Friday, May 11, 2018

A Void that Won't be Filled

The physical structure of the universe is love - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things - Pope Francis 

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love. 
A glimpse of pure love - Ogden Nash


Lynette and I can attest to the fact that grieving for the loss of a pet is tough. On the evening of 20th April, Pongo, our little boy miniature Yorkie, was killed. From being SO alive, he was suddenly so dead. The incomprehensible happened.

I had put his sister, Perdita in the car in the driveway (which is right next to the garden gate), and before I could reach down for Pongo, he slipped out and hurtled towards a dog across the road and straight into a speeding car. He was killed instantly.  I can still hear that awful thud. I still see myself screaming his name and rushing over to pick him up. He stayed warm and soft and cuddly for what seemed like ages, bled through three layers of my clothing to the spot where my heart is.  A neighbour fetched Lynette from her place of work and she was also able to hold and cuddle him. 

I feel guilt. I’ve been in a dwaal since then (Dwaal is an Afrikaans word for being in a daze, not present, unfocused, meandering, lost), and weepy. The doc prescribed some chill pills and they help. I teach others how to build resilience to change and adversity, but haven’t shown much myself.   


Pongo shadowed us and brought love and joy for 9 years. We bonded from 'day one' - "... the bond you form with that animal is irresistible, inexplicable, indefinable, and unbreakable".(1)   He was a spirited, inquisitive and ever-present companion. 24/7.  We miss him. Perdita (who hid under the car seat when she heard the accident bang) is lonely. 

We remember things like his melancholy look but joyful demeanour. His macho trot (He was about 20 cm tall and weighed a little over 3 kgs but acted as if he was 2m tall and weghed over100kg). If he took the lead down a known path, he would periodically stop to look around and make sure that we were following. When his tail wagged his whole body wagged. Every morning he came along to feed the garden birds. He’d push his toy box with his paw if he wanted to play, push his food bowl if he wanted more. Push the koi fish down if they came too close to the surface for his liking. Pawed us for attention if he wanted his chest and tummy scratched. Pawed the sliding door if he wanted it opened so that he could go outside. Even pushed the tortoises to stop them from fighting. He would lie on our clothes while waiting for us to finish showering or bathing. 

During the night Pongo would stand between me and my bedside table if he wanted water. He was very attuned to us, sensitive to our expressions, gestures, body language and voice changes – and would raise his ears, cock his head when trying to understand what we were saying to him. He had a knack of calming us if we were uptight. And he was extremely protective of us. 
If we were lying down or seated, he had a habit of throwing himself down to lie next to us, always making close body contact with a gentle bump. 

During Lynette’s time of being off work for nearly three years with depression, Pongo never left her side, was therapy. A ministry. In recent years as he got older, Pongo did slow down a bit – for example, he had a bit more difficulty jumping up onto the couch. 

On the afternoon that he died he did something that he hadn’t done for over two years – he brought a ball to me, pushed it around with his paws, and barked at me until I played ball with him. Thinking back, it seems like a goodbye gesture.  


Theologians debate and argue finer points, in the process sometimes losing essential meaning: for example, should we believe in infant or believer’s baptism, use water or not, and if so should the act be one of immersion, pouring, sprinkling ……..?   I have no wish to enter into nor invite any intellectual debate about a pet’s soul, spirit, capacity to reason, show real love (not attributed by nor projected by us humans), doing wilful wrong,.... Or having a place in 'heaven' or the afterlife (however we define or understand it). Because we are told otherwise by 'learned' people - who claim to know not only about body and mind but also have the answers to all soul and spirit matters.

They offer thoughts such as: humans have individual, 'rational' souls that survive death, and animals have only lesser, 'sensitive' souls or collective (non-individual) souls. An anthropocentric view to say the least ....

This is what we learned, experienced and grew to believe during our relationship with Pongo:

He was a wonderful, God-created being. He learned. Adapted his behaviour. Trusted fully. Expressed his emotions. (Carl Jung sensed that “Even domestic animals, to whom we erroneously deny a conscience, have complexes and moral reactions”, (2) and the young Jung recorded, “Because they are so closely akin to us and share our unknowingness, I loved all warm-blooded animals who have souls like ourselves and with whom, so I thought, we have an instinctive understanding”.) (3). 

