Having What We HaveNovember 10, 2010 Leave a comment
“How do you do that? How do you step back and get perspective?” The question came from a table mate in an Art of Hosting workshop at this week’s Systems Thinking in Action conference. The earnest and wide-eyed inquisitor silently suggested the qualifier, “And how do you do this when there is so little time?” The question hung in the air in the midst of our World Cafe-inspired conversation about the kinds of change that are being called for in our respective communities, however we choose to define them.
My first response was to laugh. How indeed? As parents of three small children under the age of five, my wife and I often scratch our heads at how we can create more breathing space in general. Frankly, the notion of stepping back often feels like a luxury we can’t afford. And I know there are others in the same space with a variety of unremitting demands. My laugh was surely an acknowledgment of this seemingly impossible situation. And in the context of this rich albeit brief cafe conversation it also became something else, thanks to the careful attending of my colleagues.
Many of us have read about the power of presence, of being more attentive to the reality which faces us in any given moment. We also know about the amazing experience of flow, when we have been deeply connected to whatever we happen to be doing, whether playing a sport, creating art, having a conversation. I will admit that this is something with which I struggled with our first child, trying to be present for some of the seemingly mundane moments. For some reason, since our twins have come along, this has really shifted. I find myself much more in the moment, perhaps because it is abundantly clear that there is nowhere else to go. Escape is just not an option.
The result has actually been quite profound – greater enjoyment for sure and, I now realize, insights that speak to a deeper truth underlying events. Settling into the moment, I have become more aware of patterns and dynamics, both in the personalities and behaviors of my little ones and our family as a whole, that have helped me to understand better how we work as a system. This has inspired greater compassion, curiosity and an ability to be more adaptively responsive as a father and husband. So interestingly, it has been by leaning in to events that I have ended up in a place that I thought was beyond my grasp.
A couples counselor once gave my wife and me the following advice – “Have what you have.” I think I now have a greater appreciation for the wisdom of this statement. Having what we have is not settling for or giving up. It can be a gateway to abundance that we thought was “out there” and the perspective we thought only resided on the mountain top. I left our Cafe conversation with these words in my head – “Slow down, come inside, stay a while.”