Friday, January 25, 2008

The unexpected

We set out early this morning for a work weekend in Arkansas, only to find that an ice storm had delayed and otherwise scattered the participants. Instead, we spent an evening at the local home of friends in the Work, gathered around the welcome warmth of their fireplace.

The conversation turned, as it so often will, to matters of the heart.

For myself, I discussed how I used to feel that it was important to sound intelligent when I spoke.

It's still true of me: when I speak or write, I want to sound coherent, sensible, well informed. My wish is to make a favorable impression, of course--in the end, most all of us have that wish for ourselves. As I put it to my wife, exchange is always, in part, a process of recruitment- we wish to have others "on our side," we want them to come to the conversation as willing participants and even allies, in the discovery of a mutuality, a common territory of both emotion and thought--linked together by the universal body language of gesture.

So in exchange there is the aim of marking out common ground, of mutual discovery, of an interaction that feeds both parties. We wish to give--but we also wish to be sensitive enough to receive.

Well, in my own case, in general, it has "worked." Within exchange I often manage to achieve my aims, recruit favorable responses, find common ground. I am reasonably respected by my peers despite my foibles and weaknesses.

Nonetheless, when I speak in groups, I still often feel fear, especially as I first begin to speak. I find it quite difficult to speak sincerely and without fear: to speak with any real connection or presence requires that I put much more of myself on the spot than I am generally willing to reveal or to risk. I'm afraid: afraid of saying something incorrectly; afraid of making a bad impression; afraid of being honest.

We are all so judgmental of each other, so critical, so quick to dismiss and quick to reject. The discovery of trust under conditions of this kind is rare. We have all been burned enough times in life that we begin distrustful; and yet trust is perhaps the most important gift we can offer to one another, isn't it?

As I grow older, I see that it is more and more important to speak plainly; to speak as honestly as I can; to offer what I offer as simply as I can (I am poor at that, being inclined to rather intricate thoughts) and to offer it with compassion and sensitivity.

To be close to myself as I speak, to not lose the thread that connects the mind, the body, and that delicate emotional quality that keeps me aware and on my toes as I open my mouth.

Keeping close to a vibration within the center of the body can help in this.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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