A few months ago, a dear friend spent the morning puttering in his garden, had lunch with his lovely wife, laid down for a nap, suffered a massive heart attack, and died.
His death shocked all of us who knew and loved him.
He was my age, fit, active, seemingly in excellent health. I’d had lunch with him and his wife last summer, our conversation playful and easy, as it is with old friends. I had no idea that afternoon would be the last time we’d sit at table together, talking, laughing, warmed by each other’s presence.
We are here, on this beautiful planet, for such a short while. We don’t know how much time we have; only that we’ve been given an extraordinary opportunity to be part of the human family, to celebrate and contribute to the miracle that is this world. We’ve been given the sometimes-perplexing gift of free will to choose how we will spend our time here, what we’ll do with our precious lives.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of my adult life. To me, business is a sacred path that offers profound gifts. Along with prosperity and right livelihood, it has given me the freedom to create and to serve in ways that support what I love and value most. And, my business’s story is part of the world’s story. Ultimately, what’s good for the world is also good for business. That’s how wholeness works.
Responsibility is a quality that’s at the heart of my business and my life. It goes hand-in-hand with power. We are given the immeasurable gift of life. In return, we are responsible to life. We are here, not just to care for ourselves and our beloveds, but to serve life in whatever ways we can — with devoted hearts and willing hands.
Each of us is responsible for our choices and actions, and the consequences that flow from them. Whatever you think, choose, create or do, you have the capacity to nurture and bless, or fragment, harm and burden your world and the beings with whom you share this planet.
As an entrepreneur, you have both the freedom and the responsibility to consider, deeply, your reasons for being here, for doing what you do. You choose how you shape the world of your business.
Consider how your business is structured, and how, precisely, it contributes to the world in which you want to live. Does every part of your business reflect your vision and values? Are there aspects of your business that have grown stale, that are no longer responsive to the ecology in which your business is embedded? Are there areas in the world of your business where you go along — with the market’s desires, with the dominant paradigms of that’s-just-the-way-it-is — either because you don’t trust yourself to forge a different path, or because you simply haven’t thought through the global consequences of your choices?
As crises pile upon crises in our world, many of us are emotionally exhausted, feeling helpless to effect the kind of radical change needed to restore our world to wholeness. We are uncertain about how to move forward. What does business have to offer a world in which babies are left to die in cages without adequate food, water, clothing, medical care, or basic human kindness? What can business bring as balm and healing for a world in which millions are brutalized, made homeless by war, climate emergency, lack of resources, lack of fundamental safety and protection?
I’ve been asking myself these questions ever more urgently, as our neighbour to the south builds border walls and locks children in concentration camps; as the war on the environment escalates, alongside the terrors visited on poor people, vulnerable migrants, women, babies, the disabled and the elderly, among others.
You may be asking yourself these questions, too. If you aren’t, check in with your heart. I’ll bet it’s asking, and seeking answers to these questions.
We cannot yield to despair — despair is a privilege we can no longer afford. It saps us of desire, power and the capacity to act vigorously as a community to bring about a kinder, more equitable world.
Similarly, we cannot avoid our feelings, especially when they are volatile because events around us are volatile. The price for emotional avoidance is numbness, loss of presence, joy, enthusiasm and compassion, loss of humanity.
So, give yourself permission to feel the depths of your sorrow and the fizz of your joy; the frayed fabric of your helplessness in the face of all that assails us, and the subversive humour that reveals the nakedness of tyrants. Feel the shame of your all-too-human desire to bury your head in your pillow to muffle the cries of the world, and feel your relief at this brief respite from the fray.
Create a rhythm to your day, your week, your year, that helps you navigate these times with grace, commitment, kindness, power and humour.
Begin by identifying and releasing those feelings that don’t belong to you, that are part of the ambient cloud of pain and despair that floats around the ethers. You cannot process or integrate feelings that aren’t your own; you can only recognize them for what they are, remove them from your energy field, and return them to Source.
