It’s only recently, in the last 18 months I guess, that I have been observing people differently. Before you think I am starting a career as a stalker, or weirdo, relax; I have simply been looking at them and wondering where they are in their life’s journey, what they are doing and why. I certainly didn’t think like this in my 30’s, 40’s or even in my 50’s, for I was too busy working and enjoying my life. But today, not working but still enjoying life (!), I look at other people inhabiting their space, their time, their universe and wonder what they are doing, planning, experiencing. Probably I’m invisible to them, focused as they are, doing their thing, living their life; unless of course I live, however temporarily, in the same universe. We come together at certain places, for example at work, at airports and railway stations, in the supermarket, in restaurants, in hospitals and when driving. Some people I simply observe and don’t interact with; others I engage with, converse with, exchange ideas with.
One of my ‘universes’ is that of yoga. Regular readers will know of my obsession with yoga and as I scribble this one morning before the sun has risen, I reflect on the individuals with whom I share this interest. There are teachers at different levels in our schools and colleges, an administrator, a gas fitter, an tour guide, the independent financial advisor, the retired trader from the City, a management and leadership consultant, a builder, a banker, a musician, someone who works in the Care Industry, a systems engineer in the generating industry, someone learning to be a driving instructor, a chiropractor, grandmothers, and mothers and fathers galore, some with school-age children and others whose offspring have flown the nest – and they all love yoga! Do I envy them, at their time in their life? Part of me does, absolutely; part of me knows that we only have one life and I have no regrets at the way mine is panning out.
The main building of the Institute of Directors (IOD) is at 116 Pall Mall in London and, during my fifteen years as an executive coach, it was here that I would meet my clients, those whose employer believed my intervention and interaction could assist them be more effective and more successful. I met some great people, working with them on a very personal and individual basis, and loved the results that came from that challenge. So you can imagine the memories the building holds, but now initially it’s simply a kaleidoscope of people and conversations and coffees and the IOD staff, all jumbled together into that segment of my life. I guess some things we remember well and other events and experiences get lost in the noise and mush. But then I look more closely at the grand old façade and remember clients, these shadows in my past, and see their faces illuminated as if by the flash of lightning. The ‘wood’ becomes a collection of individual trees, of individuals and the memories are sweet.
The Brazilian Flag
The Brazilian Embassy is a short distance from that IOD building, just to the west of Trafalgar Square. On the first Sunday of this month it looked lovely in the early Autumnal sunshine and the memories made me smile. Celina had come to vote in the Brazilian Presidential elections. A long line of people snaked around the corner; all ages, all colours, for Brazil has not one homogeneous skin shade. The queue was as mixed as you might imagine; the young away from their homeland experiencing London’s vibrant life, the older ones maybe having been here for a long time, all coming together to exercise their democratic right. (See note 1) I walk around the corner into Trafalgar Square and grab a double espresso at Pret.
Pret a Manger on the south side of Trafalgar Square
My daughter started back at school at the beginning of September, in a permanent teaching role. You may recall from PC 132 me saying something about how she has to be super organised or it’s chaos! Maybe she subconsciously covets my freedom, wishes she could do yoga and walk along the beach and write – conversely you may think I hanker after her involvement with the next generation, with the development of young brains and minds? What neither of us would wish is the attendant detail that goes with it, the organisation that gets her two boys to school, someone to look after her preschool son and herself to a different school. But it’s just the time in her life and for me it’s just the time in my life. The time’s the same, the experience personal to both of us in different ways.
Neighbours have recently become parents for the first time and I remember very clearly, as if it was yesterday, after my daughter was born, driving home in the pre-dawn hours of a glorious June day and being given a glass of champagne by my neighbour. That was just a time in my life and a time in theirs, and of course the start of my daughter’s time.
Time is never still, never stops. And our lives reflect this; rarely still, always growing, physically maybe, older certainly, often a bit of a rollercoaster! As the French poet Alphone de Lemartine wrote: “La vie doit avoir un courant; l’eau qui ne coule pas se corrompt.” (‘Life should have a current; water which doesn’t flow becomes stagnant.’ A view reflected by the delightful story from Richard Bach; see note 2 below)
Don’t let your life stagnate! Let go and go with the flow!
Richard 20th October 2018
Note 1: The election for Brazil’s next president will go to a second vote on 28th October, where the only choice will be the two front runners from the 7th October vote. Two men from the extremes of politics, one from the hard left and one the hard right. Some choice huh?
Note 2: A little tale about life:
Once there lived a village of creatures, along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own self. Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twig and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last: “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go and let it take me where it will. Clinging I shall die of boredom.” The other creatures laughed and said: “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than from boredom!” But the one heeded them not and, taking a breath, did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried: “See, a miracle! A creature, like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah comes to save us all!” And the one carried in the current said: “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.” But they cried the more, “Saviour!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Saviour.
From “Illusions – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach