person standing on rock formation

Accessing Our Inner Wisdom

How many of us long for inner wisdom? 

Yet, we resist the intention required to honor the soul of our leadership.

Perhaps, because we intuitively know that such nurture requires surrender. On a gut level, we know that the surrendered life is about releasing our need to be in control… to be right. Much of our ability to let go depends upon our ability to entrust ourselves to the journey.

This involves a commitment to waking up and growing up. Without such commitment, our formation will remain on the surface, never integrating life’s challenges, let alone providing the means by which the emergent future might be made known. 

Pause, and think of a time when your sense of self shifted, and you became aware of a deepened connection to both yourself and your world. Accompanied by this connection was an awareness of the potential that you could be living into. 

Joseph Jaworski reflects on this connection: “It takes courage to listen to your inner knowing. But once you hear the voice of that knowing, deciding becomes fairly easy. You don’t have to think or strategize. You just know.” Making decisions then becomes not so much about deciding as about letting an inner wisdom emerge.

We live in a threshold time—when one way of being is ending as another emerges. Our relationship with Source, stranger and self cannot be orchestrated, controlled, or forced; only lived. The future will not come by majority vote or even consensus. Leading, especially in changing times, is an action of the surrendered heart. While we cannot predict the future, aligning with the movement of Source through an open mind, heart, and soul allows the future to emerge through us. 

A way to begin to align is to simply pause and connect body, mind and heart:

  • Begin by settling yourself into stillness.  If you find yourself scattered and diffused, tie a short phrase—like “Be still and know”—to your breath.  Breathe in: “Be still.” Breath out: “and know.” Allow your mind to listen to your body and your heart.
  • Next, do  a mental scan of your body, starting with your toes and working up to your head. Notice areas of tension, relaxation, soreness, or limberness. What is your body trying to say? Incorporate a few moments of stretching as a form of bodily meditation and release.  Breathe in… and release.
  • Now, dwell with your heart. Name what your heart holds. Honor what your heart seeks to share.  What action might you take to either nurture or release this feeling? 

In our practice is our path.  The soul of our leadership depends upon it.

boy in blue jacket hopping on water puddle

Dangerous Wonder

Dangerous Wonder

Do you remember the first time you experienced snow? Jumped in a puddle? Watched fireworks? Delighted in something new?  Fell in love?  Do you remember what it felt like… feels like… to wonder?

One of the hidden gifts of Covid for me has been the opportunity to slow down and recover the practice of wondering.  A snippet of an old Southern folk song floats through my mind: 

I wonder as I wander out under the sky…  

While Covid has limited my travel, there is a profound power to wondering and wandering in place.  In reconnecting with the land and the people I love, my wandering in place has me wondering about a lot things, most especially my call… our collective call… in this threshold time.

In another threshold time, Martin Luther King, Jr. named “our inescapable network of mutuality” prompting me to ask: Are we ready to nurture compassion toward a mutuality that honors diversity, demands equity, and nurtures inclusion?  Will we allow wonder to nurture moral imagination that we might embrace a new way of being, belonging and becoming, even as we acknowledge other forms of wonder that distract and distress.  

On this 20th anniversary month of 9-11, the terrible wonder and disbelief that planes could crash into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, a field in Pennsylvania. This past month, the seemingly overnight return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.  A pandemic still raging across the globe.  The tipping point (O God, may it be so!) of violence against people of color that we might finally know that we are all connected.  Either we flourish together in our interdependence as people and planet, or continue on a path to destruction.

Richard Rohr in The Naked Now believes that  “wondering” is a word connoting at least three things:

                        Standing in disbelief

                        Standing in the question itself

                        Standing in awe before something

Many stand in disbelief these days.  Others remained locked in questioning.  Ultimately, the danger of wondering is that it asks something of us.  To respond requires acknowledgement that while we are not in control, we do have agency to co-create a future that moves us beyond this present age of destruction.  It begins with standing in awe, reconnecting soul with Source, and wondering.

Are we ready to wonder about the future through the lens of our interdependence?  Can we conceive of flourishing apart from GDP?  Might dare to wonder, without immediate answer, about the pressing social and environmental issues in ways that do not seek to control or hold onto the past, but let go that the future might emerge?

This form of wondering is dangerous.  It requires a willingness to shift in perspective, even long held beliefs, that we might allow for the conditions that honor life, in all its wondrous forms, to emerge.  The practice of dangerous wonder  invites us to be attentive to people and place, and dwell in the questions, beyond easy answers.  Dangerous wonder suspends judgment in favor of exploring the inherent gift of life amidst contradiction and challenge.  Much depends upon our willingness to wonder.  

Will you join me in sharing your stories of wonder?

Practice Makes Perfect

Living the Altered Scale of Our Times

You’ve likely heard the phrase practice makes perfect.  

