Halfway through our five day residency with leaders from the community sector and the Ministry for Children and Families here in BC. Times like this, at middle of a five day retreat, we turn our thoughts to what comes next and we forget to be present. This is our day of practicing presence however, and later today we will be going out on the land and allow ourselves to be hosted by the forest, the rain and our island. This is the time for a fierce recommitment to the here and now.
My colleague and friend Annemarie Travers, who is on our hosting team and who leads learning in the Ministry shared a beautiful framing for our day together. She and her husband Geoff recently completed the Camino pilgrimage and she wrote dozens of poems during her journey. This morning she shared one that speaks powerfully to what it is like to be distracted by the near end:
The closer we get to the end of our walk, the harder it is to stay present
We think ahead to achieving our goal, beginning to be proud of our accomplishment
We have also started to think about home, and all that waits for us there
But we need to focus on enjoying these last few days as much as we dare
While we feel the Camino has given us both what we need
We know it’s not done with us yet, their is still more to come, indeed!
These last few days are characterized by more traffic on the paths
And as we weave our way through, some draw our wrath
Then we remind ourselves of the Camino spirit, and breathe deeply, just let it go
(Hopefully not while passing a farm – we are regularly assaulted by manure smells you know)
We forget to be grateful for the simple pleasures of the day
It was supposed to rain today, but the rain stayed away!
This all has the effect of limiting our opportunities for meditative walking
Our minds go to the usual worries, and we begin talking
About the end of the trip, and what we will do when we return
So we made a pact with ourselves with the intent to turn
The train of our thoughts, to focus on the here and now
Enjoy what this day brings, not the manure, but the beauty of the cow…
Such a beautiful reminder to remain present, to enjoy the source of everything that continues to work with us!
…is the best wisdom for yourself:
The advice you’ve been giving your family and friends turns out to be advice for you to live, not us. You become the wise teacher as you become a student of yourself. It stops mattering if anyone else hears you, because you’re listening. You are the wisdom you offer us, breathing and walking and effortlessly moving on, as you make your business deal, buy your groceries, or do the dishes.
– Byron Katie
Loving being with my partner Caitlin Frost as she teaches this powerful stuff to a group of leaders whose freedom and resourcefulness makes a huge difference in the lives of vulnerable humans in this world.
Working with a group of leaders this week all of whom are engaged in bringing their full selves to complex problems largely in the community, family and social services sector. Tonight we are co-initiating our work together and I led them through this exercise which was inspired by my friend and colleague Roq Garreau of Centrespoke Consulting:.
- Take a piece of paper and fold it in half so that you have a little book with four pages.
- On the front of the little book write your leadership challenge, something that you are called into doing, something that occupies much of your attention and that seems unresolvable, something you feel you have to DO.
- Write 12 questions down relating to this challenge. Make them open ended questions and spread out the Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. These are questions you cannot easily answer.
- Turn to a fresh page in your litle book and rewrite your challenge
- Now mill in the room and pair up with another person. Simply read your leadership challenge and listen as they offer you three questions. Don’t explain, don’t justify, just listen. Those offering questions can just offer the first three things that come to mind.
- Once you have collected nine questions, rest and rewrite your challenge one more time.
We then went around the circle and had people read these challenges out. It is a very vulnerable exercise as people shared what they don’t know how to do. And they become equipped with questions that are deeply embedded in the centre of their work and curveball questions that come from the margins. These marginal questions have a powerful effect on people and it is a useful reminder that change and challenge often comes from outside of what we think we know.
In the debrief a participant suggested a further step: she offered that embedded in every challenge is a vision of how we want things to be and that in rushing to DOING, we forget PURPOSE. This is a useful antidote to the more common complaint that “we are spending too much time thinking about PURPOSE and not enough attention on ACTION.” Purpose and Action are therefore held in a creative tension.
These challenges and questions will travel with people this week, and we have invited our participants to see these as friends.
