Are we asking the wrong questions? (Part II)

How will I decide? Will I be okay? 

In my post on Part I, I suggested that college students and working adults ponder these same questions. Many struggling with the same fears about the future. In my work coaching students and joining with colleagues to help college students find their way, I have found that we sometimes linger too long considering the wrong questions.

What if instead of trying to help students look out in to the great world to find their place, we instead invited students to turn inward. To look deep inside them for the truth — the wisdom of their very nature that would unlock the answers they desire?

At the heart of decisions about major and career plans is this question – will I be okay?

Am I enough? Do you see me fully?

During my time at a Jesuit institution, we invited students to consider these three key questions:

  1. What are my gifts?
  2. What brings me joy?
  3. What does the world need?

What a difference it makes when we begin by asking the right questions. Rather than dedicate time dwelling in their fears about what could go wrong, students begin to open up to a new sense of freedom. Maybe we are not just good or bad? Maybe we are each here to share some spark of creativity, some twinkle of a strength, a perspective not yet considered? Perhaps greatness does lie within us all?

Reframing the questions to invite students to consider the possibility that they may already be perfect just as they are tends to open students up to far greater potential for meaningful contribution through their work. Their aspirations extend beyond surviving, to thriving.

There is an aliveness about them when they are invited to grow their wildest dreams beyond the most stringent limitations they have outlined for themselves. 

This moment, when it happens, is magic. What a privilege it is to see the wisdom and spirit working deep inside these students as they search for who they are, and the ways in which they are uniquely needed in our world.

What might it be like to accept a deep sense of trust in ourselves?

To have a faith that in the end all will be well… and all will be well…. and all will be well.

Our greatest gift is our presence.

For many of us, the holiday season is busy with preparations for memory-making with family and dear friends. Today I received a message that caused me to pause and consider whether all this activity really gets us any closer to the connection we crave? I know I am guilty of spending too much of my time on my holiday lists when I could be spending that time in the pure presence of those that I love.

GreatestGiftSUChristmas_Presence

The fact that this message came to me via email is not lost on me. As much as technology brings us together, for me it can also cause just as much disconnection. Technology has the capacity to fragment some of my most cherished moments in ways that would never have been possible when I was a child. Perhaps worst of all, most of the time I don’t even notice it happening.

What if all the gifts, the food, the crafts, and the parties are actually confusing us into thinking that the activities alone yield the closeness that lives within promise of Christmas? If the greatest gift we can give to one another is our presence, how might we reshape our choices to create space for this greatest gift of all to emerge?

If you are curious, or if you just enjoy seeing lovely Seattle on film, enjoy the full video here.

Do not worry about the landing place too much.

A friend and dear mentor recently sent me a lovely card in celebration of my upcoming graduation. Enclosed was a small magnet of a little yellow butterfly with a note saying the gift was to remind me of the butterfly’s annual wisdom of growth, transformation, and metamorphosis.ButterflyMagnet

This friend did not know that the butterfly has been an important symbol for me over the last year. I love the image of transformation we can take from the butterfly and I have done a lot of thinking about butterflies over the last cycle of seasons. For these reasons, this small gift from my friend ended up being far more touching than even she intended it to be. It brought me pure joy.

In the last year as I have been thinking about what I can learn from butterflies and their cycle of life, they have started to show up in different ways. I notice them outside, on clothing people are wearing in meetings, on a little note card from a friend, in bowls I use daily in my kitchen but ignore. Now, finally, one arrived at my door just for me. An affirmation of the noticing I have been doing all year.

In this spirit, and because it fits with my intention for this week of “Open hands, warm heart,” I share a simple poem I wrote one day in May last year when I was struggling to find my way. This was written after a walk along the Sammamish River Trail near my home in Woodinville, WA. I hope it brings a bit of lightness to any heavy spots in your heart.

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Peter Block on belonging.

Belonging can be thought of as longing to be. Being is our capacity to find our deeper purpose in all that we do. It is the capacity to be present, and to discover our authenticity and whole selves. This is often thought of as an individual capacity, but it is also a community capacity. Community is the container within which our longing to be is fulfilled. Without the connectedness of community, we will continue to choose not to be. I have always been touched by the term beloved community. This is often expressed in a spiritual context, but it also is possible in the secular aspects of our everyday life.

– Peter Block, author of Community: The Structure of Belonging (2009, p. xii)