I have been a close witness to spiritual poverty recently and it is playing on my mind. There is an emptiness and malaise, a recognition of not being in control and being weighed down by this new learning, causing a kind of paralysis of the heart. It is the opposite of wholeheartedness. I am not talking about living with a God or values, it is more like the ego withering in a corner and still hanging on as if still relevant. And I am also conscious that we notice and name in others what might be a lot closer to home than we would like.
I had the most beautiful spontaneous farewell this week from a community of practitioners that I have sojourned with in various ways over the past seven years and it was a light, joyous and celebratory occasion despite tears and grief. There was a wholeheartedness, as best as we could create in the two-dimensional zoom platform. A litany of stories spanning decades, a mixture of head wear, a song and musical accompaniment enriched the moment. I feel very deep gratitude for this improvised way of being, uncluttered by calendar bingo and formality. It was a time of spiritual riches being gathered up and shared amongst the faithful. Leadership and self-organising are vital to the way we shift and move in the world and midwife the next steps we want to take alone and together. It is as Paul Hawken calls it ‘blessed unrest’, not always organised, not always perfect, but always connected and always with threads sewn into the seams with the changes being called for, somehow holding it all together. The gathering felt like the opposite of the spiritual poverty I had been witnessing elsewhere.
The practice of showing up and reading the papers as a former colleague used to remind me was 90% of everything in governance and that seems to apply here too. When you show up and read the signs of the times and then enter the discourse, it is inevitable you will catch some of that communally created spirit. If, however you turn up and sit on the sidelines, or turn up and do not notice the signs and messages, visible and invisible, then there is every chance you will miss the moment to co-create. These ‘pop up’ moments have clarity of purpose as the chance for hidden agendas or any agenda for that matter, do not have the time to be developed or lobbied. This one was infused with head wear and music – possibly essential ingredients to bring joy and centring gift over grief. Facilitated with ease and competency to enable all the voices to be heard and faces to be seen is also a must. This role was in very capable hands, and it was a treat to watch the skills close at hand. A gift of being seen.
Such an unexpected way to end the working week to transition away from those relationships and ways of working. I do not seek flowers or cards or goodbyes that have formality and having something that was off the cuff and initiated and authorised by the community is exactly the way I would want to be seen and recognised. I have never been very good with the formalities. When I got an Order of Australia (AM) it took a young friend’s framing to help me accept it – she said it was the community giving me a hug back for all the hugging and helping I had done over the decades. That really helped me feel differently about the award, and that is how I felt on Friday night, I was getting a big hug back via the people on the screen.
When you work in the ways I do, sometimes very quietly behind the scenes, sometimes loudly at the frontier and sometimes disrupting at the margins, I often find myself wondering what is working well and if I am hitting the mark …. And then on days like Friday I realise that most days, I am giving it my best shot, equipped with my energy, skills, intellect, and good humour, a spiritual practice of radical generosity, sympathetic joy, and gratitude. So when I see spiritual poverty, I want to run from it, and I am finding it harder and harder to be around. Perhaps that is my poverty speaking because I do have times when I cannot meet the moment. This week, however, was not one of them.
A deep and sustained bow to the one who invited me to the call and then initiated the impromptu gathering. I was filled up and can happily smile and wave goodbye til next time, because as I reminded everyone … it is a bit hard to get away from me. Cheers to my friends in collective impact over the years – Together SA, ten20 foundation, Opportunity Child, Collaboration for Impact. #friends4eva