1. Introduction: Thoughts for Reflection and Discussion
2. The Path Begins: Inviting the Soul to Work
3. Beowulf: Power and Vulnerability in the Workplace
4. Fire in the Earth: Toward a Grounded Creativity
5. Fire in the Voice: Speaking Out at Work
6. Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge: Innocence and Experience in Corporate
7. Taking the Homeward Road: The Soul at Midlife
8. Coleridge and Complexity: Facing What is Sweet and What is Terrible
9. The Soul of the World: Toward an Ecological Imagination
Thoughts for Reflection and Discussion
I wrote The Heart Aroused hoping it would be read in two ways.
First, as a good story about the difficulties and dramas of preserving the soul
at work--in short, a page-turner; second, as a book that could be studied,
contemplated, and discussed with others. I wanted the book to be both a
private, almost secret journey mapping unspoken contours of the human heart and
a public document stirring us to conversations that might help us to reimagine
ourselves more fully in the workplace.
To that end, in the spirit of a user's guide for the paperback edition, I have
put forward the following assertions and questions as points of discussion and
self-questioning for each chapter.
THE PATH BEGINS: Inviting the Soul to Work
Understanding our work and destiny in life does not mean figuring out a
preordained path for ourselves, but understanding the essential aspects of our
own nature that we make room for and then celebrate and elaborate in useful
Q. What is my heart's desire in life? What are some of the particularities of
the way I like to live? What are the essential qualities that give me a sense
of belonging? How can work be a good servant to my essential nature instead of
The word destiny is generally used in the context of the great figures of
history: Joan of Arc, Madam Curie, Winston Churchill.
Q. What would it take to start using the word destiny in the context of
my own life and daily work? How do I grant magnificence to my own journey? How
do I see the constraints, responsibilities, and weights on my life as gateways
rather than barriers to the life I want for myself?
We spend far more time in the workplace than we do with our families, in our
places of worship, or out in the natural world. If we are not asking questions
of our work that are germane to our personal destiny, we are attempting to live
out our lives in the 10 or 15 percent of the waking time left to us. Most of
that time is in recovery mode.
Q. How do I bring into my work the questions about my own destiny that
enliven, embolden, and perhaps even scare me a little? What questions do I need
to ask secretly and alone and what questions need support and conversation?
Beowulf: Power and Vulnerability in the Workplace
Our notions of what is professional behavior and what is not almost
always inhibit a full appraisal of the underground currents running through our
work and our organizations.
Q. What is my own equivalent of Grendel's mother? What clues or hints do I
have as to what I find difficult to confront about myself? What are the things
I find difficult to face about my own relationship to my work? What
conversational waters must I enter that seem dark and fearful to me? What
conversations are unspoken taboos in my organization? What is Grendel's mother
for my organization?
Q. Who are the people in the workplace with whom I can discuss matters of the
heart? If I do not have a confidant in my workplace, where do I have the
conversations that matter?
Fire in the Earth: Toward a Grounded Creativity
Creativity involves a vital and often fiery participation in life that
does not meld easily with our wishes for control and safety.
Q. How often do I refuse the first steps toward my creativity because I am not
sure who will emerge at the other end? What are my favorite ways of sabotaging
myself? What does "fire" feel like in my own life? When I think of my own
creativity in full flow, what days or hours of my life do I remember? If I
could imagine my own creativity at full flow, how do I imagine or anticipate it
would show itself? Having read the story of the Chinese potter at the end of
the chapter, what is the work that would bake me to perfection? What is the
part of myself that I have been holding back?
FIRE IN THE VOICE: Speaking Out At Work
The voice is a powerful arbiter of our inner life, our power
relationships with others, and a touchstone of faith in the life we wish to
Q. What are the essential qualities conveyed by my voice? Is my voice strong
enough to represent the inner core of my aspirations to the outer world? What
are my mouse sounds? What are my lion sounds? Having read the story beginning
this chapter, what story could I tell from my own life to illustrate a time I
said Ten instead of Zero? How could I practice leading my voice out into my
world and my workplace more fully? How well do I say No to the things for which
I do not have a Yes? When in my own life did No blossom into Yes?
FIONN AND THE SALMON OF KNOWLEDGE: Innocence and Experience in Corporate
Experience is not gained by erasing our sense of innocence. Our
innocence in effect is our willingness to see the world, not as a problem to be
solved, but as a profound mystery to be lived and experienced.
