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Archive for February, 2012

SEARCHING CONVERSATIONS

It is something that appears in her soul-full eyes.  It is unmistakable: an awakening to an idea, a question, that has just blossomed and has been received; a question of the heart and soul has been engaged.  When such an experience occurs, our automatic, if not obsessive, habit of answering is suspended.  In its place a combination of wonder, mystery, excitement and curiosity moves us to a deeper search.  I love these moments; fleeting though they are.  During this sacred moment in time, I am no longer the agitated person who ruminates about the past and anticipates the future; I am calm, I am present to myself and to my friend.  Now, at this moment, immersed in the light of an awakening to an idea that engenders deep questioning, a questioning shared not by an ‘I’ but by a ‘We,’ emerges, is embraced and is honored.  During this time we do not need anything from one another except being open to sharing an experience of deep inquiry.  A gift is a deeper connection to self and to the other.  A gift is that we are each more awake and aware, if just a little, to the sacredness of the moment.  A gift is that we are not concerned about ‘finding’ for engaging and holding the question in an attitude of searching together has become our ‘destination.’  At this moment we are fully human beings.

For 12 years now, my friend and I have been engaging in searching conversations.  These conversations can, and do, last for hours.  Sometimes we have a topic, most of the time we show up and begin.  No rushing ‘to find.’  No product.  No outcome.  No fear of the silence that supports our search.  I am convinced that because we have chosen to stop, step-back and take the time to search together we re-enter renewed; we re-enter remembering that we are not any being; we remember that we are fully human beings.  Our nature is to search and to seek.  Our nature is rooted in curiosity and mystery.  Our nature requires relationship.  We are reminded that as human beings, in the end all that matters is love and friendship.  Every great wisdom tradition reminds us, indeed admonishes us, to love the other human being as you want to be loved.  Every great wisdom tradition also reminds us that no person is an island; we are truly in this together.  

I hold an intention, dear reader, that if you have not experienced this type of searching conversation fed by the tap roots of love and friendship that you search until you have the experience; I hold an intention that if you have had this experience that you continue to find opportunities to once again engage in and savor such conversations.

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PURPOSE, IS IT?

As I was preparing for a meeting this morning I was reflecting upon our purpose for coming together.  After a time I came back to the word PURPOSE.  I sat with this concept for a few minutes and some questions emerged into my consciousness.  I offer them with the intention that one or more will resonate and lead to a search. . . a search for what, who knows. Here are the questions, in no particular order.

What do you believe your responsibility is to others?

 What are 2-3 of your core values? [a ‘core’ value is a value that to the best of our ability we will never compromise]

What are 2-3 of your guiding principles?  Here are two of mine: speak with integrity at all times and be motivated by love.

What’s the story being told about you today?  What’s the story you want others to tell about you in five years?  What’s the story you want others to be telling about you after you die?

 Who are the wisdom figures in your life?  What have they taught you?  Why have you paid attention to these particular wisdom figures?

 In what ways do you nurture the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual dimensions of your self?  What are your  favorite ways of depleting these dimensions?

 

 

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METAPHORS

I am a thought-partner with the Head of an Independent school.  We met this morning for one of our ‘thought-sessions.’  As we were thinking together the word ‘metaphor’ emerged into my consciousness.  It occurred to me that our culture has incorporated a new metaphor; one that is driving our culture in powerful ways.  You might remember that Issac Newton provided us the ‘mechanical’ metaphor that for many years was the driving metaphor for our – and other western, industrial cultures.  We still employ the mechanical metaphor in our culture; two weeks ago I heard a department head describe the department as a ‘well-oiled machine.’  As we made the transition to a post-industrial society our primary metaphors also changed.  Beginning in the 1920’s and running well into the 70’s or early 80’s we merged two powerful metaphors and they became the driving metaphors for our culture.  These were/are the sports/war metaphors.  These are still deeply imbedded in our culture.  However, they are no longer the driving metaphors.  Since the late 70’s or early 80’s our driving cultural metaphor has become the ‘banking’ metaphor.  Listen.  Listen closely and you will hear banking language in all areas of our life.  People are ‘assets,’ or ‘commodities,’ or ‘resources’ for example.  We are always looking for a ‘return on our investment’ and we seek ‘value-added’ experiences.

These three powerful metaphors – mechanical, sports/war, and banking – continue to enable us to dehumanize one another; they continue to allow us to guilt-free use people up; they continue to enable us to act uncivilly toward others.

