A shifting course A hersterical shifting course lives in us profoundly donating self to the sponge of self and other here for me and you to receive without words mystical moments that bless us with lifted veils I am held thank you for a home for my candle of sacred grace burning, singing a delicious legacy of source energy that trusts in me and how I sit in _____ A poem caught in the moving check out of The Circle Way Practicum I co-taught last week with Katharine Weinmann, Ann Linnea and Christina Baldwin. October 4, 2015, Strawberry Creek Lodge, Alberta. _____
Story is sacred food: this is what community leaders found in Durant, Oklahoma, a small American city, as they embarked on a journey to step more fully into who they truly are, and lean into who they want to be.
As they settled in to their work together, some meeting for the first time, others have the conversation for the first time, a hosting team of Canadians, and Oklahoman and a Californian. We first broke bread together, and after the meal we sat back to listen, from the edge of the circle, to each voice, and the story of what brought us together.
Here’s the essence of our starting point for a journey that will take months and years:
Sacred Food Story is sacred food a sacred pride in community in personal generosity I’m a live one serving, giving the spirit of home in my heart to the promise of Durant to the promise of being here where I choose to be to grow with our family of well-being standing out (of our own way) we are live ones embracing the village story on our shoulders our sacred food
What truly nourishes you?
What is your sacred food?
To get where we want to go, a clear purpose – our sense of direction – is everything. If we don’t know where we are going, and why were are going there, anywhere will do.
Let’s use the metaphor of a city bike tour. The organizers have come together because they know they want to offer something. Their overall purpose is to offer an experience that allows citizens to see their city in a new way, to feel more connected to the city. They imagine that after the bike tour, the impact on citizens is inspiration to find new ways to participate in their city, to simply enjoy it and work to improve it. To pull off a good event, the organizers then need to dig deeper, more specifically, into the purposes of the bike tour, and the purposes of the events that will happen along the way. They have a few options.
They could explore the bike trails along the river the city:
They could visit the best three diners in the city:
They could visit the top four parks:
They could simply head out, unsure of what they would do:
There is nothing wrong with any of the above options; they all meet the overall, ‘intrinsic’ purpose of going on a bike tour to see the city in new ways. There is another layer of purposes that needs to be held: the instrumental purposes of each stop along the way. Once they are known, they will start a dance with the overall purpose and they inform each other. For Steve McIntosh, intrinsic and instrumental purposes are the nature of evolutionary progress. This dynamic takes place even when designing a bike tour of the city.
Knowing what the purpose of each stop along the way is instrumental. If unknown, we lose the overall purpose.
Designing a process without purpose in mind – whether the overall or instrumental purposes of the stops along the way – is not design. It is exploration. Both of these are valuable activities – when aligned with purpose. Sometimes exploration is the purpose…
A clear invitation needs clear purposes.
When the organizers of the bike tour have a clear purposes, they will be able to craft a clear invitation to put out into the world; people to have a clear choice of what kind of bike tour to sign up for. The next layer of purposes are needed – the overall purpose is not enough. For example, for the river valley trail tour, there could be radically different offerings that meet the overall purpose:
- Ride the trails of your city river with friends and family. You will have all the support you need along the way, from washrooms, snacks and technical support. Ride the whole thing, or part. The choice is up to you. See the city from a new angle!
- Learn about the wild in our city. On our bikes, we will take a day to ride the length of city trails with stops along the way to learn about geologic and natural features of our land from local experts. Lunch and bikes provided.
- Explore the wilderness in our city. Bring your journal and your geocaching skills to explore, and navigate, your self and your city. Bring your own lunch and be prepared to look after your own technological troubles. Washrooms will be provided.
The instrumental purposes of each of these invitations are very different. The first is about providing an opportunity for families to explore the river trail system in a relaxed and supportive way. The second event is about offering a traditional learning environment in the natural habitat, learning specific things about nature in the city from experts. The third is a way for individuals to spend time alone in the valley, learning both about themselves and nature. The instrumental purposes shape the overall purpose.
Each of these invitations has a different vibe to which people respond. Knowing the purposes mean we know what we are inviting.
Why the metaphor?
