In honor of US Thanksgiving, today, I wrote this poem this morning. Particular thanks to Christina Baldwin for Seven Whispers. that are never far from my ears these days.
I Am Thankful For
He who first taught me the singular importance of breath,
the empty space,
and the silence that restores.
She who first assured me that the pace of this world
is but a deeply embedded construct
that takes but courage to interrupt.
He who invoked clarity of purpose,
the invisible leader,
not through his dominating words, but through his kind inclusion.
She who surprised me,
and maybe herself too,
with a direction that changed everything.
They who insisted I ask for what I need,
to follow my imagination,
and offer myself as gift.
They who welcomed another to the table, always,
because there was always room to be made;
that was my first religion.
They who filled me,
in the crunch of autumn leaves under my feet,
with a remembering and belonging that is ancient.
You know how some books are tiny in size and length, but pack a wallop of meaning in them? The Seven Whispers is like that for me. It’s written by friend and colleague, Christina Baldwin (2002), who has among her gifts, the one of being able to be very clear. She reaches and touches the broadest perspective, and then brings it back down to the dirt and mud we stand upon.
Christina’s subtitle, Listening to the Voice of Spirit is essential — no, she is not talking about a particular spiritual tradition, but invoking a deep quality of listening in and among us. It’s what many of us working with groups are hoping for — listening to what is emerging from our interaction together. The title of her introduction, A Spiritual Practice for Times Like These is brilliant. It names time just enough about time to make it timeless.
These days I find myself saying these whispers to myself, weaving them in to my teachings, and feeling that all I need to stand on is right in front of me. Enjoy the read. Gift yourself with the book (nope, no commissions for me — just the satisfaction of sharing something I really care about and find helpful).
The seven whispers are:
- Maintain peace of mind.
- Move at the pace of guidance.
- Practice certainty of purpose.
- Surrender to surprise.
- Ask for what you need and offer what you can.
- Love the folks in front of you.
- Return to the world.
In her book, The Seven Whispers, Christina Baldwin writes about one of her great teachers, Etty Hillesum, living in World War II Netherlands when Germany was invading. “‘You can’t think your way out of emotional difficulties,’ she wrote, ‘that takes something altogether different. You have to make yourself passive then, and just listen. Re-estalish contact with a slice of eternity.'”
“Contact with a slice of eternity” is really nice, right. I think of it as connection to a much bigger story and picture. I’ve been asking people a lot lately, as individuals and in teams, how do you source what you know? It helps dig a bit deeper and make the work more real.
Like Etyy Hillesum for Christina, Christina is one of those great teachers for me. I’ve known Christina now for close to twenty years. We met in our Berkana Institute days, helping to create together the leadership initiative, From the Four Directions. It was in that time that I was introduced to The Circle Way, that would become a primary mode for me to personally make sense of life’s complexities, and for invoking Circle as a means for groups to get clear and real with one another amidst their complexities.
The Seven Whispers is well worth reading, by the way. Not just once. And not just twice. Many times. Here’s a bit more from Christina from her chapter, Maintaining Peace of Mind. “Peace of mind is the cornerstone of spiritual life. It is the tabula rosa, the clean slate, upon which messages of spiritual guidance may be written. The only way I can receive these messages is to hold myself in a quiet, receptive state I can peace of mind.”
Yes to peace of mind. Always. It is our fundamental work that underlays most, if not all, action.