Most of us are working out some kind of relationship with freedom. It is one of the most fundamental and significant human needs.

I’m not talking about the freedom that is “…and then I won the lottery….” There are ample and age-old stories of people with wealth, and little apparent material need, that are utterly miserable. I am talking about a freedom, or perhaps alignment, that is one’s deep purpose in association with one’s actions.

There is freedom that must grow from an inner world, so as to be found in the outer world.

Let’s pull all of that down a bit.

This morning I sit on my balcony. The temperature is easy to be with, 74 F. I’ve recorded the snippet of dream that I recall from last night, because I’m committed to welcoming the consciousness that is dream space. I’ve sat quietly for 15 minutes to do my best to not think of anything. To just be. This meditation ain’t perfect, this “just being.” For me, a part of my brain continues to leap forward and backward. The forward part is to the things that are on my todo list today. Each of them matter. People are counting on me. I want to get each of these things done. I’ll feel it as accomplishment. The backward part is to things that happened on the weekend and last week. A conversation I had with my neighbor. The struggle and delight I had with my son. The video conference meeting I had with some colleagues. There is plenty of obligatory thought. I don’t really try to think it. It’s just there, simultaneous with the emptiness.

My balcony moment, which now includes finding words for this blog, points me in a direction of some emptiness. It’s not fully empty. It’s just something in that direction. And it’s delightful, even for the moment, because of really checking the “why” of what I’m doing. My list, like it is for most people, isn’t radically changing. There’s still dishes to wash, weeds to pull, a kid that is rather addicted to his gaming. There’s the meetings that will fulfill and challenge. When it all changes, it seems, I find, is when my inner orientation is in integrity.

Integrity with what?

For me, yes, I seek an inner freedom. For example, I find that I must encounter my world with some disposition of seeking inherent mystery. In the story I tell myself, there is always more unseen than seen; there is always more mystery than certainty. That means that asking questions together, wondering together, is imperative. That’s me. That’s not the way it must be for everyone. Definitely not that way with the 14 year-old version of my son. “Dad, why do you ask so many questions — it’s not that deep.” He will learn, I hope, to wonder past those super jacked-up teenage angsts that block the wonder. And, let’s be clear, for some, the inner promise isn’t mystery — it could be to create more certainty.

I think the point that I’m getting to, trying to find in myself, is that there are some rather simple orientations, that when adhered to — oy, when welcomed without hesitation — create a certain fulfillment in the inner world that changes what fulfillment looks like in the outer world. Yes, the dishes still need to be done, but it’s somehow less monumental, less tasky, and more simple, and satisfying.


The external world will always be in play in relation to internal. There is slavery that remains today. There is addition. And trauma. And numbing everywhere. Yet, people, poets, sages, mystics have been promoting love affairs with the internal for ages. That, and, well, a communality with such daring awareness.

This is big stuff I realize. It’s not as though “self-actualization” can even know how to rest on a todo list. But I’m glad for a balcony moment this morning, to get just a bit further into one of my most common versions of mystery. In search of freedom. That lasts.


Spontaneous Check-In Focus — No Holding Back

I was gifted this book of poems this week by a friend. “Glimpses” by Jim Quigley from Nelson, British Columbia. It’s beautiful on the outside and on the inside.

In the company of a few friends this week, I offered to thumb to a random poem within the book and use it as material to prompt some check-in and story sharing with each other.

Our question — “What’s holding you back these days?” Which pairs really well, like wine and cheese, with “Where are you feeling freedom these days to not hold back?”

The best of checking in, and story sharing, I find are often in the improv of the moment paired with the kindness of invitation to welcome story.

Enjoy this poem from the book. And whatever question you use to create connection.


No Holding Back

Who knows how many days they have left
How many chances
to spread a little passion
For many of us, today was the last day.

Let’s make a deal!

Let’s not hold anything back.
Tomorrow let’s leave nothing on the table.

Tomorrow night
let’s make the same deal again.

Emptiness — A Freedom That Changes Freedom

Yup, I suppose it is true that the moment one seeks emptiness, one misses it. I suppose it is true that it isn’t to be sought. Rather, emptiness is to be encountered, like this layered waterfall (near Sundance, UT from a recent hike) revealed after turn in the hiking path, visual caught up with sounds that began several trail bends before.

