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The Art of the Impossible; Being at Home in an Uncertain World 

Michael Jones

Pianoscapes.com

Perhaps all things that really matter to us seem impossible. When I am improvising in a piano concert or giving a leadership talk or facilitating a group I sometimes think… this is impossible.

Celebrated opera singer Susan Graham, in conversation with Globe and Mail writer  Robert Everett- Green says; ” The reason I went into opera in the first place was that it seemed impossible to me. You have to  learn languages, master 400 years of musical style, create characters who may have lived hundreds of years ago. How could anyone do that, and memorize all that, and sing for three hours and not collapse.” ( Globe and Mail, Toronto, September 22, 2011)

And it is impossible if we believe it must come from my own will alone. Something needs to come out of a place we don’t know about and have little or no control over.

It is this ‘something’ that transforms moments of effort into hours of free play.

In this essay I explore how we may tap into this unknown place as we engage the art of the impossible and learn to be at home in an uncertain world.

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As I watch the maple leaves outside the window turn a fiery red and the days shorten, I also turn to writing again. Thanks for responding with your many heartfelt thoughts, stories and reflections to these blogs. I hope you enjoy this one and,  as always,  I look forward to hearing from you.

With appreciation

Michael

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All things that really matter to us are impossible. You know they say that (poetry) translation is impossible. Sure it is. We do it because it’s necessary, not because it is possible.

Poet WS Merwin Poet Laureate

These words from recently appointed Poet Laureate WS Merwin brought to mind a conversation with  David, a senior leader as well as a consulting client, colleague and aspiring pianist.

“When you sit at the piano- how do you play?” He asked

His question seemed impossible to answer – like a centipede being asked how it walks!

“When I try to play the piano…” David continued, “ I need to know which chord I am playing and which chord comes next. I feel very slow and awkward.”

As David spoke I recalled my own struggles transforming a few seconds of spontaneous flow into minutes and perhaps hours of free play. What I enjoyed most was weaving back and forth between composed music to freely created spontaneous improvisations that flowed through my hands in ways that seemed both easy and complex at the same time.

“How am I doing this?”  I would ask myself. And of course as soon as I thought it   – this experience of spontaneous free play came to an abrupt stop.

“It is not caution but a wise blindness” that enables us to tap into this deep current of free – flowing spontaneous expression  –German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote.

But it is difficult to embrace this ‘wise blindness’ when each musical note is deliberate and thought out in advance.

With Rilke’s words in mind, I invited David to join me on the piano bench.

“Lets play together for a few moments”. I said.  My words had hardly left my mouth when I felt David tense his shoulders and arms.

“This is not a performance and there is no need for caution” I reminded him.  “This is an experiment… there are no wrong notes…  it is just a work in progress.”

Then I asked him to play, emphasizing that he not try to do anything special. His shoulders dropped a little. But I could tell by the way his fingers stiffly contacted the keys that this was not an easy thing for him to do.

He played from memory, his eyes focused in front of him as if there was music on the stand. The complicated musical structures he worked with did restrict his movement. Ideally the structures we work with should support rather than impeded the natural and organic flow of energy at the instrument… or  with anything else we may do.

If I  had one gift to offer David that evening, perhaps it would be to help him feel the music instead of thinking about it.

As Poet DH Lawrence once wrote;

“We live in an excessively conscious age, we know so much, we feel so little.” 

So as I considered how to share this gift with David, I also considered how this  worked for me.

Being at Home in an Uncertain World.

From a young age I discovered that to feel the music and sustain its spontaneity involved being attentive to what felt most alive and  most engaged my  imagination while I played. This involved learning to be at home with the uncertainties within myself and within my immediate world. To achieve this also involved a certain forgetting of oneself – that is, of stepping out of my own way   so that the inner music could flow unimpeded by my conscious and deliberate thought processes. And this occurred very naturally when the aliveness I felt caused me to become completely absorbed in what I was doing.

This aliveness could  lead me creating a bold new musical idea or something as simple as the subtle beauty of discovering a new turn of phrase within a familiar theme. Whatever it was, my work was to receive and accept it with humility, and learn to create as best I could with the materials close at hand.

This complete absorption in the work itself   helped me realize that so much of what we create, in whatever we are doing – leadership, teaching, living or art – comes from a place unknown to us.  It is natural to feel uncertain because the insights we need are not always visible to the rational mind. To discover them we must trust our own innate sense of aliveness. And our aliveness comes when we accept a certain humility with regards to what we know and can control and what we cannot.

Trusting What We Feel

And this may also be the key to engaging the art of impossibility. That is, to be open not only to what we know, but to what we feel.  In the same vein we may ask ourselves what called us to leadership or to teaching or to art in the first place. This first flame of attraction connects us to something deep and visceral inside – something that is saying to us- I am doing this not because it is possible but because it is necessary – this is what I came for – this is what I am here to do.

To help David reconnect with this first call of attraction I suggested that he close his eyes and imagine he was re – discovering the piano keys for the first time. Just go with the feeling of this – and let the sounds and music take the lead. David hesitated for a moment as he experienced what Rilke described as the  “exhilaration and terror of that first moments’ surrender” and then David really started to play. His transformation was a joy to watch.

When our primary reference is sight then our attention tends to go out to things that are external to our experience  – that is we see our world, including notes and chords, as   separate and discrete.  When we play from feeling, our ears listen and take in all of our surroundings all at the same time. So as David closed his eyes his point of reference shifted from the parts to the primacy of the whole of the experience – something in which he could feel and hear the flow of the music unfolding all at once.

I noticed it in his face first. The lines in his forehead relaxed, then his jaw dropped. Then I also noticed how lightly his fingers were moving across the keys. His music which had been so calculated and measured before, was now filled with subtly and expression.

It was some time before David brought his music to a natural conclusion – it was as if he did not want stop.  When he finished he just sat there for a time. And when he did look in my direction his eyes were bright and sparkling –  “ That was impossible!” he said.  Then he asked; “Could I do the same thing again?

“ Not exactly the same” I replied. As the great composer Gustav Mahler once said;

“we cannot repeat a state of mind”

When we engage the art of impossibility we draw our authority not from a body of content and expertise from past memory but from a living process of thinking and feeling as it is made in the moment – that is from an inner process that includes our doubts, perplexities questions aspirations and fears.  The exhilaration and fear we experience is a natural response to the realization that what we are creating is not from our own will alone but from a living process of feeling and experience as it is made in the moment  – a process in which new insights come forth afresh in our speaking, leading teaching and playing as we need it from a source unknown to us – and not a moment before.