While designing social social habitats, I find it useful to try metaphors on for size, to tease out purposes. I used the metaphor of a city bike tour to figure out what I had to say about purposes here. (I had an email this morning about organizing a bike tour this am!) It helped me reach for the ‘meta’, high level information I was looking for to inform a discussion in a hosting team I am part of, about the need for purpose to be articulated sooner than later.
Metaphor is a great way to explore and define purpose. And once purpose is known, metaphor is an effective way to test if the design is aligned with purpose, a good way to look sideways at our work. Is the purpose of the bike tour more like a fun run, a traditional classroom, or a personal wilderness learning journey?
A note on designing with purpose vs exploring for purpose.
If we start organizing a bike tour by laying out the routes and sites and people we want to use out before us, and start putting them together in ways that make sense to us, we are exploring. We are figuring out what needs to be figured out and in this journey we may find the purpose of the design, but the purpose comes at the end. What have designed only if what we craft reflects the purpose that came at the end.
There is a big trap in designing social processes: while exploring we may think we are designing and miss knowing purpose, or neglect to test our work against the purpose. If we gather a series of tools and methodologies that feel good together and assemble them into a process, we miss the mark because we have not connected to the purpose of the gathering, and the purposes of each part of the gathering. We can even fall into the trap of naming outcomes that will come from the process and feel good about those. It may look good, and feel good – and be false.
Design takes place when purpose is in mind; activities are chosen because they meet the purpose.
WARNING: Purpose can be hard to find.
It is tough slogging to find purpose, as though ‘purpose’ is purposely making itself hard to find. That’s because it’s important.
One of the reasons we fall into the trap of thinking we are designing when we are not is because it is easy and familiar. It is easy to pull out the familiar ideas, or the things we are dying to try, lay out all the ideas and put them to work in ways that feel good. And if after our time exploring we nail down the overall purpose of the event, the smaller purposes are then hard to pin down. It seems to never end, but the pursuit of purpose is necessary for the ultimate design to serve well.
I offer this meta view of purpose as a window into intentional design.
The invitation you send out into the world matters – it says everything.
An invitation is both the physical (or digital) thing you send out into the world for an event, and it is also the vibe you send out ahead of it, with it, and afterwards. It is physical and non-physical. Two clients last week exemplify this.
First, a city planner colleague responsible to write a new affordable housing policy for his employer, a municipal government, knows that he doesn’t know everything he needs to know to do this. He wants to check in with a range of people to discern the municipality’s role – in today’s context. He knows he needs to know more. He’s actively inviting a range of voices to influence what he will write.
Second, a school division initiating gay straight alliance groups in its schools has reached a subtle but big understanding – there are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered adults in schools that need care and attention. They have realized that for schools to show up well for kids, the adults also need love, generosity and support. This is the conversation they are stepping into.
What is significant about these folks is the clarity with which they are inviting others to join them in conversations about their work – whether about housing or teaching. Long before an invitation to gather is extended, they are taking the time to get clear about why they need to gather, and deepening into the purpose of each gathering they will call. This is information they will share with the people they gather, and each time we gather, we will spend our time to serve the need and purpose articulated.
As you ponder any invitations you send out into the world, here is a virtuous circle I keep in mind:
- When full of love, I invite compassion
- When full of compassion I invite trust
- When full of trust, I invite brilliance
- When full of brilliance, I invite clarity
- When full of clarity, I invite vision
- When full of vision, I invite passion
- When full of passion, I invite love
The work we have to do together is to be ourselves. This is what my local community of practice realized this fall, when we took some time to settle into the purpose of why we make the effort to meet each month. Here’s what our circle had to say to us:
Stretch and fold A spiritual shower of inspiration and energy falling in rest and replenishment of the soul a pause where our only responsibility is to stretch and fold the agency of community the currency of relationship to host wholehearted wholeness
I’m coming out of a weekend of meetings with a facilitator who should not have called himself a facilitator. He tried to do all the work – and this is the first sign of poor practice in hosting others.
Warning signs of when you may be thwarting the people you are with:
- You do nothing to make people feel welcome. You keep your distance from start to finish. You do not help people get to know each other and warm up to the hard work ahead. When we feel connected, we work light years better.
- You make all the decisions. Discern when a decision is yours to make. If you are making all or most of the decisions, that is a sign that you are driving the agenda, leaving little room for others to engage. Are you sensitive to a balance where there is just enough structure and not too much?
