Photo credit: Peter Garrity, Shutterstock
Feeling frustrated this morning. My chance to get away to my 'special place' for my monthly retreat was somewhat kyboshed by being laid up in bed with Covid. But I was reminded that 'retreat' is less dependent on my external than my internal environment. I determined that, feeling a little less out of it than I did yesterday, and as far as my brain fog would allow, I would bring an element of retreat into this time in my sick bed today, isolated as I was in my loft conversion away from my wife, Laura, who is, so far, (thankfully) Covid-free.
As I looked out of the window at the crows cleaning their beaks on the branches of the tree in my garden I was reminded of a meditation on birds in flight from my October retreat. Looking down on the valley below from my vantage point on Farthing Downs my attention was drawn to how different the flight behaviour was of three very different birds: The Wood Pigeon, the Carrion Crow and the Kestrel. It inspired the following poem:
Flight (on a breezy day)
Exploding clap of wings on take-off - then
Urgent, frantic, fast,
Peregrine in mind?
Languid, glossy beats,
Drifting up and drifting down,
Trimming, then expanding wings.
Life as it comes, indifferent to all else,
'As the crow flies'?
Scything arc of crescent wings,
Then fingers spread to soar,
Then hovered stillness, focussed eye,
Master of the air, purpose-driven,
Stillness in turbulence?
Stillness in turbulence.
Adrian Lock, Retreat Day, 6 October 2023, Farthing Downs.
I meditated further on their flight patterns as metaphors of the three key choices we can make as we respond to the turbulent world as it is today.
I can respond in fear and panic - and there is plenty to lead us in this direction. With an impending environmental catastrophe, a rise in racial bigotry and hatred between peoples, the cost of living crisis, wondering where the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine/Israel will go next.
Or I can 'chillax' with an indifference to the world outside my door, beyond a shaking of my head at the latest horrors reported on the evening news. After all, there are Netflix binge watches to take my mind off it all and the next holiday to book. It's all too much and none of it really affects me directly, does it?
Or I could meet the turbulence full on, not indifferent to the pain of others, but speaking out against injustice, choosing to live a life of love, acting in the opposite spirit to the hatred I see growing around me. I can choose to be even more purpose-driven, a force for good in the world, cultivating a still centre, a hub to my wheel, revolving more slowly than the crazily paced world around me, around the still axle that is my relationship with God .
It's so easy to rely more on the peripherals in life - like the place of my retreat and any role that I might have rather than anything more fundamental and core. The trouble is, strengthening my core takes dedicated time to ask myself deep questions about who I am and why I am and detecting what my 'voice' in the world is meant to be. A voice that if expressed will make the world a richer place. But poorer if not. Silence - a voice not expressed - is never neutral, it communicates consent to the status quo and the current direction of humanity.
That's why questions of identity and purpose are themes I return to frequently in my executive coaching. A strong core is an incredible source of resilience in a turbulent and frightening world. It helps us keep the balance of caring deeply without being overwhelmed. I frequently remind C-Suite executives that they are bigger than their current roles, bigger even than their future roles. Their potential contribution to the world and to their important relationships must transcend these or their egos will be too tied up in their job titles or positions of power and authority. And we are seeing the horrific results of ego-centred leadership at a national and international level. Don't think that the results are any less destructive at an organisational level.
So - let me leave you with a question: what is your source of 'stillness in turbulence'?