From Normal to Now

From where I live, a short walk away, down Lakeview Road, is a large field in which a few horses graze. Each year, I look for the new foals of Spring. There are usually one or two, that come as early as March and as late as May. I wondered this year if there would be any. I think I was hoping for them. I wanted to feel new life that isn’t stopped by a pandemic. This weekend I walked to that field. There they were. Mare and foal, two sets. One set is pictured above. I love the town that I live in for its “urban meets rural” feel. It offers these moments of “well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”

Also on the weekend, I had a good reconnecting video call with a long time friend, Bob Stilger. Bob and I go back about twenty years now, meeting through the dialogue and change work that we did with Berkana. Bob is thoughtful and kind. He included a bunch of that thoughtfulness and kindness in his book, After Now: When We Cannot See the Future, Where Do We Begin? This book, and Bob’s thinking, has been particularly poignant these last three months given Corona’s challenge to so many aspects of the future.

One of the things I loved in our weekend conversation was sharing an evolution of narrative for human beings, be it from the perspective of groups in uncertainty or from the perspective of human society facing mass not knowing. That evolution of narrative included five helpful reference points.

“Back to normal” — this is the reference that Bob and I both shared as misleading and misguiding. It’s what a lot of people are hoping for. A return to comfort. A return to the way things were. A return to a well-engrained set of certainties.

“New normal” — for those of us that have made it our life’s work to participate in great changes, “new normal” has more appeal in it, mostly because it says something is upon us that is more than the way things were.

“Next normal” — this is where Bob’s thoughtfulness kicked in. Bob is pointing to the reality of things always being in change, sometimes as flux, sometimes as much more massive shift. Next normal is a disposition and attitude that orients to the reality of continuous change.

“Next now” — yes, excellent. Now we are talking about further surrender to, and participation with, what is arising. Next now nudges us further along the path of acknowledging and addictions to certainty, prediction, command, and control.

“Now” — and there we are. There is only the now as so many spiritual traditions through the last couple of millennia have encouraged. In the end of it all, we come to learn and practice more present moment awareness, and know it not as an end, but rather, just as another moment of being.

I’m so glad to follow this little thread with Bob. I’m so glad to hear and find the words of it — because words evolve minds and hearts, minds and hearts evolve lives, and lives evolve worlds. This scaled evolution of awakeness is what I continue to find most compelling personally, and most helpful in the groups I get to work with. It brings a kind of new life, perhaps not that unrelated to the now of the mare and foal down the road.