Q. How much of my day is spent trying to solve the problem and problems of
life? How much of my day is spent attempting to live out the mystery of my
existence? How much alone time do I give myself for this exploration? How much
of my time with others (children, spouse, friends, colleagues) am I truly
The soul's journey begins when it understands the true nature of its aloneness,
when it understands that it has, in effect, been orphaned.
Q. Taking this image of the orphan as a catalyst for my own thoughts, what
would I want to claim as my true inheritance? By whom would I
like to be raised? What is my lineage? Who are the people, writers, teachers,
artists--alive or dead--who have both emboldened and steadied me? What names
would I shout out if confronted by Call Mac Cona, so as to be recognized and
Our abilities in the world of strategy and control are meant to be a good
servant to, not the master of, the soul's desires. Fionn's instincts took him
to the clearing where the hard work of-catching the Salmon of Knowledge had
already been completed.
Q. What does this story mean to me? How do I distinguish between passivity and
following my heart's desires into the clearing? Do my strategic abilities serve
me well or am I continually serving them? Do I believe I can have the life I
want if only I can figure it out or be clever enough? What does it mean to love
doing something? How much do I think I am stealing time when I am tending to
the things I love? How willing am I to place the people, places, and things I
love first, not only in my home life, but in my work life too? How well have I
preserved my innocence?
TAKING THE HOMEWARD ROAD: The Soul at Midlife
We take the road of midlife not as the beginning of disengagement and
retirement but as a newer and more profound path to meaningful work, the work
of belonging in a deeper way to those people and things we have taken so long
to learn to love.
Q. If I am anticipating midlife but have not yet arrived there, what are the
images I have of myself around fifty? How do I want to feel in my body? What do
I want to have achieved? Who do I want to have become? If I have reached
midlife, what image do I carry of myself? How do I feel in my body? What do I
feel I have achieved? Who have I become?
If in your mind it was possible to take a year's sabbatical from work to
reassess your life, what would you do and where would you go? What questions
would you like to answer for yourself?
What are my images of retirement? Do I see myself suddenly stepping over a
threshold where I will no longer want to work in the same way? The age
requirement for retirement is arbitrary and certainly not tailored to the
individual. What other measures will I use to help determine my own destiny
when I reach the thresholds normally associated with retirement?
What does Solomon's wisdom mean to me in my own life? What does each line of
his advice mean for me?
Don't leave the old road for a new one! Don't meddle in other people's
affairs! Save your anger for the following day!
COLERIDGE AND COMPLEXITY: Facing What Is Sweet and What Is
The new science of complexity echoes the wisdom long passed down in the
poetic tradition. The way to build a poem, a life, or a lifelike and useful
system is to fold meaning into the simplest elements and allow complexity to
emerge from their natural self-generation .
Q. If I were asked to state the basic principles of my life in the simplest
and clearest way possible, how would I articulate them? How much resemblance
does my daily work life bear toward these principles? How well does my
organization embody the things I deem most important? How do I remember these
simple elements on a daily basis; what disciplines do I have for remembering
them? How much quiet time do I make for myself in order to remember?
Remembering my own life means having faith in the imagination--the images that
literally emerge inside myself in order to make sense of the often complex
images that surround me.
Q. How much time do I spend imagining? What does it mean to have faith in my
own images? What is one abiding image inside me in which I could choose to have
faith? When chaos reigns around me, how do I react? What instinctual internal
images could make a difference to my response? How do I work with others
without forming a flock?
The Soul of the World: Toward an Ecological Imagination
The first step toward preserving the soul in our individual lives is to
admit that the world has a soul also, and is somehow participating with us in
our work and destiny.
Q. How much attention do I pay to the world around me? How self-preoccupied am
I? Do I let anything in from the outside at all? How self-preoccupied is my
organization? How do I see other people in my organization--are they just a
moving backdrop to my own drama or do I really take time to see they have lives
and destinies of their own? How much time do I spend in the natural world or in
environments outside the world of work that help me put my own struggles in
The mythologist Joseph Campbell said "You must have a room or a certain hour of
the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don't know what
you owe anybody or what they owe you--but a place where you can simply
experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be..."
Q. What is that place, that room, that certain time of the day in my own