Pongo loved unconditionally, consistently, transcendentally, and knew no deceit, only total transparency and honesty.  

We had times of uninterrupted, complete present-moment shared connection, clarity, peace, purity, an interchange of consciousness (which is a natural and shared thing). In this context Eckhart Tolle has referred to dogs as “guardians of our being”.(4)  They help us to be more mindful, and to practice and develop a greater capacity for love. I think that they teach us, in our digital, lonely and alienated world, the characteristics of attention, affection, and unbounded joy. 
(Neuroscientists say that distracting one’s brain in this way frees it to subconsciously get on with other crucial stuff without being hampered in any way, but rather, in a focused, more productive manner)


Can relationships (including one with a pet companion) continue after the ‘boundary’ of death has been crossed - not to cling to something that has passed, but to experience a release into something better? 
In the Creator’s “… hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 7:10) and surely His life, spirit and love are contained in every aspect of nature and all living beings?   Man and animals have been interconnected from the start, and will remain so.  Call me a heretic but I believe that although the physical 

Pongo may be gone, yet his spiritedness/ energy/ love/ essence/ memory/ presence/ his “thisness” (to use a word coined by the theologian-philosopher Duns Scotus), are still part of the evolving universe.  In terms of the new quantum physics, are matter and spirit not one and the same (as in the Genesis story and some New Testament miracles)? 

Richard Rohr is clear that “each living thing reveals some aspect of God …. 
When you love something, you grant it soul, you see its soul, and you let its soul touch yours. You must love something deeply to know its soul…. Before the resonance of love, you are largely blind to the meaning, value, and power of ordinary things to “save” you—to help you live in union with the source of all being. In fact, until you can appreciate and even delight in the soul of other things, even trees and animals, I doubt if you have discovered your own soul either. Soul knows soul”. (5)

For us Pongo acted as a bridge that connected the secular to the sacred.

The Pope has said “… all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast. In union with all creatures, we journey through this land seeking God”. (6) 

Sister, Professor Ilia Delio, writing eloquently from the heart about the death of her cat: “Mango was ensouled…. divine mystery is expressed in each concrete existence. Soul is the mirror of creaturely relatedness that reflects the vitality of divine Love ….  Soul existence is expressed in the language of love ...
Teilhard de Chardin realized that the prime energy of the universe is love, unitive energy that unites center to center, generating more being and life. Love is not a thought or an idea, it is the transcendent dimension of life itself, that which reaches out to another, touches the other and is touched by the other…
If God is love then the vitality of love, even the love of a furry creature, is the dynamic presence of God… the Spirit of God is present in love … his (Mango’s) core love-energy will endure. His life has been inscribed on mine; the memory of his life is entangled with my own. My heart grieves for my little brother, my faithful companion, but I believe we are intertwined forever and shall be reunited in God’s eternal embrace”. (7)    Yes!


Pongo lived to the full and then died suddenly without being subject to any suffering. Lynette and I are grateful for that.

We identify with what actor Jimmy Stewart said about the void left by his dog Beau: “After he died there were a lot of nights when I was certain that I could feel him get into bed beside me and I would reach out and pat his head….   But he's not there.  Oh, how I wish that wasn't so ….”  (8)

To cut through the horrible images of the way Pongo was killed, hurtling into a speeding car - every time this replays in my mind I deliberately trigger substitute images – and imagine him bounding towards, to play with St Francis, the patron saint of nature and animals (who called animals his brothers and sisters).  For me this is a helpful fantasy-reality.  I am trying a somatics practice to counter depression, by stroking Pongo against my chest when I feel teary. He is in my heart and my heart knows.  Sometimes I will look deeply at his picture to go beyond the intellectual and access the inherent God-sourced qualities that he (He) kept on giving and giving, and still does – to ‘see’ with the heart.   
A clinical psychologist has wisely suggested that I write Pongo a letter ….
And I recall the words of an old Vera Lynn song:
“We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when” ...................  (9)

And just maybe there is something in this Wintley Phipp's quote: “It is in the quiet crucible of your personal private suffering that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you’ve been through”

