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Planet Earth Needs a Flag

It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and of many changing shadows. Among them men get lost.”

—Black Elk

In my last post I wrote about what the sandpiper knows, the tiny bird that moves predictably with the unpredictable. No two waves are ever the same, yet the sandpiper scampers up and down them all with the intuition of a billion sunrises.

Well, here’s the end of that story . . .

The gravitational pull of the sun and the moon push and pull the ocean, combining with the winds of the planet to create waves both big and small. Those waves find a shore. On that shore there is a sandpiper whose movements are ultimately determined by those waves. So one could say, among other causations, that the sun and the moon each move the sandpiper.

On that same day, on that same beach, where those same waves met the shore, I inadvertently walked too close to that same sandpiper. And guess what? I, too, made him move.

This little tale of Kevin, the sun, and the moon moving the same sandpiper on the same day is the essence of seeing the oneness that surrounds, includes, and defines us all. This understanding begins with the recognition that I am attached, connected, and related to all the world. Like the sun, you also have the power to move sandpipers.

***

On that same beach, during that same day, I saw flags—American flags. Yet had I been on a similar beach 400 miles south, I would have seen Cuban flags. Had I then continued south another 200 miles, the flags would have been Jamaican, or 1,000 miles west, Mexican.

Regional flags are important, but they only tell half of the human story. Each of us is different, yet all of us are the same. We need flags that honor diversity, local tradition, and heritage, but we also need flags that advance unity and our shared–single planet society.

I have long maintained that division is the biggest business in the world. On a global scale nationalism is so institutionalized (by design, from birth) that we rarely give all those flags a second thought. Around the world there are 200 national flags (the exact number is always in flux, and it depends on who’s counting). For example, China doesn’t recognize Taiwan, but the people of Taiwan sure do.

Why so many flags?

It’s because when our species started out on foot, planet Earth was an unfathomably big place. When Columbus set sail in August of 1492, Europeans didn’t know that the Americas existed. As late as the 1860s, when Black Elk was a child, he had never seen a white person.

As knowledge, communication, and travel technology continue to advance, the distance between us shrinks. Yet today, even as our connectivity grows exponentially, we still rely on the old flags of distance and division to guide us.

Only 4 percent of humans are American. How does “America First” sound to the other 96 percent? Similarly, 82 percent of all people are not Chinese. How does the Chinese Communist Party’s mission of hegemony sound to the rest of the world?

So, when do we start flying a flag for all of us? Where’s our windblown symbol of oneness?

It turns out it’s here—just waiting to be used.

The International Flag of Planet Earth Organization (www.flagofplanetearth.com) exists for the simple yet transformative purpose of offering a single planetary flag that represents everyone.

“Symbols can create a powerful shift of perspective,” reads the organization’s website. “This flag is a symbol for Earth and an important reminder that we share this planet—with all of its challenges and possibilities.”

Symbols of regional heritage are healthy and important. I am proud of both the Maine state flag and the American flag. But if all the flags on Earth are regional and none are global, we’re going to continue to struggle with issues that require all of humanity to align and cooperate.

In Boston Commons recently a series of glowing signs were placed in the grass beside the walkway that runs east toward Faneuil Hall, not far from the ice-skating rink.

The innocuous markers posed a series of questions, such as Who owns the atmosphere? Each question was boundary-less and transcended national borders.

Many of our biggest challenges and opportunities are global. They require the attention of all humans. So, the question now becomes, how do we get organized to act planetarily? Viewed from space, all humans carry the same flag.

 

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. 

Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com

 




What the Sandpiper Knows

“We Indians think of the Earth and the whole universe as a never-ending circle, and in this circle, man is just another animal. The buffalo and the coyote are our brothers, the birds, our cousins. Even the tiniest ant, even a louse, even the smallest flower you can find, they are all relatives.”

—Jenny Leading Cloud

__________

He moved in perfect unison with the rhythm of the surf without looking up.