The challenge is that when we seek perfection, we often get stuck.  We associate perfection with flawlessness.  Yet break down the word to its root—per and fect in Latin—and something far richer emerges.  The prefix per means through and fect means to make or do.  What if perfection is not the absence of flaws or defects, but a means of making a way through?   Reconnecting with the root construct of the word, practice makes perfect presses not towards flawlessness, but practice that carries us through this time as we make a new way.  

The term altered scale must also be defined.  Altered scale in jazz refers to a musical scale based loosely on a major scale, but with alterations, that can lead in unanticipated directions.  There is tension and release.  There is variation.  There can be dissonance, there can harmony.  Altered scale takes both musician and listener on a journey.   What if we approached our  present context as an invitation to a journey, a journey of emergence found through practice and altered scale?

If ever there was a time when we need to acknowledge the need for altered scale and explore new practices, that time is now.  If we have learned nothing else from a global pandemic, George Floyd’s death, the US departure from Afghanistan, and the list goes on… it is that our actions matter.  Our actions, informed by our daily practices—small and large—inform how we engage with our world.  They shape what we think and guide what we do.  

The inspiration for these practices come from the chapter titles of a book entitled Dangerous Wonder.  Danger and wonder.  The dissonance of connecting these two words presses us to explore the paradoxical relationship between adjective and noun.  The adjective challenges, while the noun invites.  Joined together adjective and noun becomes a practice that stretches us beyond our comfort zones, inviting us to discover the altered scale for our time.  Our adjectives for this journey: dangerous, risky, wild, daring, wide-eyed, irresponsible, happy, naïve. Our nouns: wonder, curiosity, abandon, playfulness, listening, passion, terror, grace.  Together they invite us to embrace emergence.  

We stand at the crossroads.  Will we embrace our interdependence?  Or not? Will we respond to climate change and systemic injustice that we and future generations may live? Or not? The choice is ours.

To that end, these practices are an invitation to enter the altered scale of our lives.  Get ready to practice some dangerous wonder! Coming next Thursday!



Image: Swimming between tectonic plates in Iceland.

The Longest Journey – Restore

The Longest Journey 

Last week we explored letting go.  Letting go of our sense of how things should be.  Letting go of our desire for a carefully ordered existence.  Letting go in order to take hold of the emergent new.  As Professor Bob Quinn reminds us: “Our ability to change is predicated on our ability to let go.”  But, letting go is just the first step.  With letting go comes the invitation to restore.

Restore | katartizo

My wound is my geography.  It is also my anchorage; my port of call.  

Pat Conroy

Our restoration as people and as a planet will not come without intention.  The polarization runs deep.  We remain divided.  As with letting go, restoration begins at the level of self with the healing of wounds.

Wounds.  Not simply the kind you see on the outside, rather the deep-inside kind.  The kind of wounds that Pat Conroy reflects on in the opening lines of his thinly disguised biography, The Prince of Tides: “My wound is my geography.  It is also my anchorage; my port of call.”  Growing up in an abusive household, the wounds ran deep.  Today, abuse on every level seems rampant.

Five Kinds of Trauma

A colleague of mine tells me that wounds are born of five kinds of trauma.  The wounds of:

  • Withholding, that is, not getting what we need to be whole and healthy.  
  • Aggression, receiving what we did not need in the form of physical abuse.  
  • Loss, in the form death, illness and/or accident. 
  • Betrayal, born of emotional abuse and manipulation.  
  • Prolonged duress, as experienced in war, natural disaster, and situations of chronic stress.

Fault Lines

Our continuing political divide across the globe, the unremitting violence, the ever-deepening economic inequality, the increasing abuse against those who are different color and/or sexual orientation, the daily destruction of creation, and/or (you fill in the blank) reflects the heavy cost of trauma, post and present.   Daily there is relational fall-out, resulting from poor decisions made on every level.  Like aftershocks, social media increases fear and spreads distrust.  All the while, the fault lines are growing as we continue to respond with incremental “fixes” to circumstances that can only be addressed by restoring the soul of our integrity.


Yet, there is hope.  If geography is the study of the earth, then our wounds are the study of traumas that have shaped and formed us.  If we trace the geography of our wounds, they can become for us a source of healing and restoration; a foundation upon which to build.  It is then that we come to experience the paradoxical reality that wholeness can be born out of brokenness.  

There is danger, of course.  In our vulnerability, many prefer cut-off.  We ignore our wounds at great peril to self and community.  Rather than providing the means by which wholeness is sought, our wounds become an underground source of disruptive emotions and dysfunctional behaviors. In response, we over-focus on behaviors and emotions—sometimes our own, more often that of others—trying to manipulate, failing to address the root wound.   


