Letting go letting come

The great teachers are saying that you cannot start seeing or understanding if you start with “No.”*
(Richard Rohr)

A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open towards the gifts and growth that are stored up for us. To refuse to begin can be an act of great self-neglect.**
John O’Donohue)

In an unfolding universe, there’s perhaps nothing evolving faster than a human life.

Different species take hundred of thousands of years, yet in a single lifetime, a person can be so many things, are able to begin and finish in completely different places doing very different things.

Part of the art to this that we have learned is to let go and let come. Even when the future is uncertain, we sense the possibility to be shaped with foresight and intention and love, so we let go, knowing that we carry with is what is most important of all.^

(*From Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)
(^My thanks to Alex McManus for these three words in proximity to each other.)

Rolling rolling rolling

We are a mystery wrapped in a question.*
(Alex McManus)

We are partners in the unfolding of the universe.**
(Joseph Jaworski)

Whatever you love, whatever you’re passionate about, whatever your goals, allow them to move, to grow, to develop and, sometimes, to change, because there’s always more to come.

(*From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(**From Joseph Jaworski’s Source.)

Welcome back to conversation

It is fashionable to espouse the latest cynicism. If we live in hope, we go against the stream.*
(Eugene Peterson)

When cynicism becomes the default language, playfulness and invention become impossible. Cynicism scours through a culture like bleach, wiping out millions of small, seedling ideas. Cynicism means your automatic answer becomes “No.” Cynicism means you presume everything will end in disappointment. […] The deepest irony about the young being cynical is that they are the ones that need to move, and dance, and trust the most. They need to cartwheel through a freshly burst galaxy of still-forming but glowing ideas, never scared to say “Yes! Why not!” — or their generation’s culture will be nothing but the blandest, and most aggressive, or most defended of old tropes.**
(Caitlin Moran)

Cartwheeling through a freshly burst galaxy of still-forming but glowing ideas should be for everyone … is for everyone! As long as we say Yes!

Come, one and all, to the ever-open, freewheeling, never-knowing-what comes-next conversations that allow possibilities to emerge that we had’nt previously imagined.

Yesterday, I mentioned that my main read for October would be on conversations, and it’s going to be Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation, writing about the impact of technology, she observes:

It all adds up to a flight from conversation – at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, conversation in which we play with ideas, in which we allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable. Yet these are the conversations where empathy and intimacy flourish and social action gains strength.^

Welcome to the conversation.

(*From Eugene Peterson’s Run with the Horses.)
(**From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Caitlin Moran on Fighting the Cowardice of Cynicism.)
(^From Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.)

A blessing for parliament

We have fallen out of belonging. Consequently, when we stand before crucial thresholds in our lives we have not rituals to protect, encourage, and guide is as we cross over into the unknown. For such crossings we need to find new words. What is nearest to the heart if often farthest from the word.**
(John O’Donohue)

When your mind is filled with love, send it in one direction, then a second, a third, and a fourth, then above, then below. Identify with everything without hatred, resentment, anger or enmity. The mind of love is very wide. It grows immeasurably and eventually is able to embrace the whole world.**
(Siddhartha Gautama)

We can find ourselves caught in the harshness of our words, soapboxing in tweets and soundbites, on the far side of debate from conversation.

At such a time as we find ourselves in Britain, John O’Donohue’s words on “blessing the space between us” make for intriguing and hopeful reading:

Blessing as powerful and positive intention can transform situations and people.*

O’Donohue died in 2008 and so would have no idea about the timeliness of his thoughts for us. Although hopeful in the power of blessing, he was not naive, blessings are not akin to sprinkling pixie dust over a person or problem:

A blessing does not erase the difficult nor abolish it; but it does reach deeper to draw out the hidden fruit of the negative.*

From this we can deduce that blessing requires time and proximity. To go deeper rather than skimming off the surface requires that we put down our tweets and see the inadequacies of debate and find the necessary container or vessel for blessing being a conversation.

More than ever before I find myself challenged to explore conversation with others as an urgency for our times.

On my bookshelf at the moment, I have two books I’ll be choosing between for my main read in October: Susan Pinker’s The Village Effect and Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation. You may have other titles in mind and also be interested in exploring some way of rediscovering conversation. Let me know if you are.

John Steinbeck wrote:

In every bit of honest writing in the world… there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. ^

Where to begin? We perhaps need to become more like writers; these words from Steinbeck caught my eye:

As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.^

We begin when we move from judgement to openness.

