It was May before my
to spring and
my word I said
to the southern slopes
missed it, it
came and went before
I got right to see.
The poet A.R. Ammons grabbed me right at this start of his poem "Eyesight". How many of the 50 springs of my life have I missed? Like the year when I was launching my company? Or the spring when I was finishing my senior thesis three floors underground in the Princeton library?
You see, I tend to get caught up in things. Some I choose well – times where I've been hyperkinetic and focused, but on a project well aligned with who I am and what I want to do in the world. I don't regret those.
But there are other things that capture my attention while obscuring what's important, what's real. How about much of the time I spend on the Internet? Or following the ups and downs of the Presidential election? Or my agitation at the many little annoyances of life. What a waste of my limited, precious hours on this earth!
At least when I miss the glories of spring, it's pretty likely that I will be around for the next one. But as Ammons reminds us at the end of his poem, not all things work that way. Some things "that go are gone."
Some of the most important advice I've received in my life has helped protect me from my distracted, hyperkinetic self at these once-in-a-lifetime events.
Your children will grow up before you know it. Spend time with them now, while you can.
Take some time at your wedding to really look around, savor the moment, and be present to it.
Keep a travel journal when you go to Africa, so that you can remember how you experienced the place, the people and yourself.
This year I've been experimenting with a new early morning practice – something to help me start the day by getting "right to see," before I launch into things that so often take me away from myself and what's important. My evolving practice involves a combination of meditation, inspirational reading, and journaling. And making coffee. (I did say it's an early morning practice!)
I'm discovering that this combination of practices is helping ground me in a constructive conversation with myself. And occasionally (though certainly not always) I'm able to set an intention that positively impacts my day, or explore a question that ends up deepening my work or my life.
One of the reasons I facilitate my leadership programs in "retreat" is that it is in such settings – at a slower pace, around nature, intentionally facilitated, with time for personal reflection and for sharing in community – that I so often do my best thinking about my life and work.
Getting "right to see" also applies to organizations, not just people. Organizations, leaders, boards – all of them tend to see the world through a certain lens that colors everything they experience. And they tend to ignore or rationalize things that don't fit the reigning paradigm. This is very dangerous in a fast-changing world.
As a leader, I have experimented with many ways to help groups see the world through fresh eyes – including story-telling, surveys, site visits, and the use of metaphorical tools (poetry, art, photography, etc.). Some of these creative practices take a bit of time, but I have found they often lead to the new insights and new learning that result in profound change.
What helps you get "right to see?" Whatever works for you and the people you work with, those are practices worth cultivating in this frenetic world.
As a postscript, I just saw a beautiful seven-minute film called Seeing made by an 18 year old young man. After watching it I found myself seeing the world around me in new and fresh ways (at least for a while). For me, for today, watching his video helped me get "right to see." Check it out, and see what you think.
Courage & Renewal Facilitator Ken Saxon has led Courage to Lead programs for California nonprofit leaders since 2008. Ken is a graduate of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and Princeton University. He serves on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Orfalea Foundation and Santa Barbara Middle School. Information on Courage to Lead for Nonprofit Leaders Introductory Retreats can be found here.