They are unbelievably common when you pay attention
The simultaneous experience of fear and fascination
is also part of the discipline. If fear overwhelms us, we flee or
fight. If fascination overwhelms us, we indulge in the delight of
the experience. The discipline is to broaden our capacity to experience
both at the same time. While you cannot create this feeling of wonder,
you can certainly be open to it. The one thing you can always expect
is to be surprised.
Situations, buildings, mundane things like
water and wind, even ourselves, all have the capacity to be wonder
filled. The potential is always there. We have to train ourselves
to participate in it. A paradox exists here. The miraculous seems
to be present all the time, but its appearance is out of our control.
We have to be open to it, and yet we can’t determine when
it happens. If we are not open, then it surely will not happen.
If we try to force it in to being, it will not happen.
Wonder is touching the not me, the unknown.
Perhaps, it is being touched by the unknown. From childhood we carefully
construct a world within which we live. We add to it as new experiences
come along. Boulding points out that sometimes anomalies appear
and we adjust our world or deny the reality of these extraordinary
disruptions to our world. (Boulding, 1961) Thomas Kuhn makes the
same point in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
(1970). Scientific revolutions are the results of information that
does not fit current theories over time erodes the viability of
those theories until a break through happens and a new theory emerges.
Like the resistance to change in an operating image that Boulding
talks about there is also resistance within the scientific community
to changes in theory. In both cases there is a sense of awe that
frequently accompanies these moments.
Maintaining a sense of wonder also enables
you to test for real life. If as contemporary physics and psychology
say, we invent our own universe of meaning, then how can we distinguish
what is real from what is simply our own creation? How do we avoid
illusions? Perhaps we don’t.
Two tests seem available, however. One is
to test our experience against that of others. This may introduce
the problem of groupthink, in which we created shared illusions
in a small group, as in the investigation of the Challenger disaster.
We can create illusions as a whole society, such as M. Scott Peck
described about the United States and Vietnam in People of the Lie
(1983). Collective illusions are arguably better than individual
ones. There is at least the possibility of interaction with others.
Another test for reality is the sense of awe.
In the split second between an experience and our thoughts about
it, reality intrudes. This is Rudolf Otto’s “precognitive”
awareness. Whenever that gap appears, we know that something real
has happened. The struggle here is making sense out of what the
“real” was. In that moment we are freed from the old
and from the world we ourselves have created.
If you keep your senses sharp, you yourself
are simply amazing. Your good points, strengths, vices are not amazing
in themselves and neither are your bad points, weaknesses, and virtues.
The amazing part is that these things lie together, side by side.
DIFFICULTIES OF MAINTAINING A SENSE
Maintaining a Sense of Wonder is difficult today for a number of
reasons. We don’t perceive or understand much of what is available
to our senses. We try to put everything immediately into a box so
that we don’t have to deal with it. We need to tap reserves
of courage to do this work.
The Problem of Perception
Much of what is available for us to experience
we miss completely. It is filtered out before it even registers.
We would be simply overwhelmed with data if this were not so. We
get used to things to the point that sensations do not register.
The odor of the dog or cat, after a while, can’t be smelled
unless we choose to. We walk down the street and our partner says,
“Did you see that sign? (that haircut? that display?)”
You hadn’t seen it. Trivial? Not really. What is unimportant
to our operating image is often not even seen, heard, or registered.
Sometimes what we disagree with we don’t see either.
We create understanding about what we are
experiencing out of what we already know. Drawing on experience
is important, even critical, to learning. This same ability can
block coming to new conclusions. We draw conclusions with little
data and often quickly, before we even are exposed to the whole
experience. It is difficult to delay coming to conclusions as soon
When U.S. car manufacturers first visited
Japanese factories, they reported that they had been shown fake
factories, because there was no inventory. The only way to make
sense of the lack of inventory they saw was to have an explanation
consistent with what they knew (Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski, &
Flowers, 2004). We do this because it helps us to understand and
to deal with the world we live in.
