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Working Wood & Working

I have recently been pondering the challenges of mindfully starting a mindful startup - and there will be more on that coming soon. First, though, this weekend happened, bringing with it a bit of clarity and perspective.

A good friend/colleague and I managed to be in the same place at the same time - a campground in beautiful upstate New York. A fellow talking stick making devotee, this colleague and I are planning some upcoming creative reflective retreats and other projects, and we needed some face-to-face time to get things moving. What better setting, we thought, than campfires, good food, and lots of wood.

After arriving and settling in, one of the first things we did was go for a walk. We tramped particularly through the wooded section of the campground, chatting while intentionally scanning for potential talking stick wood along the way. We picked up a few pieces here and there until we spotted a very promising bit that happened to be attached to a fallen tree blocking our path. After rending the most interesting branch from the rest of the tree with our bare hands, realizing in the process that we’d be alright if we somehow found ourselves stranded in the forest, we tromped back to the campsite with two long branches carried on our shoulders and a few other tidbits in our hands. A borrowed saw and some elbow grease later and we had a promising pile of potential talking sticks. We each chose a piece and set to it.

What followed was three days of some of the most enjoyable work both of us can remember, accompanied by nightly campfires, music, and the peak of berry season with bowlfuls of fresh strawberries and blueberries from local and regional farms. We spent hours working the wood, visioning projects, and discussing plans. When a computer was required, we alternated who took notes and who worked wood. The synchronicity and connection was remarkable. What began with our hands and knives falling into step with each other as we whittled grew into minds on the exact same page bringing affirmation, challenging questions, different perspectives, and alternative ideas. Our hands were always busy, and our minds were free to linger in the space of inspired innovation as we worked through problems and obstacles.

I have many thoughts on how to mindfully start a mindful startup, but perhaps the first step is practicing what you preach. We often talk of self care and reflective practice as a way to rejuvenate from the pressures of our work. How often do we consider the possibility for reflective practice to facilitate our work? Probably not often enough and, based on my experience this weekend, we are definitely missing valuable opportunities.

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