Finding What You Didn’t Lose

Beautiful poem, Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox. More info about his work can be found here: Poetic Medicine

Finding What You Didn’t Lose

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you,
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you,
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

~ John Fox ~

This poem reminds me something written by Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet:
Why do you search
For a loaf of bread?
When there is an
Enormous bakery
On top of your head.

Who might you deeply listen to today?

Business As A Vehicle for Social Change

I’m in San Diego for a Social Venture Network Conference. SVN is a group of dynamic and inspiring business and non-profit leaders dedicated to creating social change through business. I first joined SVN about fourteen year ago, when I was CEO of Brush Dance publishing, and I’m now a member of the Board of Directors.

I believe that the purpose of business is fundamentally to provide goods or services that meet people’s needs. This is true of more than 99% of all businesses in existence. Businesses that exist merely to provide wealth for the owners, without providing value to customers do exist, but are extremely rare. Of course all businesses need to be profitable in order to be sustainable (just as all non-profits must find a way to be financially sustainable.

Here is a brief description of SVN:
Social Venture Network inspires a community of business and social leaders to build a just economy and sustainable planet.

We work to achieve this mission by
• Providing forums, information, and initiatives that enable leaders to work together to transform the way the world does business
• Sharing best practices and resources that help companies generate healthy profits and serve the common good
• Supporting a diverse community of leaders who can effect positive social change through business
• Creating a vibrant community that nourishes deep and lasting friendships
• Producing unique conferences that promote the exchange of ideas and encourage the development of relationships and partnerships

Transitions

Transitions
I’ve been enjoying reading the book Transitions by William Bridges, written more than 25 years ago.

Bridges presents a simple and useful framework to see that our life transitions consist of three parts: 1) the ending; 2) the neutral zone; and 3) new beginning.

When we look closely, we are often in transition; sometimes in seemingly insignificant ways; sometimes in more major or profound ways. Getting out of bed this morning, signaled the end of sleep – for me, a fairly significant ending. I love (and need) my sleep. This is an interesting transition, worth paying attention to. As my night ends, what is my state of mind? As I get out of bed and set my foot on the floor, am a grateful, or grumpy; rushed or at ease; do I even notice?
Then there is a neutral zone – the night has ended and the day begins – now what. There is a sense of being “in between” – the night has ended, and the day hasn’t quite begun. There are choices to make, some anticipation, excitement, and some discomfort. Then, here I am in my home office – a new beginning – making choices in how I plan, how I respond and how I shape my day.

Recently I took part in a two-month Zen practice period, led by Norman Fischer, with about 60 other people; without having to leave our homes, except for a weekly meeting and a few one-day retreats. During this period of time, one of the practices was to remember, to bring into our consciousness, that I’m doing practice period, as I got out of bed and put my foot on the ground in the morning. This simple act, signaled an ending to the night and a movement into another phase. Just remembering to pay attention to this transition, influenced me.

Usually during this time, I’m on “autopilot” not thinking about anything. The act of noticing helped me appreciate these moments, and appreciate my life.

Interesting how little thought we generally give to such transitions. This is what I find useful about having this kind of model: endings, neutral zone, new beginning. This model allows me to see the world through a slightly different lens then I might normally; to look a little closer, to ask some new questions.

Usually, we just look at the major transitions – ending a relationship, starting a job, moving from one place to another. Sometimes, even during these major changes, we allow ourselves to go on “autopilot” and avoid paying attention to the details of our lives.

As I begin my day, a few things to share. I’m enjoying Shrinkingthecamel blog
Also enjoying
The Happiness Project blog

Wisdom, Nonsense, Koans of Life

Interesting article in the October 6th New York Times Science Times entitled Mind: How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect

The thrust of the article is that our minds naturally seek to create patterns. When presented with information that does not fit any pattern (nonsense) our creative ability to find patterns, and solutions is enhanced.

This article reminds me of the way in which koans are used in Zen practice. By asking a question that is beyond our logic (Does a dog have Buddha nature?) our minds look for patterns and ways of responding that are outside of habitual ways of thinking and ways of solving problems.

This is a core tenet underlying the ideas and practices of accomplishing more by doing less, an idea itself that challenges our rational thinking. (And, which some have called nonsense.) How could doing less result in greater accomplishment? This study demonstrates that by changing and reducing our assumptions, our ability to find innovative solutions is increased.

