What Life Expects of Me

Roger James and I were taking a glorious walk in the early morning sun around the Arcata Marsh. We had just stopped for a few groceries when a distraught man passed by screaming through a bandana, “This is bullshit!” Continuing up the street, he continued ranting about how he had had to enter the Farmers’ Market through a roped entrance and walk opposite to the direction he wanted to walk. His rage was palpable even … Read more…

Break Apart or Build Bridges

john a. powell, professor of Law, African American and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, made the astute observation that in times of stress, societies either break apart or build bridges. In addition to the stress from accelerating changes in globalization, technology, environment, and demographics, we now add a global pandemic and an economic free fall. All of this is hard for the human brain to process. Because the brain evolved to keep us safe, it … Read more…

Spaciousness of “Negative Capability”

John Keats, English Romantic Poet, wrote about “negative capability” in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas in 1871 when he was 22 years old. I read this letter nearly a century later when I was 22, an undergraduate majoring in English literature. I understand this oxymoronically-named ability today in ways I could not have then. As circumstances at work and in our lives become ever more complex, negative capability might be one of … Read more…

Approaching with Reverence

What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will … Read more…

Shifting from Pieces and Parts to Wholes

When tackling a problem, it’s easier to analyze its pieces and parts and try to solve them one by one than it is to try and understand the whole situation or system. However, this approach rarely works because analyzing the parts does not help us understand how the system in which the problem is embedded works nor how it keeps the problem you want to solve in place. Systems thinking, on the other hand, seeks … Read more…

Are We Stuck at a Cognitive Threshold?

The complexity of issues facing us is outstripping our ability to understand and solve them. Governmental institutions spin on gerbil wheels of outmoded, linear processes and procedures, attempting to tackle issues with multiple, inter-connected parts one part at a time. This is as true in the United States Congress as it is in state legislatures and city councils. In the world of business, economic considerations (i.e., profit), trumps all other criteria in determining whether or … Read more…

The Importance of Being Seen

This is a more personal piece than usual. It came early one morning as I was thinking about my mother on her birthday. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have family and friends who see me and love me. Some are still my dear and good friends while some have passed: my mother died in March 1981; good friends Mary Curran and Jean Westcott died in 2002 and 2008 respectively. An important teacher … Read more…

Six Myths About Leadership

What are your beliefs about leadership? That leaders are born, not made? That there is only one right way to lead? Or, that you need to be in a formal leadership position to lead? Let’s explore these beliefs and others that are myths (i.e., widely held beliefs or ideas). Myth #1 Leaders are born and not made.  If this is true then the $14 billion dollars spent annually on leadership development is a rather colossal … Read more…

The Power of Silences

Early in my career I had the privilege of working with an all Native-American Board of a foundation in the northwest and with the Board of a Buddhist Monastery. In each meeting, they taught me the power of silences: both spontaneous and planned. People around the world cultivate silence as a source of equanimity, creativity, and wisdom. For example, silence is an essential element in indigenous ways of knowing and healing as well as in … Read more…

Four Essential Questions: #1 What Are We Doing Here?

This is the first entry in a four-part series that explores four questions: (1) What are we doing here? (2) Who is leading? (3) Who owns this place? (4) Who belongs? Aftab Omer, President of Meridian University, shared these “archetypal” questions while we were planning the annual gathering of the Global Learning and Exchange Network (GLEN) with the founders of the GLEN, David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, and fellow GLEN members Karen Buckley and FireHawk Hulin.  The question—what are we doing here—might appear … Read more…