another moment for that? Here it is:

  1. Who are you at your “natural best”?
  2. Have you been at your natural best this week?
  3. If so, how did that feel?
  4. If not, what’s in the way?

You and me? We’re both much happier and we’re certainly more engaged when we’re operating at our natural best.

Something to consider, here on a busy Wednesday. Because, of course, none of this will ever work as well as it can if we’re all busy doing impressions.

Time for the real thing. Time for you and me to shine.


lamp post

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HT to the ever thoughtful Andy Wong.

Hints of Gladness

That my daily writing sometimes elicits a positive comment or an appreciative mention makes me feel great. That once in a while, someone “likes” or shares my words is a kind reminder that a hand is holding the other tin can at the end of this string. I love knowing that you are there. I appreciate you for your kind attention.

And I do not do it for you. I do it for me.

My writing lets me know what I’m thinking and, more personally, what I need. I do not write to share expertise or “know how” though sometimes I find myself with one foot caught in that trap. I write because I trust that what is longing to be expressed are my own questions – a prelude to my own wisdom – seeking to come to my aid.

When I wrote yesterday about being a source instead of a resource, I was reminding myself to reassert my self-authorship, that only I get to decide how much of my creativity, energy and commitment to share. No one can do that for me. No one is waiting for me to shoot up an eager hand. No one is waiting to pick me.

In short order I came across yet another of Mary Oliver’s beautiful messages of reassurance and possibility. Here, she takes us into the forest to listen and then to notice how the trees encourage us to follow their example, to ease ourselves into being ourselves, our shining, light-filled selves.

I needed that today. Maybe you do, too.


When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

You Are the Sun

“Businesses must view people not as resources but as sources. A resource is like a lump of coal; you use it and it’s gone. A source is like the sun – virtually inexhaustible and continually generating energy, light and warmth. There is no more powerful source of creative energy in the world than a turned-on, empowered human being.”

– from Conscious Capitalism


You are a source of creativity, passion and purpose.

Everything you need you already have within you. And, the world will let you down if you expect it to consistently honor and recognize this for you. So, you must find both the resolve and the means to become the author of your own power, by what you read, by the quality of people with whom you interact and by the way you spend your time; by focusing on what makes you larger, more fulfilled, more complete and more passionate.

This is the undiscovered country of our existence, as I see it: to take 100% of the responsibility for surfacing and sustaining our most “turned on, empowered” selves. That is the version so brimming with positive energy and compassion that every room, every conversation, every endeavor is better because you’re involved.

This week, starting now, let’s give ourselves the gift of being a source instead of a resource. And let us trust that the more ownership we take for discovering and revealing the sun within ourselves, the more we will help others do the same.


brown and green grass field during sunset

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A Body in Motion (II)

Begin and adjust or wait and wonder.

Get started and discover what’s possible or delay until you’re “ready” and forever dream what might have been.

“This is incredibly difficult,” is only said by those with the courage to begin.

“This is extraordinary! Look what we found!” is only said by those who get underway.

“The water is freezing and deep and frightening and powerful,” is only said by those who will themselves to jump.

“My team is capable of more than I ever imagined,” is only said by those who let them run.

“We failed miserably even though we did our very best,” is only said by those who take the chance.

No guarantees of success, only the chance…every single day…to know what it means to be alive.

Starting is everything.

Begin.


man skating on street

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I’m a Dog Walker

Wouldn’t it be great – and a little weird and maybe even fun – if you had to answer the question, “So, what do you do?” based on the most recent thing you’ve actually done?

If I just cleaned the house, then I’m a house cleaner.
If I just prepared for class, then I’m a professor.
If I just went on a date with my wife, then I’m a husband.
If I just had a great workout, then I’m an athlete.
If I just wrote a poem, then I’m a poet.
If I just made dinner, then I’m a chef (well, maybe “cook” is good enough for that one!).
If I took the dog for a walk then, yes, I’m a dog walker.

We are ritually, blindly obsessed with narrowing our self-disclosure about what we “do” down to what we get paid for and I think that’s a shame.

You are not what you get paid to do. What you get paid to do is, I assume, something you have deep expertise in and truly enjoy. But is that all that you do? Not even close.

You are, of course, the sum total of how you spend your time. All of your time.

Not only our conversations but our workplaces would be significantly enriched if this was both recognized and normalized. What happens when we get a larger and clearer picture of how another person spends their precious time is that they become more human to us. They take on the complex, dynamic qualities of a person that we easily recognize in ourselves but conveniently ignore in others.

