Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How do you manage your outer space?

In the far-off days, when I had what my mother would call "a proper job", my office was situated in an underground level of the building. I can clearly remember speaking to people on the telephone from my executive desk (probably with executive toys on - it was the 80's after all) and hearing them comment about the weather outside.

"Isn't it lovely" they would say. (Or conversely "isn't it awful" - it is the UK after all)

My reply was usually along the lines of ..."is it?"  Because it's difficult to comment when a) you have no window and b) you haven't been above ground for hours.

I was reminded of this fact only yesterday when I met with a colleague, who has an office at level-2, as she emerged from the depths into the evening sunshine, without any idea that it had been shining all day.

So, I was especially grateful to start work this morning, with wood pigeons in the cherry tree, bluetits feeding from the hoppers in the bird-cafe just outside my window and my dog at my feet.

Our cherry tree is so spectacular at the moment that local Japanese people come and take photos of it - a natural and cultural connection with their home at this time of year. 

Instead of taking my working routine for granted, I am especially mindful today how the outer space I create for myself has a lot to do with the quality of the work I do - which is tightly connected to the quality of my thinking, feeling and inner space.

If this is true for me, then might it also be true for others?

In which case, my inquiry is whether I am paying enough conscious attention to the quality of the "outer space" I create or manage for coaching and learning interventions?

I have some clients where part of our coaching routine that has developed is to meet a short walk away from the working premises so that they are able to "get out". The walk to and from our sessions has become part of the routine of reflection before and after that we use to notice-the-things-I-wouldn't-have-noticed-if-I-hadn't-been-noticing.

Often, these "things" prove to be the basis for further insights, metaphors or metasagas and I realise that there is even more potential to work in the "outer space" than I have been using up until now - for myself and for others.

A principle from the Tao Te Ching floats in to my head from seemingly nowhere, (must be the Far Eastern blossom thing in my outer space connecting with my inner space) on the subject of the fundamental usefulness of space and how the space is what creates the object itself:

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;

But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.
We turn clay to make a vessel;
But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.
We pierce doors and windows to make a house;
And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.
Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not. (chap. 11, tr. Waley)

Another Taoist principle is to "know when it's time to stop. If you don't know then stop when you are done" That should give me more than enough to play with for a few days!

How do you manage your outer space?

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