Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Doing For, or Acting With?

The Humility of Leading Well

My colleague T. Thorne Coyle wrote recently about Leadership, Service, & Gratitude.

Always powerfully eloquent, I love Thorne's writings because she speaks to the warrior in all of us. In Leadership, Service, & Gratitude, she writes about the necessity to act in service if one is to lead well.

Humbling oneself through service is a great, grounding way to retain clarity of mission, to validate that the vision we hold and the reality we are experiencing are actually helped into alignment through the efforts we make and the service we offer.

I was also moved by her description of being in service to a cause, rather than just donating money:

“Rather than looking at this from the view of charity I prefer to look at it in terms of justice. Whereas the root of the word charity – caritas – is that of love, I feel that we have lost track of that and tend to think of charity as something that wealthy people do for poor people. Justice however, brings us clearly back to the reality that we are all yoked together as denizens of this planet. We are not doing for, we are acting with. Justice is the rebalancing force of love.”

"We are not doing for, we are acting with."

That's leadership.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sustainability Inside

Earlier this year I wrote about 2011 being the year of authenticity. And in May I wrote about calling myself out - realizing that I had bet on myself.

As we contemplate changing locations for Firefly Willows, and wrestle with all that such a choice brings, I am once again confronted with that "self". When I realized that I had bet on myself, I grounded the anxiety I had been feeling about failure. That helped a lot.

Now, though, I'm wrestling with another aspect of this problem.

I readily admit that during my career (and my life experience outside my career) I would reach a moment of opportunity. And somehow, for some reason, I would take a step that led me away from the opportunity in front of me, and toward some uncertain consequence and future. Either by overt commission or subtle intransigence I have, in some sense, sabotaged myself.

I need to really find out what is happening. I don't think it's deliberate - I don't think it's because I am afraid of success.

I look and reflect and conclude that during those moments, I said something like, "Oh, it's not really worth the effort/pain/discomfort."

So why wasn't it?

I had a flash of insight that reminded me of playing basketball. I'm kinda short for basketball, so when I drive to the basket for a lay-up, I have had a tendency to use speed (get there before the other guys) to ensure that I'm not blocked.

But that doesn't work when they're already there. So I've also adopted another technique - stretching myself so my reach is as high as possible.

My basketball colleagues will tell you that when I drive the lane it's often a comical sight (in a Buster Keaton "Oh My GOD there's going to be an ACCIDENT!!" kind of way).
Definitely NOT me...

I recently figured out why that is. As I approach the basket, I'm moving so fast and I'm so stretched out that I have very little capacity left to tweak my move, adjust my body, or reposition the ball. If I haven't picked my approach perfectly, and moved impeccably, I'm just going to end up in a heap. And even if I HAVE, there are still other players with their own free agency and they can do the unexpected. Which, if I'm too strung out, will result in my ending up in a heap.

Either way, no score.

No score.

I see now that I often am running so fast and am so stretched out that there is no room to adjust to a new inspiration or opportunity. I have no capacity left to respond.

I have discovered that I run myself so close to the edge that anything along the way that is not exactly as I've envisioned it can derail the mission. What's worse is that I run myself this way on missions that are not really in alignment with who I am - my personal mission, so to speak.

So what have I done in the past? Typically, I've overdriven the machine in a way that is not sustainable, eeking out a measure of success through sheer force, and damaging myself in the process.

At some point, I do become exhausted, and my subconscious just forces me away from the table. I either bail out explicitly, or my subconscious unstitches key seams in the underbelly, and I just kind of fall out in an ungainly, inefficient way.

(Thank God I have friends and family that love me...!)

Now, upon reflection, it makes complete sense. I've often been pushing too hard on a particular vision to have anything left to be responsive to the world. And eventually, I get exhausted and have to stop.

How does one fix this kind of problem, and what does the solution look like?