This is the challenge for everyone now – with the great uncertainties that lie before us – we need to dig deep for a fresh response.  This includes the willingness to act even when we don’t know what our actions may be. The performance we see ahead does seem impossible.  Improvising at the piano is impossible, speaking out of the moment, facilitating a group dialogue is impossible, leading a team or an organization is impossible.

And if  it is done in a way that is reliant solely on the script of notes and chords and how things have gone before then, yes it is impossible. But if we listen for the feeling of the moment and do what is uniquely ours to do, to do = then we may access that place that is usually invisible to us. That is our work….

To master the art of the impossible and  – in so doing – to achieve what we did not think it possible to do.

References

Poet WS Merwin in conversation with editor Sarah van elder in Yes Magazine August, 2011 Page 12f

Finding a Musical Intelligence  – Chopin and The Art of Touch

Michael Jones

www.pianoscapes.com

Chopin may have been one of our first ‘ecologists’, a composer and inventor so deeply attuned to the sense of his inner and outer environment, that his music’s deep sensibility serves as a touchstone that can detect the most subtle of variances in sound, rhythm and pitch.

Michael Jones

A Story of Place

 This past weekend I facilitated a regional forum for community leaders on creating a new story of place. Upon reflecting on their own inspiration of place, many spoke of the power and beauty of nature and community. Others also spoke of the quality of place inside – that leadership is not only a question of how you lead – but also the place you lead from.

Coincidentally shortly after the forum a colleague who is giving a presentation on the ‘Musician Leader’ later this month wrote to ask;  “ What leadership competencies are generated when you spend a lifetime playing and creating music?  It’s becoming very important for educators to communicate the value of music education, not just for the purposes of increasing musical skill/talent, but other equally important qualities for work and life”

One of those values of a music education has been discovering a sense of place. And one of the touchstones that has connected me to the inner place I play from over a lifetime of piano practice has been the music of Frederic Chopin.

I was first introduced to Chopin by my music teacher who, one day suggested that I see a movie titled The Eddie Duchin Story. Eddie Duchin was a widely respected society pianist who opened and closed his engagements with the Chopin Nocturne in E flat minor. When I first heard it performed during the opening scenes I was completely entranced.  I was twelve at that time and I had never heard a piano sound this way before.  And when I listened again as it was performed with two pianos and four hands during the closing credits I was overcome with feeling – my eyes filled up with tears. As I left the theatre I could remember the magnificence of the sonority of the music and the resonance of each musical note.

 Chopin; A Deeply Personal Adventure

Chopin was a student of place.  His preference for conveying the natural flow and organic form of music revealed how in touch he was with his environment. This intimacy with the natural world was such that the refined articulation of the shapes and surfaces of his world were fully embodied in his own inner musical articulations.  He lived in an empathic resonance with his surroundings.

Not only was he a profound composer– he was also a daring innovator and designer – one whose prophetic harmonies drew succeeding generations of composers and pianists under his spell.  In this context Chopin may have been one of our first ‘ecologists’ a composer and inventor so deeply attuned the sense of his inner and outer environment, that his music’s deep sensibility served as a touchstone that could detect the most subtle of variances in sound, rhythm and pitch.

While my lessons involved precisely following the notes and chords recorded on the page – and learning how to interpret the mood and tempo prescribed by the composer – with Chopin so much more is left for the performer to interpret regarding the structure of sound and space. His interest was always to encourage the student to be guided by his or her own innate sensibility regarding how the music should flow.

Most significant perhaps is that at a time when Chopin’s contemporaries were offering virtuostic displays of prodigious speed and technique, Chopin’s concept of technique was based on sonority. The mastery of the piano’s tonal resources was for him the necessary precursor of virtuosity. To perform Chopin therefore involves exploring all the many ways that a note might sound so that as a pianist you become fully literate in all the tonal possibilities available at your fingertips.

So for all that Chopin was revered and admired in the world, his music was always a deeply personal musical adventure, the articulation a personal touchstone to which everything else could be measured and understood. The seeing, touching and hearing of the music opens an inner world in which new qualities of musicality can be felt.

Finding A Musical Intelligence 

 This may lead us to ask; how do we find this musicality?   In the years that followed, I discovered that to master Chopin’s language of touch involved less focus on performing from the wrists and the forearms and instead allowing the sound to begin in the center of my back.  To accomplish this I needed to keep my attention on the looseness of the upper arms and shoulders so that the elbows could always float free. By shifting my orientation so that the whole body was engaged, including my hands, back, shoulders and lungs, I developed a physical and embodied relationship with the instrument. This enabled me to bring more color, contour and freedom so that the upper melodic notes could sing very much in the spirit of the Bel Canto line Chopin loved so much from Italian Operas such as Verdi. To find this singing line involved an inner and outer connection. This connection allowed me to develop a suppleness – (or Souplesse avant tout!  Chopin would say- Suppleness before everything was his pianistic motto) in the wrist action that gave me the flexibility in my hands to shape and bend the notes rather than strike, force or – in Chopin’s language – bash them. This was the worst of all offences in his mind.

This shift in orientation from playing from the wrists to playing from the whole body what not just piano technique but a way of living. It was an orientation to the piano that allowed me to more naturally move with the full weight of fingers along the keys creating both a depth of expression and a lightness of touch at the same time.  Chopin wanted each finger to find its distinctive character so that the player could expand the full range of their palette. This could not be accomplished if the player yielded to the equalizing the fingers – a common technique at the time. For Chopin the richness was found in the diversity of the finger weight, the rhythm and tone.

Ease- Chopin’s Trademark Prescription

He recognized that cultivating these differences through the movement of weight could not be achieved without ease. This was his trademark prescription – “ facilement!  He would say easily… easily.  Ease was at the core of his philosophy of piano technique.  With ease a pianist could convey the impression that they were playing with four hands, not just two.   Furthermore, when the sound originated from this sense of relaxation and ease then it could unfold freshly and naturally.  Then each could play according to their own need, he would emphasize.

The result of this shift in orientation is that with Chopin, you don’t strike the note. Rather you sink the full weight of your arms and shoulders into how you shape the sound so that you can create this warm singing tone.  In this context Chopin looked more for poise and grace in his students playing than for force or effort. Throughout his teaching it was the delicacy of the notes that took precedence over technical virtuosity. What he wanted his student to master above all was the ‘art of touch’

“Caress the keys, never force them,” he would say repeatedly.  And he always encouraged his students to mould each note with a velvet hand rather than striking it – it was as if the through immersing themselves in the depths of the piano that the instrument itself was transformed into something alive and responsive to the variability of weight and the expressiveness and intelligence of the hand.

