‘What is my work in this lifetime about? What must I do with my life?’ These are questions I ask myself every once a while and watch the answers evolve. In a guided meditation a few years ago, I saw a vision. It involved a path through a beautiful meadow that entered into a cave. There, to my pleasant surprise, I met someone who I’d learned about and about in recent years – that overachieving 11th century nun – Hildegard of Bingen!
A few months prior to the vision, in a used bookstore I happened on a book about her and was fascinated. Hildegard was a German Benedictine nun who wrote theological, botanical and medicinal text, ran an abbey and founded others, composed music and painted – was there anything she couldn’t or didn’t do? Hildegard had a surprising unconcern for the power of authority often writing to the Pope or other leading figures of her time with advice often drawn from the deep visions she had about the world and its transactions that she was initially afraid to share until it became clear to her that her health and wellbeing depended on her sharing what she saw. In any case, in my meditation Hildegard smiled at me in that cave and bade: ‘Speak, Write, Draw.’
While I haven’t unlocked the mysteries of meditation and the connections between the worlds of the conscious and subconscious by any means, how interesting that she spoke of the three things I love to do! I took it as a sign to do more of what I love even as I work towards my purpose of making the world better through bringing my unique design skills to people and places and my deep and continuously growing commitment to sustainability, design thinking and equity and access. As homage, I made a sumi-e drawing of Hildegard one summer that you see here.
In our distracted times, with its overload of information I notice the many messages, books and courses about productivity and balance! As a modern knowledge worker I find them stimulating myself and notice the increasing emphasis on high performance in a work environment. It seems sometimes that these are very modern concerns, but then I think of Hildegard in her Abbey living a disciplined, purposeful life and achieving so much. I realize that it is clarity of vision that is important and then using one’s time well to build towards that vision in service of a higher goal. Hers was definitely a high performance life!