Archive for May, 2012


The German mystic, Meister Eckhart, says, “You should be less concerned about what you have to do and think and more about what you must be.  For if your being is good, your work will be of great value.”  Consider that Meister Eckhart is correct and that it is our “being” that must be transformed.  How does one go about transforming his/her ‘being?’  What will one ‘Do’ in order to ‘Be’ different?  [Transformation = a fundamental change in character or structure]

Consider, doing ‘differently.’  Consider, being awake, aware, receptive and ‘seeing.’  You and I are not problems to be fixed; if we try to fix ourselves or others we quickly run into resistance – most of us ‘resist’ being fixed (we either don’t believe we need to be fixed or we rebel against the presumed authority and control of the fixer).

Transformation involves ‘seeing’ things in a new way.  Change comes through ‘seeing.’  For example, as a leader, if I see you as a problem (to be solved) I will treat you in a particular way; if, on the other hand, I see you as a fully human being (a living paradox) I will treat you in another way.  Consider: If you are a problem you are an ‘it’ and ‘object’ (or a ‘cog’ or a resource or a commodity or an asset or a liability or a symptom or a ‘dis-ease’) I will ‘treat’ you (diagnose you, intervene so you will get better, or attempt to fix you).  If, on the other hand, I see you as a fully human being (a living paradox, imperfect as I am imperfect as the team or the department or the division or the organization is imperfect) I will not treat you but relate to you and I will invite you to relate to me and relationship is a major tap root that nurtures transformation.

Consider that if I ‘see’ things differently then I can actually change my mind for I now have a new way of ‘seeing’, of looking at things.  The wider my ability to ‘see’ things differently the more I am able to transform.

What might I choose to ‘see’ differently?  I might choose to discern the metaphors I use and ‘see’ what the world looks like if I ‘see’ through the lens of a different metaphor; I might discern my deep beliefs, values and assumptions and then I might choose to ‘see’ through the lens of different beliefs, values and assumptions.  I might ‘see’ the questions I ask and ‘see’ what happens if I ask other questions.  I might ‘see’ what a different alignment of metaphors, beliefs, values, assumptions and questions reveals to me about me, you and our relationship.

Strength is not needed in order to do this; good will is – good faith, good intention – the good will to choose to ‘see’ differently.

Where do I resist choosing to ‘see’ differently?  Why do I resist choosing to ‘see’ differently? To what extend does ‘fear’ play a part in my being resistant to ‘seeing’ differently? Where am I willing to ‘see’ differently?  What, in me, makes this choice possible? What in me makes this choice a challenge, if not ‘near impossible’?   

Here is a photo that my good friend Yim Harn sent me.  What are the ways you might ‘see’ this photo?  What emerges for you when you choose to ‘see’ this photo in different ways? 

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Because I am and you are human beings we are empowered and response-able.  This is one of the best kept secrets of many religions and families.  We can, and should, decide what to think, do and be and we can, and should, be response-able in doing so.  But certain religions and families want their whips because they want control; indeed they believe it is best for us if they are in control [for ‘whips’ read ‘clergy,’ ‘dogmas,’ ‘creeds,’ parents, grandparents, ‘culture,’ ‘values,’ ‘assumptions,’ prejudices – the list could go on].  Each wants to keep their ‘followers’ in line; this enhances their ‘control.’  AND, many of us collude with them.  We like the whip.  The whip saves us from having to make up our own mind; the whip saves us from having to be response-able; the whip saves us from having to choose.  We even agree to things that we do not really support; we agree for we want to belong; we agree for we don’t want to be shunned; we agree for we don’t want to be marginalized or condemned or ‘punished.’  We give up our power [power = one’s ability to act with reflection].

I find it encouraging when a person refuses the whip in his or her life; when a person wants to work it out for him/her self; when a person chooses and embraces being response-able.  I heard of a man who had worked all of his life in order to please his uncles and one day he woke up and realized that his uncles had died years ago – and he was still trying to please them.  Each day I am reminded in many ways that this is MY LIFE; it is not another’s life.  If I am going to be ‘empowered’ and if I am going to choose to be response-able then I have to choose to embrace my life.  This is frightening at times, but it is also affirming and energizing.  Excuse me, I have to go and check to make sure that what I just wrote is o.k with the many whips in my life. . .

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Consider that Evil often comes in the guise of the sane.  Thomas Merton wrote ‘A Devout Meditation on the Memory of Adolf Eichmann.’  Merton wrote that what worried him about Eichmann was not Eichmann’s banality but his sanity.  The doctors who examined Eichmann found him to be a very sane man.  To quote Merton, ‘We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction.  And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are most dangerous.  . .’

 Psychotics will be suspect.  No one suspects the sane, and the sane ones, as we have seen, will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons, for ‘firing the first shot.’    Sane ones will be obeying sane orders that have come sanely down the chain of command. . .We can no longer assume that because a person is ‘sane’ that one is there-fore in their ‘right mind.’  The whole concept of sanity in a society where spiritual values have lost their meaning or have been adulterated for idolatrous means, has itself become meaningless.

