Urge to Purge

You know those times when you get the urge to purge and simplify — I’m in one of those. Wanting to give some things away. Books. Wanting to tidy up a few piles that I keep thinking I’ll get to. But I must acknowledge it’s been a year of dust collecting on my desk. I’m the kind of human that generally connects outer to inner. These things on the outside — well, they have quite a bit to do with a desire for inner simplifying. A simple heart and simple mind — these are powerful. I’m learning that. Again.

This week’s purging included an old journal that I’d started to catch some of the day’s learnings. It was a little 4×6″ book with ruled lines and pages, given to me by a friend. I wanted to put it to good use. Which I did. For a month or so. It’s just that my catching of learning grew into a few other forms. I opened this journal to a first entry — January 8, 2016. Lots of things get started in the new year, don’t they. I was reading Pema Chodron at the time, the American Tibetian Buddhist. Again, lots of good things get started in the new year. My effort would have been to simplify my heart and mind. I copied a few great passages that January. Here’s a few of them.

  • “We don’t sit in meditation to become good meditators. We sit in meditation so that we’ll be more awake in our lives.”
    Oh, to grow in awakeness, right.
  • “Make friends with our hopes and fears.”
    Oh, to reach beyond the surface that so often grips us, right.
  • “This very moment is the perfect teacher.”
    Oh, to see in the moment, more of the everythingness that is in play, right.
  • “All addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it.”
    Oh, to understand our addictions, right — whether to substances, or hard work, the substance of which is meeting an edge.
  • “Those events and people in our lives who trigger our unresolved issues could be regarded as good news. We don’t have to go hunting for anything. We don’t need to try to create situations in which we reach our limit. They occur all by themselves with clockwork regularity.”
    Oh, let’s forget this one. Just kidding. Oh, to have the patience, good friends, or even dumb luck, to see the trigger as teacher and gateway to more of the inner awakeness.

I’m glad for gifts. I’m glad for journals. I’m glad for musings with a date on them that momentarily take me back to the hope of new starts with simple mind and heart. I’m glad for these moments of permission to purge and to get more simple.


Books are tools, right?

For me they are. Some, of course, contain descriptions of tools. For me, however, most of my books provide ideas that help me to create tools.

Sometimes the tool is a story. Sometimes, an important phrase that I can link to personal experience and story. Sometimes, the tool is a framing, a simple set of premises that change how I / we look at our experience and make sense of it.

We humans are indeed sense-making creatures. We can’t help it any more than we can help breathing. And just like our breath is sometimes shallow barely reaching our lungs, so to can our sense-making be shallow. Or restricted. Or calcified.

We humans need to relearn and expand our sense-making. We need to reclaim our breath.

We do this together. It’s just different, and more, that what we do when we are alone. And, some of us humans need to do some of this alone. It’s what helps us be in the group with good contribution.

I continue to learn this.

The stack of books above is what I carried with me in recent travel and work. I know, it was a bit crazy. However, there were passages and phrases that I wanted to have with me. I wanted the energy of them with me. Some of them I even used.

From left to right, here’s a headline from the books above, some of the tools helping me and others to see and to be awake.

Participatory Leadership Journal (Kathleen Masters, Tenneson Woolf) — I love sharing this expression of Art of Hosting with faith community leaders.

Teaching With Fire (Sam Integrator, Megan Scribner, Parker Palmer and a bunch more) — Great poems and stories of the people that selected the poems that point back to an inner and outer fire.

The Invitation (Oriah Mountain Dreamer) — Expands on an invitation, often used, to get real. “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for…”

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change (Pema Chodron) — Invites us to lean in to the fundamental reality of a changing world within us and in the external.

The Seven Whispers (Christina Baldwin) — Christina has such a gift to distill complex life down to simple, yet profound practices.

The Exquisite Risk (Mark Nepo) — Ah, I love the depth that are in these essays that invite and challenge radical authenticity and honesty.

Walk Out Walk On (Margaret Wheatley, Deborah Frieze) — This book includes rich stories of real communities daring to step out of the paradigms and craft the future together from a different set of beliefs and practices.

The Circle Way (Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea) — Circle is the most fundamental practice and skill to be able to go together. It takes us beyond tricks and manipulation to honest and humble listening together for wise action.

To Bless The Space Between Us (John O’Donohue) — Pick a poem, any poem. Pick a blessing, any blessing. He had a gift to invoke the real and the inspiring in all of us.

