But how can you possibly be of any real use as a leader on a larger scale if you can’t lead yourself through the thicket of your own emotions and thoughts – and you get tied up in knots by anger, fear, and tension? This is an old, universal idea. And we have to be a little more direct about it.

-- Peter Senge

An Old, Universal Idea

Getting out of our own way is the biggest challenge. Whether we struggle with hubris or shame (or some of each), the challenge is waking up to what transcends our personal beliefs and mindsets, our collective conditioning, our inner and outer cultures that like mist on a window obscure our view of what’s real. Putting ego aside, we wipe clear a tiny corner of the glass and peak through, to be humbled, awakened and affirmed.


Certainly to be humbled — by a universe that up-ends all plans, and may do so in the blink of an eye. Recently, in my state of Washington, a colossal landslide like some minor apocalypse swept down across a river. Within seconds it filled houses with mud and trees, overwhelmed people as they sipped their morning coffee, destroyed families with only the slightest note of warning; enough time perhaps (horrifyingly) only to ask, “What’s that sound?”

Our souls are shocked into wakefulness. We cannot fathom the destruction.

Meanwhile, each day the new grass continues to fill up the valleys, spring streams run cold and bright, and in the orchards and along the lanes the cherries bloom. Their magnificent blossoms signal the truth of what we all implicitly know, the truth of the background of all human life, that being alive is transient and that whatever is built can be most easily washed away or buried by something we’ll never understand.


This transience breaks our hearts, but tragedy also affirms, makes true love worth wanting, worth working hard to preserve and protect, worth searching for and finding as a precious gift, again and again despite the losses. How many of us have turned toward each other because we heard the details of this disaster or another (maybe the loss of Flight MH370 or some other story of violence around the world) and suddenly appreciate what it means to be right here and right now, sitting with our own cups of coffee and chatting at the breakfast table, listening to the children laugh? The news can make us very sad but also release what is genuinely selfless within us. Even when it seems there is little we can do, we get up to consider what we can do. For a moment, as the cherry trees send up their scent through an open window, we are very, very grateful and we are moved to action, to whatever acts of kindness are present right in front of us.

The white blossoms are here for a reason. Impossibly beautiful in this soft light, we cherish them with all our hearts, but not one of them is preserved.

We cling to the dark branches until the moment the wind comes and we are swept away.


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