Story

A flurry of questions fired at…

Where are you at?
I’m on some kind of threshold. Liminal space. And I’m trying to work out whether this is the passage to some place new, or whether I have to get used to living on the threshold. We are, after all, caught between a world that is passing, and a world that is to come. Uncertainty rules.

To be more specific, I’m working out how to make my vocation my living. Helping people to look beneath the surface of their lives. I woke up one night with the word ECHOSOUNDER emblazoned on… my spirit, I guess. It wasn’t on the wall or in my head, but it was just there. And I realised this was for me; it’s what I do. I help people to see that it’s OK to look beneath the surface, and while there’s always a shark or a wreck lurking, there’s also treasure down there somewhere.

But I’ve got to lead by example – so I’m trying to develop a daily ritual or routine, which integrates exercise, reading, contemplation, even gardening… Cooking to come. I think lots of people are awakening to the possibilities of ‘the new monastic’ or whatever you want to call it.

It’s an exciting time.

Text and books and jots & scrolls… what words are working for you right now?
I’ve learned so much from Eckhart Tolle, and at the same time, from Christians who offer a pathway into the weird space of the mystic. Richard Rohr rocks my world. John O’Donohue helped set me on the journey… I was lucky enough to interview him at Greenbelt two years ago, not long before he died. He was a hero to me. He spoke this beautiful phrase into being, about ‘overhearing yourself’. I didn’t know what he meant, but I set off in pursuit of it, and discovered Rohr and Tolle and Meister Eckhart and Evelyn Underhill and Merton et al along the way.

Eugene Peterson is one of my greatest inspirations, in terms of his way with words (and the Word). As well as Mike Riddell.

Eco or ego?
I almost joined climate camp this year, at least for the swoop, but wimped out at the last moment. Eco is crucial; but ego: therein lies the greatest battle of all. If we can attend to the ego first, eco will follow, I believe. We won’t feel compelled to compare ourselves relentlessly with our neighbour only to find ourselves wanting, wanting, wanting. We have to lay down our insecurities, our weapons of defence and attack, our reluctance to settle into the long now of the present.

As we do, I think we will begin to discover what it means to live truly sustainable lives. If it’s not too late, that is. Less is more. I am no longer impressed with your large car or house. I am impressed with people whose lives tell an eloquent story of engagement with our times.

We’re all on a cruise. Are you rocking the boat?
If I am, it’s probably because it’s a very small boat and I can’t sit still, that’s all. These days, I prefer to think it’s a question of awakening people to the possibilities of life at a deeper level of meaning. It’s more of a gentle nudge on the shoulder than anything. You don’t have to try too hard, either. I think a lot of people are hungry for more; they want to become part of the solution, not the problem. They just don’t always know how. Do you? Do I?

Is it time to send an SoS?

Yes. Especially about the planet. We have to change. But we have to want to change first.

Bread, wine plus….?
People. Preferably a deep community of people. I wish, I wish.

Are you in touch with your roots?
Yes. I grew up in Kent and my mum and dad still live in the house I was born in. And I support Gillingham FC, so that keeps me going ‘home’. I ended up in the north London/Watford area for about 15 years and realised I’d set down some roots there, too. My two children were born there, and when you come to move, you discover just how embedded you’ve become. I found it painful to go. But sometimes you need to be replanted, to give your roots better soil, more space, all that.

Having been in Winchester for only two years, it makes me feel a little rootless again for some reason. I was very touched by a book called Utopian Dreams by Tobias Jones. I interviewed him for Church Times and was deeply impressed by his desire for authentic community and what that might really mean or look like.

5 course meal, or quick picnic?
I always get restless after the first course, and I can’t stand the way meal times can get so pretentious, especially in a place like Winchester. I can’t stand the small talk and trivia which wraps itself around the culture of ‘dinner parties’. Yuk. But I also am beginning to realise that meal times are deeply significant and important, and so I am working out what that can mean in terms of building community here (see above). I want our kitchen to become a hospitable place and I’m hoping this autumn we’ll do something called Soup Kitchen, where we open our house to neighbours to discuss global issues and local action, over some slow cooked soup. Fancy a bowl?

Is it time we stopped talking about ’emerging church’?
I never liked the phrase, but I appreciate it’s been helpful. I’ve always been paranoid that churches would label themselves as ‘emerging’ when all they’d done was use some pretty powerpoint slides and serve coffee and doughnuts. But I think that people like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren are an absolute God-send and have helped to inspire a deeper movement than we might otherwise have hoped for.