It is one thing to delay closure and another
to reopen our thinking after we have decided what something means.
There are clues about when we need to rethink our understanding
of something. When the same problem keeps coming back, we might
want to look deeper into the situation. When we need to keep adding
exceptions to the rules of how thing work, we might look at the
assumptions we are making. When we are uncomfortable with something,
when we have “it just doesn’t feel right” responses
over time, we might look at the processes by which things are done.
When we experience fear and fascination, we can know that the new
is trying to break into our consciousness. There are lots of other
clues, but none of them guarantee that something is wrong or needs
The Control Box
A second reason for this incapacity to maintain
a Sense of Wonder is that when we do experience awe, we tend to
categorize the experience, to label it in an understandable way.
We all have a need to control the world around us. Moments of wonder
are out of our control; we did not create or schedule or influence
them; they happen when and how they will, out of range of one’s
agenda, strategic plan, budget, or even ability to manage. “Expect
something wonderful to happen to you today!” could be a blessing
or a curse. In either situation, you do not control it. Those of
us who insist on living in a world that we control simply have to
avoid the breakthrough of wonder into our lives—a heavy price
to pay indeed!
We lose a great many insights by imposing
an order that is not necessary. Harrison Owen (1990, p. 87) describes
two approaches to creating walkways on a new university campus.
The first way is that architects can plan them ahead of time as
part of the overall campus design. What frequently happens once
students begin to claim the campus is that pathways are worn into
the grass on the routes that are especially convenient. These emerge
from the way the campus is used—the route between popular
classes and the café, for instance. Sometimes it is possible
to forbid students to walk on the grass, to hold to the architect’s
Another way to approach the problem is to
install no pathways when the campus is opened, and as pathways emerge
to pave them over. This is more organic and in some ways more practical,
but it means that the architect has to give up control of student
traffic management. More accurately, it puts traffic management
in the hands of the students.
Information and communication technologies
have enabled us to control our work and lives much more than was
the case even ten years ago, making our lack of control of nature
more troublesome than ever. There is controversy today in areas
like flood control and forestry and wildlife management. Forcing
rivers into a single path can result in disastrous flooding. Allowing
occasional brush fires to clear out underbrush may help prevent
destructive forest fires. Allowing some predators to survive may
cost the occasional sheep, but permit a healthier overall balance
of ecology. In all of these matters, the value is control. We have
grown to expect our lives to be very much in our control, and when
they are not, it seems as if something is terribly wrong.
What if it weren’t a problem? What if
that was just the truth of existence trying to tell you something
more important than your current goal?
A third reason for the difficulty with maintaining
a Sense of Wonder is that it requires courage. It is work, because
in order to maintain an open stance we have to pay attention to
details, dynamics, and patterns that we would not otherwise have
been aware of. This is the discipline of setting aside one’s
judgment in order to listen to what the universe has to say to us
in a given moment. There is no guarantee of results.
Being open to new ideas and new experiences
requires courage of several different kinds. We have to be ready
to admit that our understanding of a situation may simply be wrong.
This is the courage to be wrong. John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles
in Courage (1956) documents this dimension of courage. Of course,
Kennedy demonstrated his own courage following the Bay of Pigs fiasco
when the U.S. government sponsored the failed invasion of Cuba by
anti-Castro Cubans and mercenaries. Kennedy took responsibility
for authorizing it, when he could simply have transferred blame
to the previous administration or the CIA.
There is also the courage to act. It is one
thing to be aware of a mistake and to admit your part in it. It
is another to point to someone else who was right. Finally, it is
another sort of courage to turn around and move in a new direction.
One has to put himself or herself into a “corrected”
frame of mind in order to move between acknowledging a mistake and
acting to correct it. Often you hear people only go halfway; “Yes,
I was wrong; that’s just the way I see things.” Then
someone else steps in to address the problem in a new way. To go
all the way means taking charge of a new approach to the same problem.
