Sustenance: A Participation Essay

One by one the seeds of a false self die, each falling into the blessed soil of Trueness and sprouting forth into Universal Reality. Much of what comprises the false self (or ego, if you prefer) is from what we have experienced, and what we have experienced, in truth, serves valid purpose, if we but allow it to be so. If any part of this experienced self becomes bad, it is probably when the time to let go of some particular event or situation is past and one finds himself/herself holding on.

Life is full of crosses to bear, junctures of this and that; what once seemingly worked meeting the call of a new direction – one we most likely resist, at least at first introduction. For me personally, I find myself at a juncture of sorts, at the crossroads of love and presence. It’s a place where I’m being asked to consent to true compassion. What does this mean? What does this look like? Interestingly, it’s a compassion that begins with self.

I’m no youngster, and I am still learning daily about letting go. More and more I’m understanding that the reality of possibility can only become truth when I let go of each dead seed of the falseness that no longer serves the true self; allowing each seed to now draw from the richness of Trueness.

Holding Tender all that is Past
After completing the essay preceding this one, I sat for a bit to see if I might receive some vibe as to what should follow. For some reason sustenance was what came to me. As I began to write I found myself asking if this was about sustaining Trueness. Yes? No? Or just maybe? Yes, and not only about sustaining Trueness, but so much more: the last many months being very challenging to both my strength and my stamina as a physical, emotional, spiritual being. It has been difficult balancing energy required internally and externally during the transitions of the last few years.

As I worked on the introductory paragraphs to this essay, I sat in an old house where a friend named Cindy grew up, now a coffee shop. Looking out the shop window, I was vividly reminded that right in my view was the very small complex where BJ and I had our first apartment. I loved this little place, and I still love it. It seems almost unchanged in all these years, albeit very well maintained. Such a memory is somehow very sustaining, fact and feeling working together for the good of my spiritual strength and stamina.

BJ and I have been partners in everything we’ve been through. It is as important as ever that we continue this commitment to partnership and Trueness. It is also important to reestablish a sense of community for our individual selves and our part in serving the collective whole.

“Indeed, we cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner without all our companion beings throughout the Earth.” –Thomas Berry

A recent commitment has allowed me to work with some very pleasant individuals. One of them is a 25 year old man, husband, father of two boys and a girl on the way. Near the end of one particular workday, he and I were standing and talking together. He was sharing with me about his work schedule and how little time he felt he had with his beautiful wife and children. I listened, and then I shared the following: It all goes by very, very fast. Do the best you can to slow it all down by simply being as present as you can. If he can succeed even a little bit with such presence he will have very little to regret. He will be able to hold the past tenderly because he held as best he could the many opportunities of love and presence with conscious tenderness.

Allow me to reflect on what Trueness is:

Who one is since the beginning is already present, with colors and hues on an original palette, simply waiting to be stroked into present being by the dance and dialogue of artist and canvas.

Sustaining
In his intriguing book, Thank God for Evolution, Michael Dowd speaks about day language and night language. I realized how this seemed to equate to what I’ve long referred to in my writings as external and internal (day language/night language); or, the necessary balance of tangible and intangible.

In the soil of Trueness, the self finds the nourishing balance needed beyond the basics of survival and safety. One can truly know the why of all contemplation and each conscious action. For me personally, Trueness is what was given from the beginning. Trueness also must include all that has been a part of my evolution to this point. Nothing is lost. Everything is used.

“This way of perceiving is transformational and empowering. ‘The Universe can be trusted’ is a very useful belief. When I act as if all things work together for the good of those who love Reality and are called to serve a higher purpose, I love my life! What more could I want?” –Michael Dowd

Beyond the basics of survival and safety, what sustains you? For me, I know it’s Purpose; it always has been. Even way back when, after my first year out of the university, I was recruited into life insurance sales where I leveraged my propensity to study, combined what I learned with my desire to ‘sell purposefully’ to those who would become clients, and became the rookie of the year in that company’s territory. The why behind this drive of Purpose is the strength of my voice, Encouragement. To encourage  another is the one thing I cannot help but do when my voice is in flow. As I composed this essay I realized that the glue holding together purpose and strength is, for me, compassion.

I still hold a definition for contemplation I expressed in my book, Participation: It is compassion for oneself, and all, as one. My mom was a deeply compassionate spirit. She taught me early on how to have compassion for others. Moving back to my hometown after all these years, I am reminded of some of these relationships as a youngster. One in particular lived on a street I drive down quite often as I take a short cut to our house. Andy was a bit different than the normal young boy at the time. We were friends. I don’t remember a lot about what we used to do when we played together, but I do remember something after we entered high school and were both in the band. As freshmen, we were picked on by the older members. And because Andy was not like the rest, he was picked on by fellow freshmen. While I never succumbed to high school peer pressure with drugs, alcohol, or such, I sadly joined the picking on of Andy. I wish I could see him and apologize. With today’s technology and tools, maybe I can track him down and do just that. This possibility reminds me of the life-giving flow of: Forgive Everything; Everything Belongs; See the Unfolding. In the meantime, I will keep taking the short cut home down Andy’s old street and trust he has had a good life.

So, as I’ve worked through this essay on sustenance, I’ve given some practical and meaningful definition to what sustains me beyond the basics. It is super encouraging to me, at this time, to know that compassion has shown itself in the work I’ve made purposeful and in my presence with each individual with whom I’ve been blessed to work, and encourage. I suppose that Trueness has been at work for some time.

