Not Business As Usual

“I only come here for the dancing”, shouted the guy next to me last night at the party. We’re at a business conference, but he totally made sense.

It’s a weird event. There’s little talk of getting rich or going public. It’s more about vulnerability, doing good, and making change in the world. I helped lead two sessions yesterday, a financing forum for beginners, and a men’s circle.

Profit gets discussed in the context of caring for employees and the environment. Yesterday a shoe company gave a case study. Their stated purpose was to ‘spread joy’. Toto, we definitely aren’t in Kansas anymore.

It feels subversive and important. These entrepreneurs are schemers and dreamers unwilling to accept the norm. But, even though their heads are in the clouds, their feet are pretty much firmly on the ground.

Conversations rarely start with ‘what do you do’, unless of course you’re talking about   yoga or mindfulness. There is an interest in truly knowing and being known.   I think that’s because starting a business with purpose so damn hard. The carrot that dangles in front of them is not so much financial return as it is social. The battle to stay afloat takes it’s toll, and it’s good to be around others who ‘get it’.

 

Another guy said he felt he was at a Grateful Dead concert for business, only with less tie dye or acid.

 

It all sounds pretty great eh? Yah, I am here as a fan and, of course, for the dancing.

 

So That

She was telling me how mindfulness can help me in business. I am sure it can, but isn’t that kind of a weird application? Isn’t the point for it to stand on it’s own, in that moment? It got me thinking about the things I do ‘so that’.

What I mean is, I am suspicious of my mixed motivations. Why am I giving a gift, or donating money, or befriending that person?

Years ago I worked for a Christian organization. It was important to be in church each Sunday. It evolved from being a place of worship, to something I needed to do to maintain appearances.

It’s like when I say ‘I love you’ with an inflection that is meant to cause the other person to say it back. It’s not so much an expression of how I feel as it is a need for confirmation of how the other person feels about me.

If it’s not dishonest, it’s certainly disingenuous.

How much more present would I be if my motivation was just focused on now? How much more real the experience? Of course one thing can bleed into another, but wouldn’t it better if it was some blessed, unintended consequence rather than a calculated move? Wouldn’t it in fact carry more weight as a surprise?

I don’t want any ‘so that’. Whether it’s by myself, with friends, in business, or when I say I love you. I don’t want my actions to double in the program.

Funny, I think I am actually talking about being mindful, no?

 

 

Back To School

September, time to buy new pens and duotangs. There is anticipation of what is going to happen now that the unscripted days of summer are replaced with the rhythm of fall. Blank pages, books, different ideas.   It’s back to school.

Walking back in to the classroom, with it’s sanitized smell, and overly clean blackboards, always felt like a fresh start. Whatever had taken place the year before – the bad marks, the trips to the principal’s office, those weird sandwiches my mum made me for lunch – was all in the past, now’s another opportunity for new.

I still feel that way. It all begins again. My class is a little larger, and it’s harder to distinguish one grade from the other, but it is different from last year. I make similar resolves. I want to sit at the front, try harder, and avoid getting the shit kicked out of me at recess.

I can look forward to both failing and succeeding. I’ll discover things I can do, and others that I have no clue about. At the best of times I’ll be curious, and at worst bored. There will always be older ones above me who know more, that I both look up to and fear. There are even the cool kids, the smart kids, and the ones who hang out back smoking cigarettes and skipping class. Still, at times, I don’t know where I fit.

I want to start this September with the promise that comes from a new backpack full of unbitten HB pencils, 500 sheets of wide lined foolscap, wooden ruler with the metal edge, and a lunch that has a box of raisins, Dad’s cookies, and any kind of sandwich other than egg.

The Future Is Now

I have written a letter for my boys to read once I’m dead. It was meant to just be instructions on what to do with stuff like bank accounts, etc. But, as I wrote, I realized that it was really about the future. I was writing to who they were going to become, instead of who they were now. Needless to say, it’s a sad letter.

As I put pen to paper the melancholy set in. I daydreamed about who my sons would be, and the circumstances under which they’d be reading my note. I then thought about what I am doing now that might shape what happens then.

There are these lines from a David Whyte poem:

Live in this place
as you were meant to and then,
surprised by your abilities,
become the ancestor of it all,
the quiet, robust and blessed Saint
that your future happiness
will always remember.

So, who I am then has everything to do with what I do today. It’s kind of like seeing the forest for the trees. The future is a choice.

I can make plans, but they all lead back to right now. My experiences, decisions, and actions are the stuff of memory in the years to come. How do I want to look back? What can I be confident of as I write my kids?

I already have my own ancestry. I have a few old photos of me in high school. I posted them on Facebook a few years ago – the boys loved them. It gave them a glimpse back. I’ve told them many, but not all, of the stories. Those images and anecdotes aren’t disconnected, they are a real part of who I am now.

All that said, I am really hoping nobody will be reading that letter any time soon.

 

Inside

“It goes from centre to circumference”, said the producer at breakfast. I was asking why the movie set I had spent a couple of days on was so happy.

My friend who wrote, and is now directing, the film was the guy in the middle. He showed such grace, deference, and humility that it wore off on the other folks who were working with him. People were genuinely enjoying the experience, and it was showing up in the product on screen.

I was taken by the phrase – centre to circumference. It makes sense, but at the same time, not so. I spend a fair amount of time flailing about trying to solve problems based on symptoms rather than cause. I work hard on the edges, the appearance, the impression, the parts that are seen.

There’s been this video going around of a guy setting the world record for walking across a thousand foot high chasm on a slack line. He actually falls, hangs on, and climbs back up on the damn thing and keeps going. I’ve watched it a dozen times, each time heart in throat. His skill wasn’t him holding out his arms balancing and walking one foot in front of the other. I think it was deeper, his mental and emotional wherewithal and attention was what truly helped him keep his shit together and wobble all the way across.

Getting to the other side almost seems beside the point. It’s staying on the line in the first place. It’s about what happens at the core, on the inside, that then becomes what goes on outside.

This all may seem like a keen sense of the obvious, but hearing it over bacon and eggs yesterday, it felt almost revelatory.

Who Else Is Going?

The compost tea workshop I am running this coming weekend has only one sign up. The organizer said they might cancel because ‘it’s not worth it’ for just one person. I beg to differ.

There is someone out there who decided all on their own to spend a morning with me learning about making millions of microbes for the soil – how can I disappoint them?

I like that they didn’t ask, ‘who else is going?’ Clearly […]

Who Are The People In My Neighbourhood?

I took over a jar of canned tomatoes and a bottle of wine to my friends next door as a thank you. They had stood vigil all day as my boat washed up on the beach and I wasn’t around. What’s great is I didn’t even ask, they just took matters into their own hands. “It’s what neighbours do”, was the modest response to the gifts.

I am surrounded by people. Sometimes it’s a temporary thing […]

Easy Come, Not So Easy Go

‘The cravings will come and go”, instructed the little how-to-quit smoking card I picked up off the ground. Easy for them to say. I don’t smoke but I know when I am in the midst of an urge, desire, or want the idea that it will subside seems impossible.

I’ve kicked coffee to the curb, and am trying to do the same with booze and sugar – but those two are proving to be a wee […]