What are your personal primary metaphors?  Which of the three cultural metaphors do you use most often?  What would happen if you attempted to go two days without using any of the three cultural metaphors?  Could you find other metaphors to use in their place?  If you try this experiment keep note of others’ responses to you.

 Here is a poem I wrote about metaphors:

METAPHORS

 The Metaphors we use

Plus

The Words we infuse

Plus

The Questions we muse

Determine

The Path we choose.

–Richard W Smith, 1985

 

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DISTINGUISH

It is early morning here; I am sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops savoring a ‘free’ coffee.  It is cold outside, the sky is clear, the sun will soon rise just to my left.  As I sat down at my table my intention was to read for an hour or two before I went off to meet my two adult-children [that, in its self is an interesting term] for breakfast.  We are going to celebrate a ‘next-step’ that my son will be taking next Friday.  I settled in, chose a book from five I brought with me, relaxed,  held the book and began to pre-savor what I knew would be a gift from the author to me.  I paused.  I sat looking at the book.  The following question emerged into my consciousness: What motivated me to choose this book this morning?  As I held this question, the word DISTINGUISH came a calling.

Distinguish means to separate by differences, to perceive clearly, to choose between or to choose among.  I rely upon my intuition as a primary guide in choosing between or among.  I also rely upon my mood to guide me; although at times I find that I must choose against my mood.  Sometimes I allow logic or ‘the facts’ to guide me, but I am more likely to lead with my intuitive sense.  So even here I distinguish between and among my inner ‘guides.’  I then choose.  Ah, or is it really that I choose?  When is what I select truly an act of choosing and when is it an act of ‘habit’ and when is it an act of ‘my first or second nature?’  I don’t always know.  What I do know is that I trust my intuition, especially when I am focusing on how I might best serve others’ highest priority needs.  Frequently,  after the experience I am not able to explain ‘why’ I chose what I chose; I have no words to describe the ‘why.’

I believe that we are constantly choosing what ‘guides’ to listen to, what ‘guides’ to follow, what ‘guides’ to trust, what ‘guides’ to rely upon when things get dicey [this is another interesting word/concept: dicey].  I also believe that we can, via rigorous discipline develop our capacity for discernment.  How can I, or you, truly choose without discernment?  [Discernment = the power of keen perception]  I can, and certainly do, choose without engaging discernment; I am now speaking of ‘truly choosing’ – that is being awake, aware, intentional, and purpose-full in my choosing.  YET, I rely upon my intuition when it comes to making certain choices [Intuition = the direct knowing of something without the conscious use of reasoning].  I trust that at a deep level I do discern before I choose; my intuition is my guide.

What guides you in your choices?  Do you rely on more than one guide?  How do you distinguish them from each other?  When do you choose out of habit?  How is that different from choosing with discernment?  

Well, back to my book. . . but, now, which book will I choose?

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NOISE. . . . SILENCE. . .

Too much noise.  I am whelmed over by noise.  I seek relief – or do I, really?  It is easy for me to blame my culture or to blame them or to blame ‘out there.’  Too much noise.  Yet, when I am alone, in my own living space I invite noise from ‘out there’ into my life.  I turn on the radio or the television or the computer.  Too much noise.  When  I decide to not invite the ‘out there’ into my space I soon discover that the more powerful noisy noise is emanating from within me, from in here.  This is when I ask myself: Richard, do you really want relief from the noise?  This leads to other questions: What will emerge if you soften your internal noise; if you turn the volume down?  What purpose does maintaining the volume of noise that resides within your heart and soul serve?  What needs are met?  What needs are avoided?  What keeps you from choosing to silence your noisy heart and soul?  

I know it is not a matter of knowing how?  I know that it is not a matter of not having the knowledge.  I know that knowledge itself does not change provide [sounds like Yoda is talking now].  Seeking Silence requires knowledge, yes, and motivation, and commitment, and intentionality and action.  It also requires, for me anyway, an acceptance of what lies behind, or is it within, the noise.  Acceptance.  Acceptance = approving reception.  Am I willing to receive with approval all that emerges when I quiet the noise.  Is what emerges simply more noise?  Perhaps it is not noise.  Noise = a din of voices.  Perhaps what emerges is a whisper.  Whisper = to make soft, rustling sounds.  Noise whelms me over and distracts me and adds to my disconnection [from myself and from others].  Perhaps a whisper invites me to pay attention, to focus, to be response-able, to listen attentively and deeply with a searcher-seeker ‘ear.’