Again, Trueness: Who one is since the beginning is already present, with colors and hues on an original palette, simply waiting to be stroked into present being by the dance and dialogue of artist and canvas.

If this is indeed Trueness (night language), then how is it sustained practically and plainly (day language)?

Evolving; Moving Forward
At the time of this writing, we are only four months into this geographical transition back home. For reasons I’ll not go into here, the flow of business didn’t seem to make the transition with us; at least not very well. So I needed to make a decision: keep chasing transactions or step back for a time. I decided to step back. Based on where I am in life, and work, I dedicated the next six months to contemplating the work and what it is now asking of me.

Thankful I am to be reminded of not only how important Purpose is to me in my Trueness, but how it has practically worked for all my adult life. Don’t get me wrong, there were times of straying, conforming to the particular machine of the moment. I was never successful in truth during such times. The practicality of Purpose pulled me back, giving me ample opportunity to encourage others, furthering the realness of compassion.

So yes, I’ve set aside both time and energy for contemplating where I am now, who I am in this work, and who I yet want to be in doing what it is that I do. One of the realities of the work I’ve done thus far is that I will not in this lifetime know the consequent influence and/or impact my work has had on each individual. I’ve come to be at peace with this reality.

“I am now a sower of life I will not see with these eyes. And I am committing to creating a community of sowers who can let go and let our work and intentions and someday impact be received by all that is.” –Dan Roller

As I contemplate where now I am, what this work now asks of me, I must bring into the process the trust and faith of the sower, whose actions are energized by Trueness, my unique art.

Trust the Mystery

The mystery of impact,
a paradox hard to hold,
being who I am
doing what I do,
to what end?

The answer held truly
by the one, herself
by the one, himself
read aloud in their own lives.

In the theater of my life,
I stand somewhere between
the second and final acts,
scenes replaying and lovingly teaching.

Youth now walks behind me,
but deserted me it has not.
Its diligence dutiful and due,
its design served adequately.

From the words of life & living,
a manuscript evolving,
my impact unfolding in the chapters,
written by others
finally by me being read.

And read I do
often and openly.
no longer hiding,
impact embracing,
the mystery holding,
the mystery holding me.

Notes:

Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 2006. (p. 33)

Dowd, Michael. Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World. New York: Plume, 2009. (p. 58)

Roller, Dan. What I Choose to See Blog: Sower – June 24, 2019

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Spacious: A Participation Essay

My years of study, and consequent writing, have led me into contemplation; a space of being with something long enough to begin to see a bit differently than conditioned.

One particular area of broader seeing is that of selflessness. I am often compelled to encourage an individual leader to not think of our time together as selfishness; taking time away from those he/she leads and serves. Instead I ask that they see our time as selfless, making themselves better for those led and served through work emerging from application and practice in Trueness.

“Practice is standing in the flow, whereas theory and analysis observe the flow from a position of separation.” –Richard Rohr

Need for Retreat
As of this writing, fifteen years have passed since she took retreat in our then hometown in the mountains. Sheri and I first met when I transferred to an operational data center in Ohio. She eventually became the educational liaison for my division, and by that time had become a good friend. Even though she retired a few years back, and it has been quite some time since we worked together, anytime I hear the term Servant Leader, I still think of Sheri. In her work, and in my experience of her, I’ve never known anyone in the corporate environment so selfless.

While I had been wanting for some time to lead a retreat for leaders in that little Tennessee town in the mountains, Sheri actually requested something specifically for herself and one key, important direct report (himself a powerful example of service). At that time, she was leading the team focused on personal growth and development; the very team that she and I had dreamed of and then worked together to form. The subsequent retreat included structured exercises with me as Coach, and some solitary, reflective time.

In preparation for retreat I asked them each to come with expectations based on a preliminary understanding of what we might do, together and individually. My method with most anything I do as a Coach/Consultant is to be prepared with structure: Methodology to assure a Client they are in good, experienced, and loving hands. However, this is what I know: No matter the structure/plan, things will unfold differently once you’re face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) with the individual, or a group of individuals.

Giving Way
Many of my fondest memories in my corporate life are those with Sheri. What I learned about her, as well as from her, is a form of selflessness rooted in a way of being that is about giving away. It is giving away, freely and actively, directed assistance to individual need, and doing so from love. In the process, it can also become giving a way, freely and actively assisting in a manner that teaches and transfers to the one served strength and energy for the journey.

The team we cofounded in those corporate days together was one focused solely on the growth and development of the individuals and teams in our care. In our work together – in being with her, and she with me – it seems she had a knack of grounding me in the reality of a given moment. As such, she opened a space to be at peace with what is. Only then could we, individually and together, move with both freedom and action toward what was good and right for the situation or circumstance.

We are always a giving, a resonance, never a possession of our own.
–from The Divine Mirror, a meditation by Richard Rohr

I honestly don’t remember what Sheri expected as she came into retreat, beyond maybe some personal inspiration and/or a bit of rejuvenation. But I do remember that as we began the retreat, I asked for a picture (depiction) of who each felt they were in the eyes of others (a brand visual, if you will). Then at the end, I asked them to adjust that visual with any insight from the time in retreat. I wanted to leverage some sort of measurement that would be meaningful to the retreat participant, not the usual survey (what Sheri always called “A Smile Sheet”).