This means going back to your assumptions and forcing yourself to
change them to fit the reality that has intruded. This is a unique
sort of courage.
THE ISSUES OF A SENSE OF WONDER
FOR FACILITATIVE LEADERS
“Facilitation is maintaining a sense
of wonder about those we work with; it is dread and delight about
the group that is currently in front of us. This discipline is appreciating
the group and the individuals that make it up. It is also being
conscious of their dis-relationships and being in a state of wonder
about them” (Jenkins and Jenkins, 2002).
Being present to wonder requires that we be
willing to set aside our known world and pay attention to the unknown
and allow it to speak to us. Being facilitative, which is to say
enabling groups, is greatly enhanced by this ability to keep in
touch with wonder. Facilitators who are open to the experience of
wonder and who can enable others to experience it are able to tap
huge reserves of energy. They seem to be more aware and more effective.
Creativity is released. People are motivated. Relationships are
deepened. Trust is enhanced.
D. H. Lawrence (1964) in his poem, “New
Heaven and New Earth,” points to how renewal of the spirit
takes place. He begins with a sense of weariness. He is tired to
the point of sickness because everywhere he looked he saw that he
had corrupted it. He saw that he had corrupted everything, nature,
machines, people, friends and foes. He was sick to the point of
despair. He knew everything because he had polluted everything.
All that was left was despair.
He then describes death and how that begins
to relieve the weariness. At the end he dies. Nothing has meaning
or purpose. All is gone. It is good to be put to death, to find
yourself in the black, dead earth. It is good to be nothing, absolutely
He then points to the experience of wonder.
At the moment of being trampled to death by constantly seeing yourself,
you reach out. You touch something that is not you. A shock runs
through you and a spark ignites and flame burst into existence.
So you put your hand out a little further and it is true you are
touching the unknown the truly unknown.
This is a moment of awe. (Lawrence, 1972)
In workshops that deal with and solve difficult
problems, occasionally something takes place that is outside the
experience of those present. There seems to be a period during which
the problem is unsolvable; it is overwhelmingly complex or difficult.
It seems impossible. We might keep up a brave face, but deep down
we feel it is impossible.
In the process of looking for a solution,
sometimes a comment is made or an idea expressed, and it is like
a flicker of light in the darkness. Many people in the group may
not see it or understand the potential of the idea, yet a few people
do. These few may make comments or suggestions supporting the insight.
This is a moment of wonder. The facilitator’s job is to enable
the idea’s exploration and growth. There may be outright hostility
toward the idea, which needs to be controlled until the idea is
explored further. Naturally, these moments of insight do not automatically
result in a good idea. The first idea may be unrealistic, but others
often emerge because of the first moment.
A good facilitator pays attention to these
moments and enables the group to see the idea’s potential
and to give it space to prove its worth.
These experiences of wonder can be profoundly
moving. You can sense excitement in a group that has had this kind
of experience. Groups are inspired by them and are driven to creativity.
We once led a strategic planning workshop for
the human resources staff of a large Dutch company. There were about
fifty people working over three days. During the last session, the
group created a 120-day timeline with people signing up for the
twelve action arenas that had been identified. Everyone agreed to
a role in the execution. By the end of the 120 days, every goal
had been reached except one.
RELATIONSHIPS AND TRUST
People who share certain kinds of experiences
of wonder have a special sort of relationship. They have shared
a moment of marvel. When they continue to work on the new reality
that has emerged, their relationship deepens.
Trust is critical to organizational health.
A person can be trustworthy but not trusted. Clearly trust is build
on integrity, doing what you promise to do; consistency, applying
standards to everyone equally; communicating clearly and regularly;
not tolerating incompetence, bad behavior, and dishonesty in feedback;
and confronting and dealing with painful situations. It is also
built on creating those moments where meaning and purpose are obvious
Jon worked with the corporate processes manager
of a big multinational who had these traits of evoking trust. He
was understated but decisive. He did not preach that people had
meaningful work. He enabled them to see it for themselves. At staff
meetings he asked, “What was the high point in the past week?”
