April 17, 2009 Leave a comment

I suppose it’s the overlooked companion of Change: Anticipation. It’s the silent provocateur that causes us to peer into the distance, squint past the horizon, turn the proverbial corner, stand on the brink, gear up for the jump off, and on and on. It is the automatic reflex within us that kicks into gear once we have a cognitive or instinctual knowing, that things are about to…shift.

That Change is afoot, we well know: Sam Cooke crooned it; Grandma prayed for it; Obama touted it; analysts predicted it; planners plan for it. My thoughts here turn to unpacking a hunch that what we are missing out on, quite unbeknownst to us, is the wisdom, creativity and knowledge available to ( through?) us/clients in that (anticipatory space of) calm before the storm (of Change). Scharmer’s naming and exploration of pre-sencing gets at it; Gibran’s queries around testing for “readiness” in groups is along the same lines; prototyping as a way into solving complex problems is yet another expression within this same sphere. Rather than an anxious, fear-based, controlling energy wherein we brace for change, I’m suggesting that there is a playful, curious, self- and Other-awareness we can decide to adopt that enables us to learn from Change, and how to navigate it, perhaps even before it occurs.

Although it sounds pretty ethereal and intangible, I am convinced that there are skills and practices that individuals/groups can employ and imbibe that strengthens abilities to anticipate Change in a fruitful, strategic, edifying way. What those skills and practices are, Im not entirely sure (ability to reflect, trust, sensing, spiritual sensitivity, emotional healthiness, confidence, calmness – whether as individuals or among groups — are some things that come to mind).

At a time when families, institutions, neighborhoods, our nation and indeed the World seem to be in a cosmic holding pattern as we await what unfolds with the economy, the planet, the political arena, and within our own neighborhoods, the words of the great mystic Howard Thurman remind us of what is available to us in challenging times, where Change is imminent and the Hope that Curtis speaks of is so desperately needed:

“The movement of the Spirit of God in the hearts of men often calls them to act against the spirit of their times or causes them to anticipate a spirit which is yet in the making. In a moment of dedication, they are given wisdom and courage to dare a deed that challenges, and to kindle a hope that inspires.” ~ Howard Thurman, Footprints of a Dream, 1959

Help me along. What do folks think this notion of a sphere/realm of practices of anticipation when change is imminent?

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  • Gibran says:

    Whoa Melinda! This is inspired! Anticipation – what a beautiful contemplation. To me it seems to speak to the evolutionary instinct, and the possibility that ours might be a time in which intentional evolution really takes form.

    I appreciate your quest for “how to apply this insight,” and while I can’t quite answer the question, I do feel like it must have something to do with creating the sort of spaces and using the sort of processes that invite people to tap their inner knowing, their inner urge for the future that is so badly wanting to emerge.

    Thank you so much for this invitation – I’m inspired!

  • Santiago says:

    Fantastic post Melinda. I always find it interesting how anticipation and participation can coexist, and also detract from one another. Good to anticipate and foresee change as coming, and also important to participate in the change and make it. Good stuff, thanks!

  • Curtis says:

    So I think there is a wisdom and capacity for atunement that we have lost in our progressive movement into our heads. When you think of trackers who can sense signs of change or disturbance miles off in the ripples that spread out through ecosystems or Pacific Islanders’ ability to read subtle shifts in water. there is a suggestion that it is only by deeply immersing ourselves in our surroundings, whether they be social or natural, that we can truly anticipate. It is only by becoming deeply connected and in relation that our senses can truly be awake. Research into intuitive knowing suggests that we must open our minds to be recipients of wisdom. (This reminds me of the recent article that suggests that philanthropy should get out of “send mode” and more into “receive mode.”) Kind of sort of seems like it all comes down to listening of various kinds. Creating that kind of space . . .

  • Curtis says:

    Oh, and wonderfully poetic and provocative post, Sister Weekes.

  • Linda says:

    Absolutely beautiful Melinda! I have been unplugged for most of two days – just able to get online and find this beautiful gem! So a few thoughts.

