Soul Nudges # 25 Disconnect to connect

These days we have to disconnect before we can connect. We are connected to everything and everyone constantly, but not ourselves or even God…

During the past few weeks I spent 4 days on a farm in Namibia with no cell phone or internet connection. No phone, no internet, no emails, no WhatsApp. I couldn’t reach out for my phone quickly to scroll the latest news feed, couldn’t post anything on any platform. I was totally disconnected. All I could do was to witness the sunset and sunrise, look up at the stars at night, sit at the fire and share experiences with the people around me…in person…not on zoom! What a relief, to not anxiously await a message, or an alert of something I need to do, or attend to. Just to be there…and open to what is emerging from the moment.

I had to disconnect to be able to connect to myself and to God. My kids had to look for stuff to do in nature, learn to just sit and chat, pick up wood for the fire or play board games.

And we connected.

One night in Namibia I walked away from the house to just watch the stars – my 10 year old boy walked with me and we witnessed a sky full of stars, an unbelievable sight. “Daddy why are there so many stars tonight?”, he suddenly asked me. I told him that the stars are always there we just don’t see it because of all the (artificial) light. Because sometimes we need the darkness to witness the light, don’t we? We disconnected from the artificial light that night to connect to the stars and the light.

Sometimes we have to disconnect before we can connect. Years ago Nokia made an advert with the same title – you are welcome to watch this short video as it is a powerful depiction of this notion.

Last week I spoke to a business leader while on his 3-month sabbatical. We started planning his sabbatical last year, focusing specifically on how to be deliberate in disconnecting from his office. We talked about the value of sometimes looking at your business from a distance, to look from the outside and taking an intentional step to plug out before you plug in again.

At the end of our conversation he said:

“While disconnecting I get a renewed perspective and then I become small…and my problems even smaller – I remind myself just to breathe.”

We find ourselves in the middle of this year and it might be healthy to think of where you need to disconnect to be able to connect to God, yourself and others again.

Make one small decision about this – take one small step.

To deliberately disconnect for short periods – you don’t have to be out on a farm, or be disconnected for days to experience this – just take a short walk and leave your phone at home or at the office, and see what emerges for you.

Go and deliberately disconnect, so you can soulfully connect again.

Go well.

Soul Nudges #19 Wilderness found us

It is a time of global wilderness, isn’t it? In South Africa, we have been in hard lockdown for almost 40 days, significantly the same time that Jesus spent in the desert. It is as if wilderness has found us globally – we were forced into a liminal space – liminal means threshold or waiting room in Latin. Often during liminal times or times of crisis, we reflect on what matters most to us. I am struck by how this time emphasises the great inequality in South Africa. While some families share photos of how they retreated to their holiday homes for 6 weeks, others queue for days to get a small meal. While some exercise in their gardens others are forced to sit in their one chair in a 3×3 shack.

But whatever our context most of us can identify with a time of wilderness, thinking about our needs and wants and what is really important and worthwhile – and I am so encouraged to see how humanity shows itself – people that are really concerned about each other’s wellbeing. It is a time to really take responsibility and be ethical – this is indeed the great wilderness test –  a test of ethical choices all round.
If nothing else we have more time! May it be a time of wisdom and discernment, where we use the TIME that we so crave when we rush and run through life. And when you get back to “life as you know it” be very aware of what is different and how you want to do things differently. Life as we knew it will never be the same, that is for sure!

Take 5 minutes and try this:

Take few deep breaths…

What is your wilderness experience during this time?

Reflect on one thing that you learned during this time about what is really important to you.

How will you respond to this? Make sure to share this learning with one person or post it somewhere.

SOULFUL CONVERSATIONS:
As part of the diverse global experiences and how we learn from each other during this time I’m starting a few interviews with people in different contexts that I want to share.

I interviewed Brian Draper in the UK on Zoom to start the Soulful Conversations and more will follow. Watch the interview with Brian here:


May wilderness, although uncomfortable, be a time of wisdom globally!

 

Soul Nudges #18 Unity

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”   –   Kitty O’ Meara

At the beginning of 2020, I experienced the world as was more divided than ever.  Countries at war, Trump, Brexit, people struggling to work together, you name it – isn’t it ironic that now a few months later the world is busy uniting as one to fight Covid-19.  We have no choice – suddenly we agree on one thing and the only way to get through this is to stand together and work together.  It levels the playing field.  Suddenly background, wealth, ethnicity, culture, ideology doesn’t make any difference, no exceptions – we are all in this together whether we want it or not.

This is an opportunity for unity – let’s unite with Kitty O’Meara and pray for healing on all levels – and find new ways of being. I am already witnessing immense care and the goodness of people at work and play. This is a testing time globally it challenges us towards thinking and being aware of each other in different ways.  Suddenly space and touch mean different things than a few weeks ago.  Somebody shared with me yesterday how paradigms can quickly shift and gave the following example:  “be a good neighbour – stay at home!”

Maybe it is a time to turn in, read books, listen, pray, meditate and rest. In the Christian tradition, it is also the season of Lent where we are aware of time in the wilderness – and isn’t this a wilderness experience in some sort of way for most of us?

May you be safe wherever you are!