Tuesday Ryan-Hart, Tim Merry, Caitlin Frost and I are just returning from a gathering of experienced Art of Hosting practitioners from around the world. One of the threads in our gathering was and exploration of how the practice of hosting and harvest conversations in the world can be applied to working with groups in ever increasing scale and influence.
This is the core inquiry of our new Beyond the Basics offering.. Being skillful facilitators of dialogue is obviously not enough to make shifts in systems, although dialogue is a powerful place for people in a system to start to understand the complexity, diversity and challenges that we are dealing with. It is also the prime vehicle for locating the innovation at the edge of the collective intelligence in the system that helps design innovations in systems of all kinds. . But alone, dialogue is not enough. Shifting systems requires us to apply dialogic practices and participatory leadership in a series of connected events throughout a system. Dealing with the complexity of shifting systems requires that we build depth in the capacity of core teams that are holding the work.
A key part of our work is nto build capacity and depth in core teams to host systems work together. Building the capacities of core teams is a marker of the success and sustainability of the kinds of participatory initiatives that achieve lasting results and outcomes. Where we have worked with systems where the consulting team retains the capacity, the initiative tends to fizzle when the contract ends.
Sustainability and lasting results lie at the intersection of depth, breadth, friendship and power. Core teams need to operate deeply, which means that they need to be engaging beyond the facilitation of hosted events. Good core teams ARE the field they are influencing and therefore they have to be practiced at going deep into their own dynamics to begin to make changes in a system. And they hold a level of depth that allows them to see and sense together strategically as an initiative unfolds.
To scale up initiatives, a team needs to then achieve breadth without sacrificing depth. More people need to be involved in core hosting of the work. But this cannot be a classical “train the trainer” model. It takes time for more practitioners to come into the field. The initial core team must not only train others in systems work but also become teachers and mentors of new practitioners and protect the work as it gets off to it’s shaky start. Going nto scale means lots of learning happening in public, so connecting people together in learning becomes crucial.
The architecture that keeps breadth connected to depth rests on trust, and so friendship becomes a powerful part of the operating system. In complex systems work there are times when formal accountabilities don’t ensure the levels of trust and commitment that is needed, and only a field of deep trust between people will sustain the practice and sustain the resilience as groups go through the difficult parts of systemic evolution.
The challenge here is that we then need a new conception of power, because power in existing systems tends to come from accountabilities for results delivered against known and predictable plans. Participatory work is a huge challenge to power because it requires everyone in the system, to work from a position of trust and uncertainty while still staying accountable for results. When working in any human system, issues of visible and invisible power and privilege are important strategic acupuncture points for change. And if we don’t pay attention to them we can find ourselves mired in simple relationship building projects or in oppositional and combative power struggles. We find trust and commitment eroding and we lose the breadth required for impact.
As a team this is our learning edge. We have many stories to share and tools and practices that help us be in this work, but we are also excited for our BtB offering to be a place where we co-discover with others the deepest challenges at these edges and perhaps even co-create new collective knowledge about how the art of hosting and harvesting can work in these domains.
Our beyond the basics offerings is informed by and structured around learning, discovering and implementing practices that integrate these approaches to working in complex environments with complex challenges. We have discovered that there are personal practices of coaching, mentoring and support that complement a deep skill set in designing, hosting and harvesting participatory process and a fierce commitment to creating architectures of implementation that respect and work with the existing power structures in a way that protects results while also building the capacity for uncertainty.
As we work towards the BtB workshops in 2014- and 2015 we will be continuing to share learnings, resources and case studies here on this blog and we invite your own questions and inquires about this practice as we move towards learning together.
Good spot from Johnnie Moore on the power dynamics of safety in groups. Hint: it comes from attending to rank, not cohesiveness:
Nancy Dixon writes about the conditions that favour good quality conversations in organisations. She uses the term psychological safety to describe the conditions that allow people to take risks in conversations. She distinguishes that safety from cohesiveness (for which it could be mistaken). The latter may feel safe but really sets everyone up for groupthink. The safety Nancy talks about allows challenging things to be said.