While I don’t have her visual depiction, I do have her comments from the close of retreat:

Going on Retreat was different than anything I’ve ever done because …

“It provided me time in a wonderfully reflective setting to get off the treadmill, relax, reflect and concentrate on myself – my own journey.   I recognized that the self reflection and centeredness will also be of enormous value to my team.

I also came to the realization that it’s not spending time on myself – it’s redirecting the energy management.  For me, that was huge.”

Going on Retreat was a great investment in myself because …

“I’m worth it.  I don’t say that tongue in cheek as had I done this a few years ago I would have felt somewhat guilty.  I ask others to take time for themselves, I need to also.”

I now know I am better equipped to …

“Discipline myself to acknowledge and redirect my energy.
To stay down the ladder (Ladder of Inference – Chris Argyris).
Manage energy and understand that it’s my choice how I use free time but to recognize the time spent in filters.  When I need to spend time/energy on the three team focuses, acknowledge that and do nothing else.

Jeff, this was a wonderful and amazing two days.  It went by too quickly.  In particular, your personal coaching provided me tremendous guidance.  Thank you is just inadequate.”

Do the Work
Sharing these comments is not to boast. I simply invited her into a space; gave her the setting to know the spacious gift of her Trueness. She did the work.

And this is an important message for each of us. We must do the work; the Work of Trueness. You don’t have to earn what you already possess. However, your Trueness is waiting for you to reach down, take its hand, and lead it to freedom.

You are not an uninhabited entity under the control of a mother-ship. You’ve been filled with what you need, from the beginning. This Trueness needs your attention and intention to be freed to do its work in the world; the work of being you. Paradoxically it does take some emptying to be full of this true self. We must let go of the false self that has built up to this certain point, this moment of being asked to now consciously do the work. This doesn’t mean you’ve done it wrong, this thing of life and living. So much of that ‘building up’ was very necessary. It is now no longer useful to you on this journey with Trueness. Bless it and let it go. This is not easy. I guess that’s why we are calling it work.


The Divinely Human Effort

What must I do to earn freedom and space?
Nothing.
What must I know to open and be free?
Everything.
Nothing and everything clash in my middle.
Paradox.

A need to empty, the right to be full.
The work to let go, gift of emptiness.

And now empty, my vision much clearer.
Truly seeing what’s beautifully real.

Reality now rushing in to fill.
Spaciousness given, from the beginning.

Notes:

Rohr, Richard. The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe. New York: Convergent, 2019. (pp. 222 and 227)

The Ladder of Inference. The Reflexive Loop. From the work of Chris Argyris (July 16, 1923 – November 16, 2013).

Allowing: A Participation Essay

Because of the change I spoke of in the essay Home, there’s been much reflection about where I’ve been; some of the thinking good, but far too much of the thinking made me sorrowful and sad. There were no reasons for this, it’s just what happened. Also, I’ve been spending far too much time and energy with thoughts of the future−immediate and long term−with fear in play.

I had only begun to read a lecture by Thomas Keating when I was compelled to stop and write in my personal journal. What stopped me was the question, “Where am I?” At that moment, I knew I didn’t have an easy, or quick, answer. But, where am I? Now? Here? Again, no quick answer. No words. Just yet.

It’s a darn good question though. The question is not a problem to be solved, as is so tempting to my personality preferences, and the more immediate the solution the better. At least that is what ego tells me. Any quick grab at words would only amount to a substantial flow of gibberish.

Kenosis
Who am I? This is a question I’ve held as of late; wondering if I even know in part its answer; not even knowing where to begin to answer. And now the question of Where am I? Maybe the Who question is answered by the Where question, and the contemplation that must come from this tension.

In the first weeks with these questions, I was not at all sure how to explore them. However, I believe a good start was formed on a long Sunday hike in the woods. I realized that kenosis must be allowed in, to penetrate all my thinking, and permeate all my being. As I practice this allowing, I find that the letting go that is coming in is meeting the spirit of kenosis already within−implanted since the beginning.

In the tension of these questions, I suddenly realized my contemplation was holding kenosis and letting go as if they were synonyms. Kenosis is, first and foremost, about emptying the self. Letting go is about not holding anything to a point of harm; damage done as a result of acting from the emotionally reactive false self.

“Kenosis is not the same as renunciation. Renunciation implies a subtle pushing away; kenosis is simply the willingness to let things come and go without grabbing on.” −Cynthia Bourgeault

The Last Bit
Over the years I’ve seen many different methods for getting that last bit of ketchup from the bottle. It seems even with the newer squeeze type that it is difficult to get to the last dollop. This came to me as a metaphor for the emptying of self. Just when I think there is no more to be poured out by some difficulty, a hand seems to pound the bottle. What is different however, in these my older years, is that I now know that hand as a loving one.

As I’ve determined to simply be with the Where and Who questions, I’m realizing a bit more of the meaning of allowing. It is a way of being. As I suddenly realized on that Sunday hike, it is active kenosis that keeps one from over-scripting (from over-identification) with the feelings that often flow from a simple fact. A deep dive into scripting leads to a self-created irrational message, that then, if not very careful, leads one to action that produces regret. This succession always leads one away from the true self, and this I believe is what sin is all about. It is the allowing that settles one back into Trueness.

