Truly Powerful People (295)

295.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

There were colors in the sunset sky tonight that I have never seen before.

I went for a walk late in the afternoon to clear my mind and to ponder this question: How can I best give what I have to offer? I’m wrestling with the “how” questions. I know the “why” but wonder if there is a better form for my work – or perhaps I am standing in my own way and can’t see what path to walk. I was struggling. My pockets were loaded with 3×5 cards and pens so I could capture the answers that were bound to magically appear as I walked (they often do). The moment that I stepped out of my apartment my oh-so-important-question evaporated into the winter sky.

I am a painter so my usual first thought when I see color like I saw tonight is, “How would I mix that color?” Instead, the my first thought (post-wow-moment) was a statement of surrender, “I don’t have a clue how to mix that color.” And then the idea that I needed to mix it or capture it or get a photograph of it evaporated, too. It was THAT beautiful. So I walked into it, thinking it would fade in a few moments as sunset skies do. Instead, it grew more intense.

I lost myself in it. What I’d intended to be a short walk to clear my mind became a long walk that blew my mind. I lost track of time. I lost track of the need to track. I walked with it. And then, in a moment, as if released from a spell, the sky darkened, the colors faded and I found myself several miles from home asking myself another question, “How did I get here?”

As I retraced my steps home I realized that my original question no longer seemed relevant. In fact, it was the wrong question to ask. Instead of trying to see the path before I walk it perhaps I should do what I already know to do: walk it. The idea that there is a prescribed path that I will take if only I can see it is a desire to control, to know what is coming; it is an attempt to be safe and comfortable instead of uncertain. My prescribed idea of an afternoon walk did not include a sky that took my breath away. My idea did not come close to the actual experience of living it. Isn’t that always true? So, this is what I wrote on my 3×5 card: Get lost in the beauty of it all. I’ll recognize the path at the end of my life when I look back at it.

Truly Powerful People (294)

294.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

This morning I read an article that Joe sent my way- it was in the Harvard Business Review and is about a large $700 million company, Morning Star, that runs without managers. I cheered! The employees are self-directed and self-regulated and the company is prosperous and efficient by any standard. Not only that, but the people that comprise the company are happy.

It might be hard to imagine in our culture of control but, given the opportunity, most people will chose responsibility and the freedom that comes with it over compliance and the drudgery that comes with that; no one wants to be told what to do, especially when they know what needs to be done. Everyone will do their best work if they know why they are doing the work and have some say in defining what their best work is. Everyone will excel when they are part of a team and know that they matter and their work matters to the team.

It is an old world notion that time = money; it is a new world reality that relationship = money (efficiency is a quality of relationship, not a aspect of good management). Productivity is maximized when the producers are invested in the quality of their work – and that is a team sport as much as an individual investment. Bureaucracies are breaking down because the world of work has changed. Hierarchies are antiquated in the age of inter-connectivity. It is the same challenge that our schools are experiencing with a slightly different face.

It is an odd assumption that people need managing, and that managers need managing, ad infinitum. People do not need to be forced to work when they are in pursuit of mastery.

It is a sad assumption that empowerment necessarily comes from the top down. It doesn’t. Empowerment is not something that is given (that is the misguided assumption of privilege); empowerment is something that is shared and amplified; it is tangible when a group of people are invested in the growth and betterment of all members and are not relying on Olympus to tell them when they do good work or not.

Truly Powerful People (293)

293.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

This is an image from Mark. We’d just finished eating a ton of great Mexican food and were entertaining the last of our margaritas. We were talking about E.O. Wilson’s book Consilience, an amazing thinker thinking about the unity of knowledge. Mark loaned it to me a few months ago and I’d just finished reading it.

Just as physicists are searching for a unity principle, E.O. Wilson writes about the possibility of a similar discovery or revelation that might unify the totality of knowledge, a unifying the theory of everything. That is a huge undertaking and it is a book that warrants multiple readings.

