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.

 

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The Call into the Middle with Poetry & Encounter

Trueness calls us to evolve openly throughout our journey. We evolve truly not by doing things differently, but by doing different things; contemplating and acting from our experience and encounter.

The way of being true is in the middle. When I speak of the middle I naturally include leadership in the meaning. The middle is not a place, or even an attitude. Rather, it is freedom implanted in Trueness. From the middle we grow in the ability to release the wish for a different reality than what is. Our experience in forgive everything is opening us to the belonging that is critical to our learning to flow in the reality of the true self. This is the freedom implanted in Trueness.

I am in the middle of work with leaders because true leadership flows through an individual who is:

  • Contemplative−embracing the Trueness guiding one’s Wade
  • Poetic−trusting the Trueness strengthening one’s Walk
  • Loving−seeing through Trueness the blessed Wonder

Standing to one side, denigrating the other, it becomes impossible to pay attention with love. You may love those who agree with you, and kowtow to your narcissistic stance, but you have gained nothing. And, you’ve given nothing.

Your true self is your poetic presence, the resonance of your reality. Within this reality is your freedom to contemplate and act on what is good and right for you to do. Trueness leads you to the middle of self, a blessed jewel present from the beginning. Now you can bring Trueness vividly to the middle of each encounter. Creating such steadiness in your walk is attention magnified by grace, and reality clearing a path for participation.

Participation begins within, and we must grow and transform individually if there is to be any real participation together.

Your rhythm of Trueness is your art. You must trust your rhythm for the sake of the impact you are meant to have in this needy world. In the middle, the inspiring reality of your Trueness, you lead us to allow our differences to blend and belong, bringing us together into reality and participation.

The Call into the Rhythm of Contemplation & Flow

Trueness will call at you until you pay attention. Trueness is not a persistent partner calling out for you to dance. Trueness is the dance, where you are wholly alive in reality.

The Reality of the Flow

Trueness demanded I step into the flow and pay attention. And attention captured, rhythm was delivered into continually deeper, truer passion and participation. Participation requires courage, and the courage you need to wade into the flow is encoded within your Trueness. Without such original courage you are completely open to the lies of expectation, a set of false standards determined to move you well beyond the reach of your Trueness and its rhythm.

The rhythm of my own Trueness has called me into a work with varying expressions, each spoken from the voice given me since the beginning. It is through these expressions, and maybe because of them, that my rhythm was washed into the open.

In my work, I focus on individual leaders. Consequent of this focus, my writing continually takes me into the stories of these individuals, where each is learning to wade in the awareness of the true self.

Contemplation, Poetry, and Love: Flow, Encounter, and Oneness: All words seemingly esoteric and spiritual. But esoteric and spiritual doesn’t mean that they are not real. Quite the contrary, to only believe in one side of the river over another is unreal, allowing lies that keep you from knowing the reality of the flow.

I talk, and write, about applying the true self in work, and practicing from this original source, because it is what I know. Working full time one spends around two thirds of the waking life in this thing called work. So, as best as one can, why not make it as good as it can possibly be? Why not free both desire and intent into the middle of the flow of Trueness?

With the strength of voice given since the beginning, and the freedom found by stepping into the middle of the flow, hold the pearl of great price, your Trueness.

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

Love & Oneness
To allow the strength of one’s voice uninhibited flow.


In the Atmosphere of Present Being

Jack is an attentive (contemplative) leader. His loving presence is the living measure of his impact in this world, and confirmation of his willing participation in the unfolding of it all−presented to him in what he feels, hears, and sees.

To know the rhythm of being present, you must lovingly embrace the paradox of being both human and divine. To know the rhythm means:

  • You feel your rhythm and open to the gratitude naturally flowing from your core.
  • You hear the true resonance given you since the beginning, standing confidently in the middle and listening to the leader and teacher within.
  • You see more clearly for the sake of opening further the path of impact, a crescendo of your brand of love.

In the atmosphere of present being, you must be willing to humbly hold the impact of your Trueness. Holding impact means:

  • Forgiving your own assumptions, about self and others, freeing the flow of your voice.
  • Embracing the mystery of belonging with all and everything.
  • Trusting that your resonance is doing its work in the world, whether you will ever consciously know this or not.

Trusting Resonance

The month before writing this, I traveled to Chicago to facilitate a confidence building session with 50 leaders for Kevin, the executive I wrote about earlier. Our relationship goes back many years. His wife is Amy, that loving supporter of my work for as many years. As my wife had gone with me on this trip, Amy and Kevin asked us to join them for dinner.

At the beginning of forming my coaching practice, I struggled with marketing myself. Pretty much everything I did marketing-wise was both a train wreck and a waste of energy. At some point, and thanks to a couple of loving colleagues, I found my rhythm in this thing called marketing. This rhythm was found in the merger of my desire to work within the authenticity of the individual and my intent for them to be lovingly confident in their leadership.