Perhaps, this whisper that can only be discerned amidst silence is the whisper of the wisdom that resides within or is the whisper of the divine or the whisper of the guiding spirit or perhaps the sustaining spirit.  Perhaps it is the whisper of the transcendent calling me to be, to become, and to use my self to meet the needs that exist in my world.  I am not sure.  What seems to be clear, however, is that as long as I invite and celebrate noise in my heart and soul I will not be open to, much less be able to hear, the whisper; the whisper that is for me alone to hear.

This photo from my friend, Bruce, invites me into the wonder and awe of silence.  This is silence captured in an image.  I can hear the soft whisper as it moves the through the valley.

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MUST I. . . ?

MUST I SERVE?

[an incomplete reply]

 

A simple question I hold:

Must I serve?

It seems that

A fox Must hunt;

An eagle Must soar;

A searcher Must seek.

Must is housed in the

Who of each.

 

What resides in my Who?

My mind houses Should

and Ought;

My heart houses Perhaps

and Maybe;

My soul houses Hope

and Possibility.

There is no space in this home for

Must.

 

Will I choose to

make a room for Must;

to create a mind-space

or a heart-space or a

soul-space for Must?

 

Am I willing to intentionally invite

and warmly welcome Must into

my home?

 

Am I willing to accept

Obligation —

the clothes that cover Must?

 

Am I willing to sit quietly and

listen for the voice of Must

asking me to welcome her

and him into my home?

 

Am I fearful that Must is

lurking about outside and

that Should, Ought, Perhaps,

Maybe, Hope and Possibility

are busy guarding the door

with the bar of Distraction?    –Richard W Smith, 20 December, 2009

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CIVILITY, PART I

I grew up in a city with a population of 17,000+.  It is located 60 miles south of Green Bay, 60 miles east of Madison, and 60 miles north of Milwaukee.  I am no stranger to brats and beer; but I digress.  We spent many hours riding the train, especially taking trips to Milwaukee, Chicago and to St Paul to visit our mother’s family.  Frequently the coaches were crowded, quite crowded.  And yet civility was rampant.  There were clear rules that were enforced by the Conductor – and our mother.  There were also covert rules that people learned as they traveled and sought to make the journey as enjoyable as possible.  I don’t recall anyone actually enforcing these rules; they seemed to be followed because at some deep level we all knew the long journey mixed in with frequent stops when people and some luggage had to be moved on and off the train required us to follow these rules if the journey was to be, at minimum, tolerable.  I don’t recall any rage or anger because of these frequent stops; nor do I recall any passengers ‘losing it.’

I do recall a young man who had a grand mal seizure, the first I had ever seen, and what I remember, in addition to being frightened, was the immediate response of others to come to this young man’s aide.  My mother was a nurse and she immediately jumped up and began to help for it was the thing to do.

As I recalled and reflected upon this story this morning it occurred to me that this type of civility required at least two things from all of us: First, each of us had to make a sacrifice for the well being of the whole – in fact, as human beings we are called upon, if not obligated to, make personal sacrifices for the well being of the community [you name the community] as we journey through life together.  Second, in the long run, the sacrifices we each make enables the journey, at minimum, to be worth it and at maximum to be more than worth it.

Today, however, especially in our culture, we seem to be living an illusion.  The illusion is that we are traveling alone – the automobile has helped foster this illusion I think.  We have shifted dramatically from ‘we are on this train ride together’ to ‘I am on this ride by myself – it is truly ALL ABOUT ME.  We have come to care less and less about others; we have come to suspect the stranger in our midst – as well as the stranger that wants to move from the edges of our midst into our midst.  Others, those we know and those we don’t know, have become competitors, if not obstacles, to our getting what we want.

We all know, if we are awake and aware at all, that our current political landscape has become our country’s poster-child for incivility, at minimum, and for outright hatred of the ‘other’ in so many ways.  If we citizens didn’t like it then our politicians wouldn’t be engaged in such childish behavior [actually, this is an insult to children who by and large haven’t been corrupted by incivility – so I apologize to you, dear children].

I am searching and seeking the civil that resides within each of us.  I am seeking to call forth and live into the civility that resides within me.  I move between being caught up in the cynicism that incivility breeds and nurtures and the hope that is a tap root that feeds and nurtures civility.  The hope, for me, lies in the fact that we do have choice.  The question I hold is Do I – You – We have the courage to choose civility?  

Civility is like this photo of the forest as captured by my friend, Bruce, who is a living example of civility.

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