Archives for category: Overview

As the events linked to Charlottesville continue to unfold, three references come to mind.

The first is a mural in one of the library reading rooms of the college I attended. It is titled An Epic of American Civilization. Painted between 1932-34 by Jose Clemente Orozco, the mural depicts the influence of indigenous people and European colonists on North America and the impact of wars and rapid industrialization on the human spirit. It is a dark picture, indeed, and reminds me of the deeply embedded roots of our human dispositions. Those of you with interest can learn more from a critical article written by Erin Harding in 1999.

The second source is Colin Woodard’s book American Nations in which he describes the motivations and distinctive values of the waves of those who came to populate this country. One of his conclusions is that the dominant values each group brought with them persist today and account for many of our regional differences.

The third source comes from the oft-referenced and aspirational words of Lincoln’s first inaugural (March 4, 1861) at the outbreak of the civil war.

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

As with many today, I wonder whether the better angels of our nature will prevail and how each of us can find the courage to bring forth the best in ourselves to meet the tasks at hand.

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The temperature reached 60 yesterday cutting short the maple sugaring season. The snow retreats before the ascending sun. The earth reappears. It’s early yet – no doubt there will be more “weather” this month – but the days pronounce spring’s imminent arrival.

The return of spring renews the promise that below the surface of an apparently frozen landscape life’s energy continues to create its abundance. There is the assurance that we will surface from our winters of disappointment or arrested expectation. We are meant to be where we are – on track to resume our growth into the fullness of who we are becoming.

For me spring’s arrival is accompanied by the music of Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring and the Shaker hymn on which it is based. Stretching from Maine to Georgia the Appalachians have provided the backbone for my life’s journey. On its shoulders Peggy and I have worked and played and launched our family. Its hills have schooled us in the lessons of self-sufficiency, community and interdependence. Now in our later years we return home to its gentle slopes and their essential truths.

For your meditation today I suggest you listen to Copeland’s composition reflecting on the return of spring in your own life and the message of the Shaker hymn.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free.

‘Tis the gift to come round where we ought to be.

And when we find ourselves in the place just right

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

 

When true simplicity is gained

To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.

To turn, turn, will be our delight

Till by turning, turning, we come round right.

 

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For many of us being busy is a badge of honor. We spend much of our lives doing. We define ourselves by the roles that we perform.

For many decades I have done the same, identifying myself by the function I played – student, athlete, spouse, priest, parent, CEO, coach, grandpa. Life was a to-do list of activities, many of which were linked to what I was taught men were expected to do; as Sam Keen described in his book Fire in the Belly – protect, provide and procreate.

Sometimes I “did” well; at other times, not so well. The defining by “doing” in and of itself is done, whatever impact it may have had for good or ill.

Today, I am shifting my focus from defining myself by living to do, to doing in order to be. No doubt, it is in part a reality check as the days remaining in this life grow fewer. I am choosing more activities that cultivate awareness of the simple beauties and complex dynamics of our journey. Meditating, being physically active, working and walking outdoors, writing and playing music are ways for me to develop awareness and attend more to the energy of the moment.

How do you define yourself? Is it the sum total of your activity and the roles you play? Is it the impact your activity generates on those around you? Is it the container you hold for yourself or others to receive the grace of each moment? Perhaps it is all of the above, a harmony of doing and being. We can be grateful and accountable for the fact that it is ours to choose.

Thanksgiving setting and place cards by our granddaughter

Thanksgiving table with setting and place cards by our granddaughter

Long before we found it I imagine it was a grand table with leaves that held many meals and absorbed countless conversations. By the time we found it, only the round ends remained. A craftsman had coupled them into a circle and attached a central post with legs salvaged from another once proud piece of furniture. We discovered it in the dim light on the upper floor of a used furnishings store in New Haven, our first purchase as a married couple 48+ years ago.

For several decades the round table was at the hub of our family. In high chairs and captain’s chairs we sat around it eating our meals and playing our games. It always seemed spacious enough to accommodate visitors while sufficiently intimate for discourse and sharing. The polished wood stood firm as our numbers and bodies grew, holding our talk, bouncing our laughter back at us and reverberating with our music.

Retired a few yeas ago for a table with leaves, it was dismantled and relegated once again to storage in a dark upper room.

Last week we resurrected it. Our older son transported it to his sister’s home near New Haven. Our younger son helped in reassembling it. Once again it became our family centerpiece, as all but one of us gathered round it for Thanksgiving. Added to the circle, our granddaughter set the table and created name cards from the holly bush outside. Unable to be with us in person, our younger daughter sent place settings of china she had claimed from my parents’ home after they passed; she too and they were with us.

The round table returns to serve the next generation. One hoop closes and the next opens to begin the arc that someday no doubt will come around again.

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This year’s fall colors have been resplendent, prompting renewed gratitude for my many blessings. The reds, oranges and yellows, punctuated by an occasional green pine exclamation point, also bring to mind the season of this man’s life.

I have just retired from a major piece of my coaching work, and there is more time to devote to the tasks of this decade. Readings from my astrologer and numerologist reinforce that this time of life will focus on introspection and spiritual awakening. It is not that I have been asleep in these matters all my life, but that there will be a new embrace of them and deepening engagement and appreciation.

A meditation reading on my birthday last week provided a succinct summary of this season’s call to action: cultivate loving kindness, do no harm, tame the mind. *  Among the pillars of Buddhist teaching, they resonate profoundly. Going forward, may they be in service not only to this pilgrim but to all who experience their rich colors in the landscape of their own journeys.

* Joan Borysenko, Pocketful of Miracles, October 9th.

Welcome to Sacred Lead.  The two words give you a clue where we’re headed.  Something sacred is set apart with special meaning.  It could be religious, spiritual or metaphysical.  It could be simply what we value most.  It is worthy of our deepest respect.

Lead has several meanings.  I have been in leadership roles all my life, but the idea for this blog began with my introduction to equine work.  The “rope” connecting a human and a horse is called a lead.  For me it represents a sacred link that aligns two beings in mutual trust and respect.

In the broader sense, to lead means to have a vision and inspire others to move toward its fruition.  As an executive coach I work with many leaders who are intent upon transforming the lives of their clients, their colleagues and themselves.

Going forward we’ll explore a variety of topics related to inspiration, spirituality, leadership and service.  What are some of the topics you would like to read about or discuss?