And then, perhaps, also, this emptiness is a practice, to cultivate. There is a todo in it. Emptiness a feeling to lead with, that life itself celebrates and can arrive within. What if…, nothing were known? What if there were only the space of listening life into being so as to be with it for a moment? What if that were what we cultivated more of?

This kind of emptiness, encountered or cultivated or both, is deep hunger in me. And deep hunch. And has everything to do with self. And team. And community.

Yesterday, before boarding a plane, I typed with thumbs an essence of this for me. It’s a desire. A freedom that changes freedom. For me. Others might have a different version or a different need to pursue that aligns with their gifts.

Yet this emptiness, is one that is in me, that centers it all.


There is nothing, but emptiness.
I seek this.

In that is found
flow with life itself.

In that is

The rest
are just ways
to draw us near.

Powerful Questions

It’s the day that my friend and colleague Quanita and I will be beginning to host a weekend retreat. It’s QT. It runs Friday – Sunday. This time there will be eleven of us. From Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati. And me from Lindon, Utah. This time, we are seven men and four women. It’s deliberate curious wander together which has a way of resetting the internal compass for most. It’s a gathering that I love and that has become even more deeply enriching each time.

I’m thinking a bit, on the day that QT begins, about some of the questions and topics that I’m bringing to the retreat. That I want to learn about. That I want to hear and share stories about. Wisdom. Connection. Funny. The relationship of inner to outer. The relationship of now to the long arc. Dreams. Ritual. Superpowers. There’s a big list. I know that we might get to two or three. But I’m not worried. It isn’t scarcity of time. I know that these are all connected. And, I continue to learn that it’s the energy, the vibration of the stories shared, the entanglement of our curious wander, that really moves and changes us.

I’ve decided to change some of my topics into questions, writing them on post-it notes. I know that what moves an interesting topic to a kind of communal engagement is a question. And I love feeling the questions come through me. I’m just playing so that I can share them with Quanita to see how they align with her interests and sense of the group coming. Hmm…

On wisdom — What is some of the essential wisdom you are discovering these days?
On connection — What is some of where you are feeling critical connection these days?
On funny — What is some of what is funny to you these days?
On inner / outer — How’s that inner / outer thing going for you? What’s your inner showing you about your outer? What’s your outer showing you about your inner?
On superpowers — What is one of your superpowers? Tell a story.

These are a sample, but after Quanita made a few observations and appreciations about these kinds of questions, I realized that there is a pattern to them that helps them be useful for engagement.

  1. Ask for some, not all (“…what is some of…”) — This presumes that none of us can say all of it. We can try. We can be rather clever. Or articulate. Or just brilliant. But “some of” is an invitation to freedom of choice. It’s also an orientation that acknowledges it’s not possible to get all of it. Language and words are great tools. And needed. The kicker here is to welcome the spirit of wholeness (it’s all connected) yet the freedom or partial and incomplete (yet complete enough).
  2. Ask for feeling, not just data — This presumes that most (or, er…, um…, all) of experience is subjective and not objective. Sure it’s true that we humans make lists and are rather impressive in our quantitative and qualitative sharing. I tend to be one that wants to reclaim the subjective, the sense-making that is filtered through the rather complex beings that we are with “no two exactly the same.” “What’s your feeling…” returns us to the validity of wonder.
  3. Ask for these days, not all of time — This presumes the value of just noticing what is alive and apparent now. Or recently. It doesn’t ask for a comprehensive summary of all time. It doesn’t ask of a literature review of all possible responses. It just asks for some of what is current, trusting that what is alive now might have more relevance in a continued emergence kind of way.

I love asking these kind of questions. I love being in these kind of questions. I suppose because it moves me / us into a kind of real time sensing together. It gives us chance to grow in the sun together if I stay with a living systems reference. And, just for fun, more mechanically, it gives us chance to calibrate a bit together.

I’m a student of questions. I’ve had good teachers that have themselves been oriented to being students of questions. There is an essence in the question that creates a doorway to shared meaning making, sensing, witnessing. What a delicious taste of it I got with this lovely group of people in weekend retreat. Enriched.