We are not here on a fact-finding mission. We are here to connect, and in our connection support and sustain one another’s doing so that we can relish in one another’s being.


english cocker spaniel puppy sitting on ground beside grass

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Saturday Morning

Sunday: “They preferred the name of the tree
to the taste of the apple.” (from Among the Intellectuals, Tony Hoagland)

Monday: Put out into deep water. Go to the depths that frighten you. Find there, in the shadowy darkness of the water, a revelation of who you are.

Tuesday: Whole people with whole lives are here today, including myself.

Wednesday: …a reminder of the ways I allow myself to stay stuck in “good enough” when just one small action would open the door to an even better way to live.

Thursday: “The concept of praxis . . . refers to our participation in the shaping of the world in which we live.” (Denis Edwards)

Friday: It is imperative that we acknowledge, finally, that the prison cell we have created is not locked, and it never was.


It is both a pleasure and gift to sit in the cool, quiet air of a September Saturday morning and reflect on the week that was.

I celebrated this week, taught this week, traveled this week, coached this week, consulted and conversed. I had full days of comings and goings and quieter days of reflection and planning.

The week began with the celebration of a wedding anniversary and ended with the celebration of the life of a friend’s mother.

This week I experienced the universal in the particular, the bumpy and uncertain ways each of us is navigating our experience, imperfectly attempting to reconcile ourselves to the unknown by holding on to what we know.

The current of life flows and flows and flows. It is always happening. It is always happening right now, another chance in an unknown number of chances to choose the deeper water or the safety of the shore.


cascade current dark clouds daylight

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Looking Back to Look Ahead

My writing this past week began with a reflection on my path – my long and uncertain path – to vocation.

With that groundwork laid on Labor Day, I moved into a variety of explorations of the inner life: the leader’s commitment to continuous learning; the freedom that that kind of deep personal awareness creates to liberate others to their full potential; the painful truth that we too easily and too often hide the very best of ourselves from the vulnerability of exposure; and the deep and very challenging necessity to confront our pain and transform it into possibility.

With the benefit of hindsight and reflection, I see now that this week has been an exploration of my most important value: freedom.

And by freedom I mean, the earned right to be my own authority, to be released from the tyranny of the unexamined life, one that operates reactively instead of purposefully. Freedom is the transformation of pain into possibility. Freedom is equanimity under stress, where the old triggers – though always present – will not be squeezed.

As I enter into a period of profound change in my professional life, while continuing to navigate the sacred responsibilities of marriage, fatherhood and friendship, it is no wonder that this theme is surfacing so strongly. It is a time for reflection because it is a time of change.

Writing is good therapy, a form of self-coaching, that helps me to understand where I am, while casting a faint but persistent light on the path ahead.

Thank you for reading.


cold dark eerie environment

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Gold Inside

Do you know the story of the Buddhist monks who, in an effort to preserve a revered clay Buddha statue, accidentally broke it open and discovered it was made of gold?

Do you know that the clay was meant to discourage an invading army from stealing the statue but that centuries later this information was lost and, upon rediscovery it was assumed that it was always and only made of clay?

Do you know that most people, most of the time do an excellent impression of that clay Buddha, keeping the best of themselves protected against being seen and being known?

If you’re not ok with this, and I hope that you are not, then I encourage you to remember that everyone’s clay facade has a crack somewhere. If you are truly curious and determined you will find it and, peering within, see that there is gold inside.

This discovery must, of course, start with you.

Go ahead. Have a look.

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This is the World

Welcome to the world of reality — there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth — actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested… True heroism is you, alone, in a designated work space. True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care — with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world.

David Foster WallaceThe Pale King


It’s Saturday morning. You’re resting up from a long week of work, getting the kids back to school (maybe getting yourself back to school). You might even be getting ready for work right now, to finish up what the work week was too short to contain, or maybe a second job so you can pay for school.

It’s Saturday morning and you’re feeling, in some way, the painful truth that David Foster Wallace articulates with such heartbreaking accuracy: no one is interested. No one, that is, but you.

And also everyone who loves you, those who are cheering for you, and those who want nothing less for you than all that you have earned and deserve.

The problem, the very serious problem, is that it just doesn’t feel that way so much of the time. The problem is that it is so, so hard to remember that, so much of the time.

Because of that, this Saturday morning, I simply want to say,

You’ve got this.

Keep going.


person in black hoodie sitting on train bench

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