As the mighty ocean’s final layer of foam peaked, paused, and receded, the sandpiper pivoted and followed it back to its lowest point. Feeding all the while, the agile creature changed course again precisely before the next wave’s uphill surge. Over and over, this intimate dance repeated itself. No conscious thought or strategic planning was required. No weather forecasts or surf reports were needed. That little bird intuitively knew when to turn, advance, and retreat.

I’ve seen similar examples of complete synchronicity between seemingly disparate entities on numerous occasions, from animals large and small, during my frequent visits to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains. The horses, for example, know first and best when a severe storm is coming. They gather and huddle with their hindquarters facing the pending wind before any humans nearby detect that danger is in the air.

How does the sandpiper dance with the surf without looking up?

How do horses recognize what we can’t yet see, hear, or feel?

The answer is simple, in both cases: Their survival depends upon being attuned to the natural world that engulfs them.

Humans possess the same capabilities, but as we have systematically urbanized, mechanized, computerized, and televised across time, we’ve slowly given up this wisdom. Most of humanity has walked away from our connectivity to nature and, in so doing, we’ve abdicated the understandings that embracing our connectivity afford. Any indigenous community that lived and died with the wind and the tide for generations knew what the sandpipers and the horses know. Everything that exists in the universe is related and interconnected. Separateness, as we’ve come to experience it, is an illusion. Furthermore, seeing separateness where none exists has consequences. And we are paying them.

The Sioux call it Mitakuye Oyasin, which translates as “All things are one thing,” or “We are all brothers.” This understanding of oneness and connectivity was not limited to humans but rather included creatures and elements big and small. The wind, the rain, the buffalo, the eagle, the human—all of it is related.

Here’s the progression of awareness that Mitakuye Oyasin represents:

  • Everything that exists is interconnected and part of the whole. There is no separation.
  • This universal connectivity includes humans.
  • Damage to any part of that web of connectivity is damage to oneself and the whole. Conversely, kindness to any part of the web is kindness to oneself and the whole.

These principles redefine the fundamentals of winning and losing. In a universe where everything is connected, winning isn’t winning unless everyone is winning. Corporations don’t win if employees, customers, or the community lose. Democrats don’t win if Republicans lose in policymaking (and vice versa). If Christians win but Muslims lose (or vice versa), then both have lost.

This is the new self-awareness that comes with seeing oneness. Everything can be reduced to its tiniest particles of matter. In that infant form a cactus, a rock, and a human all consist of the same elementary stardust.

Why is this important? Because the majority of our societal ills are derived from seeing separation where none exists. Until we learn to see differently, we are destined to experience more of the same.

Science is only recently uncovering what ancient spiritual communities knew long ago: We are not perceiving what we experience; we are experiencing what we perceive. The world is divided only because we have learned to see it as such.

__________

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours.

Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com

Note: For a great, short book on seeing oneness, consider reading The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden.

 

 




#43 | JENNY AND ME

“Everyone is beautiful.”

— Ariana Grande

Jenny Edwards cleans and cares for the Hancock Lumber home office in Casco at night, after finishing her day job.

I work an odd collection of hours, which brings me into the office at night once or twice a week.

This is how Jenny and I met and then became friends a long time ago.

* * *

I’m six feet tall. Jenny is about five feet tall.

I’ve got a ways to go in my work career. Jenny is nearing the end of hers.

I’m the senior titled officer in the building. Jenny cleans the building.

I’ve had a lot of opportunity in my life, which I’ve tried to make good on. Jenny’s not had all the same opportunities, but she is a leader through and through.

There are a few things that make us different, but there’s a lot more that makes us the same.

* * *

Any evening when I pull into the office parking lot and see Jenny’s car there, I know what’s coming next. Somewhere near the stairway to the second floor, Jenny and I will invariably find each other. We smile, share a hug, and swap stories. Jenny always has a new story, and hers are better told than mine.

For me our periodic visits are about respect. I admire Jenny. She works all day and then comes to clean our home office at night. Lately she’s had some trouble with her eyesight and she lost one of her beloved dogs to old age, but she always finds the will to persevere.

