I’m feeling terrible today. There is no sun. Everything seems flat. The weariness engendered by lack of sleep buzzes in my head.
I lift my eyes and let my sight fall on a large cypress tree out there. It lives for no other reason than to live. Its branches wave at me. At me? Or is it waving to me? At me or to me, the tips of its branches are most certainly a whiter shade of pale. If I were painting them, there’d be Chinese white in the mix, definitely. The darker parts behind those tips have brown in them. The branches move, move, move, in a wind-blown dance. The buzz of weariness disappears, or at least seems less important. The movement of the cypress tips is like a stroking hand, many stroking hands in fact, each one stroking my weariness. Somewhere inside me an emotion stirs. Gratitude. Gentleness. A sense that the waving of the cypress branches is just for me. A questioning that asks if the tree is reaching out to me, coming to fetch me. I seem to waken. The wood fire next to me crackles and its flames lick and spit and it warms the left side of my body. I am excited.
This is where Inspiration begins. Like love, it is all around us but we have to look for it. I can’t imagine why anyone would think that there was anything more important than experiencing the world with this immediacy, but most people don’t notice much at all, and that includes me. We are too busy to see, to hear, to touch, to smell and taste.
The cypress tree is still waving to me. Still there. It seems almost faithful.
When we look for inspiration, we look for what connects us to the life of which we are a part, that flows through us, and being waved at by a cypress tree is not a bad way to find it: being waved at by a tree sounds odd, but it signals the disruptive view of things that will help us to become people who look for inspiration.
You could be inspired by the warmth of the burning logs of your sitting room fire, with their little pops and snaps. Or by hearing the voice of one of your children expounding something to your wife in the next room. The moments when we really try to pay attention to ordinary things and recognise their miraculous qualities, are the moments when we find inspiration. A poet called this ‘surprised by joy.’
Frederic Laloux reminds us that Aristotle believed we had not one brain but three: a Head brain, a Heart brain and a Stomach brain. And he says that modern neuroscience has confirmed that Aristotle was right, and has quantified the neuron clusters in each of these parts of our physical being. When we are inspired, surprised by joy, these three parts of us seem to wake up and come alive.
If you want to become a more inspiring leader, I recommend you start with looking – looking for, not just looking at. Oh, there are all sorts of tips and techniques you can use to inspire, but they won’t have any integrity until you let the world and other people into your own awareness, each moment of each day, little by little, so that your attention is repositioned onto things that really matter to you. A person who works at being surprised by joy will be a leader full of surprises.