- You stick to the agenda no matter what. Are you open to the needs of the group? Flexible to adjust your plan to support them on their journey? Notice how attached you are to the process you envisioned at the outset. Can you live with aiming for outcomes and respect that how to get there might be different? (And who knows, maybe the outcomes could change on you. Can you trust that the group knows if they are doing the right thing?)
- You keep notes for yourself. The flip charts you use are a visual resource for everyone. They are not your notes for later, that only you have to be able to read or discern. Don’t hide them. They are a crucial tool to confirm
- You do the organizing. Inevitably, when a group gathers to plan and organize, there are oodles of ideas to keep track of. Do you keep track of them in your head, or find visual ways for them to see and organize what they have? If you have visuals, do you do all the work, or let them?
- You work rigidly in your mode of learning. Some people need to see what is going on. Others need to hear it. Some need to work in small groups, others in large. How you make sense of things is not necessarily how others make sense of things. You are serving them, so adjust to there mode.
- You reject offers to help. When people step up to help you help them, it is an indication that they feel ownership of what is underway and they choose to engage. Your rejection not only closes you off from learning in the moment, but it puts a big chasm between you and the group.
- You ridicule those who help. This is an easy way to distance yourself from the people you work with. That paper on the wall? Useless. The illustration that broke the log-jam? Inconsequential. That document put on the screen to make sure we all understood and agreed to key wording? A distraction.
- You lose track of who’s turn it is to speak and what they’re talking about. If you are going to go to the trouble of telling someone they are next, make sure they are next. If someone is three speakers away, let them know. And remember – it is confusing to talk about more than one thing at once. Use a speaker’s list on topic.
- You do the same thing, all day long. The same process, all day is soul sucking. Mix it up. Serve others
How it turned out…
Before this guy, we had the benefit of strong process that allows us to establish foundational relationships. In the end, we made the meeting work and we had a lot of success. I so deeply appreciate the dedication and determination of our group to working well together and work forward. We overcame our nuisance facilitator.
To support and serve the people you are with – be open to learning along the way, grow antenna to enable you to see what needs to happen, and respond in the moment.
The thread we hold
with energy easing
opening the inside outsight
with a flame relit
with a fresh faith
the task ahead is demonstrating
learning, true love
expanding insight outside
nourishing the wisdom
of growing with
open minds, open hearts, open will
with bits of you in me
my soul huge
huge magical humility
as the highest in me
meets the hightest in you
reverberating renewed superheroes
pledging presence, soft support
shoulders to stand on
to stand with, deep gladness
meeting the world’s deep needs
with love and fear
* Thank you, in Japanese
_____ _____ _____
A harvest from Day 4′s closing check out at The Art of Hosting BIG Decisions – While Looking After Self, Others and Place, earlier this month.
_____ _____ _____
The duke of purple
Imagine my surprise when
the duke of purple
struggles at every age
with deep compelling stories
I’ve always wanted to be with you
I’m ready to go
healing family flexing
showing up for me
now I know
what I need to know
nervous aching shifting
sitting in it
sitting in it
_____ _____ _____
A harvest from Day 2′s check out at The Art of Hosting BIG Decisions – While Looking After Self, Others and Place.
_____ _____ _____
an infectious energy
vulnerable without reservation
together in community
for intention unfolding
uncertainty with anticipation
in a container
investing in surprise
humbly playing seriously
_____ _____ ____
A harvest from Day 2′s opening check in at The Art of Hosting BIG Decisions – While Looking After Self, Others and Place. The question that got us started – what do you notice about hosting?
_____ _____ _____
the highest potential in a magical vortex
learning, exploring life
long leading, pointing to
that live local
near and far
the universe conspires
to spend time here
the messy business
I’m in my shoes and others’
to risk and grow
a big decision for me may not be for others
a big decision for others may not be for me
in the confusion to come
an atmosphere of many minds
intentional knowing transitions
at all times
learning by doing
we open I’s
choices, connections, contributions
love and likeness of the human condition
humility in humanity
to the flame at the center
self and other
the tension outside and inside
to slow and accelerate
leaning into excitement
ripe with rhythm
_____ _____ _____
A harvest from Day 1’s opening and closing circles at The Art of Hosting BIG Decisions – While Looking After Self, Others and Place.
_____ _____ _____