Jenny does the kind of work that gets done when no one is watching, and she takes amazing pride in doing it right. No one claps when she finishes the bathrooms. No one cheers when she mops the floor. If you only worked during the day, you might never see her. You go home in the evening and the next day your office is clean. But it doesn’t just happen. Jenny comes and cleans it.

Often when I stop in she’ll tell me about a new cleaning supply she found that works better on this part of the office or the other. She’s always thinking about how to improve the maintenance and appearance of the building she cares for.

Jenny also sees the big picture and regularly imparts her wisdom. She thinks about our entire company, all sixteen sites and 600 people across Maine and New Hampshire. She’s proud of Hancock Lumber, and that gives me goose bumps when I stop to think about it. Jenny regularly encourages me through the handwritten Post-it notes she affixes to my desk.

Your father would be proud of you, read a recent one.

These values you’re promoting really make a difference, read another. People feel appreciated and respected here. I’ve worked places before where you don’t feel appreciated or empowered and it’s no fun. Keep it up!

I love hearing about your trips to Pine Ridge and the people there, read yet another. They’ve had it harder than we do, but they are just like us in the end.

The notes are uplifting, and I save each one for a few days before moving on. I take Jenny’s words to heart. I’ve made changes for the better at our company, thanks to her.

But there’s nothing like hearing a story from Jenny in person.

“So right before I was supposed to leave for work this morning, a chipmunk got in the house,” Jenny said as we stood under the old American flag on the second floor near my office. Her hands were moving and her eyes were wide. I felt as if I was right there in her home, watching it all unfold.

“Oh, jeez, what a show that was,” she continued. “The cat got chasing the chipmunk and the dog got chasing the cat. There were animals whirling and whizzing around everywhere. I had to go to work so I just left ’em all in there. We’ll straighten it out tonight once I get back and see who’s still alive.” She laughs.

That’s another trait I love about Jenny: She can look life right in the eye and stare it down or laugh it away, depending on which is called for. Jenny makes America better every day just by getting up, working hard, and being out in the world. She’s a participant, not a spectator. She competes. She stays in the game, even when it’s hard.

Jenny is proud, yet humble. I love seeing both traits equally alive in the same person. She’s proud of her company. She’s proud of me. She likely has no idea how much that means to me. In return, I’m proud of Jenny. I think she’s amazing. When the two of us are together, it’s not the CEO and the cleaning lady exchanging pleasantries; it’s two friends hanging out together, laughing and sharing stories, different, yet the same.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

—William McRaven

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the forty-third post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#42 | WHO’S DRIVING THE GOD TRUCK?

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

—Buddha

I was driving through Rapid City, South Dakota, when I saw him.

Cresting the rolling hill in front of me appeared an all-white Ford pickup truck with a giant cross towering over the cab. Streamers were attached and they danced in the wind as the vehicle came toward me in the opposite lane with a large banner that read “In God We Trust.”

“Yes,” I whispered to myself. “In GOD we trust. But that ultimately means in ME I must trust.”

We can call the creator “God,” which is the sacred name for the source of all that is. That source, it can be said, is divine.

Whatever created us is within us.  In this way, we each are divine.

In this way, God’s power is dispersed.  Each of us carries a spark of the divine, and this is why everyone and everything is sacred. I can find manifestations of God both beyond and within me. This is the spiritual interpretation of our place in the Universe.

Approached scientifically, I still arrive at the same end point. My parents created me and their DNA comprises me. My grandparents created them and so their presence is also within me. I can trace this science back to a theoretical point of origin. The first man and woman have a trace of their existence within me. We all go back to the source, and this holds true for all of Earth’s creatures.

On my most recent visit to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota I came upon the remains of a buffalo. The once-powerful animal was now a collection of milky white bones. His carcass had been consumed by other creatures, which sustained their lives. He was now within them. The rest was decaying back into the very grass that fed the buffalo. The creature was returning to its source.

Both the scientific research and the spiritual revelations point to the same conclusion: There is one source and we emanate from it before returning to it.

