by Thomas Cary Kinder
What is waiting in your Golden Room? A surprise, probably.
Often the EVOKE Life Planning process turns up surprises:
A successful business executive goes through EVOKE to help plan for retirement and uncovers an old secret dream to run a bait and tackle shop, and no one is more surprised than she is at the joy it brings her.
A man uses Life Planning to help plan the next phase of his career, which is to launch a nonprofit to address global poverty, only to discover that before he can undertake any major new enterprise he needs to reconcile with his father. He is surprised to discover how much that pain is draining his vigor. He sees how valuable his father’s wisdom and support could be as he confronts the obstacles it will take all his vigor to overcome. It could delay his launch date, but there is no question he needs to do it. The Life Planning focuses on how he will go about it, and sets aside exploring the nonprofit path for later.
The first time I went through the EVOKE process I was a pastor who had been overworking for years and was on the brink of total burnout. My Life Planner was the Yoda of all Life Planners, but even he could not help me get through my exhaustion, bitterness and hopelessness to find the light in my heart’s core. We flailed around in impenetrable shadow until finally I nearly screamed that I just wanted to run away to a cabin in the woods and have everyone leave me alone.
Surprise! I am writing in that cabin now, where I have come to meditate and write and be rejuvenated many times a week for ten years, thanks to a sabbatical grant from the Louisville Institute and Lilly Endowment that enabled me to build it.
The forest around this cabin has been logged over the years, and there are stump sprouts–clumps of as many as five trees growing in a tight circle around where a tree was cut. Other trees have fallen and rotted where they lay and a line of trees has sprouted up fed by the rot.
We come to a transition point in our lives and may envision the tree that will rise out of the old life, but other things may need to grow first. Surprises may pop out of our Golden Room. We look down and see not a sapling but a vigorous clump of mushrooms, and if that is what we find, that is what we need to do, trusting that either we will discover our greatest fulfillment in this unexpected direction or that this is what the universe or Spirit needs of us now, and it will lead to something else.
The EVOKE Life Planning process calls the light we find in our Golden Room a Torch. A Life Planner crafts the vision that we find in our heart’s core into a Torch that will lead us along our path. Torches are not forever, though; one Torch leads to another. The Golden Room is a place of flow, with new inspiration delivered daily and with even major life directions taking turns for some of us sometimes.
The Golden Room life is one of delight and surprise because Frederick Buechner’s famous definition of Vocation is so true: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (from his book Wishful Thinking.)
The key we need is to develop the practice of asking, “What is waiting for me in my Golden Room now?” Contemplative skills of inner awareness and Life Planning skills of Exploration and Vision help us find the answer—sometimes surprising, but true.