1. Walsch, Neale Donald   FaceBook  March 17th, 2013  
2. Jung, C.G. Civilization in Transition (Collected Works Volume 10) Translated by Adler, Gerhard &   Hull, R.F.C     Bollingen Foundation/ Princeton University Press   1964
3. Jung, C.G   Memories Dreams, Reflections, Recorded and edited by Aniela JaffĂ©. Translated from the German by Richard & Clara Winston Flamingo, 1990.
4.Tolle, Eckhart    … giving pointers on letting your dog go
5.Rohr, Richard  Newsletter 11th March, 2018 ; Nature Is Ensouled
6.Pope Francis  Encyclical    Laudato Si: 47 and 244
7. Delio, Ilia Prof     Brother Mango and Eternal Life
9. Parker, Ross & Charles, Hugh  (1939)    We’ll Meet Again

Saturday, March 17, 2018

HR in SL: guidelines

Jesus: “…I am among you as one who serves” - Luke 22:27

"My life is my message” - Mahatma Gandhi

In servant leader organizations a dedicated Human Resource department or presence can contribute to its success or failure in a big way.  


Shifting the metanarrative is the area where meaningful, transformative leadership operates.  Humanity’s recent narrative (relatively speaking) has contained elements of material abundance; simple, linear, direct cause and effect; dualistic logic; the religious overriding the spiritual; the scientific overriding the spiritual, (patriarchal) order and control; and all that is non-paradoxical.  A struggle for survival of the fittest pervades every area of our existence. Based on her biological observations, Elisabet Sahtouris paints a picture of beliefs informed and shaped by this scientific worldview.  Societies and most businesses are “conceived, organized and run as hierarchical mechanics”.  Even so-called ‘free’ markets are regulated to serve narrow interests.  (Sahtouris, 2005)
Our cosmological, theological and sociological belief systems seem to be well out of line with recent findings (ironically, mainly scientific) that indicate a slowly emerging new, overarching metanarrative. A different narrative that contains elements of the holistic, of mutually dependent, interconnected and continuously evolving ecosystems. (All life) sustainable systems characterised by complexity and the ability to self-organise, by non-dualism, freedom and belonging.  A story where science and spirituality no longer collide.  Hence more voices are being raised to herald a ‘new consciousness’.

At a more micro level, Ross et al give a good account of how in recent times leadership and management behaviours are beginning to shift, how servant leader organizations are an antidote to traditional, mechanistic organizations. (Ross et al, 2014).  A narrative that is being    reframed. But toxic, old-style organizations still exist and are in the majority. Toxic leadership is a multidimensional construct that includes elements of abusive supervision along with narcissism, authoritarianism, self-promotion, and unpredictability” (Ross et al, 2014 citing Dobbs, 2014, p. 15).   We can clearly see these elements in politics, business and other societal institutions – at every level.

It is in this context that we have issued articles on mature agent-based ethics, spiritual governance and leadership, higher purpose and meaning, love at work, the influencing power of compassion, sources of true happiness, sustainability, and various models and branches of spiritual leadership and virtuous organizations. It is in this context that we have witnessed the resurgence of servant leadership in new guises. A response to a world in turmoil. A shift from the conventional, traditional, what needs to change – to the spiritual.


The servant leadership approach is not doormat leadership. It is founded on sound psychological, spiritual, practical principles.  Putting on a larger mind (metanoia) the servant leader is not self-serving, but self-emptying (kenosis) and other-serving. Forming and building relationships in order to equip others to meet the organization’s and its member’s needs, goals and purpose.  “Honest and caring concern for others leads to empowerment and emotional support which inspires the members to embrace the needs of the organization and creates a learning environment that is conducive to producing optimal performance from their employees”. (Ross et al, 2014)

Essential differences in philosophy and operation between the traditional and the spiritual, are:


Machine age operations contain the potential for toxic workplaces. “…. Certain organizations with rigid hierarchical structures like the military had characteristics of subordination and abusive control”.  (Ross et al, 2014 citing Schmidt, 2014)

By contrast the serving, stewarding leader, “more than any style of leadership …. addresses the psychological needs of people within an organisation”. (van Dierendonck, 2011) Indeed, addresses the whole person: physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. And a large body of research points to the success of pioneering servant leader organizations, both large and small.