This truth is written everywhere for us to see.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, said the Lord.”

—Revelation 1:8

* * *

“Human beings and all living things are a coalescence of energy in a field of energy connected to every other thing in the world. This pulsating energy field is the central engine of our being and our consciousness.”

—Lynne McTaggart, The Field

* * *

“Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.”

—The First Law of Thermodynamics

* * *

“He who experiences the unity of life sees his own SELF in all beings, and all beings in his own SELF.”

—Buddha

* * *

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the Universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

—Black Elk

* * *

Science and spirituality are dual paths to a single truth. Everything that exists is connected. The source of that connectivity is within us all. So, yes, in God we trust and, therefore, in me I must trust, for I come from the source. I am a spark of the divine.

To hear that source within me I simply turn inward and listen to my heart, where the source resides. Unfortunately, “leaders” (religious, political, educational, business, and otherwise) have been mucking up our individual awakenings for centuries by convincing us that “power” lives somewhere out there, beyond us.

It’s time for both leaders and followers to transcend that self-serving narrative. God doesn’t collect power, she disperses it. The truth is, we are each driving a little God truck around Planet Earth. So, for heaven’s sake, take the wheel.

“What if God was one of us?”

—Joan Osborne

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the forty-second post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#35 | THE POWER OF PRAYER

“The function of prayer is not to influence God,
but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

—Soren Kierkegaard

Catherine, speaking only in Lakota, conversed with the buffalo scattered across the high grasslands of what is today Wind Cave National Park in present-day South Dakota.

The wind blew as it always does here, as the low dark clouds dragged themselves by. Whippoorwills sang and then answered their own calls. As each buffalo passed by, Catherine waved. These were not just unrelated and detached animals she was watching. The buffalo and the Lakota people have long been brothers and sisters. This was family, and as such, this was a reunion.

Despite this being traditional Lakota land, Catherine had never been to Wind Cave National Park, and it had been a long time since she’d been in the presence of buffalo. For Catherine, each buffalo was a related spirit, and she acknowledged them as such. Toward the end of our visit, she raised her hands in prayer. Eyes closed, she prayed . . . and she prayed. Given that her words were in Lakota, I understood nothing, yet I understood everything.

* * *

Catherine always prays. I’ve never spent a day with her, shared a meal with her, or exchanged a text message with her that did not involve prayer. Prayer is, for Catherine, central to how one navigates this world and embraces the next.

Catherine Grey Day was born on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Coming of age, she experienced firsthand the harshness of reservation life in the 1950s, as well as the tribal protests against the historic oppression of her people in the 1960s and ’70s. She attended boarding school where she was sent to be “remade” in the white person’s image.

As an adult Catherine escaped abuse, fleeing alone in the middle of the night from her home. She buried one son in his early twenties, and then a few years later, did the same for the other. She later opened clinics and safe houses for other native women escaping domestic abuse. She had homes, and was homeless. Catherine is simultaneously a realist and an optimist. In the same conversation she will laugh and she will cry. And all the while, she prays.

“I have many spirit guides,” Catherine once told me. “There are those I know and those I don’t recognize, but I talk and pray with them all. Some people think I’m crazy because I talk to them, but I don’t care. They’re with me all the time.

“Each morning, alone during coffee, I pray,” Catherine continues. “I pray for lots of people, so it takes a long time. Prayer is real. It’s heard by the spirit world and it travels as energy to those I am praying for. I pray for you, Kevin. I pray for your family and employees in Maine. I pray for everyone I know and care about. I even pray for those who have hurt me.”

* * *

 

I am a spiritualist who is also attracted to science. This dual interest has led me to realize that scientists and spiritualists are actually on the trail of the same universal truths.

One of my favorite books on this subject is The Field, by Lynne McTaggart. Her thesis is that all the energy of the Universe is actually connected by an invisible web of electromagnetic threads. There is no separation or detachment. What happens to one reverberates across all.