Fact A simple occurrence; reality. It doesn’t ask for a feeling.
Feeling Normal, but too often based on misleading information: past experience, etc. (and irrational messages).
Script If feelings are not honored and attention taken back to the facts, script writing begins. It seems the script is always irrational. Here we are failing to simply honor feeling (recognition without ‘holding on’).
Action If our actions fall to the end of this succession, we are acting from a false self. However, if we are acting from the fact (reality), we are more apt to act from our Trueness. We are both thinking and acting rationally.

See Notes

So where am I? In part, and probably large part, I’m finding the answer is, present. We forget what is right in front of us when we delve improperly in the past, remembering with regret; and good memories are terribly clouded as we give over too much thought energy to future concern. And, whether with past regret or future fear, to acknowledge that you are not in control is not giving up, or giving in. If one is giving up, or in, then this is not true kenosis, or letting go.

Participation and Reality
Well into the days of journaling that ultimately created this essay, I had a day of going down the wrong side of allow. I allowed feelings, shortness, irritability, and stress in general to interrupt the allowing I’m writing about: A space of peace with what is. It’s time for me to be a full-time, mature adult−to consciously and consistently be who I am, my Trueness since the start. I am transforming to the beginning, a beautiful grace of origin, now with the grace of consciousness of where I came from; from whom I am and who I am.

“As soon as we answer honestly, we have begun the spiritual search for God, which is also the search for ourselves.” −Thomas Keating

It has been a year of accepting some realities. I suppose reality doesn’t know if its tough, easy, good, bad … it just is. If this happens, or that happens, will we be happy? I also suppose that such happiness is simply a choice. Why not choose to be happy with what is?

So, back to “Where am I?” and “Who am I?” It occurs to me that maybe consciousness of the presence of grace and graceful presence is, in reality, active contemplation. And, at this point, that actually sums up where I presently am with these two partnered questions.

Peaceful Reality

More than a few times
I have journaled, early in the morning,
about peace.

Such peace, I believe,
is the desire of my heart.
My body, my soul, my spirit,
desire the peace sung
by the wind in the tall pines;
peace painted
by the joy of a sunrise;
peace spoken
by the words of sunset
after an ordinary day.
Such is the desire
of my true self,
a home where love lives.

For home is Trueness,
and Trueness is with the source
of such peace.

See the Unfolding
This is the third part of the flow of deep awareness in the stream of life and living: Forgive everything, Everything belongs, See the Unfolding. While this level of seeing does require attention, and active, conscious looking, it occurs to me it also requires hearing.

As I listen to the happy song of this early morning wren outside our window, I know I must hear, actually know, the joy of all that exists, that is in this little bird and that is being praised by its song. So, I don’t just see the unfolding, I now participate in and with it, with this beautiful, tiny creature.

Where might the day take one
if, in the beginning of that day,
one stopped before starting
and allowed the reality of creation
to speak?
Speak it does,
but do I hear?
Teach me to listen with spirit,
to hear with soul,
and from love known,
live.

For now I will say, at least in part, that who I am truly is in the place that allowing leads me to; into the full truth of reality. Since defining allowing as ‘a space of peace with what is,’ I’ve found myself returning quite a bit to the phrase. Now I also wonder if I’ve defined my centering prayer word; Home.

Home: A space of peace with what is.

All this doesn’t define reality, but is going far in teaching me to let go−to be in the honest and trustful place of, “It is what it is.” I now realize there’s no need to put definition to reality; there is only the continual practice (and acceptance) of not creating battles based on past conditioning (unreality) or from irrational expectations. If I return Home often enough I believe I can actually learn to live here in this space of allowing.

“In this life, happiness is rooted in our basic attitude toward reality.”
−Thomas Keating

Notes:

Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Meaning of Mary Magdalene. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2010.

Keating, Thomas. The Human Condition. New York: Paulist Press, 1999.

Keating, Thomas. Intimacy with God. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1994.

Fact-Feeling-Script-Action is a flow based, in very summarized form, on the work of Chris Argyris (July 16, 1923 – November 16, 2013). I learned about this flow originally as Fact-Feeling-Story-Action from the facilitators at Interaction Associates, in their course entitled “Facilitative Leadership.” As ‘scripting’ carries its normal negative emphasis, and because of my subsequent involvement with the International Storytelling Center, I changed ‘story’ to ‘script’ in my work as a Leadership Coach.

Work: A Participation Essay

In the 5th grade I wrote an essay entitled, The Therapy of Work. I suppose the commitment to do my part in influencing our places of work to be more animated with love, abundance, and freedom goes back a few years. Many years later my Mom gave me a box packed with artwork I had done through my growing years. In the box was the composition.

As I set out to write an essay on Love, I had every intention of letting the words find me, lead me actually, and guide me deep into self where I know love began for me. And that the words did. Surprisingly however, I found myself back again reflecting from the experience of this work I do, and in full truth, from the varying forms of work I’ve known for more years than I care to state. That 5th grade essay on work as therapy was either some form of youthful wisdom, or a cultural voice preparing me for life to come. It is most likely both.

Curse or Course?

I remember a time, when my journey with occupational activity was not going so well, when I developed a theology about work based on Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden. I determined, in relation to Adam, that work was the curse cast upon me; that this was the way it was supposed to be, and would remain so.