In this context stiffness exasperated him. To find this ease he would say to his students; “Express as you feel…. I give you the full authority to do whatever you want; follow freely the ideal you have set for yourself and which you must feel within you”

Thus for Chopin simplicity and suppleness of the hand and body was the hardest thing but for him they were also the only thing.  No matter how complex, difficult or challenging the music, he always encouraged his students to approach it with grace and ease. The beautiful quality of sound he sought after could only be found by being relaxed at the keyboard. It was this that created the poetry in the sound. It was through the discipline of finding just the right word or image – and his music communicated a kaleidoscope of feelings, stories and images – that he tried to develop a language in which the quality of tone and touch always took precedence over speed and virtuosity.

Lying Under the Piano

Foremost in his mind was the concern that his students avoid the “mental numbness” that comes from too many hours of strenuous practice. Please, he would say – to ensure that the spirit of naturalness and simplicity is preserved, if you find yourself straining in your practice leave the piano alone, instead go for long walks, visit museums or read a good book.  It is this avoidance of stiffness and strain that goes to heart of Chopin’s teaching and composition.

Every pianistic challenge imaginable is found in the complexity and expressiveness of Chopin’s music and yet, at no time did he want his students to strain. Instead his ultimate goal was for them to connect to their inner music as a touchstone  – then, and only then, could they express this music as an intimate expression of their unique inspiration to the world.

Fifty years later I was a witness to the music of Chopin in a movie theatre for a second time. This time the movie was Impromptu with Judy Davis with Hugh Grant. It was set as a lovely period piece in the 1830’s outside Paris, France where Chopin and his companion George Sand are spending a warm Sunday afternoon on a country estate. Suddenly the rain pours down and they quickly retreat to the parlor were George Sand immediately lies under the piano (the only place where she would listen to Chopin play) and insists that he perform music that has the feeling of the rain and thunder outside.

Over the past twenty years many hundreds of people have also listened to my musical impressions of wind, rain and thunder in conferences, workshops and seminars. And   they have also closed their eyes and become immersed in sound, as they lay side by side under the piano much as George Sand did 150 years before.

Acknowledgements

 1.The opening correspondence was from Colin Funk who I have worked with as a faculty member in the Leadership Development Program at the Banff Centre when he was Director of The Leadership Lab. Colin has a contract with the National Arts Centre as a consultant for the Music Alive program (musician outreach to schools) and presenter/workshop facilitator for the Summer Institute where he is doing a presentation for the students and faculty on the “Musician Leader

2. Recently I also enjoyed an insightful conversation with author Peter Block and other artist colleagues as we explore a language that establishes connections between artistry, dialogue and community.  In my work with them I reflected on my formative experiences at the piano such as playing it as an orchestra, using all 88 keys and inventing musical soundtracks with nature that created a sense of music making as a sacred occasion – all these and more, laid an early foundation for creating transformational learning experiences for leaders through music in later years…more about this in future essays.

References

 Frederic The Great with Alan Walker, Jessica Duchen and Jeremy Siepmann in Chopin His Life, His Genius, His Legacy BBC Music Magazine February 2010 P 25 Bristol UK.

Chopin: Pianist and Teacher by Jean -Jacques Eigeldinger, edited by Roy Howat, translated by Krysia Osostowisc (1987) Copyright 1986 Cambridge University Press.

Art and Community; Creating Cultures of Place

Michael Jones

http://www.pianoscapes.com

Several years ago I was a keynote speaker at a Celebrating Communities Conference in Atlantic Canada.  During the keynote I asked the group to share a story of a place where they experienced the greatest sense aliveness, vitality and connection. How did this connection to place shape how they thought about their leadership and their community now?

They reflected on finding common ground in their deep ties to land and sea and how these close ties to the wildness of nature instilled a resilience of spirit in their leadership and in their communities.

Since that conference I have been convening  further place – based conversations with leaders in communities and organizations. I have discovered that an intimate relationship with place helps us see  – and clear sight helps us create a new story of possibility rooted  in where we come from and who we want to be.

Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy reading this essay on place.

Michael

Creating Cultures of Place

We cannot talk about community without first talking about place – Peter Block

Place matters. While it is commonly believed that life’s greatest challenge is meaninglessness and the search for truth, perhaps it is uprootedness and the search for home.

Many have deep memories of how stories told by a crackling fire late at night came alive when cloaked in the richly nuanced specifics of the places in which the narrative unfolds.

Questions of identity, home, beauty and quality of place need to be in the forefront of our thinking now. Not only are they questions that inspire creative endeavors, these questions also revitalize economies and inspire leaders and the communities they lead.

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class said in a recent symposium; if the social and organizing unit of the industrial economy is the company, the organizing unit of the creative economy is place.

It is in the context of creating this new narrative that we are convening a community dialogue later this spring through the Muskoka Chautauqua Cultural Tourism Round Table on Creating Cultures of Place.  Drawing from the beauty of music and art and the generative power of stories and conversations, we expect to bring community, municipal and government  partners together to explore the richness of their heritage and how these gifts from the past can contribute to re imaging a new story for the future. This process of arts based creative place – making will include gathering together locally distinct stories of place from communities and schools – narratives that can be both displayed through art and spoken into the space in which our dialogue will occur.

We Are Between Stories Now

We are between stories now. The old story, the story that was given to us as part of the industrial economy is no longer effective. And the new story, which is ours to create, is not yet here.

Central to the new story is deepening our understanding and appreciation for the intimate affection we hold for a place and how this can serve as the foundation for animating a creative economy. And an engaged community is the most knowledgeable resource we have for creating stories for the future regarding the kind of place in which we want to live.

This community vision of place is made more vibrant when it is rooted in the identity and unique heritage and local wisdom of a particular region and locality. And engaged communities also understand the value that place- based conversations bring when considered in the broad context of the natural, built, creative and social environments that define its local and regional distinctiveness and future potential.

This leads us to ask; what makes a place, a place? However we define it, there is something in the presence of a place that leads us to feel more at home and more like ourselves.  Communities that can tap into this inspirational power of place are much better at re- imagining their possible future than those who see their priorities primarily in economic, financial or business terms.

Engaging in creative place – making gives us hope.  It leads us to feeling more alive, present, rooted and native born … more like ourselves.  It is as if something irreplaceable and distinct from the day-to-day reaches out and speaks to us about that which is most natural and deeply felt within ourselves.

