Lessons in life manifest in nature, if you dare to listen. By listen I mean something different to the act of hearing. I mean to open ourselves to the way we experience the world around us and in doing that bring an awareness of our interpretation and involvement in the act of listening. And sometimes, just sometimes, that trail leads to great treasure – insight, opportunity, transformation, change.
In recent months we have been discussing the notion of an anomaly. Something that presents itself as different, unusual, misaligned, incongruent, maybe even exciting and provocative…. something we spot as an intuitive observer.
This might be best understood metaphorically. This morning (yes really), in the part of the forest where the dry woodland transitions to rainforest, I was struck by a lone kangaroo. She is common to these parts, and typically on approach, the roos scatter towards the safety of the bush. Today, she did not. She stayed present, sat high on her hind legs and watched me pass just metres from her. Unusual, I thought. I continued walking in reflection of that moment. She was the second roo today that stayed. I wondered if that was about my calm, the waning ‘super moon’ or something else. It struck me then that I should remember to breathe. I inhaled and continued to walk through the standard birdsong of the spring sunrise. As I breathed and walked I heard an unusual sound. I heard it, but at first I did not really notice it. I continued. The strange sound continued and its unfamiliarity provoked me. I stopped and listened. My eyes drew left and high into the canopy to find the source. My curiosity was aroused. What was it?
At first I could not see the source. My searching eyes were determined to locate it. Then facing east in perfect contrast against the golden light, I saw them. Two black cockatoos, feasting in an Acacia tree. Beautiful! I’m sure they were aware of my presence as I mimicked their call, in honour of their magnificence. Stirred they jumped between branches, and I saw the flash of their bright red tails. I then realised that these were the first red-tailed black cockatoos I had ever seen in this forest. Just yesterday I had heard the distinctive squawk of the yellow tailed variety, but the red-tailed black cockatoos were a rare and stunning surprise.
I stood for a while, in awe and appreciation of these majestic and beautiful birds. Then I stood in awe for the message of the morning. On listening. How easy it would have been to pass and not hear anything, for the deafening sound of the noise in my own head. How easy it would have been to dismiss the irregularity of the sound and keep on towards my destination. The gift of being curious, of listening, of being present to surroundings and being awake to this anomaly delivered a tremendous gift.
Our practices in workplaces (and life) mirror so much of this morning adventure. How often are we consumed by the noise of our inner world and asleep to the richness of what lies outside of that? How often are we trapped not seeing, not hearing, not listening and missing a small anomaly that might just open us to the juice and joy of what lies right before us? How often do we miss that small opening that might lead to some adventure, at the end of which something brand new and beautiful becomes distinctive to us? A sign from someone in a meeting, something we see or hear on the way to work, something unusual in our data stream, something we notice someone in our organisation pursuing that seems ‘against the flow’….sometimes it’s something more like a feeling, a sense, an intuition.
If you’re able to spot the anomaly, the idea is this. Listen to it whole heartedly. Acknowledge it. Reflect on it. Explore it. Follow your nose. See where it leads you. Perhaps, like me this morning there’s something that will illuminate, transform, open you to new opportunities and possibilities and send you on a different kind of exploration. Towards innovation, insight, better relationships, breakthroughs and beyond.
Back to the red-tailed black cockatoo. Scott Alexander King’s Animal Dreaming book tells me her lesson is of surrender, which feels fitting in this time of a new journey for our business. The anomaly gave more when I returned to research and interpret the gift of seeing. Duly noted, the insights were not born of being passive. From anomaly to insight requires action, exploration, adventure and a bit of spirit. But being awake and aware and acting creates an opportunity for a very different kind of participation in the world. Imagine being privy to gifts like these, every day, just by being awake? With which senses will you navigating today?
Photo acknowledgment: Bill and Mark Bell