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.

Still of Winter

It snowed a fair bit the last week in Utah. Some of it made driving a challenge, altering a few plans. Some of it added to the comfort of home, decorating and draping trees. Skies for much of it were winter gray-white, the kind that prevent the full dark of night from arriving. And some of those skies gave way to daytime sun and partial blues.

That snow is mostly cozy to me. Many memories of snow from my growing up years in Canada. Which is one of those times that I enjoy being momentarily returned to.

In all, I love the stillness that snow creates. Because I have boots and mittens and a good hat. And a home that keeps me warm enough. And because, I suppose, stillness, and all that comes with it, is so often missing in contemporary life and organizations. It’s one of those qualities that I know many of us are seeking to cultivate.

Here’s to what might decorate and drape us into stillness.

Before First Light


Before first light,
there is a kind of joy
I feel
in being awake
in the quiet and in the dark.

Before noise comes into the day
from within me,
or from persistent scratching at windows
that is untended grief
masked by accomplished society.

When the world is quiet
I too feel invited to quiet,
to dwell with faithful companions
of unfettered and awakened heart
in undisturbed stillness.

Before noise comes,
the awareness
of dreamtime
still sips coffee with me,
to remind me of what is also true.

Before noise,
I remember,
animated, integrated,
and needed,
soul work.

Keeping Still

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and diplomat of the 20th century. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He wrote of many topics in his lifetime. I’ve learned, often in green ink, as a symbol of desire and hope.

I like this, below, on stillness because it is one of the things I most seek. Stillness, whether in self, with others, or as society, is largely overlooked in a culture that has grown to revere movement and action in such a way that the movement and action of stillness, the subtle, the delicately nuanced, has become, sadly, invisible.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.