“During the past few years science and medicine have been converging with common sense, confirming a widespread belief that everything―especially the mind and the body―is far more connected than traditional physics ever allowed.  Our body extends electromagnetically beyond ourselves and it is within this field that we can find a remarkable new way of looking at health, sickness, memory, will, creativity, intuition, the soul, consciousness, and spirituality.”

-Lynn McTaggert

With this fresh scientific insight, let us revisit the indigenous commitment to prayer that Catherine espouses. Catherine has long understood that prayer is real. That it travels. That it is heard. That spirit responds. Prayer is connected. Its energy moves.

This spiritual understanding of prayer suddenly has a scientific underpinning. If all energy is connected, then that includes thought energy. In this context ideas would reverberate. Prayer, which is nothing more than deep, intentional thought, would therefore move with purpose across space and time.

The Lakota have long known that everything is connected. Mitakuye Oyasin, they say, which translates as “All things are one thing,” or “We are all brothers.” It is with this understanding that Catherine speaks to the buffalo and prays for their well-being.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Catherine, and I’m pretty sure she knows something about prayer that the rest of us could build upon. In fact, if my experiences at Pine Ridge have taught me anything, it’s that the old wisdom is the pathway toward new wisdom. So pray on Catherine, pray on.

 

“In the silence of the heart, God speaks.”

—Mother Teresa

______

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

______

This is the thirty-fifth post in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!




#21 | HOLD THAT DOOR

“Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration.”
—Margaret Chase Smith

It can feel overwhelming to take on the subject of advancing social harmony in a delicate and divided world.

So I went looking for a simple place to start . . .

* * *

The Circle K convenience store sits at the intersection of Route 26 and the North Raymond Road in Gray, Maine. The bustling facility straddles the most popular commuter routes north of Portland. On the weekends this same road can be just as crowded while serving as a prime thoroughfare to the mountains in winter, the lakes in summer, and the speedway on race nights. That little store is churning most of the time.

I frequent the Circle K, as it’s the first gas station between my house and the city of Portland. It’s a stop I make several times a week, and it’s here, a few years back, that a simple personal experiment was born.

At the Circle K I always hold the door for the next person to arrive or depart.

While holding a door for someone is meaningful, the gesture in and of itself is not enough to maximize its potential. Eye contact and a head nod tip the split-second exchange into an act of courtesy and shared humanity.

I’ve now held that glass-and-metal door dozens and dozens of times, and the outcome is virtually always the same.

“Thank you,” says the stranger coming my way, already standing a bit taller by virtue of being acknowledged and respected.

“Have a good day,” I reply.

“Same,” says the stranger at the door.

I’ve trained myself to pay close attention to the otherwise imperceptible changes that often follow. The mood, energy, stride, and demeanor of the person frequently shifts in that moment. A self-occupied, detached, or hurried edge is broken and replaced by a spark of connectivity. If you weren’t watching with care it would be easy to miss, but it’s there. Humanity softened.

Awareness, in and of itself, is a powerful act.

* * *

I’ve made over twenty trips from Maine to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in the past ten years. The people of that community are amazing. It’s a place of great cultural, historic, and social significance where much can be learned. It’s also statistically the poorest place in America, where the hard edge of our colonialism still leaves tracks.

People often ask me what I do when I go there. For years I would struggle to provide an adequate answer because my presence always felt so small. Eventually I just started telling the truth (always a good move in the end).

“I don’t really do anything there,” I now say. “I just travel around the reservation and hang out with the people I know there.”

It took a while for me to realize that this is enough. Connectivity and intentional presence are meaningful in and of themselves. I see you. I know you’re here. I think you’re important. I value your existence. I’m interested in you.

This is my friend Catherine Grey Day. I see her every time I go to Pine Ridge. When we are together I just sit and listen to her amazing thoughts, stories, triumphs, and challenges. That’s it. That’s all I do.

Pine Ridge was originally constructed as a remote and marginalized community in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The founding purpose was to isolate the Oglala Sioux and other tribes from white society until they could be “remade” and reintroduced. The people of Pine Ridge today have transcended those genocidal origins and made the reservation their own, but that’s how it all started.

