Magdalena Bak-Maier, PhD – What You Seek Is Seeking You

Seeking: the real magic and joy of what can be at times a pretty frustrating process

It is easy to assume that the universe is against us especially when what we want somehow eludes us. Have you ever been in a situation where something you desperately wanted or were working towards seemed within reach, only to recede into distance? Frustrating! I call this the ‘false magic corner’ experience of seeking.

The magic corner is that place or time where things begin to go ‘our way’— it may be a certain job we want, a level of recognition, feeling of true love, sense of security, feeling of peace or calm or a resolution to a specific situation. It isn’t necessarily about (certainly for most, if not all) things we seek to give rise to, entirely new quests riddled with numerous unknowns.

I have been in this place many times: aware of working very hard towards that something and keeping myself motivated by that magic corner, be it the place of “one more try;” “another step;” or that “final stretch.” But it never was. The journey seemed to always take far longer than I supposed. Eventually, things fell into place but my impatience often got in the way. Impatience, however, would inevitably arise and make the process less enjoyable. My mind focused on noticing what was missing or wasn’t there instead of appreciating what was. My heart grieved for me instead of buzzing with joy of curiosity and opportunity to experience what was.

"For Tomorrow" by John Zinsser

The odd thing was that as soon as I turned the magic corner there was a new one on the horizon. The process repeated enough to make me notice how exhausted I was by it. So for me, the quest became a journey into mastering my own impatience and getting to know myself a lot better. In the process, I realized that the things I thought I wanted (and still want) come at their own time and that the richest gift is not what I seek, but the process that is taking me towards it.

Perhaps this is why I find working with leaders on journeys so thrilling. It is a space of learning that is extremely productive and deeply transformative. I have loads of empathy for the impatience many of my clients carry within themselves. Some may have been struggling with it for a while, a few their entire lives. Many are immensely capable and ambitious, so any postponement of what they want can easily frustrate or cause profound distress. They may think as I did: “Why is everything so hard for me?”

Exploring philosophy and eastern traditions over the last two years has been extremely enriching, personally and professionally. In particular, the writings of Rumi, the readings of Sufism, Ayruveda and Hindu texts. One of the most profound quotes is below:

 What you seek is seeking you – Rumi

If I am working with a group, I will often invite a short period of silence in which to consider the wisdom within the phrase; it is like a magical self-healing balm in which one can apply over any frustration an overachiever or sufferer may carry. And the longer one considers it, the more potent it becomes.

For me the power of this phrase lies in the way it touches people’s minds as well as their hearts. On a cognitive level, Rumi invites us into the possibility of another reality in which what we seek is not difficult or elusive. In fact, it is seeking us with as much energy as we seek it. For many, this alone creates a new possibility and relieves much frustration and impatience. For others, it can even lead to larger questions about whether what they seek is what they really want as the quote implies that this thing we seek is doing work, too. This can be unnerving as it makes the likelihood of arriving at the magic corner more plausible.

On an emotional level, the phrase seems to touch and awaken the heart by appealing to the sense of connection or even communion implied between the seeker and what is being sought. It makes it seem inevitable that the two shall meet on an emotional level, thus, awakening all sorts of reactions from pleasure and joy to mild anxiety and fear.

Much of coaching is based on an equally powerful question: “What is it that you (the client) seek, really?” which I can’t help but feel connects with Rumi’s wisdom. Clarifying what we are seeking paves the way for a stronger connecting path between it and us. It also necessitates that we begin to get curious about why we seek that as opposed to many other things, or what we seek will enable for us. In my 1:1 work we often call these ecological questions. Both questions are not easy to answer. Often behind initial clarity lies uncertainty or further questions, explorations, journeys or quests.

So let’s say that we embrace Rumi’s wisdom and accept that what we seek is indeed seeking us. Lets also assume that we manage to clarify for our clients and/or ourselves what it is that we seek and what makes us seek it in the first place— we are still not anywhere near the magic corner though we have managed to turn a significant corner in ourselves. The work helps us arrive at an interesting point of responsibility and self-knowledge that, in my work, often translates into the following question for the seeker who is still seeking: “How am I getting, in my own way, what I seek?”

For many of my clients and in my own life, the true answer to this question is a watershed moment where the doorway towards discovery, learning and real progress happens.

I find these three lines of explorations beautifully intertwined, eye opening and deeply transformational:

– What you seek is seeking you

– What is it that I seek?

– How am I getting, in my own way, what/who I seek?

Seeking helps me dance with joy in life, whatever may be going on. It helps to remind me of the possibility of something unexpected, the responsibility I carry for my actions and quests, and how available or unavailable I am making myself to the world around me. It illustrates the power behind a mind and heart set on fire with belief, trust and faith that being present to what is in the now indeed creates the future I desire.

I invite you to sit with Rumi’s words and let the feelings and thoughts it awakens in your mind and heart speak to you. If you want to share them with us on this blog, please do. I am curious about its power in your life.

Magdalena Bak-Maier, PhD | Get Productive!

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