Lessons From the Geese*

As the leaves fall in the northeast, one of my favorite events happens. I watch the geese prepare for their long flight to warm weather. For me, they model interdependence and how to ensure that our journey through life is uplifting. Here are the facts.



Geese practice flying south in V formation. There's a shared value in the V formation. As each goose flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the one who follows. By flying in a V, the whole flock adds 71% more flying range than if each flies alone. When a goose drops out of formation, it feels extra drag and resistance.  Quickly it resumes its position to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds immediately in front.

Like geese, we too are interdependent.  From time to time, we flap around until we collaborate and settle on a pattern that is uplifting for everyone. This becomes the comforting routine we take for granted: who sits where at the table, the responsibilities we agree to, even the concessions we make. Out of this COLLABORATION, connections form that become the identity of our flock... whether it's school, office, or home.



During their practices and on their flights, the geese do lots of supportive honking. When the lead goose gets tired, it signals, "Time for a change in leadership." Then as it rotates back into the V formation, another goose moves into the point position. During the flight, the geese in the back keep honking to encourage those in front to maintain a steady speed. The goal is to begin and end the journey together.

We know that clear, supportive COMMUNICATION makes relationships satisfying. Whether we are leaders or followers, signaling our requests and needs invites others to step up and respond. What better way to learn new skills? How else can we achieve shared goals?


LESSON 3:  COMPASSION             

When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot, two geese drop out of formation and follow their fellow member to help and provide protection. They stay with this member of the flock until he or she is able to fly again or die. Then and only then, do they take off to catch up with their flock or to join another formation.

It's COMPASSION that lifts us above individual goals into the realm of caring for and about others. When someone is in distress, like the geese, we show devotion and sacrifice. We "drop out of formation" to nurse them to good health. Perhaps the lesson to learn from the geese is the balance between compassion and acceptance. When an ending is sad, grieving is an act of self-compassion. And just like for the geese, sacrifice is a stop on our journey, not the destination.


There is so much to learn from the geese. What resonates with you?


*The facts of Lessons From The Geese have been attributed to: Dr Robert McNeish, or Milton Olson or Ryugen Fisher or Anonymous. Thank you all.