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.

 

 

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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

Check out my new book, Participation: Falling in Love with Reality
Also available for Kindle

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Participation (Falling in Love with Reality) – Wonder: Part III

A Heart of Wonder

Stillness,
how necessary
for our movement
in the world,
time to absorb
blessing, for the sake
of expanding.

To expand is to wonder.
To wonder is to expand.
Trueness pondered,
voice amplified,
expectations released
into the flow.

We spread, not to cover
nor overshadow.
But self to decrease
and Trueness to increase;
we then
feel the rhythm
hear the middle melody
see the impact,
and know oneness
in the experience.

Experience
places memory pins
on the track of my journey,
tying together
the privilege I’ve known
through the Spirits
encountered.

Oneness, a reality
difficult to grasp
without the strength
of Love.

But oneness, like it or not,
was ordained, at the beginning,
at the foundation,
at the source
of the flow.

The italicized excerpts are journaling done on a trip to the beach one year in early May, as subtropical storm Ana passed through:

All of nature−all-and-each-in nature−are thrilled with the sun and stillness: in the flow of life & living, even through the storm and especially now after!

It was tempting to be angry, feel a bit cheated of sorts, at the presence of subtropical storm Ana−this prior to our departure to South Carolina. But in what I hope was trust−and simple living−we decided to leave as planned. And now I sit and write this looking at the beauty of peaceful sky, a full day ahead of what was predicted.

It was pure blessing for us to shift our expectations to the unexpected.

To forgive everything is to release our desire into the flow, and our wade in its stream. To see the unfolding is to trust the impact we were called to have as we observe with Wonder, at the pinnacle of intent, the fitting together of it all. And right in between we walk confidently with the creative tension of everything belongs.

How necessary it is to forgive ourselves so we might love another the way they need to be loved. I am not free to love if I have not love moving freely within. Love takes over everything. That is the way it’s supposed to be−the way it was designed to be.

This we must believe−not in the meritocratic manner in which far too many of us have been brought up and steered about. That upbringing too I must forgive!

Watching one scene long enough you can see the world the way it was all made to be, how it is all intended to work together. Seeing, and loving the seeing, is living.

The contrast … leaving our place in the Appalachian chain to be in the strand along the Atlantic, both are wonders, alive with eternity.

I of course am very glad we came on as planned in spite of uncertainty with Ana−the stalled subtropical system. In some strange form of experiential joy I’m very glad this storm was present at our time. Therein was a contrast of experience, a natural joy we would have missed otherwise, but the experience of which is making the privilege of being here something to gently hold.

It is important to be purposefully peaceful as often as possible, daily, and even multiple times a day. A dedication to purposeful peace makes us more real, free in who we really are. Being purposefully peaceful does this by slowing us down in order to feel, hear, and see. Only in such vulnerable space can we hold reality while simultaneously releasing reality. This is where life and living come together and become life & living.

Life is to be honored. And there is life beautiful all around to be observed; to be presently appreciated. And in so doing, living happens−it happens to us, as we participate in what we see.

Blessed indeed I am. It is important now that I carry this knowing with me in every step onward. This knowing of blessedness enriches my steps and ensures kindness in how I see along the path.

An ocean apart …

I’m not currently sitting on the beach. But the thought above hit me. Looking into the seemingly eternal expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, I actually feel close to those on the other side−not separated, but joined somehow.

I suppose I know the somehow, right? Of course I do. It’s the precise same joining I know with these happy birds going about their morning.

So joined we are. What now?

 

Participation (Falling in Love with Reality) – Wade: Part I

Simplicity, Reality, and Love

I just want to step in
and Wade.

I only want to be steady
and quiet
in my Walk.

I want to hear and know
Oneness as I allow into my life
Wonder–at the smallest,
simplest, and so very important things
of an everyday life.

Moving back to Ohio after twenty years is one of the most significant transitions we’ve experienced. It has been a beautifully demanding transition, calling our minds and hearts into the atmosphere of present being.