It can be argued that the leader at the top, supported by those in the line, are what makes it all happen. Having said that, in medium to larger organisations, next to the CEO, the Head of HR is the most important appointment in any organisation wanting to establish, maintain and enhance a servant leader culture.

Wisdom from Holly Culhane, CEO and Founder of Presence Point, Inc.: “Having spent 30 years in strategic HR, I have a deep belief that when the executive leadership team of an organization is on board with supporting a servant leadership culture, it is HR's role is to help develop and coach people around what that looks like, how to live it, and how to hold folks accountable to it.  At the very least, it is HR's role to demonstrate servant leadership throughout the organization”.
In support of this contention:

  •        Shirley Bullard (Chief Administrative Officer, Ken Blanchard Companies) mantra was “putting the other person first while exercising leadership”. Non-self-serving actions but rather other-serving actions (role-modelled in HR) means putting employees first, taking care of them, making them the stars (heroes of the story) – and always thinking, feeling and acting congruently. Ken’s new book on servant leadership appears in the bibliography. (Blanchard & Broadwell (Eds), 2018)

·   It is being recognized that “…the needs in the work environment, and therefore the appropriate  set of strategies for successful HR management, are rapidly changing” (Marques, 2005) and “There is a heightening expectation … that HR will shift its role from simply providing the delivery mechanism to become a new business driver of change” and “Understanding the spiritual will become an important part of workplace human development”. (Marques, 2005 citing Anonymous, 2001)

The HR function, in service of and following line policies, play a major role in, amongst other things:

  •          Helping to heal hurting workplaces. “Father Tredget, a former businessman, translates this responsibility as follows: ‘There are far too many damaged people in workplaces up and down this country’” and “A spiritually-friendly workplace will have greater staff-retention rates, so lowering recruitment costs. It will see an increase in creativity and innovation, improved morale, better cooperation and teamwork and a superior interface between the organization and its customers”. (Marques, 2005 citing Anonymous, 2001)   HR can show the way to establishing safe, empowering workplaces, to orchestrating spaces and places as incubators of individual spirituality. They can display warmth, role-model serving as part of a spiritual culture (“…there are positive and meaningful correlations between spiritual leadership indices and human resource development” – Saeedi et al, 2013), broaden thinking around environmental, social and economic sustainability, act as custodians of the organization’s virtues development, help members reach a solid home/society/work balance (without compartmentalizing) and a healthy lifestyle integration, offer a counselling and coaching resource. HR can contribute to healthy or toxic organizations (Ross et al, 2014)

  •          Assisting leaders, aspiring leaders and others to discover themselves – a primary need (For example the programme of purpose, leading, and mastery that we offer in response to a desire for a purpose and meaning package by leaders).

Our programme aligns with leadership learning to “… avoid the toxic side of leadership by gaining a sense of self, build on strengths and weaknesses through feedback and reflection, and look for trust within their organization”. (Ross et al, 2014, citing Bolman & Deal, 2009). It is a learning programme that goes far beyond “education”.  

  •          Embracing diversity as diversity increases in workplaces in all its forms (to facilitate tolerance, acceptance and appreciation. And to improve the organization’s capacity to solve problems, make decisions, master sense-making, build true community, and to respond more nimbly and quickly to threats, changes and innovation needs)

  •          Recruiting, on-boarding and developing people characteristics and potential, above and as well as their skills, knowledge, experience

  •          Proactively developing employees’ higher purpose and related virtues (in line with those of the organization)

Indeed, What part of the organization is more involved in the human factor and, hence, in human connection, work-life balance, personal growth, and meaning at work, than the Human Resource department?”  (Marques, 2005)
In performing these functions, HR contribute importantly to providing:

  •          A secure, safe, relational and engaged workplace
  •          An overall atmosphere and activities that support a servant leadership culture
  •          An enviable reputation
  •          A longer term triple bottom line to be proud of


·         In carrying out their functions in a servant leader context, HR should take every effort to set up collaborative, across-department projects, because projects are fertile ground for fostering spirituality.  Adapting, utilizing and spreading the esprit de corps that is so often present in small project teams (and which may include spiritual elements such as purpose and meaning, authentic relationships, belonging and bonding, responsibility and trust, adventure and discovery, intrinsic satisfaction, meaningful cultural and social interactions…..) (Sense & Fernando, 2010; Aronson et al, 2001; Ashmos & Duchon, 2000)

·         Orchestrate conversations that allow for the addressing of key topics in a safe, inclusive and empowering environment (See and )

·         Network with like-minded organizations in your vicinity to share ways of overcoming resistances and blockages, lip service, new findings, things that work

·         Appreciate the value and potential contribution to all aspects of the business of deeper mindfulness, and the deft application of story, imagery and metaphor       

So, in your organization which narrative will you feed?