Soul Nudges #17 Ring the bell

Thich Nhat Hanh tells a beautiful story in his book “Silence” about the Coconut Monk. This monk did many things to teach peace.  In Vietnam, at the time of the war, he once collected bullet and bomb fragments from an area in the Mekong Delta. He then did an extraordinary thing – he took the bullet and bomb fragments and forged them into a big bell – he called it the bell of mindfulness. He then hung this bell in his practice centre in Mekong Delta  and wrote the following poem:

Dear bullets, dear bombs, I have helped you come together in order to practice. In your former life, you have killed and destroyed. But in this life, you are calling out to people to wake up, to wake up to humanity, to love, to understanding.
This bell’s very existence was a symbol of how transformation is possible and he rang it every morning and every night to invite soldiers into times of reflection.

At the beginning of this year, I really hope this story helps you to believe that you can make small changes in the way you live and work. That even difficult things and brokenness can be used as a reminder. And may the metaphor of the bell remind you to make small decisions about the way that you will (literally or metaphorically) ring a bell in your own life to remind you of the small changes and habits that you want to stick to this year. To wake up to humanity and love. Do keep it simple!

And let’s remember the words of Leonard Cohen in his song “Anthem”:

      Ring the bells that still can ring

      Forget the perfect offering

      There’s a crack in everything

      But that’s where the light gets in



Your response:

  Take 5 minutes to think reflectively about the following.

How can you create something that can be like a bell that rings in your life this year – something that reminds you to stop, to love and to be human? Think about something simple that you can use as a reminder, not to make you feel guilty, but to help you, your team or your family to believe that small changes and transformation is possible in 2020. It can be a reminder on your phone, a photo or a picture against a wall, a tree that you pass every morning or maybe a bell at your office?  Keep it simple and specific though…

My bell was a drop of water…watch the video of my story here. 


Events for 2020:

I am again conducting a few retreats and leadership retreats this year – more information can be found here.

And I still spend time with individuals and teams on request for reflective walks, experiential team development processes and team retreats – more information here.

I regularly spend time with teams in a labyrinth – ask me about this.

Also, keep letting me know if you have any soulful stories to share – it is wonderful to hear about the small moments that provide meaning and purpose.

Ring the bell!

André

Soul Nudges #14 Soulful Work

Many people who are secretly weary of work have never given themselves time, or taken time out or away from work, to allow their spirits to catch up!

– John O’Donohue

This is so true on many different levels, isn’t it? Taking TIME to allow your spirit (or being) to catch up is often quite difficult.

What is it that we need in this day and age to make sure that we stay connected to the deeper part of work? And is it even realistic?

I refer to work not only as paid job or occupation – I refer to any part of “your life’s work”-  being a manager, parent, friend, partner or leader. Is work something that you just do or is it part of who you are? Is it possible that work can be more than what you do, but also how you do it?

John O’Donohue, Irish Poet and Scholar, writes beautifully about work in his book, “Anam Cara”.

“Work could be an arena of possibility and expression and our nature longs for it”, he writes. 

“The soulful approach to the workplace ensures that creativity and spontaneity become energising forces. Remember when you sell your soul, you ultimately buy a life of misery!”

The workplace as a soulful place of creativity and spontaneity? Is this too good to be true or even possible?

It must be possible to find some simple spontaneity or creativity through work to allow your spirit to catch up. It might not be possible to change everything today, but maybe you can change the way you look at things, and look at work with a creative and kind eye as a small step?

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!

RESPONSE?

Find one mundane aspect of your work today to do as if it was the first time you were doing it. If it was the first time you had to do this, how would you approach it with creativity and try something different?

Think about the basics. Just the way you arrive at work or leave your home or greet a colleague or pick up the kids or pay the bills or prepare food! Maybe just be creative about the way you sit at your desk?

Go and do your “life’s work” as if for the first time with creativity.

Work soulfully!

André

Sou Nudges #13 Your next 5 minutes

Soul Nudges 13 // Your next 5 minutes

 

How will you spend your next 5 minutes?

Five minutes are often not enough to do anything significant – not enough for a proper conversation, a game with your kids, a meeting, a walk, a run or just to try and finish an important piece of work. You cannot accomplish much in 5 minutes, right?

In a recent coaching discussion, I conversed with somebody about ideas to bring “the positive” into the present – Shawn Achor (The Happiness Advantage) mentions ideas to bring positive stories and thoughts into the present, and one way is by keeping a gratitude diary. By writing down each day, what you are grateful for and keeping track of that, focuses you into the positive instead of just being negative and reactive. Our coaching conversation centred on the theme of significance and the person’s need to experience significance and she came up with the great idea of a “significance diary”– to have a separate journal or space in her diary and capture moments of significance every day even in the most ordinary situations. What a great idea!

A few days later I received an email from her (with feedback) and a quote of Tom Peters –

“Excellence is not an aspiration. Excellence is what you do in the next five minutes”.

Excellence is what you do in the next 5 minutes even if it is simply to be awake for a significant moment in your day or whatever you are grateful for.

This is such a simple concept in life and work. Be deliberate about how you spend the next 5 minutes, be it leading your team or organisation, having a conversation with a child, seeing the beauty in nature, taking a breath or even just the way that you are driving.

Excellence is not in a specific position, or status, or bank balance or the next business deal. Excellence is simply how you spend the next 5 minutes and recognise the significance within that.

Why don’t you start a significance diary or just take 5 minutes each day to be more deliberate?

Five minutes can make a significant difference!

 

Go well