Archives for the month of: June, 2015


The murders in Charleston last week coupled with the carnage committed elsewhere in this country and around the globe, are repugnant as killings and as instruments of racism. They are so aversive to my values and beliefs they leave me grappling with how to respond. I offer three thoughts.

The first is to share my unrest and invite your perspectives. How are you confronting these realities? What are your reflections, suggestions and actions?

Next, I seek to understand. If my head holds reasons why, my heart will more likely tap its courage for action. I believe that fear is the opposite of love. In order to alleviate our fears, most of us tend to affiliate with the familiar – faces, places, values and beliefs. Bolstered by our cohorts WE tend to define THEY as different and potentially threatening; we put THEM in the boxes of OTHER, where it is easier for us to control, manipulate, win, vilify or destroy. Our current politics and social media provide a mirror.

Another lens for understanding is our history and the values of those who settled this continent. Vestiges of their religious views, white patriarchy and slavery-based commerce persist today. A still larger lens would be to view our values and actions in relation to the survival of the planet.

Lastly, I am one individual with limited time. How do these events refocus me on my soul’s journey? Buddhism teaches that one root of suffering is aversion. Luke reminds Christians that the kingdom of God is a destination within each of us (17:21). Exploring those things that are most aversive may help my heart discover a new depth of love within and the courage to shine its brightness into the darkness without.

Bob MacArthur

A dose of anxiety can help us achieve our peak performance, but too much stress can immobilize us and endanger our health. Think of toxic conditions at work, conflicts in relationships, acting to please others and over-committing ourselves. How do we find the balance?

Our body has an amazing capacity to regulate itself in seeking balance, homeostasis. Think of how it maintains its core temperature. When cold, it shivers to generate warmth. When hot, it sweats to dissipate heat. These are involuntary responses. If we pay attention, we can use them as barometers of balance and health.

For example, when our brain senses we are in peril, it floods our body with adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones that mobilize us to fight or flee. We can feel our heart pound and our pulse race in preparation. However, if the real or perceived danger is sustained and our emergency response chemicals persist in our body, they can damage our heart and weaken our immune system. At some point symptoms of dis-ease will surface in discomfort, pain or lumps.

We compose our lives with the decisions we make. Becoming aware of our body’s signals to us is the first choice in regaining equilibrium. Other decisions include seeking help in resolving intractable conflicts and declining when asked to add one more commitment to an over-extended schedule. Choosing to make time for self-care is essential – walk, read, ride, practice yoga, meditate.

There is a Buddhist invocation that reminds us of the goal to seek balance in living. I have adopted a version of it as an aspiration for composing my life. It is simple but full of truths to ponder.

May I dwell in the great equanimity free from attachment, aversion, aggression and prejudice.


Living life deliberately and leading others effectively depend on doing what matters most. Each of us defines this differently, which accounts for our unique contributions to the world.

At the heart of what is most important to each of us are some bed rock principles that serve as an internal GPS to keep us oriented in our daily dance of living. The same is true of organizations. Leaders who are focused on what matters most cultivate cultural norms that enable their teams to deliver with congruence the value promised to customers.

As a coach I work with individuals and organizations that are momentarily overwhelmed or stymied. Often, these are busy clients for whom unforeseen events land on an already extended schedule. I dare say it happens to each of us at some point. The result is a crisis, and in the fog of the moment we lose our bearings.

I have found that one of the most effective tactics is to have clients revisit and clarify their values. It sounds so basic, and it is. At the same time, it is very effective in breaking through the muddle to focus on the essentials. When life gets too complex, we need a way to simplify, to return to basics.

For each of us there are 3-4 core values that matter most in our lives. If we are momentarily overwhelmed or seeking clarity in making an important decision, reclaiming and reaffirming them can provide a lens that helps us see our way through.

What are the four values that matter most to you?


Three days of rain this week jammed the creek beds. Tumbling over rocks and around fallen branches, water scoured our hillside, singing like resonant white noise. Today the sun has returned, the creeks have subsided, the earth is refreshed and we are gifted a metaphor.

Like boulders in a rushing stream, obstacles in our path interrupt the course of our lives, forcing us to choose our way. If we suspend our judgment and open ourselves to explore them, these impediments can help us reframe our situation and discover new possibilities. We may find a lane through our impasse, a new direction we had not considered or a harmonious resolution.

Responding to last week’s post, which encouraged us to seek the hidden jewel in adversity, a colleague from years ago contacted me. Mission driven, deeply dedicated and very competent, she has been dealt some significant burdens. We conversed. Talking through her dilemmas enabled her to gain clarity about options she was considering. For me the opportunity to rekindle a friendship and hold space for her to regain her bearings was gratifying.

Is there something blocking the flow of your life right now? A dynamic in an important relationship? A crossroad at work? A perplexing situation that you don’t know how to resolve? A pithy poem by Wendell Berry may help you embrace the possibilities on the other side of the obstruction.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,

We have come to our real work;

And that when we no longer know which way to go,

We have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.