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Work Around Your Abyss

Henri Nouwen wrote about the essential nature of being present, attentive, and mindful to our needs. Like Thomas Merton, he cautioned against being caught up in the quick fixes and materialism of contemporary society to heal the wounds we have.

When we feel pain and are suffering, it is essential to come close to those the wound, working around it until it heals. Unlike contemporary organizations, which are often described as teams, this is the work of community. Frequently, we share pain and woundswith others and it is in sharing our journey we discover solace and healing, making us each whole again.

There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You will never succeed in filling that hole, because your needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss closes.

Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it. There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.

How Poetry Comes to Me

Gary Snyder wrote this short, accurate description of how poetry comes to a person. It is not an easy process.

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light.

Snyder spent time in Japan where he immersed himself in Zen Buddhism and poetry, some of which he translated and used to guide his writing. One of the poets he studied was Han Shan who wrote the following poem called LX.

I see similarities between the two poems. Snyder wrote about how poems wait for us at the edge of the just out of range of our campfire. Han Shan suggests, if we move during sunny times, we might not move at all. Like moving to the edge of the light, we move timidly to find what awaits us and searches for us. It takes being present and mindful to our world and others.

Han Shan has so many strange, well-hidden sights,

Every climber climbs a little timidly . . .

Moon shines in the dripping water;

wind brings the very grass alive.

Freezing trees flower with snow,

dead, bare trees leafed out in cloud.

Gored by cold rain, the liveliest soul turns away.

Unless it stays sunny, you’ll never get through.

Live for Today

Source: Live for Today

Michele concluded this post with an Inuit (Eskimo) saying about the essential nature of today and each moment.

Today on Twitter, I re-tweeted an Emily Dickinson quote that has a similar message: “Forever is composed of nows.”

When I am present and in the moment, I am mindful the ordinary is extraordinary. Being mindful allows me to be sensitive and thoughtful towards others who accompany me on my journey and the world we share with other sentient and non-sentient beings.

Mindfulness is a conversation with companions, even it is only listening to silence.

Our Devotion to Transformation

In this poem, Alice Walker counselled us to think of life as a transforming event. Parker Palmer referred to the inner and outer movement as similar to a Möbius Strip with one side that is continuous.

We have to pause and be mindful, but it is not like we are separate from the world. We live in it and it lives in us. We act on it as it acts on us.

Living is about going beyond who we are. Trans means to go beyond. We are continuously moving beyond who we are at any given moment. It is inevitable and poetic. Living is poetry. We are always creating someone and something new, despite ourselves.

Poetry is leading us.

It never cares how we will

be held by lovers

or drive fast

or look good in the moment;

we are committed to movement

both inner and outer;

and devoted to transformation

and to change.

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

Whenever I read this William Stafford poem, I wonder about all the imagery he provided. For me, it begins with the title, the word ritual, and flows from there. What do we mean by ritual? Is it a taken-for-granted way and habits we just in living? Do we end up stereotyping people by saying things like they are that kind of person? When we stereotype, we live in patterned ways that can end up being unbroken and we miss our star.

When we just follow the crowd, as in a parade and hold the elephant’s tail in front of us, we accept the world without being able to see it. That elephant’s butt blocks my view. What comes my way from that view?

But, there is hope. We can talk to each other and listen to each other’s stories. When we do and are present to the other, we shed a light on the path we share with one another. Roland Barth wrote a rule for living and sailing was that, regardless of how many times we hear a story, hear it one more time. It is important to the other and we may learn something new in each hearing.

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

 

Temple of My Familiar (An Excerpt)

Alice Walker included this poem in her novel Temple of My Familiar. She speaks to the challenge we face when we wait for others to do what needs to be done. They, in turn, wait for us to what needs to be done. It is a vicious, not virtuous circle.

In living and leading, the and others call each of us to be mindful and attentive to the world and people. My first language is French. I am not very fluent as an adult, but how the language is used seems imprinted on me. Being mindful and attentive is living and leading in proper relationships.

I recall my mother saying “ce n’est pas propre.” It is not proper and not right (vrai) or correct (correcte). Proper is a way of comporting one’s self and is an ethical position. When I hear politicians and pseudo-politicans say they followed the letter of the law, that is about being right and correct, not proper.

Aristotle spoke about praxis as an ethical practice in living one’s life. Goodness in this sense was the goal of living without knowing what that meant. When I wait for another to do the proper thing, I am not doing the proper thing.

To the extent that it is possible,

You must live in the world today

As you wish everyone to live

In the world to come.

That can be your contribution.

Otherwise, the world you want

Will never be formed. Why?

Because you’re waiting for others to do

What you’re not doing;

And they are waiting for you,

And so on.

The Will for Reconciliation

Thomas Merton wrote many letters, essays, and poetry and seemed prescient about issues . Long before it was relevant, he spoke about challenges we might encounter in an increasingly technological and consumerist world.

I chose a passage from East & West. The Foreign Prefaces of Thomas Merton, and not a poem. He speaks about reconciling, coming together through forces including the power of love, understanding and compassion for one another, and being selfless as we coöperate in shared action.

Too often, humans understand the world in binaries: right or wrong, true or false, black or white, male or female, etc. Polticians and pseudo-politicians exploit binaries and divide us. They divide us based on race, skin colour, religion, gender, etc. When we fall victim to false narratives, we are incapable and unwilling to create, to build, and to forgive.

It is on the ground of something better and higher than politics that we discover we do good for each other. Thomas Merton’s message was not naïve. Love and mercy are the foundation, but not the solution to political problems.

“It is true, political problems are not solved by love and mercy. But the world of politics is not the only world, and unless political decisions rest on a foundation of something better and higher than politics, they can never do any real good for men. When a country has to be rebuilt after war, the passions and energies of war [and a divisive election] are no longer enough. There must be a new force, the power of love, the power of understanding and human compassion, the strength of selflessness and coöperation, and the creative dynamism of the will to live and to build, and the will to forgive. The will for reconciliation.”

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