It was the middle of October, waiting for the color, and I was in my new favorite coffee shop thinking on this next series of writing. I began to soak in a joy I felt, while resisting any temptation to stray away from the depth I sensed in the stream of joy.

I had just released my fourth book; a book of selected verse encouraged out of me by my beautiful friend, editor, and publisher. Do I have yet another book in me? I think so, maybe more than just one. Parker J. Palmer talks of being one of those writers who only has one book in him, but he continues writing about the topic in varying expressions. I feel this as well. And like Palmer, I don’t seem to mind.

I’m a simple person I suppose. It could seem I do not like challenge, not writing multiple books on varying topics, but it is very challenging to write about the one topic providentially placed in my very soul. This topic doesn’t define me, rather it is a wonderful energy force in my soul–this thing I know as Trueness.

Wade–Walk–Wonder

So, why this alliteration? As my soul-sister Pam said, it has a flow inherent. And as she knows from her encouragement of me, I am captivated by flow, and the rhythm it washes into the open.

It begins in the Wade. I step into life and living freed from the lie of any single expectation. Forgiving everything, gently placing all in the flow, allows me to step out and Walk in the beauty of it all–all that is reality. In the steadiness of such walking, I am deeply encouraged by how it all fits together (how it can all work together for good, if I only allow it to do so). Then, at some point I begin to actually see an unfolding; and this is the Wonder.

In this day and time, I find it sad when we allow ourselves to not be filled with wonder. We believe we are well-informed, that we see and understand so much. All that, to me, gets in the way of real Wonder.

I hope you will stay with me as writing within this rhythm unfolds; for your own Wading, Walking, Wondering.

Creative Tension – Part 3A of 7

Gather to Give
A Transition into Generous Leadership

Generously, is how Trueness flows out into the world.

In the book Immortal Diamond, Richard Rohr says that expectations are just resentments waiting to happen. And as I’ve painfully learned about myself (my false, selfish, limiting side), it is my quickly scripted expectations that cause the very distress I want to blame others for causing–as they miss the mark inked by my stupid expectations.

One who sees himself “in charge” –believing he ultimately has the answers–is going to struggle with actually becoming a leader. A haughty, in-charge, must-be-right individual has nothing to give, for nothing has been gathered through experience; her hands have been too full of herself.

You truly give externally only when you know how to give internally.

Trueness is not just to be acknowledged, it is to be known and cared after. And if there is a solid definition for Trueness, then it is probably generously wrapped in freedom from expectation. This is A New Confidence.

How does all this apply to leadership, or being a leader? If leadership is influence through presence, then we give through our intentional presence. The Trueness of a leader flows into the world only as it is freed from having to be right.

There were many experiences building one on another that began to shake these things from my hands. But such release was further facilitated as I learned and practiced with the knowledge of Carl Jung’s understanding about our personalities and preferences. Each time I gave to another from practicing with this knowledge, I let go of one restriction after another to my Trueness, and therefore my leadership.

Gather flows into giving as we step into the movement that is generosity of sprit.

Go back to Parker Palmer and Jennifer Rainey as they encourage our rhythm and help us set it right and fully experience Gather-Give-Grow:

  • Slow down. Practice disengagement.
  • Do more with less. Discipline yourself to see the patterns around you.
  • Pay attention to rhythm. Deliberately look for people with opposing viewpoints to engage in conversation.

Disengagement is not shutting down all functioning systems. Rather, it is about focusing the best of who you are in order to, as a leader, Gather.

Gathering places you in the middle with learning and consequent practice. This is where you see your Trueness in the patterns, and Give.

Trueness opens you to experience and you find yourself present with others. You gather for such presence. You give in such encounter. And as it is with life-giving rhythm, we all Grow.

A Leadership Poem: In the Middle Space

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The Rhythm of Journey – Part 6 of 7

The Trust View – Desire & Intent

In The Stream I talk of the flow and of the need to stand still in it. In The Path I speak of the steady walk.

The Trust View holds both movement and stillness.

The Trust View is a place you go internally to make balanced-sense of all external experience. This view is metaphorically real when B.J. and I go into the heights nearby and hike a trail leading to a summit; a high point that balances ascent and descent.

