Welcome to the first edition of Gracing Change for the new year, a curated collection of ideas and resources to help you become more comfortable with navigating change. And this month, it's all about cycles...
For a long time, I approached the rolling over of another year much as I'm sure many of you do -- a new opportunity to pause, reset, and make a change (with varying degrees of success). It always felt good -- a confirmation of my (de)lusion that change was in my control. This time around, however, I found myself contemplating this passing of time in a very different way.
For many indigenous communities, time is not the linear concept like it is for those of us immersed in Western culture. It also hasn't been commodified (raise your hand if you've ever heard yourself say "time is money"). I've learned from the indigenous communities I've worked with over the years that time is cyclical. A resource that is invested, renewed and replenished as the cycle continues on.
It's taken me a long time to grasp this idea, and even so I feel as though I'm only playing at the edges. It's such a mind shift from the worldview I grew up with that I have to be very intentional about thinking and moving this way.
I was reflecting on how this different understanding of time might influence the way I approach the new year as I moved back into my house this past week and started unpacking boxes that had been stored away for the last three years. Whereas I would normally take an "out with the old, in with the new" approach -- discarding all that I felt no longer served -- I tried to be a little more curious while sifting through these artefacts of a former cycle.
What I discovered was kinda fun, and had a lovely feeling of serendipity that has made coming home feel just right. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share some of my discoveries for this edition of Gracing Change -- starting with this quote from Maya Angelou that jumped out at me from the first book I picked up!
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
Living in the Layers
While on my journey through the Grand Canyon at the end of last year, I spent weeks with a stanza of Stanley Kunitz' poem The Layers stuck in my head. I had committed the poem to memory many years ago but alas, could now only remember the opening lines:
"I have walked through many lives, some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle
not to stray."
Thus I was delighted when I found amongst my folders a copy of the poem I'd printed onto bright yellow card in order to memorize it. I read through, loving it as much now as I did then. What stood out on this reading, however, was a line towards the end of the poem. "Live in the layers, not in the litter", writes Kunitz. What an invitation!
I smiled to myself as I continued sifting through...
Telling the Story
This idea of sifting between the layers and the litter felt like an important disintinction to make as we reflect on things we may want to change. It reminded me of a beautiful end-of-year reflection exercise that my friend and fellow facilitator Michael Kass, who runs Story & Spirit, put together. So with an old notebook I pulled out, I sat down to do just that. If you've got some free time (~60 minutes), I highly recommend going through this delightfully crafted workbook. It's a good way to acknowledge your own metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, and prepare for the year ahead!
A Complete Restart
Sometimes, new cycles do involve big changes. And if there was ever a story to inspire us to believe that change towards a more resilient and thriving future is possible, it's the story of Las Gaviotas. Las Gaviotas is a self-sufficient reforestation community founded in the in the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia back in the 1960s -- an experiment to alter civilisation's dependence on fossil fuels and industrial agriculture that four decades on is still flourishing.I was so excited to pull out my worn copy of Gaviotas -- which was one of the books that gave me the courage and inspiration to start doing this work over a decade ago now. Just flicking through it filled me with energy and excitement for the year ahead.Yes, shaping truly transformative change may take time, but it is possible! (Also, if you don't have time for the book, there is a shorter New York Times article here written just a few years ago.)
So here it is, from my bookcase to yours. A few of the things that have helped me drop into a space of hope and inspiration for the year ahead, and all that we may do to shape change towards a better future for all.
I hope that this episode of Gracing Change has given you something on which to pause, question, learn and/or reflect. If it has, let me know. You can reach me via email, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Until next time,