I certainly did not start out with this mindset, as when I was around 13 years of age I sold toys in the days before Christmas at the store my grandmother managed, or when at that age I ran my own lawn care service in my hometown. I don’t remember when I began to come out of the curse mindset, but I’m sure my evolving belief was driven by the survival instinct of soul. Why would anyone live under a curse when there was an option for freedom? Was it a choice between pessimism and optimism? Or was it a decision to act consciously and live within my own Trueness?

Thankfully yes, it was a choice in the forward course of optimism. And while unconscious and unaware at first, it was an outward decision to live within Trueness. But when composing an essay on Love, why did I write about work?

As a child I was very introverted, a combination of personality traits and chronic asthma limiting my exposure in the larger world. I spent a large quantity of time alone entertaining myself. Later offering my services of yard maintenance to neighbors began to teach me disciplined interaction with others as I built those working relationships. Then working at my grandmother’s store, selling to those shopping for children, opened me to a different form of relational transaction. It seems that maybe that essay in the 5th grade was not done with me.

And then there’s the challenge with love; the one that tells us how easy it is to love those who love us, who are easy to love. And that love is at its truest when we also love those who do not necessarily return love, or who at first, biased look don’t seem lovable. So maybe in my youth, work was a more open space for learning in this challenging course of love broadened.

Purpose and Work
Work is not just about a job; a set of responsibilities for which one is compensated from monetary resources. If one allows, it is a classroom of university proportions, providing the environment for learning and the field for application and tangible practice.

Later in my journey with work, as my accountabilities began to include direct leadership of others, I developed a theology to drive my methodology with which I would offer and provide an environment of optimism and forward progress. I would tell my people that, considering a normal full-time workweek in the U.S., and at least a bit of commute, we spend nearly two-thirds of our waking life at this thing called work. And because of this, I would ensure an environment supportive of individual fulfillment in the work and expect each one to take advantage of the consequent, personal opportunities.

Besides the fact that not everyone may feel it, I believe everyone needs to know purpose in the work. From my experience working with individuals to shed conscious light on core values, I’ve seen two basic camps when it comes to the value of purpose. There are those who when clear on vision and/or direction bring a natural propensity of purpose to the process of work before them. Then there are those who have an innate drive to more fully understand purpose as the motivation for any action. I warm at the fire of the latter.

The modern world, with its prodigious growth of complexity, weighs incomparably more heavily upon the shoulders of our generation than did the ancient world upon the shoulders of our forebears. Have you never felt that this added load needs to be compensated for by an added passion, a new sense of purpose? To my mind, this is what is “providentially” arising to sustain our courage−the hope, the belief that some immense fulfillment lies ahead of us. −Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Work: A Laboratory for Love
In the essay on Love I talked about the message I was about to send some of the individuals I’ve been privileged to work with through the last 17 years. I’m well into that process and hearing back from some of them as I write this essay. In each message I shared my hope of impact, that each one with whom I’ve worked has felt the power of desire and intent, their own desire and intent as a leader and what I have desired and intended for them from the beginning: that each one embrace the power of who they are as they lovingly lead others to their own authentic confidence, while acting on their own Trueness. And I certainly want to believe that my mission, to work with leaders like them for the sake of more love and abundance in the workplace, has helped them to make their impact.

Here is part of a response from one of the message recipients:

When I put [him] in charge of his team, he asked me what he needed to succeed. I told him to work hard, to be disciplined and to bring passion to his work. I also told him to respect his people and to love his people. If he did that, I told him, your people will walk through fire for you. As I look back over my career and my life, I see that inherent truth with blinding clarity. −Steve

Through the years, my evolved belief about work, and love for a work and love in the work, may be my own personal brand of optimism; a protective position pulling me out of the dark valleys and grounding me at the peaks, keeping me safe from the cliff edge of hubris. This I know; developing love in a work, seeing purpose in the energy expended, and learning what it looks like to love those with whom I’ve worked, has sustained and held me for many years.

So when writing the essay on Love, why did my words gravitate to the work experience? I’ve experienced great love throughout my personal life, knowing unconditional love from so many wonderful spirits. I entered the realm of work knowing the grace of what it means to be loved, and the enthusiasm from within that feeds on such graceful love. From early on then, I wanted to learn my place in the work world; learning to stand confidently in the bright blend of purpose and love. Through a purposeful, and then passionate, approach to work, I knew others simply needed my love.

Notes:

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre.. The Future of Man. New York: Image Books-Doubleday, 1964.

 

Love: A Participation Essay

In a recent visit with a dear friend, I shared my desire to offer something extra to those I’ve coached through the years. My friend asked me why I was considering this. After a few moments of stumbling around logical answers, I heard myself saying, I love them.

Because of the love I have for the individuals I coach, I want to continue to be available for them along their journey deeper into, and with, Trueness. The deep context of this work I do has driven me further into my own Trueness. Or is it better said that going deeper into my own Trueness has driven me further with this work? Whichever, I am recognizing a need to share, more often and ever more deeply, the abundance available through becoming aware of one’s rhythm; a life-giving cadence given since the beginning. 

This I know from my experience, if an individual acts from Trueness−living her or his own rhythm−then this person is acting from a unique brand of love. I teach rhythm to the individuals I coach as a way to teach love−love for your work and love in your work−and how such love is profitable, not a business strategy but a way of living Trueness, embracing the rhythm of you.

