Tao-inspired agility and meditation

Agility and Taoism: Yin and Yang

The first Agile Manifesto was written a long time ago. About 2,500 years ago to be precise…

Agility is the art of reactivity, of empathy with customer needs, of transparency, and mainly a way to swim and thrive in a world that keeps changing, where yesterday’s requirements do not match today’s needs. In other words, the art of delivering a project in the now, of being constantly aware and reactive to the current needs of the customer and the current state of the project and team.

An agile product lives in the present.

The “agile way of working” prizes reacting to reality over sticking to a plan. It profits greatly from short feedback loops that sample reality and then adjust plans.

One of the most visible by-products of working in such a way is happiness — happiness of employees, customers, and a happier organisation.

Another by-product is alignment — once everyone is connected to reality, there is less friction and misunderstanding.

Ancient Taoism, Buddhism, and — in recent years — Mindfulness are similar in both purpose and by-products.

They are all different ways of existing in the present and responding to it, of appreciating the richness of the now and diminish the value of living the memories of the past or worrying about the imagined future.

And their by-products are astonishingly similar: personal happiness and a sense of harmony, a common universal goal.

When asked who are the agile figures that inspire me, although many names come to mind, the one on top and the most influential agile coach I know is Lao-Tzu, the author of the book of Tao, most often called Tao Te Ching.

The way I read the story of Lao-Tzu (6th–5th century BCE), it is the story of someone who lived  by agile principles while trying to help an organization far more complex than any modern-day mega enterprises: the Chinese Empire.

Just like a modern-day agile coach, he understood that to change things fast, you have to move slowly. Just like a modern-day agile coach, his words were not always comforting. Just like a modern-day agile coach, he dealt with artificial structures and rigid belief-systems. And just like a modern-day agile coach, his guidance and advice was not always well-accepted.

I am excited to dedicate the upcoming Happy Melly week to applying the teachings of Lao-Tzu in our daily life!

Hope you join me and enjoy the journey.

Some helpful resources:

Your meditation challenges

As for the challenges I propose, you will find below the introducing verse to Taoism and four other verses. I invite you to take a day for each to see how they resonate with your daily routine, and whether these meditations allow you to view your work day (or non-work day) in a different light.

When going moderately, everything happens fast

Day One Challenge: Unity (An Introduction to the Tao)

Read through or listen through this post. (you can do both in parallel)

The theme of this day is Unity. For Day One, look at your teams, the people you work with, the work-space. And see them as one.
Look for where the separation is not necessary:

  • Is the mood of one team member, her tone of voice, her energy all really totally hers? Or are they part of the team’s changing state?
  • Are all your meetings — be they formal or coffee talks — separate? Or are they interconnected?
  • Are all your projects really separate? Or are they fragments of a bigger mission?

Today I invite you to broaden your vision, to see the bigger entity that is your day, the even bigger entity which is your workplace, and the bigger entity that consists of you, your day, your workplace, and all that surrounds you.
At the end of the day, when all the pieces of the day’s puzzle are put together, erase the seams that connect the pieces, and look at the single big picture that surfaces.

On a practical level, read verse No. 1 (in this same post) two or three times during the day, each time looking at your surroundings.


Day Two Challenge: Detachment

(click to listen)

LET THINGS BE (Verse 23)

Just like the wind
that never blows without ceasing
Just like the rain
that never falls without an end
So speech should be occasional
and not without a break

If even heaven and earth do not over extend
Why should our speech

A person of integrity
becomes one with The Truth
One who sees only the negative
becomes one with defeat

your self image
becomes your life’s destiny

One who follows the path of Tao
Will be greeted by goodness and virtue
And the Tao will always light their path

As for one who clings to the dreadful
Dreadfulness will happily open its door
And welcome them

If

You

Do not

Believe

In yourself

Others

Will hardly

Believe

In you

Today I invite you to a day of intended silence. When you feel the urge to speak, pause for a second, take a deep breath, and, while breathing, ask yourself:

  • Is what I am about to say necessary?
  • Is it constructive?

Allow yourself not to say it, strive to say less.

Tips:

  • Use a notebook, write down what you wanted to say. You can also note down if not saying what you intended had an important negative impact on the conversation. Would the conversation have been improved had you intervened?
  • Keep it personal, it is your exercise: you may notice whether the intervention of others was meaningful or not, but do not carry the intention of criticizing them.

