Three Approaches to Change

I am grateful for the call I had yesterday in which a friend / colleague, Stuart McIntyre, framed three kinds of change in organizations and communities. All of it was about trying to understand both nuance of subtle things, and, the larger ecosystems map in which people contribute their gifts, passions, and complexities.

  1. Change from the inner work of personal awareness and growth. This one comes from the belief that the inner projects the outer. Thus, to change the outer, we must work on the inner. As the 13th century poet Rumi says, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
    Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
  2. Change from creating alternative institutions. This one comes from a belief that it’s not just “what” we do, but “how” we do it. I’m thinking now of the oodles of organizations that are shifting governance, decision-making, and leadership as a whole to more participative and inclusive ways.
  3. Change from confronting and interrupting patterns of power and exclusion. This one comes from the courage to engage with founding patterns of western culture that married colonization (taking land without regard to its inhabitants) with capitalism (making slavery an economic strategy to create wealth and advantage). Four hundred years later (for the USA) there is a reckoning in play, rather complex, that I believe requires mass courage, honesty, vulnerability, and grieving. Yes, at the big scale of society. But also yes, at the scale of organizations and communities trying to live in healthy ways.

So, most of us are living amidst these three rather important and impactful endeavors.

I don’t feel I have answers. But that isn’t near enough rational to not stay in the complex process of staying curious together about difficult and involved things. 

Sure glad for a friend that helped piece / peace some of that together.

The Brushing Of An Eagle’s Wing

“Time” is one of the things I like to think about most. It’s also one of the things that I like to most not think about. Funny, right.

In my life, I’ve had a strong relationship with “time & efficiency.” Using time well. Getting things done. Being responsible. Being tenacious. It’s a good upbringing for me. It’s parents and grandparents that had to work hard to get by. I’m glad to have this orientation in me. It remains rewarding to me to tick a few things off of my list.

And, these days, likely growing in me over the last several years, perhaps even much longer at the pace of a kalpa described below, I have an increasingly strong relationship with “time & contemplation.” Using spaciousness well. Getting the inner work done. Being willing to look with rigor to how my internal creates my outer world. This is good upbringing also. Thoughtful family and friends that have themselves sought to see what is beyond the obvious. I’m glad to have this orientation too. Increasingly so, it feels foundational.

It feels important to me to be willing or able to have a plurality of relationships with time. I don’t commit myself solely to one or the other — therein lays a danger. I’ve always valued the capacity to move between the worlds. It just takes courage, a unique kind, to interrupt the efficiency side of relating to time.

Below is a piece that I read this morning from the Buddhist publication, Lion’s Roar.

Enjoy the stretch and perspective, for a moment, or with great untimedness.

In traditional Buddhist (as well as Hindu) cosmology, kalpas are unfathomably long periods of time. Though they come in different sizes, even a “regular” kalpa is beyond huge: 16,000,000 years. A “great kalpa” is almost 1,300,000,000,000 years.

Sometimes these enormous lengths of time are described in colorful metaphors, such as:

  • longer than the time it would take to fill a cube that is 16 miles wide and 16 miles high with mustard seeds, at the rate of one mustard seed every 100 years;
  • longer than it would take, at the same once-a-century frequency, for the brushing of an eagle’s wing against a mountain to wear that mountain away;
  • longer than it would take for a turtle (one who appears, again, once every 100 years) to randomly poke its head through a ring floating on the ocean’s surface.

Kalpas relate to the nature of the universe itself, describing immeasurably long cycles of creation and destruction. Like modern science, ancient Buddhist cosmology described a universe of almost infinite size, variety, and duration.

The kalpa is often evoked as an encouragement to spiritual practice, reminding us how rare it is to be born human and to hear the Buddhist teachings. “The dharma,” as one Zen chant puts it, “is rarely encountered, even in hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas.”