Unity is the human impulse. Every culture has their tree of knowledge, the story moment when we slip out of the garden and into duality (separation), and every culture has their return to the tree of everlasting life, the return to unity, oneness. If you have a purpose, you are separate from the whole. If you seek, you are distinct from what you seek; you are separate. The desire for unity is the desire for self-knowledge, to know your self in wholeness. Perhaps the yearning for unity is the impulse beneath all knowledge (this is one of the ideas that drive truly powerful people).

This was the image that Mark offered: he said that consilience is like the Big Bang. When we talk about the Big Bang theory the question that always arises is, “What happened in the moment BEFORE the Big Bang?” Our search for unity, for wholeness progresses to a finer and finer point, simplicity that is possible when the separation consciousness begins to drop away. And, like a moth in a flame there is one brief moment when you know yourself (you must be distinct to witness yourself enter oneness) and in that brief moment, the moment of unity, the moment of being consumed by the whole, like the Big Bang, it is too much and explodes again into a zillion pieces and the pieces will begin again the search for wholeness. It is a cycle; to reach your fulfillment is to return to the beginning.

With every inhale there is an exhale. With every birth there is a death. Like the tides, the distinction of the water being in or out, of birth being separate from death, is only a trick of language, our attempt to contain and describe energy in motion that knows no distinction. Why not imagine the moment before the Big Bang the moment that consciousness finally approaches knowing itself as unity, and the experience of unity is such a powerful force that it blows itself out of the garden? Again. Like Sisyphus, it is not the arrival that matters but the engagement, the quest for wholeness that makes life sweet.

Truly Powerful People (292)

292.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Here’s one from Viv. She doesn’t know it but it is also the resolution to a challenge. For years I’ve been teaching about split intentions and although it seems to me like an easy concept to grasp (to me), it is a slippery concept. A split intention is to try and serve two masters at the same time. It is to try and listen to the devil seated on your right shoulder while also heeding the angel on your left. This ridiculous yet pervasive notion called multitasking is a study in split intentions. Driving while texting is a split intention: studies tell us that it’s the equivalent of driving drunk – really drunk. That is also true of most split intentions: the split leads you to believe that you can do anything – it is especially useful in giving you the illusion of efficiency but when you’re drunk it is easy to believe you can sing, or dance, or fly, too. You’re not more efficient, it just feels that way because you’re moving too fast and are stressed out of your mind.

Most artistic blocks are rooted in a split intention. In fact, most business challenges, hurdles in education, political stalemates, and stress-related health problems can be traced back to a split intention. And, wouldn’t it be nice, I said to myself just yesterday, to have a nice metaphor, proverb, or catchy lyric to encapsulate the concept of a split intention. Then, Viv flew in today and dropped this Chinese proverb on me via a Twitter egg:

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

I have nothing more to add. Case closed…except for this: do you know when you are chasing two rabbits? Do you know what the rabbits are and why you are chasing them? Just checking (Thanks, Viv!).

Truly Powerful People (291)

291.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Sammy showed up one day outside the door to my office. She was a white dog, a Samoyed. My office was in an old army barracks and my door opened to the sidewalk. I looked up from my desk and Sammy was looking at me. I knew the moment that I saw her that I was to be her steward though I didn’t know why. She knew it, too and I’m certain that she knew why but was not going to tell me.

She followed me around all that day and I took her home with me that night. The next day I put up flyers, Dog Found, all over campus. No one called. After the third day I took down the flyers; Sammy was mine to care for.

She was fully trained. She was easy to care for. She was happy and always by my side. Where did she come from? She had no collar, and no tags.

For a short time I had to hide Sammy from my landlord because I wasn’t supposed to have pets though I’d resigned my job and was moving at the end of the month so I wasn’t too concerned. My friend Roger was moving in and I didn’t want to make things difficult for him.

I moved a long way away, entered a time of deep turmoil and Sammy came with me, my constant companion, my studio dog, the steward of my transformation. She was never hooked by my story of pain, she never bought my doubts or reinforced my self-imposed limitations; she loved life regardless of the story I played and reminded me at crucial moments to step out of my story and breathe; a wagging tail, a reminder-bark, “It’s time for a walk. It’s time to get out of your head and that dark story you are telling.”