The essential precondition for that kind of safety is largely to do with power differences…
And from the paper he links to:
For a team to be effective and competitive it must be engaged in learning behaviors that are too often perceived as risky by members of the team. To take that risk, team members need to feel psychologically safe, that is, “have a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish members for speaking up.” The actions that help to bring about collective sensemaking are:
• reducing the power differential between leaders and members
• teams taking the time to reflect together on a regular basis about their actions, results, concerns, and innovative new ideas
• members actively providing support for each other in meetings
• holding small group discussions about appreciative topics to build relationships and enhance the knowledge of others’ competence
• engaging in shared experiences that serve as a reference point for meaning.
via Safety and rank | Johnnie Moore.
Playing music rather than talking about it
I’m coming back from Hahopa with simplicity ringing in my ears. I think the mantra is “put something in your hands.”
At Hahopa we cooked together, wove cedar together, trained with swords together, played lahal and sang songs. We DID a lot. And in our doing we could reflect on our being. And from our being we can create a view of what else we might do.
I spend a lot of time helping people plan things. But I am noticing that people want plans that promise a great future, but are afriad to start doing things. Heading into a set of meetings this week with some Chruches here in BC, I think I’m curious mto ask “What do you want to be doing that you aren’t doing now?” And by this question I don’t mean “What do you want other people to do?” I mean, what are you willing to start now that would help us become something that we wanted to become. Let’s do more of that and THEN we can see what we have learned.
Visioning and creating a common purpose is cool but it often assumes that we know what the future will hold or that we can guess what will be useful. We need to be more adaptable. We need to look at what is stopping us from DOING the things we want to do, and focusing on removing the barriers to that, whether those are resources or fears or time.
Yesterday was wonderful. We spent the whole day around a fire on MacKenzie Beach listening to three stories and reflecting back what we learned. Pawa’s father Moy and uncle Tim both told stories of growing up in a traditional family and village. For me Tim’s story of getting stranded with his brother in a rowboat was powerful and contained all kinds of teachings about leadership, knowledge and practice. In the afternoon we did the same with Admire’s story from Zimbabwe, the story of what is happening at Kufunda Village. A full day of deeply listening to stories, harvesting lessons and teachings. And then this morning, Tim’s story was reenacted. Myself and Kelly, one of the participants here, re-enacted the story of Tim and his brother in a canoe alternately rowing and baling and having to switch roles while the waves pitch and roll. Physically re-enacting the story, sitting in chairs and actually switching places as if we were in a canoe leant a depth to the story – teachings about balance and safety and working together. Feeling it is a whole different kind of listening.
One of the things that is happening here is that we are beginning to experience a really different sense of time. We are spending our days outside, blessed by constant sunshine that is a complete surprise at this time of year. We are gathering around a fire on the beach or sometimes outside one of the cabins where we are staying. Teachings are flowing in everything we do, from cooking to walking, to spending time alone. Time is so slow here and we are finding ourselves going to bed at 8:00 after the sunsets and waking up early in the morning. This is probably one of the most interesting teachings we are getting from the land itself, watching the tides come and go and the moon grow towards fullness, as we barbeque salmon on the fire and share the work of our little village.
Purpose is beginning to arise amongst us. And as that happens, offerings are beginning to appear as well, offerings of space for future gatherings, offerings of resources and friendship and deep commitment. We are still running the Indiegogo campaign so people from around the world are contributing there too, and you can join them. Tomorrow we continue our living in open space, heading out for a walk in the woods and perhaps playing some lahal later after the sun goes down.
The weather here on MacKenzie Beach near Tofino is unusually summery. THe families that were running around over the Thanksgiving weekend are gone now and only a few remain behind. We began our learning village with a circle gathered around a fire on the beach, maybe 20 of us, sharing Indian Candy (half smoked salmon) dried berries and tea, telling the stories of our names and why we responded to the invitation to join a week of learning together.
We don’t have young ones here, but the oldest is 82 and we have folks from Denmark, Zimbabwe, the United States and France in our midst. We are teaching and learning with love and kindness, eating and cleaning together, intrigued by the idea of Hahopa, singing songs and repecting protocols, making poems and songs together and starting to find the clarity of the new story we are here to create.