The True Self
Jim is both a technical expert in his field and a caring and present leader for those he leads, influences, and serves. People depend on him for clarity as they work together in creating a steady approach to accomplish common goals and tell a common story. As he leads them, here’s what they know for certain; he is committed to each one of them, attending to need and strengthening each person as she/he gives to and serves others in the work done.

Trueness is a word I use to encapsulate all I do within this work which has called me out. Trueness is also a way to summarize the expression, who you really are. What is the true self?  Sorry, but I’m not writing this to answer the question. As opposed to answering, it may be that we have to live this question individually. And living the question may be a life-long task.

Jim is driven by a commitment to process in a way that is both efficient and effective: efficient being about the work, and effective being about the people. In the present with his own unique experiences, how they’ve shaped him, and how he knows experience shapes others, he told me that happiness is something he understands better now. Yes, this reflects a level of maturity, but it also displays a depth of connection with his Trueness.

I write these essays not as an expert who has it all figured out. Quite the contrary. I write to actually attempt to grasp things; not grasp and hold on, but to hold things for a bit so I can then let go into the flow of reality. I turned sixty-four on my last birthday. I thought I’d have all this thoroughly figured out by now. I was wrong.

Only those who are totally secure in their love
can live thus fully the present moment.
Thomas H. Green

Love Itself
I am neither qualified nor ready to write about this topic. Yet, I write about love consistently these days. But love itself, what does this mean? I want to become love itself. But what does this look like? At some inevitable juncture it has to look like who I really am. If we are made from love, then we are made of love. So why don’t we act like this is so all the time?

As I was thinking on how to describe what love itself might look like, Jim came to mind. In a recent conversation, I shared a basic principle about leadership and one’s growth and development as a leader. I had not thought about this principle in a long time: Whatever you desire to do for others, you must be able to do for yourself. Jim was referred to me because his boss understands this principle and wanted to give Jim the time and space to give to himself, selflessly. The time Jim is giving to himself, for his growth and development, is energy given for those he leads, influences, and serves. The strength of Jim’s voice is that of presence with another. And his time for himself is not selfish, but again, selfless; making himself better for others.

I met Jim when I was facilitating a leadership experience at his organization. During the lunch break he and I had some time one-on-one. I personally experienced his ability to be present with another. So when his boss mentioned he would like to consider Jim for my coaching program, I pushed forward at the chance to work with this individual and his brand of love.

To love, in all one says and does, is a privilege. It is a privilege because of what it brings to the one who loves. Allow me to make this personal, going from one to I. I love, do love, can love, only because I was first loved; from the beginning. There is great benefit and wonderful blessing in growing older; as long as I do not just get older but actually do grow older−grow in love, always!

The Flow Constant 

Love in the work,
work in the love,
and love works on me.

A quiet morning
and warm Spring rain
reminding of the obligation
to encourage true self,
allowing peace and quiet
at the center;
calmly pushing away
each unnecessary judgment.

This is love.
Quiet. Solid.
Steady and grounded in this Trueness,
it is a sure stand and steady walk;
it is this grace
given by love
of which we are part.

To place into words,
to define my Trueness,
what words might suffice?
Likely done already, this task
of defining self true,
work done in the very work
that called me out.

Yes, but maybe this work
only opens the door of consciousness.
So then, what does it look like
walking through, now enjoying
the deeper quiet, peace,
and love?

Maybe this walk is faith,
and maybe hope, leading
to the flow constant
of love.

Trueness is Love
That dear friend of mine called to check on me (his love in action). We talked about where I am with offering any kind of extended program to my coaching clients. I told him how my expression of love for those I’ve coached had moved my thoughts away from predetermined outcomes and distracting expectation and toward honest expression of the heart. I decided I wasn’t building a new program, I was simply acknowledging love and allowing it to guide me ever more clearly. Confirming my messaging moved me away from generic scripting toward individualized messages of love, a fresh commitment of my love in action.

When I approach things from my own Trueness, keeping my commitment to do what is good and right for me to do (and letting that go to do its thing), and doing this from a personal voice of Love and Encouragement, good things happen. I find myself worrying less about the outcomes, because the outcomes do take care of themselves. Letting go is not about a lack of caring, but simply about not having the need to grasp at things, in a manner where holding on is damaging to self and others. Letting go, we open the space for the true self and its love from the beginning.

When you finally commit to lead, influence, and serve from the rhythm of your Trueness, you can grasp the reality that there is no priority higher than that of your love. So maybe love itself begins within. Through such love, we become the love we’ve always been. This is Trueness. This is the true self.

Letting Go

Wisdom, she smiles.
Maybe even smirks.
The things we grasp,
so not worth the energy.

Let go.
Stop reaching out
to grab onto.
Let it all flow by,
with love, push it all
into the cloud of forgetting.

Notes:

Green, Thomas H.. When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings. Notre Dame: Ava Maria Press, 1998.

 

 

Home: A Participation Essay

The year before meeting my Becky, Billy Joel’s song “You’re My Home,” grabbed my attention. In particular, there was one line that has since been an integral advocate for steadiness as Becky and I have traversed the years; “Wherever we’re together/That’s my home.”