Acknowledging the presence and sacredness of another is a small gesture that, repeated consistently, can change the world. Courtesy is one of those behaviors that is easy to adopt and, unfortunately, easy to forgo. Courtesy is one conscious choice of the self-awareness.

What if everyone on earth felt trusted, respected, valued, and heard? What might change?

I think everything might change. Enabling such a transformation is within our collective reach. Seven billion humans practicing simple acts of kindness would make for a good start.

So the next time you’re pulling in or out of a convenience store, yield to the driver in front of you, pause for the passersby, and above all else when you enter the building, hold that door.

* * *

Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Nestled between our differences lies our future.

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
—Dalai Lama

___________

This is the twenty-first in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin Hancock to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021, in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk.



#6 | CIRCLES AND SQUARES

2021 IDEA-SHARING ADVENTURE SERIES BY KEVIN HANCOCK

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. The sky is round, and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls, birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

—Black Elk

The remains of old Fort Fetterman sit high above the North Platte River at a point just north of Douglas, Wyoming. It’s a cold fall day as I pull my dust-covered rental truck into the inconspicuous gravel parking lot. No other vehicles are in sight. The fort is closed, which is my favorite time to visit.

The abandoned forts, trails, and battle sites commemorating the nineteenth century on the northern plains are best visited alone. It is in silence that these windswept artifacts tell their stories about the winning—and the losing—of the American West.

I pull my wool hat down over my ears as I ascend the ridge before me that conceals the remains of the fort. My Lakota medicine wheel necklace bounces gently on my sweater as I walk. Tumbleweeds dance and dart in front of me. The wind and my footsteps are the only sounds. I am facing north toward the Bighorn Mountains, toward the Little Bighorn River, and toward the Montana goldfields that created the necessity for this fort and the Bozeman Trail that passed through it.

Parade grounds sit at the center of all the Western forts I have visited. As I follow their sharp edges with my eyes, I can’t help but think how closely related a square is to a circle. All that is required is to bend the corners.

The abandoned flagpole and supporting metal guide wires whistle in the wind. My feet crunch with each step on the narrow gravel path. Without thinking, I begin walking more aggressively and deliberately so that I can hear that sound, the sound of marching. I move in rhythm, accentuating each step down the faint outline of the old parade grounds. I am in no hurry. I have nowhere to go.

Circles and squares define the northern plains. Nature makes the circles, and men—a product of nature themselves—then turn them into squares.

The hills roll.

The rivers bend.

The grass swirls.

The seasons come and go.

Day turns to night.

Life emerges and then fades.

It’s all a circle.

Yet the plains today are equally dominated by squares.

From the air you see property divided, square after square.

Houses are square and fence posts travel in straight lines.

To the Sioux and other plains tribes the circle is sacred, for that is how life travels.

There is much to be gained from seeing the circles that surround and define us all. While no two human journeys are ever the same, our lives do share a pattern that nature’s rhythm commands.

Consciousness itself is a circle. We are born full of innocence. The time and place of our birth then begins to pull on us and makes its mark. Eventually we come of age and the opportunity to awaken presents itself. Our degree of consciousness then defines our experience until we return to our place of origin and rejoin the innocence, which is also the place of knowing.

Consciousness is the state of being awake and aware. Birth is the invitation to acquire it. But to gain consciousness we must know where to look. In a world full of chaos and distractions we must learn to look within ourselves, where consciousness resides.

Consciousness once created can never be destroyed. We carry it back with us and gift it to the collective human memory and the shared learning of the Universe. Even consciousness—or the lack thereof—travels in a circle.

“We Indians think of the Earth and the whole universe as a never-ending circle, and in this circle, man is just another animal. The buffalo and the coyote are our brothers; the birds, our cousins. Even the tiniest ant, even a louse, even the smallest flower you can find, they are all relatives.”

—Jenny Leading Cloud

* * *
Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.

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This is the sixth in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!