It dawns on my that, first and foremost, I have to be clear about what I sign up for. In particular, I have to be as honest as I can about the following parameters:
  • How much sustained effort will this take?
  • How much do I really care about it?
  • How long can I keep doing it?
  • What happens if I have to stop doing it?
Ultimately, this analysis compels me to examine the sustainability of my own actions. And here, I'm talking about things as simple as writing this blog, or hosting a weekly event at Firefly Willows, or starting a new project.

I have lots of instantaneous capacity. The key question is, what is my SUSTAINABLE capacity?

It's obvious when I go running, or play soccer, that my instantaneous capacity and sustainable capacity are not the same. I get winded and have to stop and rest.

In basketball -- and it seems, in life -- I'm not so aware.

Is it odd that I've never actually contemplated a limit before? I think I've always viewed my instantaneous capacity and my sustainable capacity as equivalent when it comes to my "work" life. And as a result, I have been ill-equipped, misaligned, and exhausted at key moments in my life.

That's just plain weird. Who could be so profoundly oblivious to something so obvious? I surprise myself with the depths of my dysfunction sometimes.

Good thing I can laugh about it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Power of a Paper Napkin

I took a walk just now, down to the coffee shop to get a beverage. Beautiful afternoon, sun shining. I was in a cheery mood, happy for my little place in the sun along our tree-lined street.

Inside, I was happy to chat with the baristas about the way the drinks are made, and what variations were available. (Did you know that you can get a Chai Frappuccino? I didn't...!)

Good thing I got there when I did. By the time my drink was ready, there was a line almost out the door.

Standing in line was a woman holding an ice-cream cone. I noticed that there were little drips heading over the edge of the cone, due shortly to impact the little paper wrapping (and then, no doubt, her politely manicured fingers).

As I walked toward the exit, I reached for a paper napkin, and with a demure flourish, proffered it to her as I walked past.

My friend and colleague Ivan Temes says, "Care enough to take action." I remember these words often.

Who would have thought? Her joy was complete. A squeal of delight, a smile of gratitude, a "How did you know....?"

And it was just a paper napkin.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Mars, and the Remainder


I had a long and difficult conversation with Mars the other night.

All of us light-workers love to hate the God of War.

War. Really, who needs it? It sucks, it's pointless, it's cruel, causes suffering, wastes resources…WHY do we have it? Why do we need a GOD of it, for heaven's sake?

Wouldn't it be great if there were no wars? Wave your hand and have peace reign?

As usual, I don't get to have (or share) the easy platitudes. The introspection becomes so deep it's like surgery. Surgery while I'm awake.

Here's what happened:

So, I'm calling in the spirits, and after the four directions, I get to the compassionate spirits of the heavens. And for some reason, this time, I'm really taking my time and not just calling their names and asking for their help. I'm actually greeting each one as they arrive.

I call to the Sun, and the Moon, and start to work my way through the planets.

I get to Mars. And my nice, happy, deep, comforting journey work becomes something else.

I think this is really the first time I actually met him.


As he approached my space, I was shown the horrors of war. The suffering of the soldiers, but even more the suffering of "the innocents" who are caught up in it. Grist for the mill of war, ground into pulp of flesh and wails of suffering.

It was horrible. And there he stood, his sword pointed up, resting against his shoulder, one eyebrow slightly raised, looking at me expectantly. Waiting for something from me.

Testing me.

How could I welcome him? Why would anyone welcome him?

I reflected on my Celtic and Runic studies, the North, the Morrigan, the Calleach, the whole notion of battle rage. I checked in with as many angles as I could think of. It didn't fit. It wasn't complete enough to account for all that horror, pain, and suffering. All that scarring and soul-loss and senseless death.

He waited.

So I looked the only place left to look. At the horror. At the pain and suffering. I stared into the grinding maw as it consumed families, cultures, swathes of Mother Earth. I took in as much of it as I could stand, and then I took in more. It was the only place that made sense to look, and I knew I wouldn't understand unless I did.

It was horrible.

"What is this?!" I cried. "What is this…THING…that is so present and so insatiable and so seemingly unstoppable, and so cruel?!"

