Wonder & What If Thimbles?

As a young boy growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, I suppose it was episodes of Star Trek (the original series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy) that opened up some of my initial sense of wonder in the world, that there was so much more to be discovered. Star Trek and, a decade later, the original Star Wars movie. Those and, a couple of Grandmas who wanted to grow my imagination. All of that and, a bit of painful life experience that had me reaching for meaning. As far back as I can remember, something in me sought for what was not seen as much as what was seen. Something in me sought for alternative ways of doing things, not just the established norms. Something in me sought relationship to what was timeless, not just what needed to be squeezed into a todo list.

With that as backdrop, I recently wrote this poem below, stringing together some of the “what if” questions I carry now, in both my work and in my personal learning, as I’ve sought even thimbles full of the unbounded ethereal, that likely started when I was a boy


What If, What If?

What if, what if,
this life could be lived 
as connection to the infinite?

What if, what if,
the infinite were found
in but a thimble of experience?

What if, what if,
those thimbles of experience
were available anywhere?

What if, what if,
changed everywhere?

Life is but a dream,
calling for our waking
to the infinite of the every day.




Overnight sidewalk art, ice and leaf, Lindon, Utah, January 2020

There is something very sweet about this photo. In many ways, it is uneventful and perfectly ordinary. It’s on the sidewalk near my home, next to the garbage cans, and on the way to the carpark. It’s what remains from an overnight freeze — nothing designed by me or other human. Yet I was immediately taken by a certain beauty in this. In this frozen pattern that feels like it has some design to it. I don’t know the science of how this moisture coheres or freezes into this pattern. It just felt like there was something kind in the experience of seeing it. I stopped. Got my phone out. Harvested a few photographs.

Small kindnesses are things I’ve been thinking about lately. The ones that come from other people or the ones that I offer to others. Or the ones that come from nature like the momentary pattern that I caught in photo, that evoke a momentary palpability and relationship with beauty. In part, I’m thinking about kindness because a friend recently shared this passage from Danusha Lameris. It was included in a hand-mailed, and hand-written card, that I was delighted to receive.

Small Kindesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. And sometimes, when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each, now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

For inspiration, and perhaps some beauty.




I find myself a bit speechless this morning. I find myself relishing the strength of feeling for which words, even good ones, just don’t simply do. It’s a strength of feeling that comes from discovered community. It’s a strength of feeling that comes from deep friendships and welcome in rather inviting landscape. It’s a strength of feeling that comes from being in flow and abundance, that feels like in flow with life itself.

I’ve returned yesterday from five days with 19 people, the first of three face-to-face gatherings that are Fire & Water: A Leadership Journey and Rite of Passage. It was deeply human, people readied and hungering to lean into both mystery and to leadership. The part of me that offers / seeks to get to the deeper story of work, community, teams, causes, organizations, self — this part of me is very satisfied and speechless today.

For much of my working life, I’ve been lucky to work with good people in good causes. People who knew much. People who were smart enough to invoke a greater sense of holism and wonder. I’ve been able to host and convene in many forms of gatherings for dialogue and participatory leadership and change over these last 25 years. This Fire & Water group feels exquisitely in the direction of speechless, and of awe and wonder together, that so matters in the day to day of tasks and in the timeless moments to moments that is a much much bigger picture.

Oh, so grateful. And a bit speechless. As it should be.

Toward Wholeness

It isn’t knew to be seeking wholeness. Many spiritual traditions for eons have been encouraging this, to get the inherent wholeness that underlays the outward expression of this life. In physics, it was David Bohm who pointed many of us to the “implicate order.” Ken Wilbur is another who has been pointing many of us to understanding the integratedness of the personal and the communal, the subjective and the objective. The thing behind the thing behind the thing — that turns out not to be a thing. Wholeness is the gold in that treasure hunt.

This weekend I was glad to co-host with my friend and colleague Quanita Roberson. This was our tenth hosting of a weekend retreat that we call QT. There were nine of us in a weekend of deliberate curiosity together. Play together. Slowed pace together. Quality time together. Wonder. Wander. Mystery.

In this time of QT, most of what we talk about begins with a set of symbols through which the intent is to move toward more of a wholeness orientation. Inner and outer. Personal and communal. We are deliberate about inviting a range of symbols. Sometimes it’s a formal set of cards (like Caroline Myss’ Archetype Cards). Sometimes the symbols are stories that we share (like, what is the “yes” that brought you here). Sometimes the symbols are a round of sharing dreams from the previous night.

It’s in this last one, sharing dreams, I’ve learned particular pattern that shifts us from a light playfulness to a rather serious journey toward wholeness. It has a few steps that have quite subtle relevances.

When a dream (or dream snippet) is shared, spoken out loud,

  1. The wholeness starts with the invitation for anyone to speak / share a statement, “If that were my dream…,” This is deliberate. We aren’t offering dream coaching or divining for the dream teller. That would be interesting, I suppose, but has never been the purpose for me, nor the skillset. “If that were my dream…,” invites picking one detail that stands out. The lake. The hammer. The connection to mother. The pink towel. No wrong answer.
  2. The next move for the person identifying the detail is to say a few sentences of why the interest. Again, there are no wrong answers in this, because it is personal. There are no wrong answers in the personal journey that is toward an inherent wholeness. For example, “If that were my dream, the detail of the lake stands out to me because when I was a boy, I used to spend time as the lake with my cousins, my sister, and my grandparents.” This steps invites an emotional connection. Or sometimes a naming of a principle from past waking life experience (e.g., “Joy matters.”)
  3. The next move is to bring the access to the emotional connection forward to current waking life learning and experience. For example, “That memory as a boy at a lake with family was a joyful time of my life. It helps me to see some of the joy that I currently have (or that I’m currently missing) in my life now.” It’s this last step that invites and encourages people to be wildly associative, and, well, quite frankly, productive in a move to wholeness, by being willing to explore what is personal.

For most of us, this movement toward wholeness requires being a good noticer. It means speaking as honestly as possible about what it is like to be them, and to speak with willingness to wander in some transparency. It means being willing to get wildly associative, using symbols in front of us (cards, stories, dreams, a phrase from a poem, etc) to explore the inner territory, the personal (that is always connected to the outer). It means giving ourselves permission to wonder how any moment in time and experience is connected to a longer arc of time of who we are being and becoming, or, how the longer and more complex arc is connected to the simplicity of just this moment of now.

Ah, toward wholeness. I know there are many ways in. I’m grateful for that. This invitation to build associative capacity, to recognize that all of it is in each of us — I find that to be true — creates a rather different and healthy kind of feeling in an among groups of people. I’m glad for that too.

It’s all about encouraging ourselves and others to move with this attention. Just as it has been for so long.