“What was the low point?” “What was it that made
it high or low?” He would complement people for their contribution
to the mission of the company in specific terms. Everyone that Jon
talked to about this manager said they would work for him at any
time and where.
For the facilitator, wonder may first be experienced
as an intrusion. You had an image of the group or its task or yourself,
and that understanding is challenged. You find yourself caught up
in the excitement and fearsomeness of the challenge presented to
you. Then you find yourself with a profound sense of respect of
the source of the challenge. Finally, there is the sense that this
is as good as it gets.
THE FOUR LEVELS OF WONDER
Like the other eight disciplines, this one
has four levels. In this case they are encounter, entrapment, collegiality,
and adoration. Having a Sense of Wonder comes from several directions.
Sometimes it is experienced as wholly clear. Sometimes the past
provides a source of wonder. Jon remembers one of his first walks
in Rotterdam. There was a statue of a man with his arms raised in
the air. He looked like something Picasso might have done—angular,
distorted. There was a jagged hole chiseled out of his center. Jon’s
friend explained that the statue was called The Hole and commemorated
the bombing of Rotterdam by the Americans near the end of World
War II. Thousands of Dutch civilians had been killed. Jon was hearing
of this for the first time, and was in shock. It would have been
easy to put distance between himself and what had happened; he was
only three when the bombing occurred; mistakes are made in war;
it was critical that the harbor be crippled in preparation for the
invasion. Yet something is set free in being present to all that
being an American is.
Sometimes it is the future that surprises
us. We have all had the experience of hearing someone describe a
future reality, perhaps a park, a building, and a new organization.
It is hard to believe, and yet the energy of the speaker can bring
us into the dream. All the more amazing is the experience of finding
exactly that reality some while later, standing before us.
Sometimes we surprise ourselves. We do things
we’ve never done before or thought we couldn’t or wouldn’t
ever do. Our success can surprise us, and sometimes our own cruelty
can be shocking.
The first level of a Sense of Wonder is the
encounter with the mysterious. Jon was teaching a Training of Trainers
course in Poland a few years ago. The participants were teachers
in Polish business schools. Most of them had a great deal of experience
with teaching, but that had meant lecturing. Very few interactive
methods had been used. Even the lectures lacked much passion or
effective communication with learners. One of the methods in Jon’s
course was preparing and giving dramatic lectures. One of the participants
was a woman in her mid-twenties, sophisticated, businesslike, and
attractive. When it was her turn to lecture, Jon was looking forward
to a masterful presentation. She stood up and seemed instantly to
turn into a little girl flirting with Daddy. Her voice pitched higher,
she giggled. Her posture turned into the hunch of a preteen caught
doing something naughty. She was a completely different person,
utterly unsuited to the workplace. Jon was stunned; he struggled
to give feedback. How in the world could this happen to someone?
Where in this woman’s experience did this bizarre self come
from? This is the kind of thing that happens with the encounter.
Suddenly you are facing something that is beyond your control or
understanding. It can be a positive or a negative encounter, but
it is inexplicable.
One day you wake up late and a bit distracted,
dress hastily, and as you walk into the office, a colleague says,
“Nice tie!” That’s a surprise; usually no one
says anything about your clothes. You look down, and surprise again,
it is a very nice tie! You chose it yourself! It seems like your
whole existence has been approved.
At this level of the discipline, the issue
is to be open to what is going on. The Polish woman seemed to represent
a whole system of relationships between men and women in Eastern
Europe. Jon felt challenged to do something. As he watched the presentation,
Jon considered a myriad of options of how to respond. But the starting
place was simply standing present to the amazing transformation
he was witnessing.
The response to the encounter is paying attention
and standing present to what is happening both externally and internally.
Being present to the immediate moment and the historical context
that created this moment is also part of standing present. Knowing
that your own biases are also creating your understanding of the
situation is important part of standing present.
The second level of Wonder is called the entrapment.
