July 27, 2012

You Are Not Lost. You Are Wherever You Are. ~ Mihirini de Zoysa

Recently a story of a wooden boulder that bobbed along streams, rivers and seas taught me that I am not lost. An art exhibition taught me that framing is key to deep understanding.

This is how it happened.

I had never heard of David Nash, the British sculptor and encountered his work for the first time this summer when I visited his exhibition at the beautiful Kew Gardens in London.

I first wandered through the gardens, taking in the gardens and his wooden, iron and bronze sculptures dotted all over the garden. As someone who appreciates art, some of the work was interesting and dramatic, the way he had worked with material and the sheer size of it awed me. I appreciated his work even more when I went to the exhibition center and learnt about his work and the philosophy behind it.

What is striking about his work is how he makes art that stay in the landscape or art he makes by shaping living trees. I reflected later on that sometimes framing is so important in the way we appreciate what is presented to us. Aesthetically I appreciated his work, but appreciated it more when I grasped the conceptual, intellectual and spiritual context behind the art.

The piece of art that took my breath away was the one that was not displayed. Because no one knows where it is anymore.

In 1978 Nash was given a whole oak tree that had been damaged, to work with. Once he felled it, he found it difficult to move the boulder down the path to the place where it could be transported. So he pushed it in to the stream nearby hoping to retrieve it somewhere down stream. What follows is the remarkable journey of the boulder from there on as he tries to retrieve it, gives up and then watches it move forward or bob about in the same place for years. He recorded its journey up until 2008. This piece of art is presented in video form to those who visit the exhibition.

At the doorway to the room where the video replays, the story of the boulder is displayed. At the end of the writing it says, “In 2003 it disappeared and after a long search it was assumed to have gone into the sea. In 2008 it reappeared briefly in the estuary. It has not been seen since. It is not lost, it is where ever it is.”

“It is not lost, it is where ever it is.”

A whole level of meaning flooded my heart, my brain and my body.

I have been feeling lost for a while, for quite a while actually. I have been struggling to read the signposts. Some days I feel as if I have come to the same place I was before. Running in circles. Lost in a labyrinth. I groan when I think I am ‘here again’.

The familiarity is not always comforting. It is a feeling of not moving forward. Then sometimes it is some strange land, with unknown language. Going down dark alleys. Running towards what seemed like the light. Groping around in the dark or dazzled and spun by the light. I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Occasionally I would climb atop to get a lay of the land. Then when I climb down feel disoriented again.

“It is not lost, it is where it is.”

I suddenly realized, I am not lost, I am where ever I am.

I may not recognize the place, but the place knows me. The place has come to meet me, so that in time I may meet the place, knowingly. This teaches you to stay still when you think you are lost. The place can then reveal itself to you and know it and yourself intimately and you can reveal yourself to the place. The place can give you something. Nourish you. Hold you.

Patience is key though.

If you feel lost, it’s a good indication that you are here to learn a lesson. When the lesson is learned you will find yourself. You will know the place with all its nooks and crannies, valleys and hills, woods and deserts, rivers and seas. You will suddenly notice all the different openings, doorways, windows through which you can walk, fly or swim through on to a new place maybe.

On my return journey back home to Sri Lanka, I was still feeling lost. But I have stayed. Looked around. Observed. Had meaningful conversations with some, played with some, loved some, danced with some and fought with some or retreated from some. Watched with curiosity the goings on. Allowed the place to come to me, to reveal it self to me. I realized by doing this I was changing. The place and I were in an intimate conversation. Leaving our marks on each other.

The familiarity of ‘I am here again’ is less scary.

It means I knew how to deal with it before. I am also no longer the same person who was ‘here before’. I have changed and grown, and the ‘here again’ will be held and responded to differently. I am being ‘here’ with new eyes, with renewed heart, with rejuvenated strength and deeper wisdom. I know I must also be ‘here again’ because I have still more to learn from this place. My lesson is not over. I must stay the course.

The strange and unknown places are also less scary. Because I am now more excited to be here, be present, and curious and open to what I am yet to learn. The journey never ends. There is love and loss. There is learning and growth. And for all this you are better, stronger, more giving, more compassionate and loving, joyful to be alive. There is quietness. There is music. There is dancing. There is love. There is learning. This place I am can hold everything all at the same time.

I also realized that I often feel lost. This must mean that I travel a lot into myself and out of myself. I am often in new places and I return to old places. I revisit and know place all over again, differently. Feeling lost is a good thing. If you are not feeling lost, you maybe stuck in the same place. Never moving. Never growing. No new experiences. Just same old, same old.

On the other hand we are constantly moving, changing, nothing is constant, everything changes, that is the only thing that is always true and constant. If you are not noticing this, it must mean you have your eyes closed. Missing the journey. Missing the landscape. You have become weary and closed to the world. Then it is just same old same old even when it is not.

So feeling lost must be a good thing.

I am not lost. I am where ever I am.

I am the place. We are one. I leave myself behind in the place and take the place with me as I journey.

It is not a coincidence that before I visited Kew Gardens that I came across this advertisement at the Swiss Cottage tube station in London.

I am not lost. You are not lost.

Mihirini is a Leadership Coach, Organization Development consultant and a conversation facilitator. Her professional persona is projected through her company, Corporate Druids, and she is forever reinventing herself, her life and work and finding that she is showing up more and more at work as herself. An occasional poet and sporadic blogger, you will frequently find her daydreaming and reflecting and sometimes making dreams happen. She giggles and laughs often, especially at the cosmic jokes of life. Living in the tiny isle of Sri Lanka, with its incredible rich bio diversity and amazingly resilient people, where both the sublime and ridiculous can happen all at the same time, keeps her grounded with the reality of life.Learning from many failed and some delightfully successful conversations, she is committed to deepening her ongoing intimate conversation with herself, her family, friends, clients and nature, curiously engaged in creating and becoming the world around her. She is currently completing her PhD research at Ashridge School of Business, UK, focused on the Art of Conversation. You can write to her at [email protected] or read about her evolving thoughts and work on her website or follow her on Twitter.


Editor: Ryan Pinkard

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