TUESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2011
This past weekend I spent much time reflecting on, thinking about, engaging with, practicing and witnessing emergence. It appears a very fluid process that as soon as one grasps a hold of, changes directions and becomes part of the process of emergence rather than what emerged. It is much like trying to live in the moment: holding on to the moment is holding on to the past – this moment already belongs to the past. Eventually we can look at our history, or we can look at what emerged.
Of course things emerge all the time: an idea, a new book, new connections, a new company. And yet, spending time with the concept of emergence this weekend, one of the things that became quite clear is how difficult it is to let emergence in the moment happen. It is not unlike a brainstorming session in which sooner rather than later a person says “no” or judges another person’s idea. Our set patterns and routines in behavior, thinking, feeling and even sensing lead us to the same conclusions over and over again. Our knowledge and attachment of what is and how it should be, makes it very difficult to be open to what could be.
Awareness of our patterns is the beginning of changing them, and let emergence emerge. Questioning our patterns, making different choices, reframing our stories and our reactions, using our resources differently and using different resources, engaging what is less familiar – our shadow, body, imagination and intuition, are all ways to broaden the range of what is and what could emerge. In many ways it is simply trying to do whatever we do slightly differently than we are used to and see what emerges.
A concept related to this is the one of responsibility, response-ability, the ability to respond in the moment. What became clear is that our ability to respond is often clouded by what is expected, what is familiar or what is ‘normal.’ If we could really sense what is needed in a certain situation, rather than letting our default settings kick in and respond in an automated way – we help co-create this field of emergence. Emergence is not only an individual challenge, but especially an organizational and societal challenge.
This weekend I have had some amazing experiences and have seen some amazing things through working with emergence. I trust that the ripple effects will be ongoing. For now, the question is how do I respond in this very moment…?
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2010
Being in the Moment
I’ve been wondering about my search. I’ve mentioned in the past that I am not sure what I am looking for. And in fact it’s more of journey than a search. I am realizing that searching is more active and that in some ways it denies the current moment.It implies trying to find rather than being with what is. In many ways I have known this for a long time through meditation practice, and yet there is anewness to this discovery. Being in the moment in the mind is a wonderful and difficult practice and definitely prepares for being in the moment in life.
Being in the moment in life is what pre-occupies me these days. It is in part related to our recent move from the Netherlands to San Diego, and in part to the realization that my choices become more precious as I get a bit older. Being in the moment in life is – unlike in meditation – to fully live life with all its ordinary and extra-ordinary moments and at the same time be fully aware of what is happening in those moments. Although this may seem relatively impossible, with the help of meditation, slowing down and reflection we can reach a new level of consciousness and become more aware of the field that we and our experiences are part of. This field is filled with connections that for the most part we don’t see, but start to become more visible through the process of stepping back. When an airplane takes off and we look outside, the messy neighborhood looks orderly in the larger context and a seemingly impenetrable forest is a well-bounded patch of green. Fields, cities, mountains, water and desert rhythmically move by. Taking some distance helps to gain a different perspective. What I am learning from trying to be in the moment is that people, events, experiences and things that are seemingly isolated are actually way more connected than I imagined – all these things together make up the field.
Through studies we have explored how things and people are connected and related to each other. What is more complex is to explore how our experiences and how events are related to each other. It is invisible to the eye and inaudible to the ears.The way I think about it is of an energy field with magnetic forces. If we as people, but also through our actions and thoughts are all magnetic forces who attract and repulse each other and our experiences, we are part of and create an energy field. I believe that this field of energy can become more conscious and that the potential of it is unimaginable.
Being in the moment…. today … A Solstice Moment
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2009
Foreground and Background
Last month, I had the luxury of spending three days walking on the beach on one of the Dutch North Sea islands: Texel. A Winter Walk to pause and be still. We listened to the sound of silence and resonated with each other’s stories. The metaphors, images, poetry, pictures and songs we shared at the very end with each other about what we experienced indicated that the depth of silence had a revealing aspect to it. We went inward to go forward differently – moved by creativity and curiosity, chaos, confusion and clarity, dreams and desires, insight and inspiration, pain and pleasure, consolation and connection.