And he said, calmly but not comfortingly, "It's the remainder."

Auugh. It hit me like a punch in the gut.

The remainder of our lack of integrity.
The remainder of our lack of pure intention.
The remainder of our arrogance.
The remainder of our self-indulgence, our willful self-delusion, and our unwillingness to face the consequences of our actions.

War is the remainder of our personal, cultural, and societal choices not to speak the truth, not to keep our word, not to clean up after ourselves. And not to listen and accept the truth with a warrior's heart.

We have war, because we choose not to live like warriors. It's what happens when we sweep the inconsistencies of our logic and the entreaties of our conscience under the rug.

War is the remainder of our lies.

And the bigger the lie, and the more of us that engage in it, and the longer we tell it, the larger the account holding the remainder.

Inevitably it must be purged.

Mars is so often depicted as a war monger, always ready to start it up and roil the waters.

The Mars I met would say, "Go to war -- early and often!" Lance the boils, cleanse the wounds. Get it done as soon as possible.

In fact, he would counsel that we go to war in every single breath. Because then, we would each examine, reconcile, and exhale our remainders. There would be no account to be purged, because we would all be warriors, living impeccably in every moment.

But we don't. And so that account has to be managed.

Like Death, Mars has a difficult and dirty job. But unlike Death, Mars can rightly scold us for making his work harder. Death catches us all. Eventually, we either stop running from her or simply lose the race. Her embrace is, ultimately, gentle and compassionate.

But Mars -- he looks at us and growls, "WHY?!"

Why do we choose to ignore his counsel, and sentence ourselves to such horrors?

(He sometimes scowls at the other Gods and Goddesses, too, so comfortable and patient and didactic are they in their godding. "Things will work out," they counsel him. "Be patient. They're inherently good..."

To which he responds, "Do you guys ever WATCH this show?" )

This remainder I was shown is not optional, because we live in a world of challenge, complexity, and free will. How large the account becomes - that is indeed optional. It seems that arrogance and greed make it grow fastest. And self-indulgence. Ignorance and lack of personal discipline are also factors.

Fear of Death, too, if truth be told. But Death catches all of us, eventually, so why bother being afraid of it?

We should fear War more than Death.

I think living and dying as warriors is much better than living and dying in War.

The Mars I met would agree.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"You should probably quit your job..."

Here's a post from the Ottawa Citizen. As one who has taken the leap, I can share with you the following nuggets:

1) It's not easy to decide
2) It's not easy once you make the leap
3) It can be scary

And most importantly,
4) It's no worse than what you are currently experiencing. In fact, it's 100 times better.
All the fears and challenges and difficulties you imagine are waiting for you - well, yes, they probably are. But if you look honestly at what you're currently doing, there are fears and challenges and difficulties there, too. It's just that you know what they are, and perhaps, if you're lucky, you feel like you have a handle on most of them.

Same is true once you take the leap. You'll adjust. You'll see the challenges. You'll rise to them.

And it will be way more fun and satisfying.

Do what you love. It's the only thing that will save you. Time is short. Life is short. Don't wait another minute to bring meaning into your life with all the energy you can muster.

If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Love to you all!
jc

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's been a while...

Hi everyone,
So sorry for the long gap in posting. We've been quite busy over the last few months, both at Firefly Willows and at home. Sons are back from college, we had our first anniversary, and I went to my first Native American Sun Dance ceremony in June. It was a crazy month.

Plus, I got myself an iPhone 4 (better pictures and movies from my travels), and the Los Altos Art & Wine festival FINALLY yielded a couple of ear cuffs that I thought might work for me. Here's one...

I'm back now, with an armload of stories and experiences to discuss, and new plans to share. It just keeps on coming!

Here's a video from my iPhone of Montebello Open Space Preserve. I'm excited to be able to share more of my local hiking experiences!
video

So stay tuned to the Firefly Willows blog. Look for another post this week.