I have literally lost count of the number of times she and I have moved in our years together. This year, just as we were completing the first year in this location, an unanticipated, necessary change was brought into existence, asking us to yet again begin plans for moving. The sad reality may be that this change was not completely a surprise; but you know what is said about hindsight. Foreseen or unforeseen, it is what it is. And here we are, in the thick of ropes and riggin’, a rodeo not new to us.

At such times, it is far too easy to stubbornly continue to view with the lenses we’ve become comfortable looking through, even though they’ve been shattered by trauma, sadness, and/or disappointment. Sudden change, with its on and off, unpredictable companion of despair, can bring one hard to ground, flooding a mind with troubling assessments and doubtful questions. In such times of suffering, rushing to answer questions normal to life and living can actually disfigure original intent into the doubt and assessment that threaten to kill one’s very soul. 

Questions can be like a dear friend, if we allow them to travel with us, not needing to rush to answers. And the questions to which I refer, the ones which will serve us better by holding them for a while, do not come from outside influence. Rather, these life-giving questions come from one’s very soul.

Turning
In my younger years I played a misguided game with religion. Mostly, with hindsight focused at 20/20, I was in a solo contest of approval, attempting to be good enough. I wish such a game of superfluous merit on no one. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I’m not anti-religion. I am against any form of so called faith misdirected for selfish human control over another. Religion is made false when merit becomes the purpose versus love. As Richard Rohr espouses, to be true, religion will always guide us from, and point us to, love.

Love is reality.

In young adulthood, I was accepted into, and came close to attending, seminary. I was 25 years old, we had been married a bit over three years, and our daughter was 6 months old. I had just completed a successful year as a life insurance agent, achieving the Rookie-of-the-Year award, and other accolades in the territory of which I was a part. It was also the year my parents divorced after 30 years of marriage.

As if all that was not enough for my young family, I believed I was being “called” into the ministry. After being accepted by a theological seminary, we sold our first house, I quit my selling job, we packed up, gathered our baby daughter, and headed toward the seminary. In the process of all this, I had a disturbing realization it was not the right time for this decision. We made it as far as my hometown, about three hours northeast of the seminary destination. I became confused to the point of despair. We rented a place and decided to stay for a time so I could supposedly figure out the confusion.

I can still feel the pain of my bewilderment all these years later. More than anything at the time, it seems I had become caught up in the reaction of others to my original (and undeveloped) thoughts of ministry. It felt good to have others be so “proud” of me. Their communication of pride, and my vain connection to what was being said, served ego more than authenticity. When I realized the truth, the agony was great.

Albeit painful, how grateful I am that I was forced along another path. As the path unfolded, I learned things in the corporate experience that became invaluable to me, to my family, and to the leaders I’ve worked with over the last seventeen years. Since consciously launching into a work that chose me, I’ve often looked back on that time. From what I now see, I continue to be grateful we didn’t make it to the seminary campus. For you see, I believe I would not have been where this work could find me had I followed through on that decision.

The ensuing years, with a treasure of experience, prepared me for now, the release into the flow of who I am in what it is I really do; what life and living was preparing me to do all along. The true diversity found in the true self of individuals has taught me things of truth that would not have been available in seminary course work, at least not in the days I would’ve attended. Since that time I’ve been on a journey deep within seeking truth in what I’ve come to know as Trueness.

Trueness is reality.
Trueness is a living paradox
of divinity and humanity,
and a creative tension
of simplicity and complexity.

Returning
Just prior to this year’s change, imploring us to open to one more transition, I’d begun to explore beyond meditation into centering prayer. As part of centering prayer’s methodology, one is taught to leverage a word; a point upon which to return when thoughts demand all the space one is attempting to open with this time of quiet. I chose Love.

When emotions had us in a spiral, I found it extremely difficult to get my spirit into the place where the word love would bring me back from the thinking. I didn’t know what to do. Along with this, the few minutes of time in the morning were not enough. I took a lot of walks in the neighborhood, and hikes along trails in our park system, as I fought back the questions formed in the boiler of disappointment and anger that this was happening.

On one of the walks, while in a particularly downhearted funk, I found myself conscious of the fact I was not breathing normally, and in some moments not at all. I intentionally corrected that by breathing as deeply as I physically could, and suddenly found a different word actually speaking to me; Home.

This transition has our move plans directing a relocation back to the state where we first met and began our life together. On the walk that day, I instantly assumed this different word was because of the talk of going “back home.” Within a few steps I knew something much deeper and greater was being spoken. Home was calling from somewhere deep inside me. Since that walk, as I sit down for centering prayer, my word home settles the mind and opens a space for love. After much openness to both home and love, as words for centering, I’ve begun to feel their confluence; that they are actually one in the same.

In the years since attaching myself to Billy Joel’s lyrical line, home became much less a place and more a territory (inner and outer) worth exploring. Becky and I have explored together within our geographical locations over the years; she is wonderful at researching our locations and planning our outings. Now, in light of current transition, I would say it is important to continue many things as we’ve always done them, and it is of great significance to consciously consider what home now means to us.

Within reason, I’m not sure if I care where we live: As long as I have my Becky, “Wherever we’re together/That’s my home.”

Notes:

Joel, Billy. You’re My Home. Album: Piano Man, 1973.

Rohr, Richard. Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I’m a great fan of David Whyte. I love this brief video about Home:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P92kymp1fxY  

Whyte, David. Poet, Author, and Speaker. davidwhyte.com – Langley, WA 98260: Copyright © 2018

Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice. Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2016.

