Living the (Beautiful, Blasted, Terrifying, Life-Affirming) Questions...

So I sit before flowers
hoping they will train me in the art of opening up
I stand on mountain tops believing
that avalanches will teach me to let go
I know
but I am here to learn.


*Emphasis added

I have never felt like I know so little and so much at the same. When CKX welcomed me onto the team in March, I kicked off my first post with the excerpt above from Shane Koyczan's The Student. The poem felt poignant and aspirational — I know now it was foreshadow.

Over the last four months, I began to learn the art of opening up and letting go. I fancied myself a novice wayfinder, keen to learn how to navigate new waters after paddling the tributaries of social innovation into the deep lakes of reflective practice, adult education and fellowships. 

Image credit: Laney Stone

Image credit: Laney Stone

I relearned what it means to be here to learn. 

I experienced it as being vulnerable — terrified of not knowing. A sentiment much easier when learning is an act of curiosity rather than necessity (it's my job after all). Do other people struggle with not knowing because it may reflect on their job? I know they do and I spent years supporting time, space and place for people to live comfortably in that uncertainty so they can open their hearts and minds to new perspectives, mindsets and worldviews. I hadn't done it for myself. 

I know nothing, but I am here to learn.

I am here to be present to gifts I am given from beautiful strangers and new relations. 

Thank you to each teacher, stranger, new relation and dance partner for each of these gifts. 

You moved my heart. 

The Gifts

Be a gracious stranger. Show up humbly, gratefully and with gifts whenever I am the stranger; welcome and respect the stranger with all the care and traditions of my life. 

See across time. Learning is an act of remembering, a cycle of reflecting on and respecting moments past and moments in the making. 

Be open to all teachers. Tune into nature and the land to truly learn transformation. Learn from the land. The insights we believe we are developing intellectually are already alive in the earth; pay attention.

My 'enemies' or 'nemeses' teach me deeply about the depths of strength and forgiveness. 

Honour all teachers. What I know is the words and wisdom of generous and patient people I have met in the last few months and the many years before. My wisdom is theirs and ours together — it lives in the fabric of our relationships, above and beyond the moments we met or gathered. My teachers are the people I am in relation with and the earth. 

We cannot further compromise future generations or the ecological integrity of the earth.   

Listen deeply. With heart, mind, soul and body.  I did not know my body is one of my greatest teachers. She hosts the other three with tenderness and resilience, bearing most of the pain in her form.

"Listening deeply" is the necessary qualifier to move beyond surface listening, where my internal narrator is in dialogue with the person I am listening to, ready to respond. Quieting the narrator in my head to hear fully the story of someone else requires listening from the depth of heart, mind, body and soul to others. 

Ask powerful questions.  

Whose shoulders do I stand on? 

Where does it hurt? 

Appreciate to others' patience with my fallibility. I can stop being defensive to guard against my failure and show gratitude for the patience people offer me when I fumble.  

Train. Life trains us in powerful ways and is an ongoing training session. Enter each day prepared to train with discipline, with soul — even the wildness of soul — and with strength that may surprise me. I feel I know nothing, but my body knows how train. 

Welcome. Ask questions I don't know the answer to and welcome the answer. To live the traditions of welcome of my culture, family and spirit.

Welcome, the coffee is ready. 

Welcome, the coffee is ready. 

I gather up these gifts to continue in uncertainty. Because I continue to live the (beautiful, blasted, terrifying, life affirming) questions around the journey CKX will host for shift disturbers. I grumble at the confidence with which I wrote, "We will listen to people we know, find people we don’t, and listen more so that we can live our way into the answers." Ever since I read his words in a gift shop in Chicago ten years ago, poet Rainer Maria Rilke's words have inspired me: 

I beg you… to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

When I joined CKX, I promised to live everything until I live my way into the answers — without even noticing it. Rilke's call for patience rings loudly — echoing over his entreaty to "love the questions themselves." One I am cherishing dearly is this: Might we host an experience for shift disturbers to live their questions with love and patience? Might I welcome more people on my journey and, under the guise of a fellowship cohort, live our ways to the answers together?

One answer has been given to me: the beating heart of the cohorts has to be relationships. People will be here to learn from, with and through each other, their own heart, body, mind, souls, families, teams and the land. I know this because that is the answer alive in everything I've lived and learned. Goodness knows it's not my answer; it's a gift. I am privileged to be in a role to channel it into an experiential programme and to try ardently to be a humble warrior to protect it.