Once your body and energy field are clear of energies that aren’t yours, fill them with your soul’s presence, with the pattern that your soul holds for your perfect unfolding at this stage of your life. Then, explore your feelings. Feelings are communications from your body, from your inner selves. When you hear them, truly hear them, they put you in touch with what’s real; they restore your power and energy.
Be curious, in this exploration; be willing to be surprised. This is a delicate process; you’re cradling light to illuminate the dark. Embrace your feelings with curiosity and kindness, without identifying with them, clinging to them, making up stories about them, or becoming them.
Feelings are energy, and energy is mutable. When you give your feelings room to flow, they naturally dissolve and change, liberating power and bringing clarity, focus and the capacity for purposeful, effective action.
Next, turn your attention to your business. You’ve built it from an idea, a dream, into something incarnate and powerful, something that has the potential to remake our world. You can work with the infrastructure of your business to further the causes you love. You can use your own voice and the voice of your business to speak up, to speak out, to speak on behalf of the world as you wish it to be. You can use your resources – of money, time, energy, your own genius and that of your team – to develop a vision and strategies for engaging with the pressing issues at play in the world.
What does right relationship between your business and your world look and feel like? What do you want to see in your world that doesn’t yet exist, that you love enough to want to bring into being and nurture? What do you love that’s struggling to survive, that’s choking under the pressures of capitalism run amok, of fascist boots on society’s throat?
Somewhere in the world, a child is dying – of hunger, of sickness, of loss and deprivation. Somewhere in the world, a woman is enslaved, her body a trophy, her body a receptacle for someone’s hate, someone’s misery.
Somewhere in the world, our brothers, our sisters, slice each other to the bone with words like knives; with guns; with grenades and bombs; with lies and contempt.
Somewhere in the world, a woman wakes before dawn, goes to work in the fields or in an office, brings home food for her family. Somewhere, a boy sleeps in the cradle of his father’s lap. Somewhere, a silver salmon splashes upstream to the gravel bed where she was born; where she will lay her eggs; where her life will end.
Somewhere in the world, a leader births a vision of a just and loving society. She introduces legislation that will move her country out of its colonial past and into a future that serves not just the human lives in her country, but all life.
We begin. Again. And again. And again.
Each morning, I ask myself: What am I willing and able to do, today — now, in this moment — to be an agent of light, of joy, of love and equity and justice, of wholeness and compassion? What will I commit to, offer my heart and devotion to, that will open a portal of possibility, that will yield a treasure of hope and transformation?
My commitments are both to the here-and-now, and to the future. To what I will do today, and to the more complex vision of change that involves plans and strategies and the power of community to bring that future into being.
Then, I follow the sparrow that alights at my feet. She hops ahead of me, showing me a way in response to my question, in response to my prayer: May I be of use today.
You can do this too, if you wish. Infinity is a succession of moments. Begin where you are. What you choose to do doesn’t have to be monumental, unless you already have the infrastructure in place to create something massively transformational. Plant a seed. Water and feed it, diligently. Love it. Let it love you.
Grow the world’s story in a new direction.
Some days this might look like having a hard conversation with someone you love, rather than seething silently or going along to get along.
Some days, discerning action might look like creating a campaign to plant a hundred million trees around the globe over the next five years, to restore breath and life to our earth.
Yours might be a complex project — creating a product, program, or offering that will give your clients and customers the skills they need to become more fully themselves, to grow in maturity, understanding, wealth and prosperity so they can lend their power and presence to the joy of world-making.
Or it might be as simple as making one small change in how you do business; one small change that infuses the world of your business with more love and tenderness, light and blessing.
Whatever it is you feel called to do, do it with all the love that you are. Be constant; be faithful, even when you wobble, even when your energy, your focus and your desire fluctuate.
Do something every single day to draw closer to the horizon of your vision.
This practice will transform you, even before it transforms your business and your world.
Then, when your time to leave this earth arrives, you’ll relinquish this life peacefully, knowing that you’ve used the gifts you’ve been given to love, bless and serve your world.
May it be so.