For me the experience was a modified and somewhat upscale version of the Venice Beach desire I wrote about in my previous post. We listened to the sound of silence, to ourselves and each other accompanied by the interplay between earth, sea and sky. I pondered the life of a snowflake and the relationship between a drop of water and the sea. I was reminded that the Search is really the Journey, and was confronted with the depth of the desire for silence and solitude.
One insight was through an experience of painting. At home I have been working on a painting – the sketch above gives an impression of the actual painting – but the painting does not quite work. I kept working on the piece, quite a number of layers over previous layer, yet the painting does not emerge. It just does not let itself be painted. I did not understand why, but suddenly it became clear to me: I thought I was painting the painting, but I am actually only working on the background of the painting. It is a very powerful realization especially related to life.
At times our experience that seems so important in the moment is actually only the preparation of the next experience, background instead of foreground. Eventually all experiences fade into the background, except for a sliver here and there. Like in a painting, the background ‘colors’ the foreground or current experience – the one cannot exist without the other. During painting – and during life – it is not always so clear what is background and what is foreground, but it is helpful to question which is which.
The insight makes me think of capturing this in some art form. I would like to do a painting and keep working on that same painting for the rest of my life. It will change all the time. Once a month or so, I would take a picture and once a year exhibit the painting, the same – yet different – painting.
The moments that we don’t paint are possibly the reflective moments, the moment of the Winter Walk when we look at our lives and can make room for discovery and distinguish foreground and background.
To be continued…
Group Relations International organized this winter walk. This was the invitation…
Pause and be still
with what was
what will come
to a moment of reflection in our life
Meet the other and our self
While walking on the beach
with a small group of people
Around the Winter solstice
When the days
lengthen and change
from shorter to longer
from dark to light
A moment of reflection on
how we spend our days
A still journey
Will you join our walk
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2009
The desire to live a simpler life shows up quite often. My picture of it is to be a homeless person at Venice Beach in California, to make enough money every day to eat and drink a nice cup of coffee, for example by telling people about themselves using my intuition, reading tarot cards, being silent with people, or having spiritual conversations of some kind. I would sleep in the warm open air, meditate, look at the sea and look at the sea of people, ponder life and try to be in the moment. The desire is a bit extreme, yet quite real. It is a different version of being a monk, trying to find meaning through the simplicity of life. Herman Hesse portrays it so beautifully in his book Siddharta when he describes how Siddharta lives at the river and learns from the water while taking travelers across the river with a ferry. The desire is real and at the same time a mixture of fantasy, projection and escape.
The fact is that I have created and live a complex life. I left my family’s life style and moved abroad to become a celibate priest and spiritual director, subsequently left the priesthood to share my life with a man, a man with a different color, nationality and language. Eventually, we decided to adopt children and entered a set of unusual relationships with the mothers of our boys. The navigation of the legal system and agencies seemed like a walk through the wilderness. Currently we live in Holland, yet work abroad and created an international organization. There is nothing simple about our lives.
The tension between the desire to live more simple and the creations of a more complex life is at times a serious challenge. And yet, in my better moments I can see how the seemingly extreme opposite sites of the spectrum inform, enrich, inspire, and influence each other. The complex becomes more manageable applying the concepts of simplicity. And simplicity becomes richer and fuller knowing about and living complexity.
In a meeting with a dear friend today, we talked about complexity and simplicity. In a moment of insight a new word came: simplexity. Simplexity is when simplicity and complexity are complimentary (thank you Anjet and thank you Wikipedia), when the complex is in the service of the simple and right. Adopting our children was a complex and simple act. Being a shoe fairy for a family in need requires the complexity of enough money being made to let the shoes magically appear. Being the chair of the local arthritis foundation is an act of simplexity. Creating a silent event in a chaotic 90-people conference is also about simplexity, and so is the five-minute meditation together before the children go to school. Understanding and valuing the complexity of the simple acts and bringing some simplicity to complex acts is simplexity.
