#008 - Sharpen, Soften
“What you are seeking is also seeking you.
It’s not magic, it’s physics.”
I came up with this phrase about a year ago.
I was driving home after 10 days of Vipassana, a well-known silence retreat and meditation course, when I heard in a podcast the Rumi quote “what you seek is seeking you” and I said to myself: “of course. It’s not magic, it’s physics”.
I’m not sure why it came out like that, but the physics part made me feel drawn to it.
On one side, it felt like a reminder about the apparently mystical “law of attraction”, which to me speaks of the phenomenon of “sympathetic resonance” or “sympathetic vibration“. On the other side it also became a kind of mantra, a compass pointing me to new ways of looking at my day-by-day life.
It forced me to ask myself: what is the basic law of “finding each other”, be it with people, situations or opportunities?
Intuitively, I said: the law of recognition.
To “find each other” really means that you recognise in someone or something what you were, consciously or unconsciously, looking for. Which to me, by definition, requires some sort of code or clear signalling that makes two (or more) parts go like “hey, there you are! I’ve been looking for you”.
But why is this relevant now, and in the context of impact and sustainability?
In this historical moment (but anytime, really) whoever is choosing to take their assets and powers and re-purpose them to build a more just, inclusive and sustainable way of living is evidently not operating from the mainstream approach of society, politics or business.
Of course, as I write this there is a rapidly growing trend around “impact” and “sustainability”.
But we’re still far from seeing impact, sustainability and inclusion as the true, main priority. Actually, if we want to be technical about this, most efforts are still resulting in “old ways just painted in green”, still devoted to other goals and ultimately incoherent.
But we’re not going down that road today.
What I’d like to focus on instead is the fact that whoever is getting head down to do the real homework, playing a different game while the surrounding system of incentives has not fully shifted yet, is choosing to trace radically new trajectories.
And if there’s one thing we know is that to pave new ways takes a toll and, like any other mission, it requires allies.
Which makes the signalling part very important.
In the original poem, Rumi says that what you are seeking is also seeking you but it can’t find you if you keep running around in anxiety and distress.
I would add that it also can’t find you if:
- your signal is not clear;
- your shape is not permeable.
While the permeability part is really fascinating, and we will explore that too, today I want to focus on clarity of signals.
What you are seeking is also seeking you and, just like you, it needs clear signs to follow. If we had to translate this into practice we can apply, what comes up for me is to sharpen.
To sharpen means to remember that we are our message.
Like rough gems, we must cut loose the parts that are obsolete and that prevent our shape to be crystal clear. Without sharpening, our life-message won’t be recognisable by those who are looking for us. So how could they ever find us?
It’s interesting for me to notice that we generally associate positive meanings to the word “sharp”, but when we look at it more closely we see that to sharpen something requires all the things we tend to struggle with:
- To shed away and release things we’re attached to
- To polish, recurrently over time
- Discernment to see what stays and what needs to be laid down
- Grief for the old shapes or identities we wore for a long time
… and more.
To Sharpen does require very intentional work.
In order to practice it, we might have to ask ourselves:
- Is this thing, person or situation truly aligned with where I am going?
- Does this allow what I’m seeking to come and find me?
- If the ally I’m seeking would pass by, would it recognise me?
- If every gesture and action I take was like a music note creating a melody, a signal that I’m sending out, what would I want to do differently?
I know that thinking to examine every word and gesture creates enormous pressure. But maybe, If we want to keep up with the gem’s metaphor, that’s the only way that sharp things are made.
With (the right) pressure.
With the type of attention and dedication of great craftsmen.
I believe this is key because we need sharp for-impact actors: able to find each other, to trace the trajectories that so many others could not trace and to open doors where others only build walls.
Remember: “He who cannot howl, will not find his pack” _ Charles Simic