Sane people see themselves as guilt-free as they continue to behave in inhuman ways to others – especially to women, children and the marginalized – those who are ‘different’ and those who don’t agree with their definition of ‘sanity.’  Sane people tend to embrace dualism – ‘Good over Evil’ becomes one mantra for them – and ‘evil’ is too often defined as ‘different from us.’  ‘If you are not with us then you are against us!’ is another popular Western mantra.  It is a small step for the sane ones when it comes to moving from marginalizing, to banishing, to ‘killing the other[s] guilt free.’   It is not, I think, the reason-able, the rational that will protect us; the sane are truly rational.  What will protect us is rooted in the spiritual and in community nurtured by love and enhanced by diversity [in its broadest and deepest sense].  Sanity, Plus. . .

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I first discerned my call when I was sixteen years old.  I define call as using one’s gifts, abilities and talents to address a need that exists in his/her world.  What was more challenging for me was to define my life’s purposeWhy am I here?  For years I was confused and frustrated when it came to answering this question.  I was fifty-three years old [May 4, 1997] when I received the answer.

I had been struggling for a year or so with this question of existence – I was deeply immersed in what the mystics call a dark night of the soul.  On 3 May, 1997 I was in Vancouver, British Columbia.  I had been invited to guide a two day retreat for 100 Christian school principals.  Personally, I was feeling lost and alone – I was in the darkness and the wilderness at the same time.  I was frustrated for I was not sure how I was going to be able to guide the retreat – Why am I here at this time? 

That night I went to bed and felt more than frustration; I was angry – perhaps even full of rage.  I tried to relax so I could sleep.  I moved from being awake and agitated to being asleep and agitated.  About 1am I awoke and was immediately aware of how much rage I was feeling.  I began to yell at God – What do you want of me?  Why am I here?  What’s my purpose?  Why do I exist?  I became exhausted in my ranting – to this day I do not know how loud I had become and I do not know if my neighbors in the hotel heard me or not.  After some time of ranting, I went into a deep sleep.  I then had the following experience.

I was in a space that was undefined but was very calming; peace-full if you will.  I could discern nothing around me.  A plaque was gently placed in front of me.  It was about 2 feet in length and about a foot wide.  It was colored the deepest, warmest red that I have ever seen.  There were white letters on it.  It read: You are love-able.  I slowly read each word.  This plaque was removed and another was put in its place.  It read: They are love-ableI slowly read each word.  This plaque was removed and a third was put in its place.  It read: You are here to love.  Once again, I slowly read each word.  This plaque was removed and I sat amidst a deep calmness; a calmness of spirit that cradled me ever so gently.  I was at peace.  I then woke up – not with a start but with a soft nudge that I have never experienced again.  I cried deep tears of thanksgiving.  My Life’s Purpose was clear.  I spent another 12+ months moving out of the darkness and the wilderness back into the light and life.  Since then I have, at times, lost my way; but I do not question my call nor my life’s purpose.

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One of the essential life questions each of us humans is asked to hold and live into and out of is, Who am I?  All of the great religious and philosophical traditions hold this as an essential life question; it was captured in another way by Socrates when he said, Know thy self.  What complicates this question and our response is that we are powerfully socialized by our culture – our parents, our schools, our religious and philosophical institutions, our friends, our life experiences [this list could go on].  In order to cope and survive we take on a number of affirmations offered to us by these entities.  Be humble. Be proud.  Be anxious.  Be angry.  Be doubtful. Be loyal.  Be honest.  Be fearful.  [What, gentle reader, were some of the affirmations offered to you? Which ones did you take on?  Which ones are, now, part of your identity?]  Some of these we choose to integrate into our very being and we look for confirmations; eventually we do not pay attention to the disconfirmations.  A trap for us is that we come to believe that the affirmation is who I am.  I become the affirmation.  Many of us also take on a role and we then become the role.  I am an engineer.  I am a wife.  I am a teacher.  I am a loser.  I am a worrier.  I am a. . . [What identities,  gentle reader, have you taken on?  To what extent does one of these roles define who you are? What need is being  met by making this role part of your identity?]

One I took on was I am not quite good enough.  I am not a failure; I am just not quite good enough.  I know the root of this in my life.  I know the many ways I have taken in judgments and experiences to confirm this affirmation.  I know the power of it – here I sit so it has helped me cope and survive.  I wanted to give it up – yet I hung on to it.  I learned two lessons from this.  One is that knowledge does not change anything.  The other is that a need is more powerful than a want; all wants will be compromised in the face of a need.  I learned that only a greater need will ‘trump’ a current need.

Once we become our affirmations they are difficult to let go of for we have made them part of who we are AND we need them [remember the original need was one of coping and survival], at least this is our story.  If we let go of them; if we replace them, we are, in a real sense, changing our identity…     WHAT?  Yes, we are changing our identity; the very one that enabled us to cope and survive.  Today we might not like a certain affirmation – say, I am a ruminator; what we find it difficult to grasp is that we need the affirmation.  WHY?  Ah, this is a key question.  Even then we have to take it one step further and discern what NEED is being met.  Then we must choose to integrate a need that is greater than the current need – no small task, but it can be done.  This is long term, if not generational work.  I will offer one more complication to all of this.  Consider that those who know us and love us do not want us to change.  WHAT!  If they accept us changing then they, too, will have to change.  WHY?  Because we are all deeply interconnected and because they have the same challenge I do – the challenge of IDENTITY. 

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