A sense of place also speaks about those illusive qualities of authenticity, creativity and spontaneity, qualities that we most value in ourselves, but which are sometimes difficult to achieve.

Finally place matters because it helps us see. In a world were we are often taught what we should see, place helps us discover what we do see. As one senior leader said;” to clearly see our best possible future we also need to see our past – our forefathers created something that has endured through the passage of time- how can we learn from these roots?”

Creating A New Story of Place

In this respect, leaders who are place- based will be among those authoring the new story. They recognize that our communities are not at a loss for innovative ideas, what they do lack however is fertile ground for these seeds of possibility to take root and grow. They also appreciate that we need to know where we come from in order to see where we are going. In a turbulent world where there are no rules, no consensus and no clear way forward, if we have no place to stand we will lack the grounding to navigate wisely in a world with so many unknowns.

Place – making also preceeds place – naming. Conversations of place help us identity those ‘creative crucibles’ where different sectors, ideas and cultures meet at the intersections and where opportunities for heightened creative insight, partnerships and innovative activities can occur. Crucibles also give definition to a communities’ distinctive creative identity; Asheville North Carolina is the city of craft, Stratford Ontario and Ashland Oregon are the cities of Theatre and Festival, Branson Missouri is the community of ‘bottom up’ music venues.  In addition, place-based communities serve as incubators for growing future generations of great leaders- creative thinkers whose place has made them as much as they made the place they come from. In this context, we may think of Robert Frost and the apple orchards of New Hampshire, Henry David Thoreau and the rolling fields around Concord, Mass. and American poet and medical doctor William Carlos Williams and his home in the modest industrial lands around Rutherford, New Jersey.

By looking at place not only as something to return to, but also something to grow out from –orienting us to the future and not only the past; and by realizing that a place is not just an object or a thing, but a power and a presence, we can partner with place in a way that is itself deeply transformative, opening our hearts to the experience of beauty, aliveness and possibility.

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The Creating Cultures of Place Forum continues the evolution of place-based work that I been engaged with  organizations and communities in recent years. This has included serving as a Steward with the Fetzer supported Power of Place Initiative and  co – convening The Powers of Place Forum hosted with  The Banff Centre Leadership Development last spring.

To learn more please see

The Soul of Place; Reflections on Place- Based Leadership– Michael Jones

Published in Tamarack Institute Community Newsletter Engage

http://www.pianoscapes.com/writings.html

The Muskoka Chautauqua Reading Circle which will follow The Creating Cultures of Place Forum

http://www.muskokachautauqua.ca/events.html

Creative Placemaking – Markusen and Gadwa supported by the National Endowment for the Arts

http://www.nea.gov/pub/CreativePlacemaking-Paper.pdf

The Power of Place Initiative

www.powersofplace.com/

The opening quote from Peter Block is from a personal conversation – Peter is author of many wonderful books including Community, The Structure of Belonging.

 

Transforming Leadership Through the Power of the Imagination

Michael Jones

www.pianoscapes.com

There is so much that inspires the free flow of the music beyond the physical notes, a stream of  emergent creation which cannot always be anticipated or planned in advance , this is the gift in art, to be surprised  by our own work –   Michael Jones

In my last Leading Artfully Blog, I explored the idea that there is not one, but two dimensions of human experience. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was considered superior to the other. They were not in conflict but complementary. Logos was the voice of reason and mythos the language of our felt life together. With the rise of the industrial economy we found ourselves in a world out of balance. Scientific logos quickly rose to dominance and our mythic and imaginative life fell into disrepute.

But perhaps we are on the threshold of crafting a renaissance in leadership practice—the challenges ahead are not technical but transformational. Letting go of our industrial age mindset will require not just intellectual understanding but the full power of the imagination.

Most of us, at a young age, have experienced the power of the imagination—we have tasted the sweet elixir of being set free and unconstrained—riding on the fresh wind, the doorway flying open wide and… ‘Life rushing in’.

As a friend said to me after reading the lines of the poem about the beast being caged behind the music bars….

“You don’t cage the animals do you? You dance with them!”

And it is true that as a pianist the melody I listened for was not only in the notes but also in the pauses, the tone, the rhythm, the feeling and the sensitivity of touch—the dance that lay in the spaces between.

This Winter I have had two essays published in  leadership journals that explore what’s involved in engaging the life of the imagination. The first in The Journal of Leadership Studies explored the ‘marriage’ between logs and mythos.

The second on Transforming Leadership which appears in the series; Building Leadership Bridges explores what emerges in our  awareness when  we begin to listen downward to the unheard melody, a song that lies in the spaces between the notes.

Here is an excerpt – to read the full article please visit my publications page at;

http://www.pianoscapes.com/writings.html

I hope you enjoy it – and that this story may bring to light your own memories of  a time when you first tapped into the the power of  your own imagination.

Michael

 

My Business is Circumference

“My business is circumference,” Poet Emily Dickinson writes. This is also the business of leadership.

To understand the significance of circumference we need to acknowledge the new mindset required of leaders for integrative whole mind learning. As we struggle with new discontinuities, fragmentation and sudden change it is vital for leaders to think in more complex and holistic ways. This involves a shift in focus from a narrow and reductive emphasis on individualism based upon an industrial model of managing where the leader is the strong dependable self-made individual or hero towards a style of leading which expands the circumference within which the leader leads.

In the future leaders will not be remembered for their professional, technical or cost cutting skills but for their wisdom, empathy, presence, intuition and artistry. It will be a way of leading that is more relational focused and based upon creating an empathic resonance with others as a networker, connector and convener of webs and communities. We could imagine this new relationship to be like the musician’s open stage where individuals with diverse voices come together in an ever-widening circumference of collective engagement and where—even when they are ‘strangers’ to one another—create beautiful musical collaborations together.

For leaders to engage in the shift of mind from being heroes to artists involves cultivating new disciplines for accessing the subtle power of the imagination. It involves understanding that while strategy and tactics may help leaders be effective technicians, in order to be good artists they need to also listen deeply and get a feeling for things—in other words to be attuned to the unheard melody that is emerging in the space between the notes. Emily Dickinson brings to light this unheard melody—of the sense of being touched from another place—when she writes – This world is not a conclusion; A sequel stands beyond, Invisible as music, But positive as sound.

