Finding the inborn compass to lead us out

Laurence Duarte
9 min readApr 9, 2023

--

You are reading the Eagle Newsletter April 2023 edition. You can subscribe here.

Dear Ones,

Spring is here. 🌸

The beautiful tedium of blossoming is finally being seen. When we pay attention, Nature reminds us that every living species — including us — takes seasons to go from bud to blossom. We don’t grow overnight and spontaneously self-actualize, even if we wish to take the magical and effortless pill.

It is an incremental ripening by which we become who we are. Far from the grandiose, it is in the very act of walking into the mundane of our life, humbly, patiently, from all the innumerable tiny choices, the imperceptibly small steps that pave the path to our own unfolding story.

What would it be to accept our continuous becoming? How would it help to get out of the trap of our culture of busyness, surface matters, and addiction to perfection?

I know, I understand. It is very difficult to go back within when our hyper-connected world, full of uncertainty and distraction, is constantly asking us about our presence in all the wrong ways possible. This is a fact of modern life and work, the busyness, the need for achievement, the push of momentum, and the feeling of exhilaration.

But the choice is always ours. We do not need to be trapped by this ruling force; we do not need to risk being exhausted, burned out, estranged from our needs, and of course, making bad decisions for the sake of the always-on culture.

We do not always need to chase our survival, obsessed with optimizing our routines and maximizing our productivity, especially if our intent — which is true in most cases — is to become more knowledgeable, intelligent and successful, and better-looking than the next person.

All these wrong rewards and goals manufactured against others will not save us from a crisis, a setback, a fallout, or a failure, and the bitter uncovering of our wrong way of being in the world. If we have lived long enough, we know. We can’t protect ourselves from the cycle of life. We all go through seasons in our lives. Sometimes, we are radiant and beautiful, blossoming, attracting, smiling, everyone admiring us and our contribution to life. And there are also terrible times in life when we feel like ghosts, and people just cannot see us or recognize our talents. These moments when we can’t even name ourselves, when we’re stuck in difficult, stormy, wild, and troubled weather.

Why is it so difficult to accept the invitation, hidden behind “the cloud of unknowing,” the blessing behind the troubledness of our disappearance? Like trees, we must lose our leaves in order to welcome a new spring in our life.

I like how the poet David Whyte comforts us during these harsh times of initiation. He says, “When the first really wild invitation to this troubled edge is made to us, when we first intuit that it might be possible to go where we want to go and when we first allow ourselves to experience what the fullness of a human life might look like, we almost always turn our faces away; it is almost always declined at first, even if just for a moment, before we turn our faces back towards it again and allow ourselves to look and allow ourselves to see and feel what is happening. This choice to look again, and not to turn our face away, this act of volition in a human life — of looking to the place where the ocean arrives on our shore — to the wilder edge of our understanding, is the act of waking up. It doesn’t matter how humble and narrow an awakening it is — just the act of noticing something other than ourselves, something other than our own opinions, or the way we’ve described the dead-end of our existence, can be enough to not only wake, but to start a sincere journey toward something for which we long.”

The Gift of Presence

“The outer work can never be small if the inner work is great. And the outer work can never be great if the inner work is small.” — Meister Eckhart

We can’t escape our modern life and eradicate all superficialities and surfaced pleasures of living in society — it is not the point. But we can discriminate between the essential and the nonessential. We can recognize the not-so-admirable intentions that sometimes inhabit our actions and start to choose more conscious and graceful ways of being.

It is possible.

It is possible to create and maintain a deeper, more authentic interior life. It is possible to follow another, far less painful path for ourselves and others to return to our sparkling, spacious, generous, and life-giving essence. It is called presence.

Can we go there? in the here and now where connection happens and possibility roots. Now is the time. It has always been. It is not sometime in the future when we believe the conditions will be perfect — they rarely are. There are no guarantees in this life, so when we hold back, we do so at the risk of never fully blossoming. We have a habit of presenting life with a set of conditions — ifs and whens that must be fulfilled before we will say yes to the gift of our lives. We always find something urgent to do rather than do the work of caring. Looking at ways in which we avoid the simple truths in search of complication, drama, escapism — glitter and gold. Too many times, we hold ourselves back based on past outcomes, current fears, expectations, and conditioning. But I mean, the treasure is in the everyday. It’s here and now.

What would it be like to embrace this moment, and ourselves, just exactly as we are right now?

Let’s start with our beloved question — How are you? — that brings us, just as we are, into the present moment, just as it is. For a moment every day, how about starting with this simple and vital question, like a ritual or therapeutic mantra?

We start exactly where we are, in the sacred space of silence inside us, where we follow the poet Walt Whitman’s advice: “Now I will do nothing but listen.” Listening to the music of life while paying deep attention to what is.

Sometimes, when our minds and bodies are busy, we forget how to get back. But all we need is to silence our strategic and defensive minds and go into our body, our breath, in stillness. Sensing, hearing, and noticing, putting a hand on our heart, belly, and solar plexus, offering our presence to our inner, mainly unfamiliar, country.

When we unfold delicately yet fully into the space in which we find ourselves, present and authentic, vulnerable, meeting and accepting our own complexity, we find the resources of our own hearts. We, finally, fully love ourselves as we are, where we are. What we’ve been seeking has been here all along — inside.