I settled into an atmosphere of trust within my own Trueness. Simply, this is what that looks like: If I’ve worked with you, learning your Trueness, and I come across something while gathering, giving, and growing with the work I do, then I will stop and formulate something from the experience to share with you, in a manner that further encourages your Trueness.

At dinner that evening, Amy looked over at me and said, “You know those things you send to us, you need to know how much we value that.” What a blessing it is to hear these words from a valued relationship. The reality is, that doing work like I do, it is rare to hear such. But it is also reality that, whether it is heard or not, the impact is still there. This takes trust, a faith in the actions energized by our own Trueness, our art.

Confirming Love

While we have ample opportunities for improvement in our society, we are free. We are free to do work we love, and in our work, love others. Think about it. And where there are those who may not be readily able to take advantage of such freedom, we as leaders have a solemn accountability to create atmospheres supportive of such life-giving-sharing autonomy.

Soul confirmation, flowing worth
energy for the walk.
Movement, toward relationship
Oneness regarded.

How powerful it is to be confirmed for what you really do from the depths of who you really are. After that evening of dinner and conversation with those two true leaders, Kevin and BJ hugged, he and I shook hands, Amy and BJ hugged, and as Amy and I embraced in an appreciative hug, I said, “I love you.”

It was not an accident. I spoke from the center of my soul.

So, if we work together, will I tell you I love you? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing I will promise you, I willlove you.

What if?

You are different from me.
Such observation begins within.
Thought often turns into statement.
And if behind the statement, fear,
the consequence on the other,
judgment.

In such judgment
is tragedy twofold:
Violence, in the direction
of the other, projected.
Violence, in the direction
of one’s self, absorbed.

Allowing such violence,
projected and absorbed,
one spreads yet another layer
over the blindness
continuing to separate us
one from another.

But, what if …

We are different; Yes!
In such exclamation,
might our eyes open
to see,
not so much, difference,
but the uniqueness
yours
mine
and the fresh oneness
created
each time
we choose to see?

Participation (Falling in Love with Reality) – Walk: Part IIA

Poetry & Encounter

I write poems. I try not to think too much about whether or not I’m good at doing so. To me, a poem is simply a response to an encounter, a rhythmic expression waiting for its encounter.

When writing, I quite often pause to wait for a story to tell, opening me further to my own voice in the composing. Sometimes the stories are from my own experience, but mostly they flow from my experience of another. The experience of another is an encounter with the human paradox, the counterintuitive realities that make life & living worth the attention.

An encounter is a confrontation only when one allows it to be.

The paradoxical quality of encounter is that, although unexpected, it is conflict neutral−an unconstrained, holding together of what we as humans have learned to judge as opposites.

Ericka is a caring, focused, intelligent executive. She is capable of quick, creative, and detailed analysis, and can consequently make decisions in short order. However, her voice of Trust is calling her into deeper presence with others for the sake of more meaningful interaction in a space of creative contribution. She desires for others the reward and fulfillment that come with thinking critically in the midst of our encounters with change and challenge. She leads others into a conflict neutral interval between analysis and action. This is Ericka’s due diligence as a leader, her voice flowing.

An encounter is a lesson in reality, and a true paradox. Consider a meeting of two individuals, obviously different from one another. While common cultural observation may have us trained to perceive our differences, failure to recognize differences may be precisely what keeps us from oneness.

I’ve worked with many people who have expressed the desire to collaborate at both deeper and broader levels. What I’ve learned, especially through my own flailing experience, is that we miss true collaboration and unity because we communicate too regularly from our own context; our own set of preferences both internally and externally. Failing to see the differences between myself and the other person keeps me from seeing past each variance and into the individual’s Trueness, and keeps me from bringing my own Trueness more vividly into the reality and beauty of the encounter.

Reality is infinite. Our thinking is too often finite.

Over the last several years my wife and I have been actively simplifying life & living: working from attic down to rid ourselves of things packed away or no longer needed, selling a property, leasing a down-sized space for two years, then buying a similar space closer to our daughter and son-in-law. Well enough into this process I now ask myself what this detachment is all about.

It began with simplification in mind; we have moved in great strides toward this goal. We have let go of many things, and we still have a bit to do to let go of the need for some other things. However, at this point, I am realizing the goal was less about simplification, or even detaching from things, and more about removing what is in the way of knowing Trueness, and knowing the reality of oneness.

Now that we have more freedom, we detach from things to actually learn to detach from any part of self not indicative of Trueness. These parts of us are not necessarily bad per se; they simply are no longer in control. The obstacles to Trueness are never outside of us. We become the barrier by attaching our worth, in any way, to things external to our true self, expecting these things to define us, or even help in marking out the fullness of our reality.

We are not complete as contemplative leaders unless our contemplation is shared. The answer to how it is shared and what sharing looks like is found in compassion, for oneself, and all, as one.

Ericka’s conscious attention is being applied to her encounters for reasons important to her and to those who depend on her. The more she works from her own Trueness the more she draws true contribution from others toward possibility and potential.

The love and care that others deserve, flows through us to them. If Ericka only communicated and acted from her own context, the world would miss out on the beautiful influence of her brand of love. Thankfully, she is giving her attention to her true self, thus freeing energy in leading others into more rewarding participation.

The contemplative leader’s love is real, because love is reality.

Poetry & Encounter:
A cadence of experience, a rhythm of expression formed by graceful attentiveness.

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

Contemplation & Flow
To experience something gladly, paying attention with love.

Wading into Trueness

Trueness is the deeper context to which this work has led me; a work to which I’ve been led and now find pulling me forward.

One’s journey toward, and with, Trueness begins with the Wade, the choice to participate−even well before we understand all we feel, hear, and see flowing around us. I have come to a place in my life and living where I consider all my efforts to be The Work of Trueness.

I believe that the true self is not lost out there but buried in here. I also believe it is one’s life-long work to uncover and live from this Trueness. Our Trueness is the pearl of great price buried in that field, the ground we purchase by letting go of all that is false and in the way of the flow of our voice, a brand of resonant love uniquely given to us from the beginning.

At the core of the nature of reality is paradox. We are being unrealistic when, in our life and living, we constantly need to separate; to make choices and decisions loosely structured on the lies of dualistic thought. And the most serious flaw at reality’s core is the failure to embrace as One the human and divine. It seems to me that any subsequent refusal to hold any other true paradox is built on this failure.

Do You Hear?

The most important tool in the craft of my work is that of listening. My very Desire & Intent in this work depends on the attention I pay to listening. Listening is the tool, but really hearing another is the skill (art). To allow the two to properly work together, I must get myself out of the way.

I’ve found that most people don’t listen well to themselves, and therefore not hearing profound points of resonance from both inner and outer charges; the impact of desire and intent. Several years ago I fell victim to my own lack of hearing.

I was having an economically challenging year, telling myself a story of betrayal and evaporating value of this work in which I had become so invested. During this time, two dear friends encouraged me to listen to what my clients said to me about our work together, and to really hear in their words the impact for them in the intersection of my own desire and intent.

Providentially timed with this encouragement, I found myself in a conversation with Amy, a wonderful client and supporter of my work through the years. Sensing my walk along the cliff-edge of depression, she lovingly took me to task for not intuitively knowing the value of the work I do, and what I had done for so many. She decided to speak for them.

Speaking to my own gifted rhythm, she said:

  • We learn from you and take this to others, proliferating our mentorship.
  • You teach us how to leverage our relationships.
  • You give us skills to teach the methodology to others in order to improve both individual and organizational impact.

Needless to say, I’ve kept Amy’s words before me in the years since receiving them from her faithful courage. This beautiful, blessed interaction with her helped pull my steps away from a desperate edge and inspirited my walk back into my own cadence. Amy knew my rhythm because she had become conscious of her own rhythm in the experience of being truly heard.

Forgiving Reality

In my book, The Rhythm of Trueness, I share the rhythmic flow gifted to my consciousness through my study of Fr. Richard Rohr’s writing: Forgive Everything / Everything Belongs / See the Unfolding.

It is in the Wade, stepping into life and living freeing oneself from the lies of expectations, where we are struck with the paradox of stillness and flow. In the flow, sudden awareness of things moving together with or without us, we realize the importance of our participation. But to move such realization into active engagement, partaking of the energy available to us, we must let go of the false standards that have so far defined us.

To forgive everything is only possible somewhere in the intersection of forgiving reality and forgiving yourself for the reality created by circumstances, and any set of standards by which you may have been taught and most likely controlled. To forgive reality, as one knows it, is the proclamation of true freedom, and forgiving self is the freedom to be true.

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.

Love

We reside in a world in need, a world that needs you: the true you.

Enough.

Face facts.

Faith, Hope, Love, yes each one is of utmost importance. And the greatest of these, and all encompassing of these, is Love. No longer issue an apology or be embarrassed by this fact.

Your Trueness will not have its intended impact until you can hold in your own loving hands the reality of you since the beginning, and then offer in loving release this self into a needy world.

You were made from love. Therefore, aware or not, you are love. The world needs love. Become aware. The world needs you!

From the Beginning

Love is where I came from,
and love is where I’ll return.
In-between, intended it was,
love meant to guide and lead.
In reality love always did,
sadly, I didn’t always listen.
But now, blessed opportunity
and gift of awareness, I
can hear the voice of love
in everything I see–
but aware I must remain,
Wading
Walking
Wondering.
It’s my time to live,
live according
to the Trueness
given me
from the beginning.

–J. Brunson