At such summit we pause and consciously open to all that can be seen. Without words we find encouragement for the journey to continue.

To see the unfolding is to trust. Put another way, if we don’t trust we will not see. The  Trust View is a place to see, a place to be in the moment of totality. The Trust View is the third note in the rhythm of journey.

The Paradox of Desire & Intent

I am blessed deeply at a refreshing level by those with whom I have the opportunity to commune through this work I’ve been given. I am rich beyond any measure with which I previously dreamed. Such fills me with a clear and flowing sensation known as gratitude.

I was led to this work of encouraging leaders over a lifetime of experience. Each experience of what I loved to do was accompanied by one I didn’t so much love. This is the paradox of experience.

At each point of desire–that something I cannot help but want through my work–I am driven to act by that which seems to wonderfully control me. At each point of intent–what I want for the other through our experience together–I am drawn to persistently encourage in spite of the reality that I cannot control the outcome. This is the paradox of Desire & Intent; the binding-together of passion and purpose.

Gratitude is not a passive response to something we have been given, gratitude arises from paying attention, from being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. –David Whyte, Consolations

In this 21st Century it is important that we experience leaders who desire to live into passion, and intend action with purpose; and find fulfillment in presence–while leading others to the same participation.

To see the unfolding is to stand in the place where observation and participation meet and swirl together, creating the joy of experience, a beautiful blend of being and doing.

Stand first in the presence of your own Desire & Intent, then presently lead us to focus on the story that binds us together, influenced by presence within and presence without.

A Poem at WadingtheStream.com Presence Within & Without

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The Rhythm of Journey – Part 3 of 7

The Stream (Stillness/Flow)

Stillness/Flow is the creative tension in the paradox of Hold & Release.

In part 2 we stepped into the stream. There we continue to understand its particular paradox of power. In this part we consider the reality of tension that is in-between two seemingly opposite truths. The tension is creative because standing still in such movement is the only way we begin to see.

As I am being taught, when I am attempting control it is on some external issue or some internal matter that I just want to be other than what it really is.

Reality: The tension is always there.
Reality: The tension is creatively free only as we no longer have a need to label.

“The world is afraid of reconciliation. We prefer to live in a world of black and white where we create and maintain enemies, because that keeps our own group together. … Our human nature has trapped us in certain positions that have a degree of culture-forming logic to them but overall are simply untrue.” –Richard Rohr

This from Rohr is a reminder to me; to be deeply thankful and presently grateful for the fading need within to label and set apart what is naturally one.

The Creative Tension (Stillness/Flow)

It occurs to me that George was firmly focused on the flow. Our call was eight months after the business case/simulation of which I was privileged to be a part. This was one component in an effort to train and equip technical experts with consultative skills.

I asked him how this was going all these months later. “Aggravating” was his response. It seems the recipients of George’s good intentions were not progressing as he had envisioned, or hoped. As I listened, and asked further questions, he began to dig a little deeper into what he might yet do. His questions of me were about tools or resources he might leverage.

As I’ve learned wading the stream, I must be very aware of the flow without giving it my entire focus. In order to remain sure of foot in the current, and find a place to stand, I must focus on the bottom.

Finally, I knew it was time to give George a bit of encouragement. I set it up by stating that he didn’t need another’s program, and hopefully brought it to stillness by saying, “George, you can do this.”

Attempts at control throw us out-of-balance, causing us to see stillness and flow as a contradiction (either/or). The only control I, in reality, possess is my now experiential knowledge that I have no control–and more importantly that I do not want such (at least not any more). This stills me in the flow.

I am not part of the flow by being swept away. The flow is experiential as I find my place to stand in the middle and cast for what is important–and real.

The only way to love the flow, and in the flow love, is to stand still.

The Stream–a necessary note in the rhythm–is a place to fully be. It is a moving reminder, flowing around your stillness, that you are part of something larger.

It includes you–Your Trueness.

A Poem at WadingtheStream.com: The Reality of Experience

On the Creeper Trail