I was very proud of what the little communities I belonged to – Live On Planet Earth and l8r – contributed to the alternative worship movement, but I was always so depressed about alt.worship’s shoe-gazing misery too. If you got more than 40 people along to a service it seemed as if you were selling out. So I’m glad things have broadened out a bit, and have generally become more positive and upbeat. Alt.worship was so crucial – without it, emerging church would not have emerged. But some folk got way too stuck at the deconstruction end of the process. The task of reconstruction is just as important – and it’s good to be doing that with all sorts of different travellers along the road of fath and life; not just postmodern disaffected creatives like myself.

Pull on those walking boots – where are your feet taking you?
Across the gorgeous Hampshire countryside. I’m so lucky to be surrounded with wonderful, peaceful land around here. But all roads lead to the sea, in the end. They have to. You have to look to a clear horizon and wonder what’s out there.

The inevitable i-pod question…
Turn it off. Hush now. Listen for the silence behind the music.

Ben10. Metaphor for evolution of post-christendom spirituality or just strange plastic toys?
I’m afraid I’m very cynical about any childrens’ TV shows that see children as a target market for selling stickers and toys and all that. So yes, that’s just about every programme going. I haven’t watched Ben 10 yet but I dislike the fact that my 5 year old boy can’t stop talking about it, despite never having watched an episode himself.

Spiritual intelligence, what’s that?
The most exciting development in ages, which helps all sorts of people and organisations, including business, to think more deeply about how we live our life, & what difference we can make. Danah Zohar coined the phrase – she argues (from neuroscientific discoveries recently) that there are three fundamental intelligences – rational (IQ), emotional (EQ) and spiritual (SQ). She has made it legitimate for the business world to talk about the soul of their organisations, again; she has given people back a vocabulary of vocation and calling and spirituality.

I’m so excited because the phrase not only helps people of no faith to awaken to deeper possibilities; but it helps those of us with faith to look again at how ‘spiritually intelligent’ our communities are, and how spiritually intelligent our lives are. It’s a fresh way of re-evaluating ourselves.

Are we really living life at a deeper level of meaning? Are we releasing the spiritual riches we’ve been privileged to access? Are we part of the solution or part of the problem?

Lots of things are converging positively at the moment –a rediscovery of Christian mysticism, business coaching, psychology, philosophy, the better parts of Zen… Christians have a chance to demonstrate powerfully how our spiritual intelligence can help us to lead meaningful lives which are full of presence, assurance, peace, joy, challenge…

Senior business leaders who are Christian remain an enigma to me. They seem just as compartmentalised, stressed, anxious and driven as their counterparts. But shouldn’t all of us – whether in business or the church, in the boardroom or at the school gate, or wherever – shouldn’t we demonstrate some kind of competitive advantage, to put it crudely? Some capacity to be more creative, edgy, prophetic, inclusive, radical, relaxed, non-attached to outcomes, peaceful… through what we have picked up so far along the road less travelled?

My own book Spiritual Intelligence is a description of what a journey of spiritual transformation might look like, using four ‘icons’ I’ve developed – an alarm clock, an eye, a paint brush/palette and an arrow – to signifiy a journey of awakening, seeing the world afresh, living the change and passing it on.

Stay with me: I describe that journey four times, at different levels of depth – starting with ‘we are where we are’, going through ‘the false self’, then the ‘true self’, then ‘flow’. I call it the iconic grid. 16 steps in all, of an ever deepening journey. But it’s a description, not a prescription, The icons give you space and time to respond at your own pace, on your own level.

But it seems to be capturing people’s imaginations. Oliver James liked it, which was exciting.

I wrote it as a kind of workbook – it’s full of practical things to do, examples, quotes, and all that. Someone described it the other day as ‘a disturbing read from page one, in a positive way’ – which I liked. I was blown away by the fact that Douglas Coupland was willing to endorse it. I wrote it so that anyone can access it, whether Christian or not.

3 hour train journey – who would you like to be sat opposite?
Empty seat.

What’s on the radar?
Greenbelt. Another round of Thought for the Days are coming up in October. Advent (I’m writing an advent e-mail series for people who want to prepare more meaningfully; I did one at Lent and it seemed to work a treat). I’m writing a series of podcasts for next summer called Holiday for the Soul, which people can take on their ipod and listen to, so they can reflect soulfully while they are away.

It’s all about life at a deeper level. I’m work in progress, myself; but it’s an amazing time to be alive. Rilke was right: ‘Being here is so much’,

‘Brian Draper nurtures the spiritual intelligence of individuals and organisations through his consultancy, Echosounder. For more info on his taster course on spiritual intelligence, or to buy his book, visit http://spiritualintelligence.co.uk