|A view of the Pacific Ocean from Jenner by the Sea|
"Allow regular time for silent reflection. Turn inward and digest what has happened. Let the senses rest and grow still." - John Heider, The Tao of Leadership
I have returned to the long to-do lists, endless emails, urgent phone calls, complicated projects and wired existence that make up most hours of my day. It's called work. The silent retreats in Assisi and Silicon Valley, the long walks through the streets and woods and waking up with nothing to do except meet amazing people, looking for spiritual and entrepreneurial wisdom are over. Making time in my life to turn inward and digest what has happened takes more intentionality and much more effort.
I discovered meditation, the Tao Te Ching and John Heider's book when I was in my twenties. They have been companions and guides ever since. I've read hundreds of books and leadership in the last thirty years and Heider's book is still the one I turn to whenever I need to be reminded of what I want to be. When I was in the corporate world, I had a practice of giving The Tao of Leadership to every new boss I had. Perhaps this was a bit risky in the Fortune 50 companies I worked at, but I was lucky and had good bosses and they enjoyed the gift every time. We had rich discussions and sometimes we would even meditate together.
I have been thinking about the wisdom of the Tao a lot the last week. I am immersed again in the work of leading a growing organization. I am used to the multi-tasking and juggling that I have to do. I am good at them. But the doors I opened in Assisi and Silicon Valley and, more importantly, the questions, possibilities and challenges I discovered behind them, continue to whisper to me.
I - we - live in a world that goes faster and faster every day. Some of us thrive on the energy and don't want and/or know how to stop. But all the great religions of the world remind us of the same thing - take time to step away, to reflect, to pray, to meditate, to grow still and digest what has happened.
On my last day in California I met with a couple who are very active in philanthropy and spirituality. One was a minister and the other a semi-retired business owner who has been meditating for decades. As we sat in their living room with a spectacular view of the San Francisco Bay we passionately discussed business, religion, spirituality and social entrepreneurship. The minister, not me!, invited us to stop, sit in shared silence for a few minutes and reflect on what was happening. In my mind a lightbulb went off about a secret to success that I traveled around the world to be reminded of. It all starts with silence.
The Tao of Leadership states in the section on The Leader's Teachers: "They practiced meditation. Meditation made them good at seeing how things happen. Meditation grounded them in the infinite. That is why they sometimes appeared deep and inscrutable, sometimes even great."
I met so many wonderful people in Italy and California who I plan on telling you more about. But one similarity kept coming up with almost everyone I met. They spent time in meditation and contemplation. For some people it was the transformational experience of their life. In Assisi that did not surprise me, the rhythm of life invites it, but in Silicon Valley the energy and buzz...not so much.
The first step in being a calltrepreneur is stopping, letting our senses rest and listening. Regularly. Not only so we can discern the calling(s) of our life, but so we can digest what is happening and know what to do next. When we are grounded in the infinite, the possibilities for our lives and serving others become infinite as well.