It doesn’t matter that we do this or that. Just do it.

Sometimes a man stands up during supper

Sometimes a man stands up during supper

and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,

because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,

dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,

so that his children have to go far out into the world

toward that same church, which he forgot.

Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Robert Bly

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A poem for INTJ ‘s everywhere

Sense of Something

I am like a flag in the center of open space.

I sense ahead the wind which is coming, and must live

it through

while the things of the world still do not move:

the doors still close softly, and the chimneys are full

of silence,

the windows do not rattle yet, and the dust still lies down.

I already know the storm, and I am troubled as the sea.

I leap out, and fall back,

and throw myself out, and am absolutely alone

in the great storm.

Translated by Robert Bly

Rainer Maria Rilke

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An optimistic poem for a New Year

Moving Forward

The deep parts of my life pour onward,

as if the river shores were opening out.

It seems that things are more like me now,

That I can see farther into paintings.

I feel closer to what language can’t reach.

With my senses, as with birds,

I climb

into the windy heaven, out of the oak,

in the ponds broken off from the sky

my falling sinks, as if standing on fishes.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Gratitude Diary and Appreciative Inquiry

I’m not entirely sure what the last line of the poem means.  Other than that, this poem illustrates the process of writing a gratitude diary or being appreciative during organizational change.

We look for those parts of the day where were feel as if we are pouring onward like a great river or soaring in the sky like a wild bird.  As we focus on those parts “things seem more like me now”.

Happy 2010!

Courage to live fully in 2010

New Year’s Resolutions – fragile for some ~ too sturdy for others

Tonight we have fun, and tomorrow we break our New Year’s Resolutions.  That’s how it goes for most people.

People like me achieve New Year’s Resolutions.  We are the  “get it done” sort of person.   We also understand that goal-setting is not everything.  Worse, it can be dangerous.  When we set goals, we develop tunnel vision – that’s how it works.  We focus on one thing and disregard side-effects.

“Get it done” people have a bigger challenge to explore life fully

Those of us who find goal-setting easy have a bigger challenge ~ to explore life fully.  Do we have the courage to explore what we can’t control and do we have the courage to explore with no intent to control? Do we dare leave the light and explore the dark?   Could we do a that job we hate without getting wound up about it?   Can we learn to relax in the company of someone we dislike?

Do we have the courage to simply stand in awe of the richness of our lives and all its possibilities ~ without acting ~ without trying to make the world do our bidding?  Do we have the strength of character to simply stand in awe?

Can that be the New Year’s Resolution of 2010?  To Live Life Fully and Be Still?

As ever, here is a poem by Raine Maria Rilke on the courage to live fully.

Ignorant Before the Heavens of My Life

Ignorant before the heavens of my life,

I stand and gaze in wonder. Oh the vastness

of the stars. Their rising and descent. How still.

As if I didn’t exist. Do I have any

share in this? Have I somehow dispensed with

their pure effect? Does my blood’s ebb and flow

change with their changes? Let me put aside

every desire, every relationship

except this one, so that my heart grows used to

its farthest spaces. Better that it live

fully aware, in the terror of its stars, than

as if protected, soothed by what is near.

Rainer Maria Rilke

For those dogged moments when we just have to get things done

As Once the Winged Energy of Delight

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

For the god wants to know himself in you

As we approach the end of the year, many of us will be trying desperately to clear our desks so that we can take a few days off to be with our families.

Many of our tasks will be tedious.   And our “to do” lists will be long.

This is the time to take each task “as it is”, one at a time, to do it with pleasure, not thinking about the other tasks, disregarding our fatigue for a moment, and to see the link between our task and our deepest dreams, not in a tortured way, but with the delight of a child.

We need to do the task with a caress and a verve “For the god wants to know himself in you.”

A poet tells us how to be goal-oriented AND mindful at the same time

Can we be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time?

Goals and mindfulness are two of the most powerful concepts in contemporary psychology.

No doubt, when we are pursuing a goal, we pay attention to what we are doing.  But at a cost. We also neglect what is going on around us.

When we pursue a goal, we are often “in flow”.  It’s wonderful!  We are fully engaged with what we are doing.

Yet, the surest sign that we are “in flow” is that we run late for the next meeting.  We remember our flow experiences as much for the anger they arouse in other people as the joy we experience when we are fully engrossed in what we are doing!

This post is a cerebral account.  I am trying to understand the issues.

  • How can I be goal-oriented and focused on what is going on around me?
  • How can I pursue goals of the future yet be ‘fully present’.

Poets often solve our conundrums!

The poets have often already asked and answered what we want to know. Today I found a poem from Rainer Marie Rilke: A Walk and I hope it will help me understand how to be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time.

So often when an ideas in psychology is unsatisfactory, western ideas about time seem to be the root cause of the problem. Rilke’s poem recasts the ideas from temporal space to physical space and helps us imagine alternative ways of understanding the world.

Rilke suggests that that when we see a goal “on our horizon”, we draw it into our present. The present and future are merged and there is no difference between them.

When we look at the horizon we are energized to get up and walk.  And motivated perhaps to ignore the glorious flowers right near us.

The world exists because we pay attention to it and it takes its form because of our attention!

Equally, another person standing right next to us is in another world because they are paying attention to different things. They are even on a different time plane because their future changes their present!

The future and the present are not two different places ~ nor is one better than the other

Rilke talks in the poem about the pleasure of dreams.  He is not saying, though, that dreams are better than the present.  He is saying the future and the present are one place.  And whatever we believe about the future, changes the present.  Our dreams change the present moment.

How the future can fix the present

Sometimes, in those moments when we don’t like the present moment, we could look again at our horizon.

