This past weekend we were keeping two of our grandsons, who are 3½ and 1½ years old. In the midst of a gray, misty, and cold day – and a tinge of the Holidays in the air – we decided we wanted to take the boys for some Christmas fun. While there was a plethora of over-priced options from which to choose, we decided to simply take a nostalgic (for us, not for them!) journey back to “the mall.”
It is one of these malls that may be on their last breath. Two of the four anchor stores have been gone for a while – in fact, the Sears has been completely leveled and now replaced by a nice apartment complex. Yet, we knew this mall was still giving it everything they could muster, especially during the Holiday Season. And because of that, we knew their decorations, the massive Christmas tree, the huge and brightly lit classic carousel, and the little train that rides throughout the mall were all poised and waiting to bring pure joy to these two little boys.
And a joy it was!
As we moved through all we had anticipated and a crowd pleasingly larger than we thought it would be, I had a surprising realization – I miss the mall. I thought back to the opening of the very first mall in my original hometown of Memphis, TN. It was a big deal in every way and filled with an air of innovation. The very thought of every desirable store all under one roof felt like the be all and end all of convenience – efficient, effective, diverse … yet, all together. Long lost memories of packed malls, overflowing parking lots, a holiday buzz creating a spirit from which you were defenseless, and a sense of real community filled me as we navigated our way from train to carousel and to the tree that, through young eyes, certainly seemed to be filled with magic. Yet, none of this stirred through me the next morning when I saw the Amazon truck buzzing through our neighborhood anonymously dropping brown boxes from porch to porch.
The image of the concept of the mall stayed with me long after the boys had gone home – a place quite diverse in the particulars, yet community as a whole. Many different stores, while at the same time just one place. One experience. A living metaphor of the essence of being non-dualistic.
Not this or that, but all together one.
The cognitive expression of non-dualistic thinking is the ability to perceive and understand issues without dividing them into binary opposites. Hence, we call it “the mall.” The concept seems vague, but the implications in our daily lives – personal and professional – are profound. There is nothing that we think, say, or do that isn’t impacted by this concept – be it leadership, teamwork, relationships, mental health, or the authentic nature of the mystery of our spiritual journey.
There is perceived “comfort” in dualistic thinking – this or that, right or wrong, black and white. The illusion of us and them diminishes our fears – or so it seems. The division it causes keeps differences at a distance and takes us further and further into sameness – rather than deeper and deeper into awe and wonder. Options narrow, while innovation diminishes, allowing judgment and pride to flourish.
While fear seems to subside, ironically, frustration and anxiety increasingly have their way with us. Rather than accepting things as they are, we busy ourselves forcing everything and everyone into predefined categories. We eventually can’t print labels fast enough. Flow ceases. Function is replaced by malfunction. Competition manifests itself in unhealthy ways – eventually winning at all costs.
Dualism diminishes the depth of leaders, the effectiveness of parents, the quality of mentors, the authenticity of lifetime friendships and the very experience of our own personal life journey. It builds walls that divide while claiming to build community. Non-dualism is different – embracing what is different – not because it is different, but because it is.
It’s like a porch inviting you to come sit as you are.
Non-dualism breeds a healthy acceptance and nourishes the art of letting go. When I first conceived the idea of this newsletter, I named it The Porch with one idea in mind – that it would be a place to gather to ponder the issues of business and life. I always wanted it to be a place that uncomfortably broadened perspectives rather than bringing the comfort that narrow thinking tries to sell. From the moment I made the very difficult decision to leave my 18-year career at Arthur Andersen until this moment 27 years later – my hope, whether in my speaking or writing, was not to tell others what to think, but to create an experience that simply got people thinking (hopefully in ways yet explored). I know I have certainly failed at that hope from time-to-time, but I stay committed to it as my journey continues.
As I write these final words of a “newsletter” that I have so enjoyed sharing, over 250 issues strong, I embrace this sense of non-dualism in creatively looking forward to what this upcoming spring will birth in its place. I’m grateful to the hundreds who have sat with me month-to-month on this porch and hope that you will continue to come along to what comes next. It could very well be a breath of fresh air that non-dualistically speaks into who you are, how you are, wherever you are.
Perhaps it will give you the ability to see the magic experienced through the eyes of little boys who look up to a Christmas tree that seems bigger than life in a mall that is likely to fall – making way for something new.
In the meantime, may your Holiday Season be filled with unexpected magic and joy. Merry Christmas.
As always, I would love for you to share your thoughts below!