This is the experience of no escape, nowhere to run to, and nowhere
There are always moments of encounter that
we slip away from. It is unexpected but not really interesting.
Sometimes, however, an encounter comes that really seems to have
your name on it. You find yourself, for whatever reason, intrigued
and bound. This mysterious moment is yours, and you are going to
take it on, whatever it takes. This is the awareness that drives
radical change, from improving one’s golf game to rebuilding
an organization—an individual feels called upon to respond
to what is happening. . . . This is really about me!
A few years ago our biggest customer was reorganizing,
and our company’s role had been cut back by more than half.
Our employees at the time were very upset. The cut in income meant
that some employees who had never done acquisition before would
have to begin to do so. No one’s position was as secure as
it had been. We were holding meetings with the whole team to plan
new directions for the company, but the mood was very negative.
Two individuals had found jobs elsewhere, and those remaining were
very angry. One day the office manager turned to Maureen and said,
“You claim to be able to improve the quality of life in teams—how
come your own team is such a mess?” Suddenly the difficult
situation was more than just a quirk of fate to work through—it
was about Maureen’s integrity. It began as an encounter with
an unexpected business event but suddenly grabbed hold of Maureen.
This is the level of the entrapment.
In the early 1970s we were part of a team
developing a course called “New Individual and New Society.”
As apprentice trainers, Jon and Maureen were accustomed to working
with the youth subgroup, totaling about twenty people (the adults
in the course numbered over a hundred). It was a weekend event running
Friday evening through Saturday noon. On Saturday night, the head
teacher asked that Jon do the morning lecture to the whole group.
Jon said he had never done that presentation
before. Perhaps one of the more experienced trainers should do it.
Jon suggested a number of alternatives, but the head teacher was
having none of it. Jon said he thought he would be terrible, but
the teacher kept insisting. Finally, out of excuses, Jon agreed.
He got a pot of coffee, found his notes, and spent the rest of the
night preparing a lecture.
The morning session was opened by one of the
other trainers. Jon was next. He walked to the front of the room
and looked over the largest group he had ever stood before. To his
right was the exit door to the building. His mind was blank. He
rattled his papers, looked at all the people, and again looked at
the exit door thinking, “If I walk out that door I will never
have to do this again!” Another thought came to him: the first
sentence of his lecture. He looked at the participants and began
In that moment, between the two thoughts–one
of leaving and one of starting, Jon moved from the level of entrapment
to the level of collegiality.
This is the third level of the Sense of Wonder.
Jon’s example of the eight or ten hours that transpired between
being asked to do a lecture and completing it the next morning became
for him a source of strength that has lasted a lifetime. It was
a dreadful experience that has become a friend and companion.
What had been an experience of being trapped
suddenly may turn into an experience of being honored by that which
intruded and trapped you. You realize that if you had not had that
intrusion, you never would have made the discovery that it brought
you. You actually look forward to the next intrusion, albeit with
a sense of some dread.
We did a strategic planning session with a
training department of about a hundred people. When we got to identifying
blocks, we omitted our customary emphasis on the distinction between
a problem and a root cause. Though we ordinarily go into some detail
on what comprises a root cause, we assumed these learning professionals
would automatically look beneath appearances to search for root
causes, and we just put the group directly to work, without much
context. But what a shock when we got our evaluations! We got responses
like “Lack of trained professionals” and “Lack
of e-learning training.”
It was easy to blame the lazy participants,
to blame the short workshop program, to blame ourselves for being
incompetent facilitators. What we realized with reflection, however,
was that we had been given a gift—a clear demonstration that
our original approach had been right all along—no matter who
the participants are, you have to seriously stress the difference
between a problem and a root cause. Being inside of a problem can
make even the most professional of us incompetent analysts. The
realization didn’t help much with that workshop, but it indeed
proved to be a blessing.
