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Songgaar & Burungaar: Tuvan wisdom for interim time

Posted by Arlen Vernava on July 9, 2012

canada geeseThe Tuvan language of Russia, writes Russ Rymer in the July 2012 National Geographic, “believe the past is ahead of them while the future lies behind...children look to the future, but it’s behind them, not yet seen.”   The word “songgaar” means both “go back / the future;”  the word “burungaar” means “go forward / the past.”

Songgaar and burungaar freshly express the push and pull of interim time while inviting an emotional/adaptive template for living through transition.  Consider:  Leaders and institution commit to “the future.”  They say they value “go(ing) forward.” They say "we will hold onto the best from the past, we will go back to reclaim best practices."  Yet the usual transition arc often gets stuck at change, stifling transition's emotional and adaptive process. Songgaar and burundaar become sets of “polarities” and “opposites.”  So what do you do when every stakeholder's words boldly profess "change" while their action announces otherwise?  How do you "hold" some who reside in the future with others living in the past while a few go back and a handful go forward?

Songgaar and burungaar describes an action and a spirit that names change in all it's nuance and honors a person's (and organizations) emotional/spiritual/adaptive transition.  The future's unfolding, Rymer implies, has something to do with the sum of all one (or everyone) brings into the present moment.  One has no inclination to describe the future and going back as two distinct choices; when will one have "the eyes to see?" seems the cogent question.  Here is a an adaptive template for the interim time, the time between "now" and when all concerned "see" the future.

To appropriate something like these Tuvan gifts means emotional and spiritual attention on the part of the practitioner.  Here mindfulness seems as valuable as a wisely useful tool.  Here courage, patience and encouragement become necessary practices.  So ponder this Tuvan wisdom for interim time; may your work feel blessed with songgaar and burungaar.  

-Arlen G. Vernava

arlen vernava, design group international

Topics: deep dive