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Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that.’

Joko Beck[1]

A year ago, even six months ago, this quote would have failed to encourage pause for thought.  It fact, it would probably have aroused the need to argue against it.

My rather typical Type A, adrenalin infused personality would have craved to demonstrate how learning more; doing more; gathering more exposure across the board are primary to gaining depth of understanding and wisdom in aiming towards ultimate enlightenment.

Endless examples of the vitality found in the constant pursuit of goals – and achieving them – would have been trotted out as evidence in support of that view.  All supported by genuine heartfelt enthusiasm, liveliness and unstoppable motivation in ensuring an uninterrupted journey of ‘going forward’.

Then there came the need to ‘drop all that’ … take it a little slower for a while, catch my breath and allow things to settle.

The details of what led to the decision to consciously pause are not important.  It will suffice to note that the combination of navigating the challenges of Covid-19; an even busier workload; coming to terms with the disappointment of an unfulfilled professional promise; caring for, as well as dealing with the loss, of numerous loved ones alongside the inevitable adjustment into a more mature stage of life, eventually demanded that room be made for actual integration.

All-in-all recent times humbly reminded me that real integration, of the long-lasting kind, really does require dedicated time and space.

Much learning has been gained through focusing on not striving to achieve more for a little while, which has proven to be far harder work than ever imagined. There is genuine labour in revisiting, revising and refreshing one’s sense of purpose as one advances in career, age and life, whilst also recovering from and reflecting on a fairly tumultuous period of time.

In spite of the challenges, the privilege experienced and gratitude felt in rediscovering some nuggets of personal fundamental truths have not passed me by.

To share a handful:

  1. softness and strength are two sides of the same coin;
  2. feeling self-assured and retaining confidence ought not to come at the expense of losing touch with the need for compassion towards oneself;
  3. maintaining clarity of personal vision regularly requires battling through new, untraversed fields of blurriness;
  4. where we each place importance is unique; meaningful for one while entirely meaningless to another;
  5. boundaries ultimately contain us and are vital to our well-being; where they are drawn is also entirely personal.

There have been many reminders of the reality that, if we don’t each decide for ourselves what we want from our careers and lives and intentionally strive towards the achievement of these desires, we run the risk of dancing to somebody else’s tune.

When all is said and done, it has been in pressing pause on the habit of constantly pursuing some new goal that more insight and growth has emerged.

It has been an enlightening journey.

I look forward to sharing more …


After a six month break from coaching I have chosen to return to making time available to those who may wish to make use of it.

[1] Charlotte Joko Beck was an American Zen teacher and the author of the books Everyday Zen: Love and Work and Nothing Special: Living Zen.

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