Back in the Flows of the “Real” World
I’m on the lip of change this week watching my energy shift from vision quest in the desert to the world of meetings. I’m leading a new finance team in a mid-sized company through an alignment process on Wednesday, then into a seminar called “Inventing the Future of Management” co-sponsored by the MLab (Gary Hamel’s new non-profit venture), McKinsey, and the London School of Business, Hamel’s long time base of operation. Gary’s invited a who’s who in management thinking to come to Half Moon Bay and ask why organizations can’t innovate, adapt, and engage more inventively. “We innovate with everything else – why not management?” he wonders. We’ve been helping get the agenda, templates, meeting infrastructure and everything else in place for several weeks now and it all comes to a head.
It’s been an interesting process re-engaging myself from sacred space back to day-to-day realities. It’s helped to begin each day in meditation, as I have since returning. That practice is deepening. And it’s been interesting to see with new eyes how fundamentally the world is not as it seems.
One of the conditions of Buddha hood is understanding that things are not as they appear and to understand the causes of appearances. Getting caught in our representations is getting caught on the wheel of “Samsara,” the wheel of illusion. So what does this mean in common language, really?
On the Sunday of my return I woke to a dream, and wrote it down. I’d like to share what I wrote for it may have some clues:
“I was attending a conference with a lot of young people and someone older who had the energy of an Al Gore or Bill Moyer. I was walked across a courtyard talking with them on our way to a meal. I was speaking as a gentle wind moved through the trees.
‘We can’t solve our problems by standing in the problem and using the language of the problem,’ I was saying. ‘We need to stand back and appreciate the deeper causes, and not get caught in the way things present themselves as symptoms and appearances.’
‘Our communities and social systems arises from responses to the flows of material, information, energy and consciousness. These are the drivers of change, and the forces around which we all adapt in millions of incremental ways. They are more fundamental than the structures and forms. When they change the structures change.’
‘It’s easiest to see and appreciate the flow of resources and material. This can be tracked, counted, weighed and tested. But much is concealed. When does oil peak? Can CO2 really be sequestered? How fast is the sea rising? How fresh is our water? How much food inflation can we endure? As important as they are, these flows are not all understood, nor are they in harmony, even though they are tangible. Fights over base resources drive entire countries—regarding the way things move over time and to whom.’
‘And there is a flow of information that is another force all its own. Like cumulus clouds on a summer afternoon, it storms and calms, building and reshaping. It is ubiquitous. We are immersed in its symbols. And the flows aren’t limited to the bits and bytes on the networks, but include the patterns of interpretation in our own nervous systems and our collective story telling. How are these patterns changing? Which are credible? What part of the flow do we freeze frame and declare to be the truth?’
‘And through the heart flows the energy that fuels all life—the sun, the tides, the electricity, gas, burning oil and love. In our persons the sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, electrolytes and oxygen, metabolize to keep us strong and healthy. When we clog and block we suffer and die. When fuel becomes dear, the economy sears. Wars ignite in the face of this flow.’
‘And over and around it all is the flow of consciousness, the awareness among people and between all things. Some believe this to be the most fundamental flow of all, on which all others depend. It is the light space in between the atoms and molecules, and is far vaster than the mass. It is the field and the frequency that unites all creation. It is the hope and sense of purpose that when distorted can take down generations and whole civilizations.’
I close my eyes and still see the river of pixelated colors some how resulting from the night of constant wind (see prior stories about the vision quest). And I think about my upcoming meetings and the illusion of trying to get things done by exchanging symbols and sound in closed rooms. Understand that I love and use maps and make them as a living. I create the diagrams and the murals that help people see relationships. And I know down deep that no matter how intricate, no matter how beautiful, the map is NOT the territory, and the appearances and thoughts aren’t the things themselves. It is this humility that keeps me listening past my first interpretations. It is this understanding that keeps me watching for the deeper flows past the forms and structures and pin-point patterns.
My teacher Arthur M. Young spent most of his adult life trying to get science to update its paradigm, to admit that the implications of quantum physics were that purpose and process are fundamental, indeterminate, yet in their movement provide the patterns that connect.
I think of the old Zen saying. “What do you do before becoming enlightened? You chop wood and carry water. What do you do after enlightenment? You chop wood and carry water.”
I’m going into my meetings ready to carry water, knowing that nothing will be as is appears, yet holding appearances as pointers to the deeper flows. It’s for those that I’ll stay tuned, and perhaps listen some new insight into being!