O’Donohue wrote about how a blessing is an expression of the quiet inner light that is found in each person:

This shy inner light is what enables us to recognise and receive our very presence here as blessing. […] The gift of the world is our first blessing.*

O’Donohue opens his blessing For Love in a Time of Conflict with these words:

When the gentleness between you hardens
And you fall out of your belonging with each other,
May the depths you have reached hold you still.*

Moving from judgement to openness is not only about how we respond to the Other but also how we see and understand ourselves. We all are more than harsh words, more than judgement.

No pixie dust, this is the most courageous place to be.

(*From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)
(**The Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, quoted in Karen Armstrong’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: The Only Story in the World.)


Gradually, over the years, a parallel life of undone things builds up. The unresolved has a lingering force and it follows us. Because this happens in the unconscious and unknown regions of our hearts, we rarely notice its effect.*
(John O’Donohue)

John O’Donohue closes his book of blessings To Bless the Space Between Us with these haunting words. I wonder, though we may have left certain things undone, perhaps we can yet redeem our days?

We will need to turn our attention to the undone, as painful as this is. Sometimes we will find hovering on the edges of our senses and sometimes it is an obstacle fully in front of us:

The undone continues to live near us; sometimes it is more powerful than what we have actually completed. What is finished lets us go free; it becomes truly part of us and is integrates and woven into memory.*

Maybe the undone things have gone. Perhaps the hope is found in identifying new things, things that naturally emerge from who we are and invite us to act. O’Donohue is focusing on the reframing power of a blessing, and that perhaps is a good word to use for what we are able to do with what remains of of our days:

What remains unfinished continues to dwell in that still hungry and unformed part of the heart that could not realise itself and grow free; these gaps in our integrity stay open and hungry. This is one of the neglected areas that can be reframed by a blessing.*

You are full of talents and hopes and values – when articulated these become the heavy-laden-with-possibility elements of an engrossing story. One that is not finished but is being written each and every day.

We may even find the undone becomes done in a different way.

(*From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us.)

We become what we see

In a way we stop being able to hear it. So this project was about reclaiming [Vivaldi’s Four Seasons] for me personally. I wanted to fall in love with it all over again […] By getting inside it and rediscovering it for myself – I was able to take a new path through a well-known landscape.*
(Max Richter)

My reading is looking.

My walking is looking.

My talking is looking.

My listening is looking.

My thinking is looking.

Even my looking is looking

It could be better, though.

I miss such a lot, and when something becomes familiar, it can disappear from my sight.

May our looking turn into seeing and may our seeing change us.

Saying I haven’t finished looking yet is like saying I haven’t finished changing yet.

(*Max Richter, quoted in Terry Tempest Williams’ The Hour of Land.)

What is it worth to me?

It’s a lot more difficult when the task ahead is not quite the same as what you’ve done before. When wayfinding is required. That’s a different skill. That’s the skill of finding the common threads, seeing the analogies and leaping over the crevices. Knowing how to do something you haven’t quite done before.*
(Seth Godin)

Worry less about getting things done. Worry more about things worth doing. […] Worry less about ,making a mark. Worry more about leaving things better than you found them.**
(Austin Kleon)

I’ve mentioned before how different sources identify three things we desire most: autonomy (to explore our freedom which is to grow our freedom), mastery (to do something really well) and to live for something greater than ourselves (a purpose that will outlast us).

If we’ve already found what it is we love to do well – something that is worth everything to us – and every day turn up to play with how we might offer this to others, then we’re well on our way to leaving something that matters.

If we haven’t, take a closer look at your life, identify what these things are – what you love to do and get up out of bed to make happen every day (a basic freedom) – and keep going.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: On knowing what you’re doing.)
(**From Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)

Don’t I know who I am?

Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today, and, therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects too.*
(Erich Fromm)

The bottom line is we build more resilient families, companies and communities when we know who we are. We get stronger together when we prioritise finding, owning and sharing our stories.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

I don’t mean remember in terms of bringing back the past, but re-membering as putting the things that are most true about us in a way that is meaningful for today.

Everything you need is already present. Like the dressmaking scissors my wife Christine was looking for everywhere but couldn’t find following our house-move. I decided to look in one last, unlikely place and there they were (50 points for Gryffindor, please).

Keep searching for the things that are most true about you – your values, talents, energies and best stories – and put them together in a new way. there’ll all there, waiting to be re-connected with.

(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling blog: Stories Make Us Stronger.)

After the mastery, the mystery continues

I’ve never had time to watch a tree before. […] That, in a way, is very much how I feel about my life. Whether it will ever be recognisable by anyone else I don’t know, but I feel that great things are happening very quietly inside me. And I know these things have a way, like a maple tree, of finally bursting out in some form*
(*Corita Kent)

To see your possibilities, watch the trees grow.

(*Corita Kent, quoted in Austin Kleon’s Keep Going.)