Going In

If you like, you can hear me read this post.

Per­haps it is just that it is win­ter and my ener­gy is sol­stice ener­gy, ener­gy of the roots of things and of the hearth, and it is clear I seek time to “go in,” not to go out. Even now in ear­ly after­noon, the fire feels good. And I know there is a place of sanc­tu­ary in me, in each of us, a place of immense val­ue not only for our capac­i­ty to rest and recu­per­ate from strug­gles in the world, but also because it is a place of dis­cern­ment, and there­fore deep per­son­al power.

I live in a ground­floor apart­ment on Lake Sam­mamish in Red­mond, Wash­ing­ton, a few blocks from Microsoft where (I’m say­ing this just because I am fre­quent­ly asked) I have nev­er worked. My mater­nal grand­par­ents lived a lit­tle ways north in a cab­in — land now cov­ered by a big apart­ment com­plex — and I grew up less than a mile away on the side of the hill fac­ing the sun­rise — land now cov­ered by 50 or 60 hous­es. It seems every­thing in my life has changed, except where I live.

I have set up my office and my com­put­er screen so that if I lift my eyes from what I am writ­ing I look direct­ly out onto the lake, only 20 feet or so away from my glass doors. Today the water is blown into rib­bons of gray, with show­ers falling every so often across an occa­sion­al white­cap. A mile across the water is a most­ly wood­ed hill, with a few large hous­es along the shore. In front of me and to the right, maybe 100 feet away there is a cot­ton­wood where an eagle comes to sit and waits for a par­ty of coots to drift by, the coots being a main source of food all win­ter long. 

I have seen and won­dered about the eagle, espe­cial­ly when it is far cold­er than today and the rain pours down hard while she sits up there in the bare branch­es. I imag­ine the eagle going into her­self, return­ing to her own pri­vate avian-mind sanc­tu­ary and place of dis­cern­ment as she waits. 

I think how some­times the ener­gy spi­rals out from us human beings into con­nec­tion and accom­plish­ment and our exter­nal Voca­tions, but how the spi­ral of self-knowl­edge works both ways, how there are times for going in…

In the night silence
my house speaks to me.

It leaves me alone
a long time, but
then it reach­es out.

A gen­tle hand
pen­e­trates my body.
Through the flesh
it reach­es in, and on one rib
below my heart leaves hanging
a small sil­ver box
with all my good dreams
inside it.

‘Noth­ing can ever
be tak­en from you

— Robert Sund, from “Shack Med­i­cine”

Med­i­ta­tive space, yes, in touch with the “bein­g­less being” at the cen­ter of Self. And also the place from which what’s real becomes more vis­i­ble, where the masks drop away, the fan­tasies, and it is pos­si­ble to real­ly see. Such an impor­tant skill. In this way, per­haps, lead­ing is like enlight­en­ment. If you say you don’t know any­thing about it, you are in denial of your­self; if you say you know what it is, you are an imposter. Rest then, at the cen­ter, and learn to receive what insight may come.

I recall a pre­sen­ta­tion with a cou­ple hun­dred peo­ple in the room. A woman raised her hand. “What you are say­ing, Dan, is that it is impor­tant to make the inner jour­ney, to find your­self, but when I look inside all I see is darkness.…”

What can we do but wait for dis­cern­ment? Get com­fort­able with the dark­ness, let it birth what we need to see with­out shrink­ing back, with­out drift­ing into fan­ta­sy. We have to wait up there in the branch­es, some­times while the rain pours down hard.

There are many ways of break­ing a heart. Sto­ries were full of hearts bro­ken by love, but what real­ly broke a heart was tak­ing away its dream–whatever that dream might be.

— Pearl Buck

Going in, far­ther, deep­er, open­ing door after door, to find that gen­tle space, a gar­den per­haps or a high hill — any­where imag­ined will do as long as it is the sanc­tu­ary, to sit, just sit, and be watch­ful, wait for what comes. Today some­thing sim­ple, a thought regard­ing the beau­ty and courage, grace and nobil­i­ty of the human spir­it. Exam­ples to the con­trary do not a full truth make. 

I don’t think of all the mis­ery but of the beau­ty that still remains.

— Anne Frank

I go with­in and I am remind­ed again and again of the fun­da­men­tal good­ness, insep­a­ra­ble from Self, even while acknowl­edg­ing the full messi­ness of the world, the com­plex­i­ty of human nature and the human con­di­tion. In this qui­et, watch­ful place, I can feel my heart ache and I can also feel its strength build, though the dark­ness is still there before me, the igno­rance, and the mis­ery. I can feel a new ener­gy awak­en, and look­ing out, as dusk begins to come down around me and I light the lamp next to these words, I also see the eagle lift from the tree — and I know I am ready to return…

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my dar­ling young one?
I’m a‑goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a‑falling,
I’ll walk to the depths of the deep­est dark forest,
Where the peo­ple are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pel­lets of poi­son are flood­ing their waters,
Where the home in the val­ley meets the damp, dirty prison,
And the exe­cu­tion­er’s face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the col­or, where none is the number,
And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it,
And reflect from the moun­tain so all souls can see it,
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinking,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s___________a-gonna fall.

— Bob Dylan, from “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall”

Dis­cern­ment from a qui­et place is some­thing I think all great lead­ers have. It’s avail­able to any of us, too. It is the cen­ter-point of under­stand­ing. It is the ground from which we know our own right action is pos­si­ble — always. 

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Day is Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 15. A good day to find that qui­et place, and take a look, a good look, and then recom­mit to the work that needs to be done.


I have a dream” speech
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  • Hey Mike

    Thanks for show­ing up here. Your poet­ry is great — so for those of you inter­est­ed in lead­er­ship poems, check it out!

  • Mike-The Scribe wrote:

    I like your blog. Very tidy and easy to nav­i­gate. I see your inter­est­ed in lead­er­ship poems. I might have a few scat­tered through­out my blog. Your more than wel­come to check it at http://www.fabelstales.blogspot.com/. Take care, Mike-The Scribe

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