This simplex life that we have created seems – at least for the moment – less challenging and more inviting.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 16, 2009
Waiting is a central theme in my Search. Wait and see. It is not quite as passive as it sounds. Of course there is the negative or passive side of waiting that can lead to the emotional abyss: the depressive, absent, desolate, pathetic, lethargic side of waiting – where it seems like nothing much matters anymore. That is not the waiting I am talking about here. It is about the more healthy aspects of waiting, which at times may not feel so good either and cost us some patience. It is important to distinguish between the healthy and creative side of waiting and the more destructive side of waiting.
It is about letting what is, unfold and reveal itself, about letting things be: what is that is. It is about reflection, growing, maturing, ripening, the process of creating, about realizing that at the end of the day light and shadow merge. It is about not interfering and about restraining: not being in the way of the process that is happening. Trust that it will happen, it will emerge, what is that is.
The journey of waiting turns into a journey of discovery, of sitting with, meditation, revelation and creation. Discovering that it is less the outcome of the waiting that is important, more the waiting itself. Our attention focuses on different things than normal, sometimes seemingly unimportant details; ordinary things become more meaningful and seem to contain a message, things and situations take on additional and different meaning, priorities shift, awareness increases or is sharpened. Waiting creates room and space and openings. Waiting is a bit like meditating, it appears that nothing much happens, yet everything is different.
Some waiting we endure more easily than other waiting, but generally speaking waiting is viewed as a negative or distraction. And I totally understand, when my father was in open heart surgery recently and subsequently in the Intensive Care Unit for four days, there was many a time that I wanted to end that waiting. And yet, the week was filled with moments of reflection, thoughts, emotions, intimacy, silence, shifting priorities and insights while waiting. There are many other situations when we are more in control of how long we choose to wait, while making decisions for example. It is a bit counter cultural to wait and see, to take a bit longer to decide, to not know, or to know and not to act just yet, to be patient, to wait until “it” would reveal itself or the right moment comes. We don’t know if we will be here in the Netherlands for one or five more years or perhaps for the rest of our lives. We will see what will happen and we trust that at some point we will know, like when buying a house: you may go house hunting with a whole list of requirements and as soon as soon as you enter “your” house, you know despite the requirements.
Active waiting is searching.
To be continued…
TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2009
This is a detail of a painting I created a number of years ago. The process of painting is a wonderful illustration of one aspect of what I learned during my Search: to embrace the unknown. When I started this painting I knew what was to appear on the canvas. Although it was an abstract painting, it was thought out, planned in terms of color and composition and all in all quite well organized, in some ways I was about to realize what I had dreamed of for this painting. The ideas were important to get me started.
The finished product looks very different than what I had in mind and not only because of my limited painting ability. Something else took place as well. When I thought a painting was done, my teacher encouraged me to continue, to let the painting paint itself. The result was often that I started with one idea and ended up with a different outcome altogether, often richer, quite beautiful, more meaningful and mysterious as if the road to getting to the result was contained in the result.
The process was not easy. Crossing the space from the known to the unknown, from what was to what could become is one of letting go, giving up and saying goodbye. The next brush stroke is an act of destruction as well as creation. There is this terrifying moment when the painting is already destroyed and not yet newly created, and it is not easy to put oneself voluntarily in this moment, it is easier to hold on to the known. This process of creation and destruction and creation is happening all the time. Perhaps it is just ‘growing’, or ‘evolving’ or ‘searching’… What is particularly important to me is the intention of destructing in order to create, the choice of leaving behind in order to embrace and always with this terrifying moment – that sometimes last years – of not knowing. I have left organizations, family, friends and loved one’s, ideas, languages, work, religion, habits, parts of my ego, realities, ways of searching even… and embraced the unknown. All of this as part of the search and often with results that I could not have dreamed.
