'Everybody to be as happy as me' – what a dream!

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 19, 2006

No sooner had my last column come out than Cochrane life coach Cathy Yost phoned. "You've really touched on a subject that many of us are afraid to explore," she said. "10:30 at Coffee Traders?"

I had written about poverty of spirit and the importance of dreams, subjects raised by Kate Millar, Glen Eyford and Jerre Paquette in a recent Cochrane Ideas Society gathering.

Over a hot cup of dark roast, Cathy got right to the point. "We all have dreams, desires, passions," she said. "However, when we don't nurture our dreams, and time passes, they begin to fade, as we busy ourselves in day to day life."

To dull our growing discomfort, she said, we substitute things for dreams. "We have dreams that are never fulfilled because we're so busy getting and doing." It's only when we are clear in our own identity– our authentic self revealed in our deepest longings and dreams – that we give up the struggle for "stuff" we never really needed in the first place.

Cathy worked behind the counter at Traders some years ago, and it was there that she gained a new vision for life. "The work was secondary," she said. "It was really about connecting with people. Connection is about feeding the soul. Connection is how we keep our dreams alive. We're all looking for connection."

What Cathy was getting at, I think, is that mutual affirmation is critically important for keeping dreams alive, and that failure to keep dreams alive goes hand-in-hand with the poverty of spirit that disconnects us from our authentic self.

The more I listened to her concerns, the more she reminded me of another of our Cochrane coffee companions, David Irvine, author and keynote speaker on authenticity and simplicity in life.

Speaking of David, I just happened to hear from him, as well, on last week's topic.

"This is one of my dreams," he wrote: "to support and foster authentic leadership in the world. It somehow keeps my spirit nourished."

He is intrigued by the notion of poverty of spirit, he said. "I certainly see my share of this kind of poverty in my work these days, and how visioning is an antidote."

As an aid in measuring the richness of our spirit and the vitality of our dreams, he reflected on four criteria put forward by cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien: inspiration, challenge, surprise and love. David wrote:

You are still alive if you can be inspired and uplifted. The beautiful movie Finding Neverland illustrates how inspiration can emerge from children. Who and what are your sources of inspiration?

You are still alive if you can be challenged and tested. Being open to challenge is an invitation to grow, to move beyond the knowable, to stretch ourselves. Who or what is stretching, challenging you?

You are still alive if you can be delighted by surprises and the unexpected. You see this characteristic in children. They are open to awe and curiosity as a part of life. As adults, we may think it is funny for one minute or two, and then we 'get on to more important things.' Cynicism dries up our river of surprise. Stay alive to connection with wonder and awe and curiosity. Everyday is filled with surprise in between our agendas and our plans. Be open for it.

Whenever we work with a group of people – especially high-powered influential people – the question always remains: You may be powerful, but are you loved? Love is about being deeply touched and deeply moved by life. Is your heart open?

David's latest book, The Authentic Leader: It's about Presence, not Position (co-authored with Jim Reger), should be in bookstores the third week of May, he says. It's safe to assume he will argue that leaders' spirits crumble when supportive connections are broken and dreams die.

Speaking of books, Fred Monk, pastor of St. Mary's Church in Cochrane, drew my attention to the delightful little book, My Dream: Listen to the Children, by John Bougen and James Irving. The authors travelled to 191 countries in 167 days, photographing children and asking them a simple question:

"If one of your dreams could come true, which one would it be?"

One 12-year-old Indonesian boy said he dreamed of using his money from begging to become a shoeshine boy at the airport. A four-year-old South African girl dreamed of becoming a nurse because she wanted people to feel better.

And then there's this dream of a beaming six-year-old Icelandic girl: "For everybody to be as happy as me."

No poverty of spirit there!

© 2006 Warren Harbeck

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