Often, our need for healing is revealed in an unhealthy response to a life situation rooted in false beliefs.  We stay on the surface, never digging beneath the reactivity.  But, as poet and artist Jan Richardson reminds us: “Somewhere beneath our hungers are maps… there is a geography to our desires… our yearnings possess longitude and latitude… if we follow their lines, they can help us find our way.”

It is time to name the root wounds—our own, society’s and the planet—so that we can might begin to heal, at the level of self, family, community, nation and creation.  When we dare to name our wounds, we are released to experience truth and acceptance about ourselves and others.  With acceptance comes peace.  Just as Pat Conway’s wounds provided deep inspiration for his writing, so our wounds can and will provide inspiration for our leadership.  The koine Greek word for restore is katartizo.  It means to mend what is broken, to repair and restore.  It is also translated as equip, with the ethical intent of strengthening and making what one ought to be.  

With our restoration comes equipping for life.  When we dare to seek restoration, we find our choices emerge from a place of healing that neither reduces nor hides from the brokenness, but instead draws life from them.


In a time when many superficial voices speak, those who dare articulate the pain of the wounds intuit a way forward that offers healing and wholeness not just on an individual level, but also on a family, community and societal level.  If indeed, a large portion of our anxiety is tied to systemic challenges, then they must be addressed systemically, beginning at the level of self.  Our centralized structures were not built for our global world. 

Deep down, we know that we all have wounds in need of healing.  Put another way, we all got stuff.  I got stuff.  You got stuff.  How might our stuff serve as our port of call toward the flourishing of our communities?  How might we reclaim our agency?  Not in spite of the trauma, but through claiming the wholeness born of our brokenness.  Therein, lies the hidden gift.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you able to name both ancestral and childhood wounds that have impacted who you are today?
  2. What situations most easily trigger you?
  3. Take some time to explore any possible connections between the two.

Practice: Tracing the Geography of Our Wounds

Wounds and roots, they go together.  One of my favorite desert wisdom sayings comes from Abba Poeman: The greater the hollow carved out in grief, the more room for joy to dwell therein.    The paradox of wounds is that out of our brokenness, can come healing when we claim the fullness of our stories.

This next week download and print out google maps of places where you have lived.  Create a collage and then grab some colored pens to annotate the journey.  As you trace the latitude and longitude of your life, what in you deserves the gift of restoration? 

The Longest Journey – Release

Long ago, Dag Hammarskjöld noted that the longest journey is the journey inward.  Too often, we allow our outer life to distract us from the most important work we can do, the inner work that informs the whole of our lives.  It’s time to do that work for the soul of our leadership!  Will we repeat the past or commit to shaping a future out of the intersection of personal transformation,  innovation, and systemic change?  Join me for a seven-week journey of letting go to take hold.

Release | morphoo | Let Go!

You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter you long before it happens. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity.

Rainer Maria Rilke

The image… the call to establish a community of Poets & Prophets… first came in 2012.  The early nudges expressed in a growing sense that I was no longer in the right seat on the bus.  By the time I wrote and presented a white paper on The Leader as Poet & Prophet in 2014, it was clear that I was entering into a season of disquiet.  A season in which I would have one foot in and one foot out of the institution.  It was time to nurture the poet and prophet within.

By their very calling, prophets are leaders who serve at the margins.  Shaped by the institution, prophets see the disconnect between the espoused mission and institutional survival.  But, the voice of the prophet alone is not enough.  It must be woven with the poet.  Many voices compete for our allegiance.  The poet helps us to remember who we are that we might reclaim the integrity of core identity, character and call.  Beyond the quick fix, beyond the individualization of our times, beyond the loss and pain born of deep change, nurturing the poet and prophet within releases a paradoxical hope for the future, in the face of deep loss.

The Future Must Enter You

Little did I know the prophetic truth of the poet’s words: “The future must enter you long before it happens.”  As with the stages of grief identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, I found myself first in denial that I would actually need to leave the institution.*  Couldn’t I do the work from within?  Hadn’t I earned the right?

Denial was followed by anger at the system for its failure to change.  Even as I understood that the system was set up to do exactly what it was created to do, I wanted the change without disruption to my own life.  Then came the negotiation.  I would (and did) design my own position description.  The problem, of course, is that tacit norms displaced core values every time.  Finally came the acceptance that I could not be faithful to the call to support leaders in growing up and waking up in spiritual maturity within the institution. 

Seen from the vantage point of today, I am bemused that I ever thought I could give birth to my images without first releasing my attachments.  Attachments to the very things I was challenging: power, privilege and position.  It was humbling to realize how much my identity was shaped by those three Ps.  I liked the power, I assumed the privilege, I was comfortable (even if unhappy) in the position.