Georgia – a precious person in my life from the group relations world – alerted me to this story once, which I see as another illustration of the same process. It comes from the Dr. Seuss’ book On Beyond Zebra. It is about a boy who challenged his playmates to stretch their imagination beyond the traditional 26 letters of the alphabet – from A (Ape) to Z (Zebra) to create an extended alphabet.
In the places I go there are things that I see
That I never could spell if I stoppe with the Z
I’m telling you this ‘cause you’re one of my friends
My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends
To be continued…
FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2009
The Silent Space
The Search blog fell silent for a while. It is not unlike me as my friends and some of my former friends know. I truly enjoy my silence and sometimes I disappear for a while. There has been many a time that I labeled it procrastination or laziness, but I have come to realize that although those labels fit occasionally, generally speaking I need my space, my silent space. It is space that is not easily described. It is the space where I am, where I experience connection or sometimes disconnection with myself and mostly feel quite connected to other people, a space where I can reflect and think. It is in this space that my intuition re-aligns, where my heart gets fed – it is a soul space where the troubled inner waters become clear again. Perhaps it is connecting to the Source, or perhaps it is simply about re-finding an inner balance.
It helps me to distinguish the more important from the less important things. It helps me think about the questions rather than trying to find the answers. It helps me live from the inside out, to become more of who I am, to stay grounded. This is important to me because I experience the world as a place where it is very easy to get overwhelmed. I still walk out of bookstores because I cannot handle the number of books that are available, or have trouble going to the grocery store because there are too many choices. Too many experiences and too much information have a paralyzing effect on me and it leads me to drifting away from information and experiences that are available inside.
To be continued…
TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2009
I am on my way to Lausanne to do some work for the International Institute for Management Development, which among other institutions, experiences, professions, places and people has been part of the Search. An initial answer to my search was my baptism at the age of twenty in the Roman Catholic Church, but it turned out that the answer only raised more questions. A year later I was “reborn” and found God, which eventually led to entering the Society of Jesus. Directing 30-day silent retreats and providing spiritual direction were wonderful temporary answers with even more wonderful questions raised. Being ordained a priest, which I had so longed for was definitely not the answer, the way most people wanted or expected me to be felt like a prison. Coming out as a gay man somewhere during those years was helpful but it did not satisfy the Search
The Search continued, leaving the Jesuits, working as a psychotherapist, falling in love and living with my love, starting my own liturgy, co-creating a business, being deeply involved in group relations work, adopting and raising children, working as an international coach and consultant, painting, writing a few articles, helping people find themselves … all are important, none satisfied the Search.
Encounters and experiences, people and places, music, movies and books influence the direction of the Search and help shape the journey. Some of those stories will be told on this blog, stories that help make some sense of the journey, the Search.
To be continued…
FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2009
The search has always been there. The journey is about discovering meaning and purpose, about living spirituality, about relating to the More, about understanding my silence, about connecting seemingly disparate phenomena, about living love, about making sense of the underlying principles in my life and other people’s lives, about understanding the deep energy that is inside and outside of me and each of us, and about so many other things. During this journey I have learned much, found truths and lost them again, encountered people and have developed a deep respect for The Search. Of course this search comes in waves, always present, calm, violent, beautiful, fierce, lulling, forceful and so on. In my life The Search shows in big and little ways. The story of my search is waiting to be told. The search is quite present now, activated in a new and different way – a week after an event called the Collective Consciousness Conversation. The event caused the familiar holy unrest. Do I want to attend a mystery school, or do shamanic training, learning how to read auras, or learning how to channel my energy more productively, return to deeper silence, continue my Tarot book, write more journal, be a different kind of priest, change jobs? The holy unrest is helpful and shook me up, like a puzzle that suddenly multiplied in size and fell apart – waiting to be put together again. The conversation with my friend H today was helpful in realizing that the drop longs for the ocean and already knows the ocean. I decided to build on what is already present and expand on it, rather than learning something totally new. I think. The idea came to me of writing about what I already know about The Search and what I am discovering as I continue the journey of The Search. That is what this blog is about.