Tonight in the kitchen, where the truly great conversations take place, I was talking about how having the world here on this beach was a harbinger of the new story. the problems that people face in First Nations communities are directly related to the relations between the communities and the rest of the world. Hahopa, as it opens and begins today, was about the world coming to offer its own wisdom and to learn Nuu-Chah-Nulth wisdom. We are in learning together, leaning into a small whisper of a future world of reconciled humanity, beyond apologizing and forgiving – studying together, learning how to learn and live together, and doing it for the children.
All of these are the faintest whispers as we begin, but something is stirring. Here is the poem I harvested in our check in:
Admire’s desire is to ignite the fire of learning and knowledge
and knowing the college of the land, the culture that stands
for a thousands years
cattle farming and ocean rearing
living in open space to face
a way to govern ourselves
to stay true to our passion and the fashion that takes responsibility.
Toke has spoken of the crazy token of blood
that moves through the veins and floods us with connection
between people and the land
and the waves that nudge us together in the foggy morning weather.
My grandmother taught me with out ever seeing
the source of what was being shared with me
and what wasn’t clear to see.
The loyalty and fidelity to peaceful refuge has formed me.
cultivating a future view in community can hospitality
sensing drala that is the real caller,
a deep holler from the land that wants us to stop and understand
what is born again in the sixtieth journey around the sun
What has begun
what it takes to cross places of struggle
confront that which wriggles within us
and begs to be bigger, a mind that can find
the compassionate line at the heart of her humanity
I’m here for the long term, an uprooted farm hand
that has moved across lands
where whatever shows up can be hosted by the whole
so the whole can know what none of us knows
what is encoded in the stories that lives in our bones.
I am with family, my brother and my friend
and there is no end to the people I want to know
to extend my appreciation to this nation.
My roots spread out and my re-beginnings are here
a clear reminder of seven dear racoons
begging for dinner under the light of the moon,
This is truly my whale
and this journey has been us just getting to this canoe
bridging two worlds struggling
to renew an ancient way of being better together
weaving a generous
“ish” not the ish in “selfish”
but the ish in Hishukish tswalk
hahopa wealth, health and a stealthy
ceremony that restores harmony.
This field now begins to grow
as we get to know the flow
that pulls us together
and respects my longing to be known by my name…
What is the indigenous wisdom that needs to be shared with the world now?
I come from seal riders who plumb the depths of this sea
discover the passages that run beneath what we see
and I have sent my life with trees
and climbing the peaks – hawktooa.
I was brought up to help, be proud of what we do and have fun doing it.
I am a woman of many names and none are remembered
but I carry them all contrarian call
that leads to the edges of the earth
My cedar and spruce roots
reach across this island
teach me to understand
how to conserve what has been given to us
The quality of people, quality of land, quality of time
to the watery hearth of the setting sun
this it, the learning village has begun.
Please drop in for a day if you are nearby. Also please donate to the Indiegogo campaign to help us meet the costs of this gathering and seed whatever comes next.
“Tell everyone you know: “My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel – and then, you’ll love them all. Because the only reason you don’t love them, is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good.”
- Esther Abraham-Hicks
via whiskey river.
Heading to Hahopa today. Hahopa is an idea. It is a place of the heart and the imagination which is rooted in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth principle of “teaching and learning with love and kindness.” You might say that it is a place of grace, an ideal place where we can ground our happiness in an experimental way of being.
Hahopa is the dream of my friend Pawa Haiyupis. Pawa’s full name is Pawasquacheetl which means “she gives in the feast with the energy of bees coming out of a hive.” For years she has wanted to give the world a place where Nuu-Chah-Nulth teachings can be offered to anyone who feels that they are useful. Inspired by our friends at Kufunda village in Zimbabwe, Pawa and her family this week are embarking on an incredible dream. The work we do together this week will set in place a lifetime of contribution to the world.