A few years ago, Jon was asked to do some
training of facilitators in Serbia. The program was funded by USAID
and was run by a private American development company. Jon arrived
in Belgrade late the night before the program and stayed in one
of the big hotels. He noted that the building, about twenty stories
high, was burned. The next morning a driver arrived to pick him
up, along with one of the community development officers. She had
a degree in psychology and was quite articulate in English. The
driver was funny and clever, and his English was understandable.
Along the drive, the officer and the driver
pointed out various points of interest. Like much of Central Europe,
there was a mixture of poverty and wealth, with the emphasis on
poverty. One spot in particular was a bombed-out hospital. NATO
had hit it during the war. This was at the end of ten years of sanctions
that had reduced one of the better-off countries of Central Europe
to a skeleton of its former self. Jon commented that they must despise
NATO and the United States. They said they did, but that acting
on that hatred would neither help them or their country.
During the three-hour drive to the course
location, Jon’s understanding of the people of Serbia and
their past dramatically changed. As in many situations, when you
got beneath the public images to the actual people, a more complex
and more hopeful reality emerged. There are both truly awful, self-serving
individuals who have sway over much of public opinion, and at the
same time there are wonderfully generous and great souls, looking
for ways to restore Serbia to the world community in a responsible
Here was Jon who as an American was responsible
for the destruction, hurt and anger he was witnessing. He found
himself caught between guilt and blame. One part of him suggested
succumbing to a sense of collective and historical guilt. His government
had waged war on this small country; it had used 10 years of economic
sanctions it knew would not work; and it failed these people at
the end of WWII when Tito took over. At the same time Jon wanted
to blame the Serbs for their destruction. Their national pride,
their looking the other way when Croats, Bosnians, Kosovars and
others were being butchered and their permitting malevolent leaders
to act without checks, all made it inevitable that they would bring
this suffering on themselves. Nether response was adequate. Between
these two and the experiences he was having was something amazing.
Cultivating a Sense of Wonder is disciplining
yourself to become open to these moments of challenge as friends,
blessings in disguise that help you to deal with the world you live
At some point you realize that these moments
of awe-filled transformation are more than colleagues. You realize
you are not forced into these moments of awareness; it is a co-creation.
Whatever it is that puts you into these moments is you yourself,
your attitudes, your selfhood, your own responses, and who you are.
It is this realization that is the level of the adoration; it is
something you find yourself grateful for.
We use the term co-creation because what you
do with these moments of awareness is your own choice. It is a continuing
series of choices. An opportunity is offered by a situation in your
life, you respond, the opportunity changes, you respond again, and
so on. It is like an ongoing dialogue between friends. The ideas
evolve as the dialogue continues.
There is no reason to be thankful for these
challenges and affirmations that come as defining moments; you are
just thankful. Other responses are possible, such as anger or resignation.
The discipline increases the frequency of the times you are thankful.
It increases the number of moments you are aware of. You find yourself
more sensitive to the different kinds of awe.
In the adoration, the experience is that of
connection. Suddenly you are connected to yourself, all of yourself,
the things you hate the most and the things you are the most proud
of. They make a single whole. You experience being connected to
the past, all of it. The future and all of its all unrealized possibilities
are all part of you. You and the other are united in a dance of
The duality found at this level is reverence
and humility in tension with confidence and courage. Joseph Campbell,
in his classic work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949),
describes the moment of adoration with an Irish fable of the five
sons of the Irish king Eochaid.
Niall asks who she was and she said she was
“Royal Rule.” She grants him water, blesses him and
explains that both as a hag and as a beauty she is Royal Rule, which
requires a gentle heart to release the beauty in the hag.
In mythic form, this is the discipline of maintaining a Sense of
Wonder. At this level, the humble and reverent heart can embrace
even the most disgusting of situations, people, and problems.
We fail to have a Sense of Wonder unless we
discipline ourselves to maintain it. We need to set aside our cynicism,
our belief that the world is out to do us harm. We need to learn
to see, to experience the awe that is available in every moment.
