There is a rift one minute thirty seconds into a Vietnamese jazz composition, Gian Hon, which, when I hear it, always causes a pause within me. Everything slows to a stop. It is as if the artist created a moment fully and completely aligned with my heart, passions, and beliefs. My mind rests. My heart rate and blood pressure noticeably drop. Everything within physically relaxes. In that sweet spot, I always find Divinity resting, metaphorically waiting for me to spend time in just being present with Her. As the rift ends, I rediscover the moment at hand with a refreshed heart.
I grew up with a myth. God was/is conditional when it comes to me as a person. There were things I could do which could not be forgiven. There were places I could go where God would abandon me the door. God was only good to me if I was good to God.
I blissfully accepted it at the time. I was young. I had no experience or evidence to suggest that it was not truth. I knew I had to do prepare and behave if I was to qualify for a seat on God’s train.
Life has consistently reminded me that this is myth. There are candid statements, such as the Psalmist personal observation, “Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?” (Psalm 139.7). If one look across faith systems there is a consistent message of Divine engagement in our lives.
I grew up with tall stories, myths, and extraordinary ideas. My father’s gift to me was a enduring belief in the impossible. I believed I could do anything. While I have tilted at more than my fair share of windmills, the road from then to now has been filled with extraordinary experiences.
As I begin another chapter, the lessons of the elephant are fresh in my mind. While the nuances may be Life tailored for me, I want to share them with you in the hope that you will be on a quest to find and embrace the elephant story in your life.
Decades ago, I took a decision. From the moment we met in an interview, I knew he would be a friend. But, as hard as I try, I cannot recall his face. I remember the essence of his heart. He always had a smile, twinkle in the eye, and ready laugh. Difficult subjects were treated with the gravitas each deserved. With him, kindness and care were always present.
The reason I remember his heart is because of the contrast to the darkness of my decision. Bluntly put, I knew he was in a position of weakness in our interview. Others has exploited his situation and were taking advantage of him. From almost every angle, he was at the mercy of others who did not have his best interest at heart. With a smile, I fell into the trap others had laid out. While I did not discriminate, I used his weakness for my advantage and exploited him, just like everyone else.
And reminder from my early days of meditation recently resurfaced. Even though I have had ample evidence over the years, my unconscious bias dominates my thinking. I think I know what will be said, even by Divinity. I am so certain in my belief that I stop listening for anything beyond my conclusion. I can be so wrong!
In my effort to act on my learning and awareness, I find myself wrestling with my bias and working to embrace lessons insights.
Our unconscious bias is a strong adversary, often blocking one’s ability to put life’s insights and aspirations into practice. For me, naming and calling out this adversary is an essential first step, but it, as a step is not enough. Beyond naming, I am reminded to reflect and remember when I wrestled with this adversary before. I need to reach for my post-mortem reflection and memories to review a path taken so many times before. With a clear, unfiltered view, I can work through and beyond the barriers created in my weakness.
Recently a door was unlocked for me. I was welcomed. There were no conditions. You could sense that if I went through the door that expectations would follow, however the voice from within came across as gracious and open.
With the initial experience of entering and meeting the rest of the community behind me, I realized that the door is regularly left unlocked. The experience has been a fresh reminder of the lessons of an unlocked door.
I rarely realize how many doors are unlocked in my life. Relationships are open, waiting for me to engage. In my rush, I lose sight of the people close to my heart. Even VIPs, if only for a time, are left unattended. When I pause, I begin to hear their voices, feel their care and kindness, and through them rediscover Divine love and acceptance. The door between us was always unlocked, even when I assumed it was closed.
I accepted and believed a myth without reservation for years, if not decades. At the core was the premise; I had to shape “who” I was if I wanted to achieve success. There are reasons for my belief, many of them grounded and factual. What I never question was the connection between the premise and the destination.
Is success moving up a corporate ladder, having experiences, or even being successful in terms of having a family? If so, should one grasp the beliefs which are the most effective at getting one to one’s definition of success?
As I worked to find my place within a new team, I shared my observations. While not intentionally harsh, I am sympathetic to anyone reacting defensively. My notes were candid, and direct. There was no extra context or highlights of the amazing outcomes to date. While there are many, my focus was on the opportunities for action and improvement.
In reading the varied responses, I wonder if I would have responded with the graciousness, openness, and excitement of my peers. While I hope so, I also know it is hard. As a dusty sunrise emerges over the desert, I find myself with a related psalm; “God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.” (Psalm 139.1)
Intensity, post being recognized for leading an initiative which became a defining example of intensity, means a lot more than traditional definitions of “an emotional quality” or “measurable amount of property”.
Intensity includes the steps along a journey, the passion, conviction, and perseverance one needs with each step, and ultimately completing the journey by successfully accomplishing what others thought impossible.
In the silent darkness of the night, I wrestle with the certainty that my attempts to be a better man will fail. It is not a new battle. Battle lines are moving, sometimes in ways which bring peace, on other occasions periods of overwhelming darkness. As the battle continues, I embrace a psalm with prayer grounded in faith. “Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal – don’t quit on me now.” (Psalm 138.8)
In the heat of battle, I look for allies. With a recent battle, it felt as if darkness were closing in. There was no one at my side. Even one who had always had my back seemed to be on the other side.
As I repeat a psalm as a mantra, the battle replays. Divinity, “when I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, with your other hand save me.” (Psalm 138.7)
The battle looks different from the soft light of a new day. In that battle I had an ally at my side, saying words which were Divinely inspired. I could not hear them because my filter said allies and God spoke my language and take my side. In this case, I was focused on two inadvertent slights, totally missing the bigger story unfolding around me.