by Judith F Kennedy, PhD

“I would love to like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding”

There is a never ending fire drill that is continuously happening which passes for our professional lives. 

Busyness comes with its overload of information, requests, demands, meetings and the never, ever, ending emails.

All of this comes with the territory of leadership. The illusion of urgency, taking action first can seduce us away from the purpose and the central connection to our inner being. 

It keeps us folded up on ourselves like Rodin’s Thinker. A man folded over on himself, hunkered down against the world. We are so busy that we don’t pause to unlock our inner voice and wisdom. 

“I want to unfold

I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, 

because where I am folded, there I am a lie.

And I want my grasp of things

true before you. I want to describe myself 

like a painting that I look at 

closely for a long time,

like a saying that I finally understood”  Rilke

What this poem by Rilke is telling us, simply said, you must first unfold, pause and get your ground, pay attention. Before action comes listening. In that space of listening to yourself, your imagination and to your deeper sense of connection, comes a wisdom with which you can be more in touch with what’s possible, and what has real meaning. 

David Whyte recalls a woman in one of his sessions who said “Ten years ago, I turned my face for a moment and it became my life”. So much is lost if there is no attention to the inner life. It’s no wonder that our lives and organizations are fragmented. We stop paying attention to what matters.

As John O’Donohue says, “The river has to trust to its own unfolding” As you invite the pause and the silence into your life, you begin to trust your own vision, your truth, your intuition. 

For some this may mean nature, pausing to reflect out side in the natural world and seeing the sacred in the world around us. 

For others it’s practicing mindfulness, being still, meditating. Stillness is powerful. Being still is like replenishing the stores. It gives us time and space to self-reflect and actually hear our thoughts, It also soothes our nervous system.

For some it may mean opening to the beauty of poetry. Poetry can provide comfort and boost mood during periods of stress, trauma and grief. Its powerful combination of words, metaphor and meter help us better express ourselves and make sense of the world and our place in it.

As leaders, in all of these, listening to the heart and being open to receive grace is the truest way of being. 
“All summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed. Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of flight is the crossroads of—indolence, or action”  Mary Oliver