How can this study, this information be put into practice? A few ideas that come to mind:

– listen to a type of music that you are completely unfamiliar with, or read and absorb a book or article that is outside of your usual realm.

– experiment with disrupting some routines — get out of bed on the other side; wear your watch on the other arm…

– try eating a type of food you haven’t tried; take an improv class; visit a foreign country…

An Intelligence For Simplicity

One of the greatest (and mysterious) compliments I’ve ever received was from a teacher of mine, more than thirty years ago, who said he thought I had an “intelligence for simplicity.” I’ve been chewing on those words ever since, with both some pride and curiosity.

Lately, in the work I’ve been doing within organizations, I see the need for both intelligence and simplicity, in how people work together. People are complicated; organizations are complex. The environment of business is changing and mysterious.

A great question to ask yourself is: What is your vision for how you would like your business or organization to function? How can you simplify your business and your life?

In thinking about how to work with intelligence and simplicity, here are a few ideas that come to me about organizational life

– It is clear that each person, and the organization is doing something important, something that matters, something that makes a difference.

– Each person is growing, stretching, learning – reducing what is extra and unnecessary.

– Teamwork is valued; there is intelligence and creativity in working together.

– Everyone knows the organization’s vision and is working toward fulfilling it.

– Appreciation is openly expressed. Doubts and concerns are openly discussed. There are few sacred cows or undiscussable subject.

– Innovation comes from all parts of the organization.

In what ways does this describe your organization? How do you know? What are the gaps and what are the actions that you might take to bring your organization more into alignment with these principles?

Intention, Vow, and Getting Things Done

Beings are numberless. I vow to save them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable; I vow to become it.

These vows, which are chanted at the end of Zen lectures, express the fundamental intentions of Zen practice. They elevate our day-to-day activities and provide a larger context in which to live. Though these statements appear lofty and impossible, they act as a target, a set of goals to strive for, a direction in which to point our intentions. Though Zen is very practical by nature, it also has a way of challenging us to aim very high and not to be limited by conventional ideas of what is possible. Expressing these intentions makes ordinary activity extraordinary.

Sometimes as I am preparing for my workday I chant a variation of the Buddhist lecture chant:

The needs and problems of people are endless; I vow to find ways to meet their needs and solve these problems.

Daily work problems are inexhaustible; I vow to solve them.

Opportunities for practicing and creating healing at work are boundless: I vow to discover them.

Opportunities for inspiring others and transforming our world are everywhere: I vow to act on them.

The vow to meet the needs of people. The essence of my work is to deliver services that help people see the world a little differently, to open people to new ways of thinking, and to help people communicate directly and compassionately. Focusing on the needs of people is basic to all business.

The vow to solve all problems. We are never finished solving problems. There is no starting or ending point. The moment one issue is resolved, it is time to focus on the next one. Every problem presents an opportunity. Every opportunity presents additional problems and challenges.

Practicing and creating healing at work. Everywhere we look there are problems, pain, and suffering. At each moment we have the chance to be present, to practice at work, and to be fully ourselves. Nothing is stopping us from being open, honest, and vulnerable at work and from meeting others at a deep and intimate level.

Opportunities for inspiring others and transforming our world. There is no end to what we can discover about ourselves. Our bodies, minds, and spirit have no boundaries. Our work provides endless opportunities for self-discovery and growth and for inspiring others. By deeply touching the people we come into contact with at work we can help the world become a place of generosity and peace and move it away from greed and conflict.

The concept of making a vow, or holding a very deep intention, is quite foreign to most business environments. I would argue that we actually are making vows all the time, but are usually not completely aware of the vows being made. Generally, making money to support ourselves and our families is a key motivator, usually followed by our desire to do a good job or to do something useful and fulfilling.

Making vows taps into the deeper stream of our lives, and is not generally used in relation to our changing, external circumstances. A vow is a promise, a statement of intention and of commitment that we make to ourselves. Although they are internal, sometimes we make our vows more public by sharing them with our spouse, family, or closest friends.

What are your vows and deepest, most fundamental intentions at work?
What do you want to accomplish during your brief time on this planet?
What kind of work do you believe you were meant to do?
What are your vows in terms of meeting people, addressing problems, looking for opportunities for growth, and for self-discovery at work?