A Series of Conversations

A series of conversations helped me to release into my present call:

  • Anita Howard, soul friend, pressed me to name my call;
  • Judi Neal, founder of Edgewalkers, helped me to locate my work at the margins;
  • Janet Hagberg released me to focus my work with leaders and organizations “at the wall” (moving beyond the burden of ought self);
  • Alicia Forde, introduced me to Movement Ecology (, helping me to understand how my work moves across three domains—personal transformation in my coaching; formation of alternative community with The Meetinghouse, home to Poets & Prophets; and deep systemic change through the Pivot Projects.

One by one, the wisdom of these women dismantled my defenses, challenged my unowned fear of failure, and blessed me into my present work.  There has been an unbundling and remixing that I could not have plotted or orchestrated.

Releasing Power, Privilege & Position

To fully engage the inward journey took releasing position, power and privilege.  It involved reconnecting soul with Source.  The gift is finding myself transformed, degree by degree.   There is a koiné Greek word that captures this soul movement.  The word is morphoo (mor-fo’-oand it means the inward and real formation of the essential nature of a person.  

Our formation is akin to the growth of an embryo.  We are pregnant with more possibility than most of us can imagine.  A lifelong process, waking up and growing up involves not just learning about the spiritual life, but daring to connect soul with Source.   Like the hungry caterpillar in Eric Carle’s storybook, when we dare to surrender, amazing things begin to happen!

On a personal level, the journey has once again become my home.  I’m no longer destination bound.  Instead, I’m present to the invitation of each day.  With the letting go comes new an understanding of what it means to be, belong and become.  Do not fear the releasing which must precede the receiving.  

The hour of clarity will come… if you only dare let go!

Questions for Reflection

  1. What invitation (or resistance) do you find in the poet’s words?
  2. How are you being called to nurture the Poet & Prophet in yourself?
  3. What might it mean for you to be transformed degree by degree?

Practice: Go for a Swing!

The problem is that to grow, to take the journeys on which our growth is predicated, we must confront our own immaturity, selfishness, and lack of courage.  In a sense, life is all about our forceful, often overpowering need to take journeys, yet our tendency is to grip the swings ever more tightly.  

Robert Quinn, Deep Change

As a child, I loved to swing as high as I could and then let go.  The sheer thrill of soaring through the air and then landing on the ground.   The release and the opportunity to begin again.  It led me to ponder when did I begin to grip the swings ever more tightly?  When did my own immaturity, selfishness, and lack of courage displace taking the journey?  

This next week find a swing set and reacquaint yourself with the experience of moving through the air. Perhaps your knees, like mine, can no longer handle the jump.  Simply, allow yourself to remember (or imagine for the first time) the exhilaration of letting go.  Name what your soul is inviting you to release that the future might to be born through you… and then let go!

Take a Breath

Take a breath. A deep breath! And release. What does your breath have to tell you about the pace of your life? About the stresses you are experiencing? The tension in your body? Your level of energy?

Science tells us that following stress and activity, the body must replenish. Why then do we find it so challenging to rest? To balance work and rest? Doing with being? Time together with time apart? In stopping to catch our breath, to rest, we literally provide the means for living the active life.

Parker Palmer, in The Active Life, reflects on the difference between living an active life and a state of frenzy:

For some of us, the primary path to aliveness is the active life. The active life is an extraordinary mix of blessing and curse. The blessing is obvious… But the active life also carries a curse. Many of us know what it is to live lives not of action but of frenzy, to go from day to day exhausted and unfulfilled by our attempts to work, create, and care. Many of us know the violence of the active life… Action poses some of our deepest spiritual crises as well as some of our most heartfelt joys.

Where would you place yourself on the continuum between the active life and the frenzied life?

Over the next few weeks pay attention to your breath… and your schedule.

Take a breath. A deep breath! And release.

Welcome the Stranger

As I ponder the times, I am struck by the extreme expressions of fear and love. I am also reminded that where there is fear, there is hatred. Where there is love, there is life. A core practice for our times is the practice of hospitality. As a intentional practice, hospitality calls us to welcome the stranger on a daily basis.

Henri Nouwen believes that the paradox of hospitality is that it calls us “to create an emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness, where strangers can enter and discover themselves created free, free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.” Clearly, the practice of hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his or her own.

One Greek word incorporates a profound truth: xenos , the word that means stranger, also means guest and host. This one word signals the essential mutuality that is at the heart of hospitality. Think of our language’s use of xenos: philoxenia—hospitality, a love of guest or stranger; and xenophobia— fear of the stranger. We do well to remember both the danger and the need.

This month, spend some time reflecting on Henri Nouwen’s wisdom above. How does the practice of emptying relate to the practice of hospitality? Why is this important? Reflect on the word xenos. How are we called to nurture the stranger, guest and host within that we might welcome the stranger without? And, then set your intention to practice hospitality.

May we be radical in welcoming of the stranger in our midst!