We need to learn how to set aside our capacity to judge, to put
things into boxes and learn how to appreciate the unknown. We need
to learn to have courage, the courage to be open to the new, the
courage to be wrong, and the courage to act to correct the wrongs
we have made.
• • •
Practices for a Sense of Wonder
In the day-to-day living of a
leader it is easy to forget the best reasons for choosing to be
a leader of this specific group. It is easy to succumb to the various
temptations we have talked about. Exercises and practices are ways
of not only strengthening you capacity to act out of the discipline
they also become rituals that remind you of the need for the discipline.
Expanding the context of the
situation can enable you to see the relationship between what is
happening and the world and times in which we live. It can be useful
to ask yourself how the mystery, the depth, and the greatness of
the group with whom you work is manifested (Jenkins and Jenkins,
When one of these procedures
is done once as a way of bringing awareness to a group it is an
exercise. When these are done regularly with a group they are then
a practice. We are putting it in the practices part of the chapter
but it could have gone to the exercise part also, depending on how
it is used. Each practices following would be done in a regular
The most obvious practice related
to the discipline of the Sense of Wonder is contemplation. One might
focus attention on an object, such as a flame or a stone. One might
focus on an idea, a saying or a Zen koan. Sit in a comfortable position.
Focus your mind on the idea or object. View your focus from several
perspectives in your mind. Think of its history or formation. Just
look at it. Think of nothing else.
One other approach to this is
called a Spirit or Consciousness Conversation. These are done in
groups wherein there is already a reasonably high level of trust.
The conversation is about something thoroughly mundane and everyday
such as cats, stairs, fire, or water. The conversation is an exchange
of experiences about the topic, exploring its impact on our lives
from several perspectives. The following is an example of how a
conversation about water might go. Notice that the leader is not
aimed at analyzing the topic, but rather inviting participants to
tell about their own experiences of Wonder.
||Sometimes water can be so
beautiful. When have you ever experienced water as beautiful?
I remember when I was a teenager; my family was camping near
Mount Lassen in California. We were walking along a stream,
toward its source. As we went around a bend, there was a waterfall
sparking in the afternoon sunshine that filtered through the
evergreens. It was only 9 or 10 feet high, 3 meters or so, but
fairly wide. It fell through rocks and small plants that clung
to the side of the cliff. It sparkled and danced. Water at that
moment was simply beautiful. When have you experienced the beauty
||I remember sitting on a beach
watching the waves come in and slowly retreating as another
wave broke. There were so many colors in the water. It was breathtaking.
||When I was a kid we used to go to a lake
every summer. We stayed in a cabin. Late at night we would walk
along the shore to look at the moon’s reflection, as it
seemed like a pathway to heaven.
||Sometimes water can taste so good. Not
necessarily what comes out of the tap, but water can taste so
good at the end of a hot day. I was traveling with my family
when I was ten or twelve, driving from Los Angeles to Taos,
New Mexico. We had a 1954 Pontiac, no air conditioning. My father
hung a canvas sack filled with water on the bumper to keep it
cool as we drove through the dessert heat of 110 degrees Fahrenheit
(43 degrees centigrade). After a couple of hours we stopped
and had a drink. It was so cool and delicious. When has water
tasted great to you?
||When you drink from a clear mountain stream.
It tastes like the forest, but it is great.
||There is nothing like a huge glass of
water in the morning after a night of drinking. It makes a huge
||I grew up on a farm. Sometimes we would
be in the fields and in the middle of a summer afternoon my
mother would bring a cooler filled with jars of water.
||Sometimes water can be frightening. I’m
sure you have all seen the horrific pictures of the tsunami
last year. When I was in the Navy I made a couple of trips to
the Mediterranean. I was in what is called an LST–Landing
Ship Tank. It was about 600 feet long and carried trucks and
Jeeps on the main deck and tanks below. While crossing the Atlantic
on the way back we were caught by the edge of a hurricane. I
remember standing in the wheelhouse watching waves cover the
front half of the ship as we crashed up and down. The water
that covered the deck was blue-green and several feet deep.
