Poem for a Sunday Morning

Questions Before Dark
{Jeanne Lohmann}

Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you? Are the corners
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun’s midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?



These are the days of not knowing what day it is.  

Some of them feel independent and clear, wholly delineated from the others. (It is not “Day 4,” it is Thursday, an actual day in the life.) On these days, I have had a clear thought, followed an idea, engaged in a way that stimulated learning and connection.

Some of them feel smudged and smooshed, the blurred remains of a bug on the windshield. On these days, I have read the news…all of it. I have thought the dark thoughts, felt the dark feelings, watched myself drift – not float, but drift, right into the oncoming car of my lower self.

It’s a big hurried rush of not knowing, all of this. 

What am I to make of this perpetual liminal space?

Answer: I get to choose every day, be it smudged or clear, how to respond to this reality. 

I get to do that. 

Today, and tomorrow. 


sky clouds cloudy earth

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some good, hard questions

Do I insist on action when more reflection is needed?

Do I got lost in reflection when I need to get moving?

Do I default to the comfort of my competence when the discomfort of connection is what the moment requires?

Do I tend to think my way into a new way of feeling or feel my way into a new way of thinking?

Am I living from the outside in or from the inside out?

Am I spending more energy on fitting in when I should be standing out? Or on standing out when I should be fitting in?

Do I stubbornly remain at my desk when my body is asking me to get up, to move, to walk, to breathe, to play?


adorable blur bubble child

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Silence Amidst the Noise

Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

{from Coleman’s Bed by David Whyte}


The season of Advent has an exceptional quality of quiet, reflective waiting. It is a period of darkness, punctuated by the seasonal reality of the shortest days of the year, within which exists both the invitation and the expectation of the gift of light. It is no accident that the shortest day of the year comes right at the end of this time.

This brief four-week season, as it is understood in the context of Christianity, can also be thought of as a time of filling up. Gradually we gather our thoughts and reflections, we attempt to live the questions of our own becoming with intention and we work to stay grounded in the simplicity of a period of time, the sole purpose of which is to mark the birth of an immigrant child into the humblest possible circumstances.

It is that birth that we understand as the light that finally punctuates the darkness, a new life representing the blessing of all living things and, for believers, the incarnate promise of everlasting life.

But that’s getting ahead of things. That light is still a long way off and that filling up has only just begun.

For now, it is the dark and the quiet that command my attention and support my intention. To find the “silence amidst the noise” is a gift to myself as I attempt to reconcile my unanswered questions against the certainty the world demands. To rush what cannot be rushed is to seek protection from the anxiety of feeling stuck.

To stay here, in these questions during this time, is to trust that there is water rising (even if I cannot see it) and the current is forming (even if I cannot feel it) and that if I can just hold on long enough it will float me out of the darkness of the unknown and into the light of understanding.


leaf floating on body of water

Photo by Cole Keister on Pexels.com

A Few Questions

If you stopped editing yourself, what would you say?

When you are at your worst, what’s the fear behind that behavior?

When you float outside yourself, tethered to nothing but possibility, what gives you that lift?

You are at the edge of your seat, no facade to impress us, what got you there?

You keep going back to that thought, what is it that you cannot forget?

You’re traveling lighter these days, what have you left behind?

You can only take so much, what is your breaking point?

When you are at your best, what thought or trait or relationship makes that so?


photography of person wearing brown leather shoes near brown log on green forest during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another way to do it

Option A

Leader: “This is where we need to go, and here’s how we’re going to get there.”

Option B

Leader: “This is where we need to go. How do you think we should get there?”

Involvement, sincerely requested and respectfully considered, leads to real engagement in the work.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

Questions

At any given point in our lives, each of us has a question that, in the words of the poet David Whyte, “has no right to go away.”

These are questions that beckon us to consider who we have been, who we are and who we want to be.

This kind of question is less a problem to be solved than an ally on whom to rely in the midst of transition. It is a marker for our discernment, be that active or passive. It patiently works in and through us as we stand on the threshold between this version of our experience and the one that is taking shape before us.

Neither easy nor simple, these questions shape us by simply being present and by us being present to them.