Listening for The Unheard Melody

Her words bring to mind a line from another poem, one that describes, “The beast of sound caged within the music bars”. These words offer a contrasting world in which what speaks to us from that another place is not wild and free but contained and caged behind the bars. It is a world where, if we are to maintain order and predictability, the wild and unruly elements—the beasts—of the imagination must be constrained. Too often we assume a Faustian bargain—one in which we willingly trade off the promise of a sequel, of something greater and more beautiful just beyond—for the assurance of certainty, clarity and predictability in the moment.

Yet most if only at a young age have experienced the power of the imagination—we have tasted the sweet elixir of being set free and unconstrained—riding on the fresh wind, the doorway flying open wide and… ‘Life rushing in’.

As a friend said to me after reading the lines of the poem about the beast being caged behind the music bars….

“You don’t cage the animals do you? You dance with them!”

And it is true that as a pianist the melody I listened for was not only in the notes but also in the pauses, the tone, the rhythm, the feeling and the sensitivity of touch—the dance that lay in the spaces between. In order to be attuned to the deeper music, to let go and let be, I learned to listen and be open and responsive to whatever was coming next, to be alive to the moment and to every possibility. The surroundings, the listeners, sense impressions everything that danced along the periphery of my attention became a part of the melody and inspiration I heard in my mind and heart.

There is so much that inspires the free flow of the music beyond the physical notes, a stream of conscious and emergent creation which cannot always be anticipated or planned in advance. This is the artist’s work, to make the invisible visible through being alive to their own felt experience including all that they have seen and been nourished by. With this aliveness they can be responsive to what the moment calls for.

In a time of rapid and unexpected change when so little can be understood or controlled in advance, this is the work of leadership as well.

To read the complete essay please visit http://www.pianoscapes.com/writings.html

(Transforming Leadership is published now in Building Leadership Bridges /Leadership for Transformation a series of essays on  transforming leadership published in partnership between The International Leadership Association and Jossey – Bass Publishers, Winter 2011)

The Marriage of Logos and Mythos; Towards an Imaginal Worldview.

Michael Jones

http://www.pianoscapes.com

A Twofold Consciousness

In November 2009 I was invited to join several other presenters in a panel discussion at the International Leadership Association Conference in Prague Cz. entitled Leadership for Transformation: The Impact of Worldviews. The panel involved the presentation of four papers from a group of diverse presenters characterized by gender, discipline, religious and global diversity.*  My paper reflected on the marriage between mythos and logos and how this ‘marriage’ can transform group fields for learning and leadership practice today.  The proceedings from the panel have just been published in The Journal of Leadership Studies – Expanding Interdisciplinary Discourse, A  Wiley Publication of the School of Advanced Studies  of the University of Phoenix.

The paper begins with a quote by His Holiness The Dali Lama;

I think in the past, maybe, different sectors carried on more or less independently. Now today…everything is interdependent, interrelated. That’s the reality. Under these circumstances, it falls on us to work together.

Dali Lama Peace Summit and Connecting for Change. Vancouver, 2009

In the paper I suggest that The Dalai Lama speaks not only to different functions or disciplines of leadership but also to the interrelatedness of a twofold consciousness: mythos and logos. This twofold consciousness — the re- uniting of the inner vision and felt life of the mythic world together with the brightly illuminated world of logos –is where the inner world and outer world of leadership meet.  It is in this overlap that a new imaginal worldview of leadership is possible, one that takes full account not only of the processes, issues and style of leadership but also the deep parallels between leadership and the mythic imagination.

The paper further suggests that re- engaging the mythic imagination gives rise to a new perception of the commons – a  possibility space that holds the potential for reuniting a twofold consciousness.   Viewing the commons from both a mythic and a logic perspective can contribute to the overall health and well being of the community of the whole.  Such a worldview perspective transforms leadership from one rooted exclusively in a Western scientific tradition to one that is open also to wisdom from the past.

Reflections on Worldviews

Jonathan Reams a co- presenter in the forum and associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in his reflections on the logos and mythos paper, writes;

“The power of reconnecting with core levels of our being (like mythos) that have been allowed to dwindle or atrophy, in our rush to be smarter, more rational, and more efficient, can enhance our capacity for leadership profoundly… this implies a leadership that creates common spaces enabling the kind of transformation we see as necessary around us. (1)

Restoring Our Felt Life Together

For many, the legacy from our industrial past has been like a tsunami that has swept away the footings that kept us connected to these common spaces and   the deepest wisdom  of our imaginal life and our mythic past. With the rise of an industrial economy we found ourselves in a life out of balance. Scientific logos quickly rose to dominance and the mythic life fell into disrepute. Languages, cultures, stories, landscapes, ancient gifts and wisdom were lost– Yet as poet Gerard De Nerval once wrote ’ when you gather to plan, the universe is not there.”   For the universe to be there, we will need to redirect our thinking to  re-engaging  the felt life of mythos and linking it to logos.

It is through the collective eye of the commons and our interdependence with one another that the twofold conscious His Holiness The Dali Lama envisioned can be restored.  Once we are able to see the mythic dimension of our world we may be able to take modern thought and ancient wisdom and think them together again.

*Other contributors to the panel on  Leadership For Transformation; Worldviews on Leadership included;

Panel Introduction: Nathan Harder, Professor of Organizational Leadership, Perdue University

Leadership in Islam: Ali Mohammad Mir, Associate Professor and Director of Programs at the Population Council, Islamabad, Pakistan

Ubuntu: A Transformative Leadership Philosophy: Lisa B. Ncube, Assistant Professor, Department of Organizational Leadership, College of Technology, Perdue University

Prologue and presentation on Leadership for Transformation: The Impact of a Christian Worldview: John Valk Associate Professor of Worldview Studies, Renaissance College, University of New Brunswick (Canada)

Response to ILA Panel Papers Jonathan Reams, Associate Professor Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

For Further ReadingLinks and References

(1) Jonathan Reams Response for ILA Worldviews Panel Papers Journal of Leadership Studies, Volume 4, Number 3, 2010 University of Phoenix. P.88

To read the complete paper The Marriage of Logos and Mythos: Transforming Leadership please visit my publications page at pianoscapes.com

http://www.pianoscapes.com/writings.html

To review all the papers and commentaries from the  2009  ILA Worldview Symposium in Prague online please visit

www.wileyonlinelibrary.com DOI.1002/jls.20184

Thinking Outside the Building; Leading From the Space Between
Michael Jones

http://www.pianoscapes.com

The artful leader thinks outside the boundaries of their own business, sector or nationality to engage challenges and opportunities that are impossible for any one organization to handle on their own.

