I have been asked to take a few minutes to summarize my eight years (give or take) in a board leadership position with Veriditas. The years 2006 to 2014 (more or less) were interesting years to lead any kind of organization much less a non-profit organization whose goal is to change the whole world by supporting the reemergence of a centuries old archetypal symbol.
It is probably no coincidence that when I first engaged the labyrinth in the early 90’s at this very location that my life was in place where I had managed to survive my youth (barely) and had found a focus and direction for myself in organizational and leadership development work. It seems every step of the way that as I learned and grew into the disciplines that have shaped most all of my adult life I also grew to understand and accept the labyrinth as metaphor and practice that informed my personal development.
I use the word coincidence loosely knowing that it is not an accurate word when it comes to thinking or talking about the labyrinth. In fact it’s truer than not that at this point in my life I don’t believe in coincidence and that I am far more likely to accept what appears to be coincidence as the invisible alignment of energies and forces I know to exist but cannot prove.
That would be for me the very definition of faith.
My faith is well grounded in the understanding that something larger than ourselves is constantly emerging all around us in every moment taking shape and form.
And my faith is that order emerges and that emergence is best illustrated by time and the universe unfolding in every moment and the building blocks of matter entering our lives at the subatomic level taking form and creating shape. I believe that all of this is constantly flowing around us and that all of this unfolding and all of this emergence converges into a kind of coherence that forms what we calls systems that become organizations or tribes or cities, schools or countries or corporations or all of the other forms that allow us to collectively engage each other.
And we take these emergent creations and we make choices about them and through those choices we make about systems we create our history and our history becomes the stories that we tell ourselves about how we came to be who we really are.
So this is my story
I became active as a leader in Veriditas at a change collectively known in the Veriditas History as “the firestorm” . Somewhere around Easter 2004, sudden changes were made in the organization in order for it to survive. Veriditas was radically downsized, staff was laid off and the departure from Grace Cathedral was in the works.
At the same time technological innovations under way produced the first version of the Veriditas List Serve and the changes that were being made instantly became visible with all sorts of activity surfacing.
It was a challenging time for Veriditas, yet as I entered the picture what I saw was an organization that had been wildly successful in meeting its original vision of “peppering the planet” with labyrinths, in fact in the first ten years known labyrinths had grown from a few hundred to several thousand and that number continues to expand.
Looking closer I realized that Veriditas was an organization in transition and also an organization that had probably outgrown its original vision with a newer vision struggling to emerge a new chapter wanting to be born.
So I engaged the Board in 2004 became a Board member in 2005 and shortly thereafter became Board Chair and began the process of facilitating the emergence of the next phase of Veriditas.
One of the ways we did this was to hold a board planning session in Marge McCarthy’s kitchen in Santa Fe New Mexico where we thoughtfully created a new vision for Veriditas.
Simply stated the new strategic vision was to deepen and broaden the work of Veriditas. Many steps were associated with this statement including getting our own retreat center, developing Master Teachers, creating a broader range of Veriditas trainings and offerings, supporting the then emerging Council and developing product lines.
I am proud to say that these accomplishments were in some form or version achieved, not without struggle at times but always putting one foot in front of the other trusting the unfolding of the path we came to a different place.
That’s was not all though. One of the first things we did was recruit and hire Dawn Matheny as the first standalone Executive Director. The second thing we did was survive.
No one saw the great recession coming, a recession that caused the disappearance of thousands of nonprofit organizations and the realignment of millions of lives and frankly I have never tried to lead an organization that stood so close to the precipice for so long.
Several things got us through, first and foremost is the generosity of those connected to Veriditas and the Labyrinth, in deed in all of its history the existence, growth and development of this organization could have only happened through the generosity of spirit of thousands of people.
Secondly is a combination of skills and competencies shared by board members volunteers, staff and Lauren. Dawn brought a detailed eye to every expenditure and every financial decision we made, literally down to the penny, and often her ability to get paid hung in that balance, Barbara Ludlum who gave us a wonderful set of financial tools that helped us understand how our money worked, Barbara also gave us wonderful financial advice which we defied at every turn but continuing to exist. Lauren was always there to remind us of why we were doing what we did, and so many Board Members gave and continue to give so much of their time and resources and wisdom to help guide and decide our future.
Third is a deep commitment to service. I remember a conversation with Judith Tripp when I was explaining what I thought I wanted from the Labyrinth she responded by saying ‘that’s wonderful Gary, but what does the Labyrinth want from you?
Over the course of my time here with Veriditas one of the great transformational pieces of thinking for me is that in this work every one of us serves the Labyrinth and how it wants to be in the world not how we want it to be.
It is a dance in which we are engaged, it is emergence it is unfolding and it is our path through what appears to be a chaotic world that is for me embodied in the labyrinth and path that unfolds before us.
And for all of the challenges, all of the hard work make no mistake that this is a joyous dance of celebration. When we step back and reflect on the work that has emerged, like the global healing response or the legacy labyrinth project, or all of the local gatherings and regional efforts we see a work of beauty of love and commitment as we weave a world wide web of connection. We see vision having become manifest and we see that what we want and what the labyrinth wants has a place in this world and will continue to do so.
And finally it is that surrender to the understanding that we serve the labyrinth that brings us all too where we are today. Many things are changing, again as we are confronted with a post-recession world and changes in leadership at Veriditas. And my wish for our future is that we can continue to find a way to both serve and surrender and that we never lose sight of the beauty of what we do.
And really as in all things it is a question of balance a question of holding on and letting go. For somewhere on the path is the nexus between practicality and wonder and our future is dependent upon our finding a way to stand in that place letting life emerge around us and keep us in that place of balance and have the wisdom to let the Labyrinth be as it needs to be.
It has been for me a remarkable journey to this day as I stand before you telling my piece of the story of the history of Veriditas and describing how I as a leader have been transformed through this work and have found new ways of walking the path through uncertainty to life and love and transcendence that live on the far side of fear. It is through my work with the labyrinth that I have found my faith in life and emergence and unseen order and found my way to serve a life giving goddess whose front door looks a whole lot like a labyrinth.