Every day we face increasing demands on our time - in our work, our families and communities. A host of overwhelming expectations permeates all aspects of our lives. We require impossible things of ourselves.
We slowly, gradually, work more hours, to accomplish more tasks. We rarely feel we can summon all our attention for anything, so fractured and fragmented is our time. Pushed past our human abilities, unable to work as wisely and skillfully as we are able, we feel more desperate, frantic, overwhelmed, and often disappointed - especially in ourselves.
The work we do is never our best. Over time, we feel a great sadness about this. Wherever I am invited to speak or consult with corporate leaders, doctors or hospitals, clergy or therapists, parents or teachers, I find a vast reservoir of grief embedded within every organization I visit. Our gifts and talents, our attentive excellence is perpetually distracted: there are too many eggs in our hands, too many plates in the air, always too little time.
We cope by accelerating our generosity, by giving what we do not have; we unintentionally offer our dishonest kindness when our natural, spacious capacity for authentic kindness is simply depleted. Then, we are bombarded by the fierce tyranny of universal access - where anyone with our techno-coordinates feels entitled to our attention and participation, regardless of our ability or desire to be available for anything or anyone. We have no privacy, no sanctuary, no shelter from the storm.
We are in a state of perpetual grief; keenly aware we have lost any time or space at all for quiet, uninterrupted reflection, contemplation, rest - enzymes crucial for any authentic, successful human enterprise.
But here is our greatest challenge: We do not tell the truth about this.
We do not speak honestly about these things with anyone, anywhere, ever. Rather, we all pretend to keep up, work harder, striving to improve our efficiency. We multitask, and we isolate. After all, with astonishingly useful technologies at our fingertips, whose sole purpose is to support and encourage our productivity, we have obviously have no excuse: no good reason, no permission to stop, to rest, to seek refuge.
Now is the time for us to create covenants of permission, to reclaim how we live and work. In hospitals, in community organizations, in large corporations, many of us - a growing family of concerned partners and colleagues of all ages - are beginning to seed invitational gatherings, Sabbath groups, Sabbatical Retreats, Formation Groups, Wisdom Circles.
Places of safety and trust, where the elegantly simple human story remains noble, deep, ancient. We begin to name, fearlessly and out loud, what we know to be true, at least for ourselves. We explore what we can and cannot do skillfully, masterfully and well. We discern the difference between what we love to do with gusto and enthusiasm - and how many more requirements have become tasks we can "barely handle." We help one another rediscover what is, for today, for now, enough - enough growth, enough success, enough accomplishment, enough security, enough power, enough availability, enough money - even enough love.
We have not forgotten how to bring forth our authentic selves. We are whole and good and courageous. We see how our human story is being shredded daily, by a bizarre concoction of ridiculous metrics that drive us, our choices, our policies, our lives - and the lives of everyone around us.
When we retreat from the world, if only for a short while, when we disengage from the spinning flywheel of the world, we can hear the still, small voices that speak to us of what is beautiful, necessary, and true. We can gather with others, we explore how things really work, and how other things really do not work very well at all. Together, we listen, we watch, we feel our way in the dark, tracing the shape of the world we've created, and imagine what we can do about it. We play with ways to seed an impossible optimism for positive change, based on nothing but our strong hearts and clear presence. And we chart paths to carry these conversations back - to our workplace, our homes, our loved ones. Gently, lovingly, we begin to re-dream the world
Still. There is much to be done. The world aches for well rested, deeply nourished souls to gather, to heal the wounds of the world, to lift up the astonishing beauty of creation. But first, we must have eyes to see, and ears to hear, where that beauty, and wonder, and freedom from suffering lives. In us. In the world. Right here, right now, in this moment. So that, when we are called to lead others home, we can promise to remain faithful and reliable stewards, knowing in our heart, soul, and body that we can be trusted to know the way.