The ‘Advanced’ Leader

Innovation usually involves studying the great leaders who think outside the box. But the leaders we need to be studying are those ‘advanced’ leaders who think outside the building.  This was a key message from Dr. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a widely sought after opinion shaper in the areas of strategy, innovation and leadership at the 12th Annual International Leadership Association Global Conference – Leadership 2.0 Time for Action in Boston this past October.

Advanced leaders are boundary crossers. They think beyond the defined mandates, goals and outcomes of their own organization to engage and build global coalitions around ‘messes’ –those ill-defined, ambiguous and adaptive challenges that fall outside the capacity or mandate for any one person or organization to solve.

Dr Kanter suggests that; “ In an interdependent world of border-crossing and boundary-spanning, leaders must position their organizations not only in the marketplace but also in a social nexus in which sectors overlap and societal problems belong to everyone. In other words, they must understand the broader context in which they operate while also having the vision to change it. Their business savvy is still important, but by adding societal values to financial valuations they create a meaningful human institution out of a bundle of impersonal assets.” (1)

She cites Indra Nooyi, chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo as an example of an advanced leader.  Ms Nooyi is leading PepsiCo to examine the health implications of its products, partner with governments and NGOs, grow the business in emerging markets, and empower the younger generation to take responsibility early in their careers.  In the past few months, in order to deliver “breakthrough innovation” in the areas of fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and functional nutrition, PepsiCo has also created a new and innovative Global Nutrition Group.

“The creation of this Global Nutrition Group is part of our long-term strategy to build upon our stable of brands—Quaker, Tropicana and others through which we  have been actively ramping up our innovation capabilities and developing strong partnerships with the scientific community, including with universities and research institutions around the world. I believe we are well equipped to deliver authentically nutritious products advantaged by science in an accessible and affordable way to consumers globally.” Ms. Nooyi said.

Language and Place; Portals into the Space Between

Dr Kanter’s insights on advanced leadership were congruent with the four sessions I facilitated at the ILA conference on language and place.

Advanced leaders are storytellers and story makers.  They embrace a metaphoric language of imagery that reaches across the boundaries of conventional thought.  This language gives leaders the tools to speak about what is often difficult to express.  It helps them appreciate that to lead ‘outside the building’   is to lead without a script. An expressive language helps to articulate this dilemma leaders have in speaking authentically about those experiences that cannot be contained in a spreadsheet; of vision, mystery, paradox, complexity and surprise.  Leaders who possess this power of an evocative language hold a distinct advantage over those who can only interpret their aspirations only in business or financial terms.

What further grounds the aspirations of an advanced leader is the recognition of the power of place.  These leaders are place-based in that they recognize they need to know where they come from in order to see where they are going. In a turbulent world where there are no rules, no consensus and no clear way forward, if they have no place to stand on they will lack the grounding to act wisely in the world.

Leaders who are place –  based are also ecologically minded.  This is particularly true for advanced leaders who need to lead along the margins where two or more constituencies, specialties or disciplines meet. To lead from this ‘space between’ involves navigating the threshold between their own inner world of gifts, innate talents, and strengths and the outer world of outcomes and action, of aligning our aspirations and calling with the innate life force for change and renewal, of respecting paradox and differences, of listening for multiple perspectives and risking being authentic and real as an alternative to conforming to prescribed roles and responsibilities. It is this ability to reach beyond their own expertise to access the unique power of learning at the intersections of many disciplines that distinguishes the leaders who are at the vanguard of their fields

By following the footprint exemplified by the emergence of advanced leaders we may better understand the qualities each of us are called to fulfill in order to create a positive future and a more ecologically minded worldview.

Reference.
(1) Rosabeth Moss Kanter on adding values to valuations: Indra Nooyi and others as institution-builders May 4th, 2010
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Random Acts of Culture  – Music in Unlikely Places.
Leading Artfully Blog

Michael Jones
Pianoscapes.com

Musicians often think of performance in the context of clubs and concert halls, but perhaps the artist’s  quest is to fill every space in a beautiful way

Imagine browsing among one thousand shoppers at Macy’s when six hundred and fifty of your fellow shoppers suddenly transform themselves to accomplished choristers who immerse the space into glorious sound – watch Random Acts of Culture – I am sure it will brighten your day!

http://www.philly.com/philly/video/106492678.html

As I watched  the video, it brought to mind my own experiences bringing music to unlikely places… like playing church hymns on a pump organ in the back of a truck while wandering the mist shrouded back roads of The Ottawa Valley or bringing a grand piano into the Shell Learning Center in The Woodlands near Houston for executive leadership sessions- people would see me, they would look at the piano and they would think they were in the wrong room.

The dialogue sessions at Shell Oil at the Learning Center in Houston were greatly enhanced through the music. As one person said; “We are engineers – we are well trained to argue and advocate our case- we are not as comfortable as listeners or storytellers” Yet the music brought alive memories of long hours listening to stories at the piano in the parlor or on the front porch in years past.  “How do we re- create this same front porch in business?” They asked.  They realized that you can achieve a greater understanding and see more if you are able to create a more reflective and imaginative listening environment where- as we did with the piano – slow time down.

I bought the pump organ at an auction near a remote farm that a friend and I had just purchased.  One misty warm evening a few days later, several of us arrived   in an open flat bed truck to transport the organ back to the farm.
“Its crowded and hot in the cab” I said, as the organ was tied down and secured. “Why don’t I ride in the back of the truck” “ Sure one of the others said – here’s the seat–Since you are there … maybe you could play the organ as we are driving as well!”

As we wandered slowly along the backroads of the Ottawa Valley outside the town of Lanark at dusk that evening, the thick mist rising off the fields and lights flickering in the windows of distant farm houses I played. Mostly I played hymns that I remembered from my past years as a church organist– caught up in the moment I played grand chords at full organ with all the stops pulled out- is so doing I transformed the modest steel and wood flat bed truck into a great concert stage.  Later we wondered how may of those sipping coffee quietly on their farm porches that night may have felt called to attend a local church the following Sunday morning…. for no cause   they could reasonably explain.

Once back at the farm – I noticed the swallows flying from beam to beam in the open barn, often swooping up graceful and nudging their young chicks higher in the air as they   struggled to stay aloft.  When I described this scene to a local farmer one day- he said – oh that’s “swallow flight school”.  Swallows in Flight was among one of my first compositions composed at the organ as I created my own soundtrack the sights and sounds of nature – the meandering split rail fences, the clusters of wild lilacs and the rolling rough pasture land offering fertile ground for my own imagination.

