What You Notice


Recently I returned from running a two week retreat in Kenya. The focus was a cross-cultural experience of community service, wildlife and personal rejuvenation. Though I have been to Kenya a number of times, each time I am filled with wonder and amazement. This workshop in particular seemed to be one special moment after the next. It was a great time for all.

One of the highlights of our retreat was the opportunity for each person to spend a day walking the Mara with a Maasai warrior. Imagine being alone on the savannah, with a traditionally armed and clothed guide as your protection. Your time is spent in leisurely travel, engaged in deep conversation and laughter. There is nothing but a great expanse of land and sky in front of you, and the only sounds you hear are the ringing of occasional cow bells from wandering herds.

One of the participants though had a bit of a start. During her walk she and her warrior came across a dead black cobra (a live encounter is very rare and very unlikely). It is after all Africa. Understandably she got a bit freaked out. She kept asking her guide, "Is it dead? Are you sure?" Though her eyes told her one thing, her fear was proving hard to convince. After repeatedly poking the unmoving cobra's body with his spear to reassure her, he then strongly advised, "Kate (not her real name). You must be more concerned with what is living than what is dead." In that one moment, her back home mental struggles instantly shifted, and she learned an important lesson.

Too much of our time is spent focused on what is not working, no longer alive or has little vitality. We have become addicted to the negative, fueled by feelings of fear, doubt and an almost pathological attention to frenzy. In essence, dead cobras are everywhere. A quick check of today's news or blogsphere will validate this. It is all about the negative. The question is, what can we do about it?

There is a Maasai proverb that says, "Home is not far away when you are alive." If you want to feel more at "home" in your work and relationships, then do as the Maasai advise. Focus your gaze on what has life, not death. This is where you place your energy, this is where you choose to move. Look for that in your inner nature and outer world (organizations, families, marriages, communities) which is working or holds vitality. Then when you are aware of something different, based in fear or doubt, walk away. Because usually the only harm it can do is in your mind.