The Trek Down: A Participation Essay

In the years BJ and I lived among the Appalachian Mountains, we hiked stunning trails in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. We lovingly remember one particular trek in North Carolina’s Land of Waterfalls.

After a day of warming up on a trail along the river by the hotel, we decided to go deeper into the Pisgah National Forest and explore a bit higher. Stopping in at a park visitor center, we met a Scottish Ranger. We probably asked more questions than required, as it was delightful to hear his rhythmic responses. We outlined what we desired to do; hike a trail of medium difficulty for approximately two to three hours. He quickly responded by unfolding a park map and pointing to the trail he believed would fit our preferences. We thanked him, followed his directions, and arrived at the base of the trail. We cinched up hiking boots over hiking socks, retrieved our hiking staffs, and I pulled on the backpack loaded for our medium difficulty and distance hike.

Upward

We have hiked many beautiful trails, and the one in the Land of Waterfalls was no exception. About two hours into the hike we were still climbing, even with the realization that this was going to be a long one, we still found ourselves appreciative of trees, rhododendron, and the skillfully maintained trail; extremely steep sections made more navigable by carefully placed stones harvested from the bounty of the Mountain.

When I graduated from the University, as best I can remember, I think I expected the trail of life ahead would be a relative steady, upward climb. For a time, it was. I know individuals who have climbed their path with such straight, conscious focus, or so that’s how I perceived their ascent. But for me, there were a lot of side-paths, diversions where I was maybe trying to “find myself” (one of those phrases once spoken often by those in my generation).

On my upward trek in life and living, I wish I had been so present and conscious of the beauty surrounding me all along. Even in the lack of due-diligent presence, I’ve still found myself tremendously blessed by the relationships made and maintained along the way.

I’m here to tell you, in spite of the diversions, that the trek upward went way too fast; a speed that breaks my heart. As Parker J. Palmer asks, “Is my heart broken apart or broken open?” I pray continually that it is open. 

The Trust View (At the Summit)

For so long it seems, I looked expectantly forward to getting to the top of the hill, to be filled with experience and wisdom, proud of what was back down that climb of life and living. Certainly I breached the crest with experience, and yes, a certain cache of wisdom, but there wasn’t time to peer back without the temptation to walk back the same way, something that in loving reality was not possible for me.

Certainly I was free to make the choice of which way to descend. Or was I? I’m not sure going back the way one came is necessarily the best way to go home. Or maybe it’s just that trying to go back the same way is not possible due to our own false expectations. Expectations tied to anything other than our own Trueness cause us to want a reality that once was, or anything but what it is in the moment. If we are actually paying attention once at the summit of something, we see the way up with new eyes, and clearly see other possibilities from there. It is such presence at the peak that I call “The Trust View.” It is a place you go, real or metaphorically, to know the balance of all experience.

Our hiking in the Appalachian Mountains taught me something of great value: When you get to the Summit, stop and look. When we reached the top that day, we were enthralled by the beauty of the heights. We could look back down to where we had parked, buildings barely identifiable, and cars looking like frozen ants. To stop and rest in such a view, observation and participation meet and swirl together, creating the joy of experience, a holding together of what has been and what is about to be. At such summit we pause and consciously open to all that can be seen. Without words we find encouragement for the poetry of the journey to continue.

The trust view is a metaphor to balance ascent and descent.

Downward

“Over the hill,” another term once frequently spoken in my generation’s younger years. It was often heard as, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” In general, I didn’t say or think such, or maybe my reality was the challenge of trusting anyone between age thirty and sixty-five.

Growing up, I was fortunate to spend a lot of quality time with grandparents. Even though they are long gone from this earth, their influence stays with me as I continue on the trail of life and living. The gift of time with them was made possible by two parents over thirty. Well anyway, I’m now over the hill according to those old standards, and quite so as I’m almost at that sixty-five limit. But what does this mean?

I’m not certain what all it means, but one thing I know, that it is important to walk steadily with a good hiking staff. In the reality of walking a mountain path, the hiking staff is a smart option for support and security over the hill, allowing other body members to absorb the pounding of the steps downward. Metaphorically, the trek down the hill of life and living requires that I  remain consistently conscious of, and dedicated to, the support I need to steady the walk.

There’s the need and requirement to focus one’s steps down the path on the other side of the hill. I stumbled plenty on the hike upward. While usually recovering my steps quickly, I also had times in a divot dug deeper by self-pity, but I eventually came out of each one of these times and kept walking. Sometimes my steps resumed as I smiled and looked forward with joy. And sometimes I walked on with a tear stained face.

Going Home

It was more than five hours before we saw the base of that trail again in the Land of Waterfalls. Along the descent, probably still an hour to the base, a young couple passed on their way up; they had obviously begun their hike from the other end. As we greeted each other, the woman said, “We’re almost to the top, right?” Without breaking careful downward stride I said, “Whatever you need to tell yourself.” Behind us we heard, “Oh no!”

Once the shock of the distance ahead wore off, I hope that young couple continued on the trail, stopped at the summit, and like us can look back on the day as a beautiful experience. I hope, as they have navigated life and living since that day, that they can see the stones so carefully placed where they needed to be, that their steps will be as carefully placed as they head down, and that they will each see the bounty of the mountain all along the way.

–J. Brunson

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