I was terrified. Have you ever had an experience of water that
||In a water safety program I took one time
I had to jump from a platform about 20 feet above the water.
We were to jump feet first, cross our legs and cross our arms
holding onto the life jacket. The thought of hitting the water
scared me to death.
||I also did safety training. In our case
we had to practice escaping from a helicopter. We got into the
cabin of a simulated helicopter. It would drop into the water,
float for a few seconds, roll over and sink. We had to get out
of the cabin. The disorientation of the crash and rolling over
combined with panic. Because of the pressure of water rushing
in, you were supposed to wait to get out until the cabin was
completely full of water, but your panic was so strong that
it was very difficult to learn.
||I was once caught in a riptide when I
was swimming. It sort of grabbed me. I was pulled under and
rolled over and over. I knew I should relax and then I would
float to the surface, but I kept starting to panic as I ran
out of breath and thought I was going to die. Then I floated
suddenly to the top, broke the surface and was safe.
||When have you seen water being destructive?
When I was twelve or thirteen we lived on a hillside in South
San Francisco. Our row of houses was the topmost row. Behind
our house you could walk up to the top of the mountain. One
spring we had a mudslide. A sort of thick stew poured off the
mountain, rocks, trees, dirt, and water. It missed our house,
but the next four below us were all hit. The gardens disappeared;
the fences were tossed aside, the mud pushed open doors and
filled rooms. Everything was pushed downhill. When have you
experienced water as destructive?
|| One time I watched a flash flood run
through a village. It carried buildings, cars, and everything.
People scrambled to escape.
||My old house and its rotting roof is a
testament to the horrendous damage a little leak here or there
can do if you let it go. It’s amazing!
||Water is such an everyday thing. They
say our bodies are 95 percent water. We can’t live without
it. It is both life giving and so destructive.
Naturally a dialogue like this
feels artificial, but the exercise is clear. The aim is to build
together an appreciation for some mundane aspect of existence.
Another exercise related to the
Sense of Wonder has to do with the content you give to groups with
whom you are working. You might begin with the vision/mission statement
of the group. You might begin a discussion about what the group
does to contribute to their company. Ask them to view this beyond
the work process relationships, to include social, cultural, and
other aspects of their relationship with the company. Shift the
focus then to the company. What does the company contribute to society?
Products and services surely, but what else does it contribute?
Things may come up like taxes, training, stability of the community,
and so on. A final question could be, “If an historian of
the future were describing the company’s most important contribution
to the world, what might they say?”
The aim here is to look with
a Sense of Wonder even at the everyday relationships in which we
work, to recast our relationships in a new light.
• • •
Exercise for a Sense of Wonder
We pay heavily for our busy, harried
lives. One cost of our distracted lives is that we rarely take time
to appreciate what is around us: the wonders of nature, events that
happen to us, even everyday pleasures like eating and listening
to music. We rarely give these things the opportunity to offer their
full benefits. Likewise, we miss the stunning mystery, depth, and
greatness of our colleagues, participants, and of ourselves.
In this exercise we focus on
a piece of music, to try to appreciate what is there. You want to
develop not only concentration but also greater sensitivity and
clarity of awareness. Listen as carefully as you can. Try to catch
the subtleties you may have missed before: the delicate notes, the
background rhythms, and the emotions that arise in you. Try to hear
with all of your senses; feel the vibration, taste, and see the
sound in all of its glory.
This is an individual exercise.
Any music can be used, but you might try beginning with something
classical. Sit or lie comfortably and take a moment to relax. Then
listen and enjoy as fully as you can. Periodically you will find
your mind is adrift in fantasies and that you were largely oblivious
during the last few minutes. When that happens, simply return your
attention gently, just as in meditation, but this time focus on
the music instead of the breath.
A way to help yourself to focus
on this exercise is to take a large sheet of paper and a box of
colors. As you hear the music, choose the main color the piece brings
to mind. As you hear the music, draw what the music beings to mind.
Think back over what you have