The practice of SLHRM is challenging in both the servant leader and greater leadership world. We will face great moral temptations to adopt instrumental standards to achieve success. It requires great character strength to resist the powerful incentives to compromise our values. The human heart is deceptive, and we fail to see the traps, snares, and value compromises that on the surface appear righteous. It is important for SLHRM organizations to work collaboratively to create a culture of virtuous motives, means, and ends in all aspects of HR practice. These enclaves demonstrate the love and power of servant leadership as a viable alternative to instrumental leadership worldviews. However, regrettably, even some SLHRM-espousing organizations practice SLHRM principles and the Golden Rule with less passion and faithfulness than non-adherents do”. (Roberts, 2014)


Aronson, Zvi H.; Lechler, Thomas; Reilly, Richard R.; Shenhar, Aaron J. (Stevens Institute of Technology) (2001) Project Spirit - A Strategic Concept Published in Management of Engineering and Technology (Publisher: IEEE)

Ashmos, Donde P & Duchon, Dennis (University of Texas at San Antonio) (2000)  Spirituality at Work: a conceptualization and measure Journal of Management Inquiry. Vol 9 No. 2 June 2000 134-145 © Sage Publications, Inc.

Blanchard, Ken & Broadwell, Renee (2018) Servant Leadership in Action: how you can achieve great relationships and results Berrett-Koehler Publishers Oakland, California

Culhane, Holly J. (2018) Private email correspondence with the author

Marques, Joan (2005) HR’s Crucial Role in the Establishment of Spirituality in the Workplace The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge  Vol 7  Num  2  September, 2005
Citing Anonymous (2001) HR specialists “will lead e-business” Human resource Management International Digest, 9 (1) 29

Roberts, Gary (Regent University, Virginia) (2014) Servant Leader Human Resource Management Organizational Integrity. A chapter in Servant Leader Human Resource Management: a moral and spiritual perspective  Palgrave MacMillan NY
Ross, David B; Matteson, Rande & Exposito, Julie (2014) Servant Leadership to Toxic Leadership: power of influence over power of control Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler college of Education
Citing Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2009). Battles and beliefs: Rethinking the roles of today’s leaders. Leadership in Action, 29(5), 14-18.
Citing Dobbs, J. M. (2014). The relationship between perceived toxic leadership styles, leader effectiveness, and organizational cynicism. Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3575052)
Citing Schmidt, A. A. (2014). An examination of toxic leadership, job outcomes, and the impact of military deployment. Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3627674)

Saeedi, Nima; Amidzadeh, Mozhgan; Nadoushan, Mohammed Ebrahim Sabbaghi and Hosseini, Ali Asghar (2013) Studying the Influence of Spiritual Leadership on Human Resource Development (Case Study: An Iranian Company)  Elixir International Journal, Human Resource Management 56 (2013) 13467-13470

Sahtouris, Elisabet, PhD (2005) The Biology of Business; new laws of nature reveal a better way for business An expanded version of an article that originally appeared in VIA Journal, Vol three, Number One, Summer 2005

Sense, Andrew J & Fernando, Mario (School of Management and Marketing, Faculty of Commerce, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, 2522, Australia) (2010) The spiritual identity of projects International Journal of Project Management 29 (2011) 504–513 © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. and IPMA. All rights reserved.

Van Dierendonck, Dirk (2011) (Professor of Human Resource Management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University)   6 Key Servant Leader Attributes  IEDP

Saturday, March 10, 2018

CULTURESCAN : changing culture using conversation circles offers a large number of  business topics that may be used in a unique process:

Some idea of the sorts of topics covered by