New Years eve, two years after leaving my old job and my old house to my friend Roger, I was driving through my old town on my way home. Sammy was suddenly very sick. Roger had given me his keys to the house in case I needed to stop. I needed to stop. Somehow (before the age of cell phones) I found a vet. It is uncanny to me that Sammy died in the place where I first found her. The vet told me that she had lupus and in dogs, the first episode presents as a false death. The second episode is the real death. I found her – well – she found me after the first episode. Someone had dumped her body thinking she was dead.

Her death was the straw that broke me. All that dark story and logjam of feeling came busting out. Everything that I had hidden, withheld, denied, feared, loathed, poured out of me. And then there was space for the new. Circles come back around. Loss brings found, growth is never linear, stories sometimes need catalysts to loosen our grip; sometime you hope the fall will kill you and you are grateful when it doesn’t. I thought I was her steward and she knew that she was mine. She had limited time and a big job to do. Unconditional love was the only trick in her bag and it worked like a charm. Circles come around and around and I’m still amazed at the coincidences and serendipity of my life. All I know is that letting go, as painful as it seems, will never kill you. Hanging on will slay you slowly every time.

Truly Powerful People (290)

290.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Ten years ago I met Jack Yantis at the Seattle Children’s Theatre. I’d just moved to Seattle and knew almost no one in the city. I wheedled an invitation to attend a workshop for actor-teachers led by Jack. He guided us through a series of simple movement experiences that were brilliant, illuminating and fun. With minimal structure he had us moving through space with grace and abandon. Above all else, I remember how the group moved from a single impulse, many people moving as one being.

The first thing we did that night was to find stillness. “Allow your movement to come from stillness,” Jack said. “Let your movement return to stillness.” Just like life! We come from stillness and return to it. “The stillness is available to you,” he said, “you just need to find it, remember where you left it.” He laughed. Jack was filled with mischief and laughter.

“Finding stillness” is a great phrase and is harder to do than you might imagine. Busy lives and busy minds afford little stillness. Unless you have a meditation practice, stillness is probably something you avoid. In stillness you discover things about yourself; in stillness you uncover things about yourself and then you have to act on them or choose to deny them.

Stillness means more than to simply stand still. Jack guided us; we found it first in our bodies, in our limbs, in our faces, and finally in our minds. And in that lovely stillness, there was an impulse that was basic and undeniable, it was the impulse to move toward each other, to move with each other. It was not a personal impulse, not individual, it was shared, it was bigger than any single person in the room. And, when we followed the impulse, our dance amplified the space between us, as if the space were moving us instead of the other way around.

This is the impulse that the artist understands. This is the impulse behind true power. It is basic and undeniable that if you are capable of getting out of your own way, of allowing your life to come from the stillness, that life will move you toward others, toward fulfillment and the empowerment of all. As Jack taught us, “The stillness is available to you. You just need to remember where you left it.”

Truly Powerful People (289)

289.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

My family had a tradition after opening gifts on Christmas morning. We’d pile together in a wrapping paper food fight and pelt each other with paper wads, tackle each other, bury each other in the tissue, ribbons, wrappings and boxes. Exhausted and exhilarated, with our bow-festooned heads poking out of the pile, we’d take a picture. We’d laugh and throw the paper again. We’d dog pile my father, my mother shouting, “Don’t hurt your father!”

This many years later I barely remember the gifts I was given or the stuff that I thought was so important to give, but I remember in vivid detail the paper throwing bacchanalia, the play and abandon in the celebration of our love for each other, the joy of having parents and brothers and a sister. Now, I like to think that the gift-giving part of the process was necessary only to generate the paper to throw.

Once, while spending the holiday at my sister’s home, I heard her shouting to her children as they piled onto my brother-in-law, “Don’t hurt your father!” All grown up now, my nieces and nephews carry on the tradition with their children.

Our rituals reveal the truth of us. I hope your rituals leave you laughing and yearning for more time with the people you love.