Improv Wisdom (Patricia Ryan Madson) — Improv may invite a lot of play. However, it also invites a deep quality of presence together and some alternative practices to get there.

A Hidden Wholeness (Parker Palmer) — I love how this book calls out more of the relationship between our inner worlds, and our outer worlds.

7 Paths to God (Jane Borysenko) — Points to the invisible and an inherent holism.

A Simpler Way (Margaret Wheatley, Myron Rogers) — This delicious book offers a new story to carry us into a more compelling and satisfying future together.



Clear Leadership


I had a dream a couple of days ago. In it, I was working with a small group of other people. We were trying to name the event that we were creating. In the dream it was a few days later that it was coming to us. It had to arrive for us, rather than being forced on the spot. “Clear Leadership” is what I shared with the group in my dream. “Yes, Clear Leadership.”

From night time dreams to the waking dream that is day to day life, I find myself thinking a lot about leadership. In myself. In others. In people that I work with that come from many walks of life — ministers, educators, health and wellness professionals, corporate managers, and a whole host of people that are just trying to improve the kind of humans they are. As individuals. As groups, teams, and communities.

In my dream, “clear” had a connotation of depth and simplicity. It wasn’t more management and control of people and circumstance, though that can be important. It was clear story. It was clear commitment to human beings evolving a sense of who we are together and why we do what we do together. It’s one thing to produce widgets. Great. Thank you. It’s another thing (and to be fair, even part of producing widgets) to open ourselves to a broader purpose of being human together and in continuous wonder.

You know, I was in a workshop this weekend, in which one of the fundamental premises was that there is nothing to fix in self or other. Improve, yes. Evolve, yes. Grow, yes. Let go of, yes. Lament, yes. Human learning has full range, doesn’t it. But fundamentally, these are all perfectly normal things. In a Buddhist way, as Pema Chodron shares, “This very moment is the perfect teacher.”

Clear leadership, to me, when it comes to evolving souls, is very much about waking up (and perhaps removing distractions, habits that numb us, or even comforts) to a different story. The story isn’t “more, more, more.” It has a quality of “less is more.” It’s not blame (or concession) for all that is “out there.” It has attention to the intimately nuanced layers of what is “in here” and how the “in here” is in fact shaping so much of the “out there.”

“Clear leadership.” Hmmm… Clarity of soul. Clarity of purpose. Clarity of essence, that perhaps can only be found together and in the company of others that amplify energy, spirit, and memory of what we already know, deeply, and simply.

Here’s to more dreams, and clarity, in all of us.

Fear is the Root Problem

And hatred. And how they escalate. These are roots of the problem too. These are the parts to get underneath to.

I appreciate those words from Pema Chodron, teacher to one of my teachers, reflecting on the an escalating violence in the United States (Bahamas has issued a travel warning to the US, cautioning black men in particular to be careful — it’s not safe, right; some of my Canadian friends tell me that when they travel to the US, their friends and family are now encouraging them to be safe — and meaning it).

I also appreciate the words from Pema Chodron, “I don’t know what the solutions are…. I am committed to continue to help where I can.”

I am committed to exploring fear that is underneath, to change who I am, and who we are. In the big scale (loss of power, identity, reactivism as rhetoric) and in the “small” scale that is individuals and groups (what if we don’t do this project, being behind in time, not having enough).

Peruse Pema’s full post below.

“It has finally really gotten through to me how dangerous it is to be black in America, especially for black men. It feels like Emmett Till all over again. Even in the case of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a private citizen, I wonder ‘How could it be that George Zimmerman was not convicted of any crime?’ As this systemic oppression is seen over and over again in full sight with no justice, it is not surprising that there will be violent reactions such as the tragic shooting of 12 innocent police in Dallas.

If parents of black children have to teach them how to behave with police so they won’t get killed, there is something wrong with this picture. This situation is deeply disturbing to most Americans, including most police officers.

In the US, racial injustice has been going on since the days of slavery. But what is different now, is that the videos of the murders are there for all to see, and white people can no longer ignore what is going on. I am one of them. I don’t know what the solutions are. In fact, anything I would come up with I am already hearing from Black Lives Matter, Dallas Police Chief David Brown, and others, but there has got to be a way for us to move toward justice for all these victims of endemic racism.

The root problem is fear and hatred and how this escalates, which is where my kind of teachings could be useful. I am committed to continue to help where I can.”