So I am off to Tofino where we will initiate this endeavour being hosted by the land, the beach and the sea. We are open to seeing what will come of it and how it will flow.
If you would like to support this dream, please consider donating to the Indiegogo campaign and follow along here and on the facebook page where I will be helping to harvest what we learn.
Some of my friends and I with in the Art of Hosting community create poems from our work as a kind of harvest, a way of listening to the voices shared in a circle and reflecting back to the group, it’s wholeness using the words of those in the room. The poems are written on the spot and read into the room, slam style. Such poems evoke energy, and honour the whole. We call these ”dialogue poems.” Here is the one from yesterday’s check in in Montreal with our core hosting team…
Hosting team Check in poem
Where did you practice?
Where did you act as if you could do this?
What does the silence have to show us?
What is inside this seed?
A potential to feed what is needed everywhere
Hosting is caring so we’re daring to share
what is in our jardin communitaire:
101 ways in a single day
to face the case of urban space
fall into a call of enfolded breath
and die 101 little deaths, for co-creation to be the method
that we use to create and let go. Whoa. Peace flows
Caroline is on the scene
and clear love flows in between us
a clean passing of a piece to serve
the swerve and curve of jangly nerves
that the emergent life turns up.
This is a romance and a dance of hosted circumstance.
The space of the public dream seems
to be called to scream from the megaphone
deep in our bones in the intention for an intervention
ot suspension to the conventional ways of doing things.
We meet despair with care for beauty and do our duty.
Economics in the commons needs us to anchor danger
as the social order rearranges strangers into the angels of
Words were never spoken for the broken structures I have seen
for the painful way we remain unclean in the unconscious hosting
that leaves us unseen and suffering the wasted talents of human beings
so I offer a new chance to call us all into the hall and
share the commoning of Montreal.
When there is no room at the inn we move outside and work from the rim.
And all we need to take
is one minute, innit?
Because a crack is a small thing to make.
Small is beautiful, but tiny is fuller
What is the smallest container that can hold the future?
A negotiation with a child, a wild realization that we only flower
when the smallest things claim their power
and we take an hour to be in peace with other generations.
The appearance of the aperitif
Helps us arrive and be here
This work can be hard
when we haven’t got a clue
and the parameters make us do things we don’t want to do
we host grief and hate and create the state
for the gates to open and action to gain traction
for a fraction of the cost of the money we’ve already lost.
And then, abundance appears because we stayed with the fears
and the tears and we finally see everyone as peers.
It was a ride to get a guide that would help us get inside
the Art of Hosting and glide us to understanding, landing whatever we can
as a resource to help us plan for this.
Two thousand thirteen seems like a series of scenes
of moments that mean my life has seen
the real application of peace between human beings.
In cote d’ivoire, ravaged by war, a mayor named need
to plant a seed for people to lead the conversations
that stop the bleeding and meet the need for
the chief of chiefs to hold the belief that these ways of talking
can bring relief.
Two hundred thousand years of leadership
called into relationship, mateship and friendship
in a moment of reconciliation for a nation
where you do not have to be sorry
for the story, but you must offer a forum
for the experience of peace and a shift to dignified decorum.
We are not here to be small.
We all just want peace.
That is all.
I am touched to be here.
Daring to appear
Á table citoyen…where the rabble fits in
to chatter and natter about things that matter and
do it in public where the interests clatter
and find a place to practice together
co-create a project that’s better and better…
and shift my life to something unfettered.
by the separation that I’m deluded with.
Tend to the people that are coming,
feel the field and yield to the real.
Since January for me
It’s been a race from place to place
tracing a line from space to space
and stopping a moment to face the grace
That I have to receive for living as me authentically
I hope to inspire near and far
people to be just who they are.
En formations nous avons les informations
pour le realization de collaboration
we carried the living spark
of what was lit in Lafontaine Parc
embodied a some light that shone in the dark
flowing from our humanity, a practice of embodied calamity!
I feel that I am a dwarf among giants
and ready to offer my heart and defiance
of what my own ego wants us to do
so we can be free. How about you?