    First is that I have found that fear and excitement (anticipation) are practically the same feelings in my body – while sometimes different in my mind. Which can lead to misinterpreting excitement and anticipation as fear. In a fully embodied change, I wonder how common this may be. Do we sometimes read our feelings as fear when they are really about excitement?

    And I fully agree with what Curtis responded – that we must be absolutely fully in tune (again in the body as well as the mind) with our surroundings – both social and environmental – to notice the more subtle shifts that bring us toward anticipation of change.

    From a Buddhist perspective, everything is impermanent – and we can see that change is constant in everything. The notion of stability is only a notion. With every breath, we are changing – and we have enormous abilities and practice with change, if we can only tap into that kind of knowing. We are doing it all the time, are in constant cycles of change – would not be alive without them. What can we learn from these?

    Which brings me to my final point – about anticipation. From a Buddhist perspective, this is an interesting concept in many ways. Because the understanding is that there is great suffering in running into the future – that all we have is the present (which is constantly changing). So the question then is whether being in a place of anticipating change is actually taking us away from the present – the only thing we really have. Blending with the notion of readiness, I wonder, then, if what we can do is be fully present with each other, strengthen the relationships and the community – deeply understand our values, our spiritualities, and our strengths so that, as a community, we are more able to come to change fully.

    I know this is only one way of understanding the world, but is very present to me right now, sitting on the edge of a lake listening to the spring peepers as the sun sinks – after a day of deep reflection about re-imaginging leadership.

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    I’m reminded of a few things. First, Christian scripture teaches that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” There is a confidence that comes with this kind of faith-inspired sense of anticipation. I don’t have to know everything, yet I can walk with confidence toward a future of which I have no reason to fear. Second, Nancy Brodsky’s Action Framework urges us to consider the ways in which the things we anticipate (whether hopes or fears) influence our choices and behavior in the present moment. And, on a lighter note, I can hear to lyrics… “Anticipation, it’s making me wait; it’s keeping me waiting; it’s so good.” There’s often a sense of joy and delight in waiting for an expected good thing to materialize.

    As for bringing these insights into practice, a few thoughts….
    *Facilitating explorations of worldview and cosmology–spirit and being– invites people (ourselves and others) to stand confidently on what they anticipate based their understanding of the nature of being.
    *In striving to live examined lives, we can model and teach the discipline of exploring how our anticipations shape us–how they make us feel, what they make us think, how they drive us to calculate (and sometimes miscalculate) the possible impact of doing or not doing a thing. We can pull back the shroud that hides our assumptions and inferences and test their relationship to the reality that lies beyond one’s own mind. We can acknowledge how the things we anticipate and to which we give life in our own minds, and then enact in our lives, can create the very thing we anticipate (whether for good or ill).

  • Melinda says:

    Wow.Wow.Wow. Profound and provocative responses, all. I need digest, ruminate and as the young folks’ say, “marinate” on these gifts of insight. Wow.

  • Andria Winther says:

    Ditto on the WOW. So much to consider, thank you for igniting such a fruitful/beautiful spark Melinda! The first thing that came to my mind when ruminating on anticipation was stillness, and what it is that we are called to quiet, so that…… I think it has something to do with what Linda was refering to about being in the present……….there’s something about being in the present and yet sensing with our entire beings and at the same time being still enough to receive while tilting into the future……

  • Melinda says:

    Yes, and to your point, Andria, I post a quote from Dick Staub’s blog, a re-telling of a story Ive heard before, and often…often need to remind myself of:

    “An American traveling in Africa hired a guide to lead him through the jungle to a remote village. In the mid afternoon the guide stopped and began to set up camp for the night. The American impatiently asked why they weren’t taking advantage of the remaining daylight to make it a bit further towards their destination. “We have traveled very fast and must allow time for our souls to catch up with our bodies” replied the guide.
    I am trying to make space to allow my soul to catch up to my body.”

  • Linda says:

    Beautiful story Melinda. Thanks for posting it!

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