At a health and wellness conference near Washington DC, I was scheduled to be in so many rooms – speaking, facilitating and playing – that we decided to bring the piano to the delegates rather than try to have them come to me.  So instead of setting a large grand piano in one place we brought in a small upright and I pushed it from room to room.

My day started at 6Am on the terrace for the continental breakfast near a large pond. As I played the ducks floated close to shore. Their quacking became an integral part of the impromptu serenade we co- created together in those early morning hours. Once breakfast was complete, I stood up and   pushed the piano through the patio doors, down the hall and up the elevator for the next session….

There were other enduring moments; like bringing a full concert black ebony Steinway piano into the old steam generating plant for a leadership session at Southern California Edison near Seal Beach Ca.  – Or playing for the church services in a small Eskimo community just south of Ungava Bay in Northern Quebec, or performing Chopin to the rough and tumble patrons of the Quinte Hotel, when I performed as part of a private audience with the Dali Lama, the twenty Border’s stores in twenty days tour, performing and sharing stories for hundreds of children in a school auditorium –while they drew pictures and shared them with each other, offering healing music in an AIDS Hospice, performing in corporate meeting rooms,  or  in  the lingerie department in a major national retail chain. What about men’s shoes …or even better … the music department I asked –THIS is the highest shopper traffic in the store the floor manager insisted – we will sell many more CD’s here! … And so I played on.

And then there was the Narada Christmas Tour where we performed seasonal music concerts  – sometimes to audiences of over 600 or more- in major shopping centers across America. The audiences crowded close the piano and small children danced underneath – that was year I realized that the town commons was not dead  – it had just moved to the mall.

Some of these settings were more unlikely than others- if I were to search for common threads there are two that immediately come to mind;

One is that the beauty of music if often discovered in unlikely places, places where we can bring the experience of beauty to others in ways that may contribute to the subjective well being of the whole.

The second is best captured in a line from a poem by American Poet Wallace Stevens where he writes;

The poem refreshes life so that we share,
For a moment, the first idea….

Perhaps music, like poetry also refreshes life.  It turns our attention to our deepest thoughts, to our most intense and original feelings.  It brings us home to ourselves, to discovering our highest ideal….  and to our first ideas.

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Setting the Tone – Putting the ‘Music’ Back into Keynote Presentations

From Pianoscapes the web site for Michael Jones

The ‘key’ unlocks the doorway to new possibilities. The‘note’ creates a tonal atmosphere for these new possibilities to be received and understood. When the key and the note sound together they result in an inner music, a song that can be heard not just by the intellect, but also by the body, the mind and the heart.

Michael Jones
http://www.pianoscapes.com

What if we listened to a keynote presentation not as a lecture, but as music?  This question struck me following a conference keynote presentation one day when a senior leader came up to me afterwards and said; you don’t speak, you sing!”

As a pianist, speaker and leadership educator, I know that the arts have something significant to contribute to whatever the purpose a meeting or conference has. Even the most practical minded events draw significant benefit from setting a tone that encourages an open mind and heart and nurturing a network of relationships that achieves this purpose.

So setting the right tone was in the front of my mind when I was invited recently to be the opening speaker for a national conference in Montreal, Canada. This involved arts educators and administrators engaged in exploring innovative learning strategies for the 21st century (1). As the opening speaker my role was to create the learning environment and offer perspectives on the theme of creating our desired future together.  I was also setting the stage for facilitating a conversation on dialoguing with our future later in the day.

I started with a story, followed by music.  Stories are the way that the future makes itself known to us. Music opens the way to the future through speaking to us in a language beyond words.

A Glass of Water

The story involved an earlier visit to Montreal.  At that time I was invited to be a featured performer with the International Piano Festival, a prestigious event that brought pianists together from around the world.

I was very nervous before the concert, a condition made worse an hour before my performance when I learned that many who had signed up for the series that year were piano teachers.  By the time I had been introduced and walked on stage – the sharp bright lights illuminating the beautiful Bosendorfer 9 ft 6 Imperial Concert grand standing at centre stage –the environment felt distant and unfriendly.  In my imagination I could see the judges in the front row  – pens and paper ready to grade my first note.  As I sat at the piano my hands were shaking and my legs soon followed, my body was cold, my mouth dry, my throat tight. The audience felt alien, critical and far away.

As I struggled to breathe deeply I remembered experiencing a similar feeling a few months before. It was in a chapel in Lebanon Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison near Toledo Ohio.  “ There is no need for concern” the event organizers said. “All the men will appreciate your visit”

I didn’t notice too many expressions of appreciation amongst the men as they seated themselves in the hot dry chapel following lunch that afternoon. I wished in that moment that I could take a pill and be transformed into Johnny Cash – an artist far more suited to this venue than myself.

Soon after I started performing, a stocky man with tattoos down both arms stood up… walked slowly down the aisle… and out the door. How many will follow, I wondered – they are not required to stay.  My heart was racing.  Distracted now, I was waiting for a second and perhaps a third to leave as well.

Then the first man returned. I heard the chapel door creak as he opened it.   He walked slowly up the center aisle to the piano and stood beside me for a moment…
Then he set a cold glass of water on the piano ledge and returned to his seat.

Everything changed in that moment. The simple act of seeing the condensation on the side of the glass was humbling. All the assumptions that darkened my thoughts suddenly evaporated. I realized that this was not a performance and that creating music involved more than simply getting the notes right. In order to connect with the audience both in this prison chapel and with the audience in Montreal, I needed to connect with myself first. As I brought more of myself into the room including my fear, my passion, my spontaneity and aliveness for what this moment called for – they gave more of themselves back to me.  The room in that moment – and in those concert halls in the future – suddenly took on a more intimate and human face.

I finished the story and moved to the piano….

“I thought we might continue with some music,” I said. “ Everyone has traveled a distance to get here.  Sometimes music helps us settle in.  When I play, it’s music that is coming to me in this moment.  My own improvisations… While you are listening you may also consider a time when you received a glass of water and how it changed your relationship with the future in some way. ”

Keynotes in a New Key

A keynote is defined as the tonic of a musical key- it is the primary element, image or theme –the bass note or tonal reference for all that follows.  If we go a little deeper we may consider how the key unlocks the doorway to new possibilities and the note  – like the glass of water – creates the tonal atmosphere that allows these new possibilities to be received and understood. Singers will say that for their voice to be authoritative and clear they need to produce the sound but, more importantly, they also need to receive the sound. Like seeds and soil, each is intimately connected to the other. When the key and note sound together an inner music appears, a song that can be heard not just by the intellect, but also by the body, the mind and the heart.