Day Three Challenge: Humbleness

(click to listen)

HUMBLENESS (Verse 24)

Standing on your toes
is not a solid stance
Walking with spread legs
is not a firm walk

One who is showing off
Boasts, praises and admires oneself
Is only standing on tiptoes
Or wobbles like a duck

The arrogant

Can not

Last

Many

Days


Overdoing

In speech

Or deeds

Can’t be

Tolerated

For long

Today’s challenge is humbleness.

For just one day, I want you to turn on your humbleness dial, to contribute without anyone knowing — how about putting a surprise box of cookies in the kitchen while no one is looking?

How much pride do you feel? Can you let it go?

Do you see yourself or your contribution as more important than the people around you? Do you really know better than them?


Day Four Challenge: Not Knowing

(click to listen)

THE DISEASE (Verse 71)

Knowing the inexistence of knowledge
is the highest knowledge there is

Yet a great disease
It is to be blind
and to think that you see

To Not know
and to think that knowledge exists

In a place where all are sick
Even a healthy person
looks pale

Once

You

Admit

You

Are

Blind

 

Perhaps

You won’t

See


But

At least

You won’t

Have

The

Disease

 

This is my favorite verse…

Your challenge of today is to challenge meaning.

When someone talks with confidence, observe:

  • Do they believe they know what they talk about? do you think they do?
  • When you talk with confidence, how sure are you that what you talk about is true?
  • Where is the truth? does it exist? is it constant?

Just like before, the intention is not to judge others, but to search for insights. Does the Taoist view resonate with your daily observations?

Last Day challenge: Conclusion

(click to listen)

CONCLUSION (verse 81)

True words are not* beautiful
Beautiful words are not the truth

The good person does not argue
Those who argue are not good

One who knows is not a great scholar
Great scholars do not know

The wise does not** accumulate
And helps others as much as one can
The more you give
The richer you will grow

Tao

Of heaven

To heal

Not

To harm


Tao

Of the Wise

To do

Not

To complain

(*)not” , to be read throughout the verse as “not necessarily”.

(**) from here on – “not” means “not”  😉

Today’s challenge:

  1. Read back the past challenges, review your notes (if you made some).
  2. Think back of the week and appreciate what you’ve learnt.
  3. Take a deep breath.
  4. Smile.
  5. Share your insights

I am grateful you walked this path with me.

You may now call yourself an SCT — a Self-Certified Taoist.

In case you want to discuss this post, don’t hesitate to drop me a note! (You can find my contact by clicking on my profile.) Or write a the comments below.

Dov’s challenge is part of a bigger month of happiness challenges. Each week this September, one of our Happy Melly members will be counting down the final four steps of 12 Ways to Happiness: meditation, hiking, experiencing new things, and socializing. Check back each Monday for a new challenge. Become a Happy Melly member and join our experiments and feedback cycles!

Photo: WikipediaBlog Footer

Comments

  1. A question on Unity (day 1) and the sentence “Are all your meetings — be they formal or coffee talks — separate? Or are they interconnected?”: I don’t get it.
    — Could you explain me the sentence with other words?
    — Or could you explain what is the desired state? Is it interconnected? To which extend?

    Comment by Christian Delez on September 7, 2017 at 6:03 AM

  2. ure!

    The team’s day can be viewed as a series of events: a meeting here, an incident there, a coffee break, a talk with someone.
    They can also be viewed as a whole, imagine your team’s day as a big dance of people, the morning standup (for example) ripples to the next event, chained to the next, etc.

    Just like you can artificially separate a meeting in your mind to a few mini meetings.

    Since we are used to separate, today I invite you to see the whole, to visualise the whole day as one team meeting where you went from room to room, sat at your desks, interacted on different level.

    Try to see the one big picture.

    The ‘desired’ state is a state of mind. the desired state is your *ability* to switch viewpoints. to observe your team, your day and your world as a whole. I invite you to practice that since we seldom have the practice of seeing the unity, we have the habit to separate.

    The *desired* result is your ability to switch viewpoints so you perceive reality better.

    From experience, once you see several levels at the same time, your insights are much richer and insightful.

    Comment by Dov Tsal on September 7, 2017 at 6:36 AM

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