There, we break our self-delusion and isolation. We find fortitude and determination to explore and accomplish more.
Aligned from within, our attention can finally expand to what is aligned around us: the visible and the invisible. The magic happens, possibilities arise, and the world gently guides us. This meeting of attention and intentionality creates an incredible harvest at the surface; the strike of new clarity, the willingness to cope with and effectively handle the opportunities of life. And the smile that comes, the understanding gifted and received, the expansion, connection, and love.

Here are two beautiful poems, “Blessing for Sound” and “Blessing for the Light,” from David Whyte, as an invitation to the gift of presence and the ravishment of the Irish landscape and music in Whyte’s collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Hinton and composer Owen Ó Súilleabháin.

Being Present at Work

“You do not need to be anything, say anything, do anything here to prove you are enough or worthy or good. What you have to do is create space for your continued growth and expansion.
Lay down your swords, particularly the ones you use against yourself.
In the practice of belonging, we are not seeking prowess or domination over anyone else, but the ability to live into the conversation between things.” -Toko-pa Turner

Sometimes we believe that, when we step through the doors of our workplace, we cease being ourselves and start being someone else’s employee. We follow scripts, unwritten or written rules that force us to become someone else. The cost is high, too high. Because we deserve to be who we truly are, never mind others’ destinies. We all need to inhabit ours. Fully.

When we decide to bring our full presence to work, we find that the entire space is filled with new energy and life. Being present at work begins before we even go to our workplace. It starts with our intention to bring consciousness into everything we do, including our work. When we pour meaning into our life, we start doing it willingly.

What would it be to explore our motive and our principle? The true meaning is always self-evident, associated with that which supports the significance of life itself. It makes us feel positive about ourselves. It uplifts, dignifies, and ennobles. It energizes, gives forth, supplies, and supports.

Committed to overcoming inner resistance to life — letting go of our pride, self-correcting, and cooperating — we find satisfaction and joy in engaging in the tasks at hand. We find meaning and value in our work because it is aligned with service, a commitment to the support of life and human value. Whatever their nature, we find joy in every activity, complete all of our projects on time, or be truly helpful to our coworkers.

When we start becoming fully intentional, major transformation takes place, with the understanding that one is oneself the source and creator of the experience of one’s life. Fully present, you will begin to radiate, and people may begin to notice, and want to follow your lead.

Building ‘Presence’ Containers

“I believe if people talk, and they talk sincerely, with the same respect that one owes to a close friend or to God, something will come out of that, something good. I would call it presence.” Elie Wiesel

As leaders and managers, we have a role to play in creating open, inclusive, and safe business environments that allow employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Containers are necessary, especially in the workplace. They are very positive when container builders and keepers see dichotomies and take on rigid positions to remove as much possible polarization, opposition, and division. There, people have the same rights we do.

When managers are flexible and nonjudgmental, with a realistic appraisal of problems, they build trust and confidence in their teams. Problems become opportunities to learn, where not getting one’s way is no longer experienced as defeating, frightening, or frustrating.

When we, as managers, are not interested in conflict, competition, or guilt, we become easy to get along with and safe to be around and associate with. Free of discrimination and intolerance, with equality not precluding diversity, we create the necessary plurality, maturity, and discipline from which we best solve problems. Successful solutions are based on the powerful principle that resolution occurs not by attacking the negative but by fostering the positive.

Every human behavior is rooted in a need for safety — even the most self-destructive ones. So instead of creating more insecurity with self-judgment, we can choose absolute integrity and alignment. We can engage in a way to nurture our team and ourselves: acceptance, balance, appropriateness, pleasure, being heard and providing comfort, support, compassion, and rest. That means offering a sense of well-being, therefore, experientially, a level of safety.

From there, we infuse success in companies with low employee turnover and better results. Employees feel nurtured and supported and smile genuinely at customers. And customers smile back. In the book Search of Excellence, which is a detailed analysis of several great companies, the authors concluded that successful companies had “heart,” as opposed to strictly left-brain, scientifically managed companies.

May we remember that, as leaders and managers, we infuse our work with our choices. We are fully accountable, whether we like it or not. We can rule by inspiration, teach by example, and stand for self-evident principles. Or choose the force with a win/lose strategy, where the end justifies the means with dramatic consequences. We know, organizations like civilizations are characterized by native principles. If the principles are noble, it succeeds; if they are selfish, it falls.

Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo

“To uncover your true potential, you must first find your own limits, and then you have to have the courage to blow past them.” — Picabo Street

We are here to learn and unlearn again. We are here to unpack, develop and understand the value of the struggle. We are here to learn that there is no judgment where there is love. We are here to learn that we are not small; everyone belongs and deserves to have a life well-lived. The world is here to find us and give us its blessing. We are good enough. We have all we need to move forward.

With the vivid spring on our side, may we find in our presence the inborn compass to lead us out to everything and everybody.

“Here Comes the Sun” from the Beatles.

I thank you for taking the time to do this reading with me. I am so grateful to journey alongside you.

Be safe and be watched over until we meet again in May.

Laurence

--

--

Laurence Duarte

Head of Strategy with innovation on the brain and a focus on creating safe and thriving business environments.