Some I have heard recently:

Who am I now that this change has taken place?
What’s next for me now that I have reached this milestone?
What I am prepared to learn, eager to learn?
How can I use my gifts in new ways?
How do I stay attentive to the more challenging disciplines of my life?
How do I open myself to the risk and joy of greater vulnerability?
How do I let go of what no longer serves me? What will take its place?
What is ‘enough’?

These questions are like an unexpected knock at the door. At first they startle us but then we realize that we knew they were coming and that all we need to do right now is open the door and let them in.

Properly welcomed, they will take care of the rest.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Make Room for Wonder

“Everything is explained now…sometimes I’d just as soon continue wondering.”
– Tom Waits –

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

I think about that every time I compulsively reach for my “phone” to look up the answer to the latest question that has shown up in conversation. I get consumed by the feeling that I “have to know!”

What if instead of reacting impulsively in that moment I could pause to simply state: “I wonder what it could be.” and then ask “What are the possible explanations?” and then take some time to consider them!

If the building is on fire I need to find the exit right now.

And since the building is rarely on fire, I might stop acting like needing to know is a matter of life or death. (I might.)

{Hat tip to Duncan Berry, who at 18 years old continues to ask questions as if he’s never of Google!}


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Three Questions for the Weekend

It’s an enormous gift in my work – as teacher and coach – to learn from my students and clients. I am always interested in new approaches, fresh perspectives and just the help that allows me to get better at what I offer and how I offer it.

A couple of weeks ago a client shared with me three questions they had received as part of a pre-work email for a conference on “Change.” Sort of a, “Since you’re coming to this, here’s what we want you to be thinking about.”

The basic building blocks of my work…ALL of my work…are good questions. And a good question is simple and clear while potent enough to evoke a thoughtful response.

As you enjoy your weekend perhaps you will find value in considering these three questions to reflect on your work week, your love life, your friendships, your community involvement; anything that matters to you and to which you wish to apply your best self.

  • What’s been going well?
  • Where have you gotten stuck?
  • What can you do differently?

Here’s to good questions and the answers that move us to deeper understanding, more imagination and a greater sense of possibility!


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

The One Conversation That Will Change Everything

oneYou want to get better at having more challenging and courageous conversations. What you’re doing now isn’t working so you’re looking for a better way, a way to hold a real conversation that actually leads to meaningful change. Like most people you’ve done your research and found that there’s no shortage of books to help you out:

Crucial Conversations, The Art of Conversation, Fierce Conversations, How to Talk to Anyone, You Just Don’t Understand!, That’s Not What I Meant!, are just a few.

And you’ve discovered that with rare exceptions, these approaches are externally rather than internally focused. They teach tips, strategies and approaches for how to engage and influence someone else during a moment of truth and make it productive, or at least better than last time.

While there is no doubt that some of these methods can work, they typically amount to no more than a shortcut around the much more significant and important conversation that needs to take place. That is the conversation within your self.

A more courageous conversation begins when we say “yes” to the invitation to examine the elements of our own individuality.

Instead of, “I will learn and employ this technique to get this person to respond in this way” (which is ultimately, if unintentionally a manipulative approach) what if a more personal and courageous set of questions was asked? Questions like,

  • What am I doing to contribute to this situation?
  • What responsibility do I have for what’s going on?
  • What are my values and how are they feeling threatened or compromised right now?
  • How confident do I feel about my work, position, authority or impact? How might I be acting out against some insecurity?
  • What am I doing – what strengths am I using – when I’m at my best? Am I at my best right now?
  • What stories do I tell about what should be happening? About what others think of me? About how I’ve been treated?
  • How am I getting in my own way?
  • Who’s help do I need?
  • What am I afraid of? What’s really at stake?

This is just a start but it could be a powerful one. It’s certainly a challenging one. And what if you got yourself up for the challenge and began this conversation in earnest? What if you decided to firmly and totally believe – even against present evidence to the contrary – that your progress in holding a deepening conversation with yourself would become a fertile seed bed for the growth of more substantive interactions with all of your significant others?

There aren’t too many people who are willing to take this level of responsibility. There aren’t too many who are willing to adopt the attitudes of vulnerability, transparency, ownership and service that are required. But leaders are willing to do so, which is why authentic leadership is actually quite a rare thing.

What you’re doing now isn’t working so you’ve started looking for a better way, a way to hold a real conversation that actually leads to meaningful change. Stop looking outside of your self and start looking within.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.