No matter what the purpose of the conference is, its’ success is always going to depend on how this balance is set in the mind and heart of the speaker.  Words are intended to inform and give direction.  But more importantly they are also intended to transform – to invite a shift of mind that connects us more deeply to our own humanity and imagination. In this context putting the music back into keynote   presentations can be any spontaneous or authentic gesture that introduces new perspectives and does so in a way that helps us relax our focused attention and become more thoughtful, calm and attuned to ourselves and others. This may include music, quiet reflection, a poem, a story, an unscripted moment, a conversation or a pause.

Too often we associate the keynote presentation with hard content that provides learners with dynamic tools, concepts, frameworks and action plans for achievement and success. This is true, but by also ensuring that we are engaging not only the active mind of the  ‘tool user’ but also the thoughtful and imaginative heart of the ‘tool maker’ we can ensure our meetings and conferences can create learners who feel more revitalized, balanced and alive.

1.    Realizing the Potential of the Arts and Creativity in 21st Century Learning. Hosted by Arts Smarts Learning Exchange. Montreal, Canada October 4th and 5th 2010.

Michael Jones has been a featured keynote speaker at leadership forums and conferences across multiple sectors throughout North America and Europe.

from Pianoscapes – the website for Michael Jones

Art should imitate the forms of nature – Goethe

Welcome to my first blog from Pianoscapes on Leading Artfully. This blog explores the deep parallels between leadership practice and creative artistry.

From my own work in organizations  and communities,  it is my impression  that beyond  all techniques and advice, leadership now involves a fundamental shift from an industrial worldview to one that is more nature based and ecological. An ecological mindset is one in which our core purposes are aligned with the patterning and flow of  the  larger world of which we are an integral part. In other words, ecological change  is an artistic process – an unfolding in which the present moment holds within itself the seed of potential for what will come next. Following the aliveness of the moment may serve as our best guide for leading in a time of rapid and complex change.

For example, one of the first forums where we brought in a piano to set the field for group learning was with the Foundation of Dialogue Programs which were being offered through the Kellogg funded MIT Dialogue Project in Cambridge Mass.

In the  first program we experimented with bringing   in a 9 ft concert grand piano. I had been a leadership educator for many years – and I had been a performing solo artist on stage for several years – but this was the first time I  had  brought the two together to explore how music  might influence and enable a group’s  capacity to learn.

Late the second afternoon of the program, the group was at an impasse. The effectiveness of the facilitation team had been challenged, the group was struggling to listen.  Some were speaking quickly and cutting across each other in their impatience to be heard.  Finally the group settled into a stony silence. No words of facilitation seemed adequate to bridge the divide.

Barbara, one of the facilitators turned to me and asked;  “ Michael can you help us?  Could you play something that expresses the feeling in the room – not a formal composition  – but, you know, something that is coming  spontaneously from what you are feeling here….

How to start?  With so much tension in the room  I  wasn’t sure where to begin.  I started  with  something simple  – a repeating note that gave this tension  a musical form. I was  trusting that   the tactile sensation of my fingers on the piano keys may suggest a direction that the music might go –  I compose through my fingers so the sensation of touch is also a source of information. Soon I did feel an impulse in my fingers to explore – a thematic motif over a rhythmic pattern that expressed  the  feel  of the  emotional tension  we were  experiencing.   This  was something new. It intrigued me. It was unfamiliar and  not something I  would have found on my own.  I remembered how my practice  at the piano involved  finding and trusting these moments of grace – moments when I was playing the piano  – and it was also playing me. Letting go into the flow of the music in this way brought to mind the wise words of the German Poet Rainer Maria Rilke when he wrote that it is  ‘not caution, but a wise blindness’ that carries us along.

And this was the shift that sometimes occurs in the music –the softening of concentration and the forgetting of oneself so that my full attention can be absorbed  on the   subtle  felt sense of each moment, letting  its aliveness   guide  me to the next  form and, in so doing, allow  the music  finds its own life.

There is a vulnerability in surrendering to the flow of the music in the company of others – yet to include their presence opens new possibilities in the music – including being open to playing from the feeling in room and not just for oneself.  My left hand reached for a minor chord deep in the bass – is that what was speaking to me just now? “Don’t second guess,” I said to myself   – go with whatever comes. So I went with that – and then with what followed – and with what followed after that –  – five minutes stretched to ten… and to fifteen …  notes rising and falling, cascading into other notes, chords, dissonances spaces and tonalities, tensions and resolves… and finally… silence  – a stillness that seemed to hold within it a feeling of indescribable completeness.

Music created out of the moment in this way has its own language  – a precise and organic articulation of what is resonating in the room itself. This knowingness of music – of sensing the deep ecology of human feeling and experience challenges our dependence on logical analysis and empirical evidence as the only basis for knowing what we know.

While the intellect can point us towards this state of beingness- it is not necessarily designed to take us there.  For that we need to look to artistry – music transcends the ego. It reaches into the deep self and expresses a human emotion that comes out of the felt experience where words cannot go. In our busy time-bound and rational world, music awakens us to a deeper mythic realm. It reconnects us to the   ongoing flow of experience – of faith, revelation, beauty, mystery, harmony, stillness and the joyful experience of time out of time itself. Most important it contributes to creating a learning field where words take on a more conscious purpose in an environment   that is spacious, slow, integrative and whole.

Our group, feeling more calm, thoughtful and centered now, reengaged in our common work together.

Leading in turbulent times is much like living at the moving edge of the tides of change.  Survival requires extraordinary presence and adaptability.  Leaders today must be willing, like a pianist, to connect with the emergent flow of their own aliveness for therein lies the intuition that guides them home.

As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio writes ‘ …emotions may well be the support system without which the edifice of reason cannot function properly and may even collapse’ (2) Our feeling life, not rationality, may be the pre-requisite for meshing with the complex tides of change.

“Could you play that again?”  Barbara asked.

“I don’t think so”  I said  –   artistry  is to make visible what is hidden, there is so much more to be seen.

Notes

1. Barbara is Barbara Cecil, a close colleague with the MIT Dialogue Project and a master at understanding how art contributes to helping participants discover the living ground within themselves from which new meaning arises.

2.  Demasio A 1994 Descartes’ Error and the Future of Human Life Scientific American (found in David W Orr’s The Nature of Design. Oxford 2002)

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