When we don’t like the present, before we complain, maybe we could run an exercise of looking at three different horizons?  If one of the versions of the present becomes more enjoyable ~ could we live from there?

Here is Rainer Marie Rilke’s poem, The Walk, translated by Robert Bly.

A Walk

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,

into something else, which, hardly sensing it,

we already are; a gesture waves us on

answering our own wave…

but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Translated by Robert Bly

Rainer Maria Rilke

PS What is the copyright on this poem and if someone wanted to by a copy, what would they buy? Is there an Amazon link I could add here?

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Live the questions now. Live your way into the answer.

Last night, I stumbled on a wonderful collection of poems. Do bookmark this link and keep it for a moment when you want to relax.

For this morning, at a time when the economies of the UK and the US are about to become very turbulent, it is good to read a poem from German poet, Rainer Rilke.

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903

in Letters to a Young Poet

It is so hard to think about living without a clear goal.  We’ve been taught to be wilful rather than curious.

Maybe the first question is what it would feel like to turn all my goals today into questions?

What would it be like to get up?  What will it like to have a shower?

Just to ask a series of questions?

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Executive pornography

Did that catch your attention?  I thought it would.

Executive pornography is not my phrase.  Shocker of all shockers, it is a Canadian phrase and a Canadian metal industry phrase at that.

As I reviewed my first day at Xoozya, I pondered the difficulty we have with a blank canvas.  When we can live a life we choose with no constraint, its quite disorienting.

Yes, without being told to start, I don’t have a ready idea where to start.  So I hit the internet and media – what else?

David Whyte

First, I listened to David Whyte‘s Midlife and the Great Unknown.  He didn’t disppoint.  He describes a time when he was working for a non-profit and ‘burnt out’ rather spectacularly, as we do.  Fortunately for him, he had a working partnership with fellow scholar, Brother David, who encouraged him to step-up into the role of a full-time poet.

David Whyte discusses this incidence with snippets of poetry and as ever one from the poet, Rainer Rilke.  Rilke talks about the importance of reaping the harvest of summer.  When it is time to reap, we must reap or not have the harvest to see us through the winter.

While this seems obvious, in reality, we are often unwilling to harvest the fruits of summer.  Sometimes we are unwilling to grasp with two hands what we want so badly, even though it is all around us.

We are even unwilling to give up burdensome occupations.  Do you remember dilly-dallying over finishing your thesis?  We often think we are procrastinating out of anxiety or fatigue, but after many years supervising students, I’ve come to believe the real reason delay writing up is that we are don’t know what our lives would be like without the thesis.  When the thesis is done, what will we do?  We are deeply scared by the unknowability of the future.

So, tick from David Whyte.  Yes, we find it hard to write our own job description.  But this fear is just a class of a common dilemma.  We catch ourselves betwixt-and-between.  Desperate for a new life, we focus on all the things that will not happen so that we don’t take the small steps well within our ability, hereby trapping ourselves in a past whose use-by-date has come and gone.

Wicked Questions

Then I googled Wicked Questions to get me to the Plexus Institute which is full of case studies, theory and technique for using complexity theory in consulting.

Within seconds, I was looking at the work of Ralph Stacey of the University of Hertfordshire.  He is well ahead of the curve on new organizations and from a quick scan I was remined of two heurisitcs.  The first is not to live in the future.  He talks about having plans that respond to the here-and-now. David Whyte makes the same point.  We often frame a plan so that activity will begin after something else has happened – fueling procrastination or living contingently, as Whyte calls it.  Otto Scharmer makes a similar point about ideas that emerging from current conditions.  Strategy needs to come from what is happening now and what is emerging from current conditions.

Another phrase also caught my eye: Strength grows from contact with the environment, not from existing strengths.

The key is to look at my interactions with people and interactions between other people to develop a sense of what is possible and where we are going.  I think my heuristic is to think of five genuinely curious and exploratory questions about  Xoozya and take those to work in the morning.

As I focused on this idea I read on.

Executive pornography

The Plexus Institute has many case studies on its site.  One is of a Canadian firm, Federal metals, who regarded typical ‘strategy-speak’ as obscene – as executive pornorgraphy.  They object to the language of setting goals, communicating intent, maneovuring the organization and if they heard the term today, in all probability, employee engagement.

The important heuristic I gleaned at this stop is that strategy is concerned with making sense of the past.  Strategy is doing what I am doing now. It is reflecting on the normal stressors of the first day at work in a new place.

So I have three tasks:

  1. Master the communication system
  2. Consider why I am at Xoozya in terms of my broader life’s purpose
  3. List the skills I find essential and the skills I must develop as I look ahead.

My emotional state is considerable panic induced by the breadth and depth of freedom I have to pursue goals I believe are important.

Bringing these ideas together

So how did I get to a place that is quite so nervewracking?

  • Well, I want to work in a place that respects emergence. Of course, as Ralph Stacey says, not everything is emergent. Some tasks are programmatic and simple. I want my computer to fire up when I switch it on, of course.
  • I bring to the situation a familiarity with management literature and to that I returned for structure. What an insight! I wonder what other people use for structure?
  • In my case I dipped into the corporate poetry of David Whyte and was reminded of the anxiety we feel when we are about to step into a life that is very important to us. I looked at the theory and was reminded of the work of Ralph Stacey of the University of Hertfordshire – which is just down the road from me. From this, I invented a good heuristic. What are five genuinely curious and exploratory questions I can ask about my interaction with the environment – probably within Xoozya or as a representative of Xoozya?

Strength grows from contact with the environment.  What the five questions you would ask about your contact with the enviroment?

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