When learners get to take the stage and show what they know, in whatever way they choose, it is amazing what will come out. They seem to learn more with this responsibility.
At the end of The Art of Hosting the Beauty in Difference last month, participants hosted themselves to notice what they knew and understood differently at the end of our four days together. They noticed–of course–that they learned different things and show what they learn in different ways. There was a 3D artifact, a skit, a musical, a dance and the team that hosted them in this experience by offering minimal, yet effective, structure.
This poem was caught while listening to them describe what they learned when pausing to notice what they had learned.
The longer arm points to the camp where I find prejudice and hurt and hope in the personal and local I’m not so naive as I’m growing, discerning what to say what to be thankful for what to look to: a spiral of fear or the good that always comes what feeds my spiritContinue reading Depths of my inside world
The stories we tell ourselves shape our lives and the world around us. When we are closed to learning more about ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves knock us about and take us wherever they want to take us. If open to learning about ourselves, we see that the stories we tell ourselves are stories we choose, whether consciously or unconsciously.
If open to learning about ourselves, we see that the stories we tell ourselves are stories we choose.
When it’s over, it’s over. This is one of the principles of Open Space Technology a conversation process founded by Harrison Owen. The idea is this: when your conversation feels like it is over, ask, “is it over?” If yes, you move on to another conversation that energizes you. If no, you make arrangements to continue. Continue reading How to say goodbye
Staying true to who I am — and figuring out who I am — means choosing what to say yes to and what to say no to. My choices shape everything.
Alexander Hamilton, protagonist in the Broadway hit Hamilton (and founding father of the United States), finds himself in a tricky situation:
I hadn’t slept in a week.
I was weak, I was awake.
You’ve never seen a bastard orphan
More in need of a break.
Longing for Angelica.
Missing my wife.
That’s when Miss Maria Reynolds walked into my life…
And he slept with her, over and over, when he knew he should “say no to this”:
I wish I could say that was the last time.
I said that the last time. It became as pastime.
A month into this endeavour I received a letter
From a Mr. James Reynolds, even better…
And so the blackmail begins and eventually the truth must come out. When accused of embezzling government funds he has to come clean to Jefferson, Madison and Burr:
She courted me.
Excorted me to bed and when she had me in a corner
That’s when Reynolds extorted me
For a sordid fee.
I paid him quarterly.
I may have mortally wounded my prospects but my papers are orderly!
Jefferson and Madison are clear: “The people won’t know what we know.” His confidence will not be betrayed. Burr teases him: “Alexander, rumors only grow. And we both know what we know.”
Yet Hamilton makes the decision to sabotage his dream of being president of the United states–he comes clean and writes the Reynolds Pamphlet, making his torrid affair explicit. He destroys his dream, his wife and his mistress. And, of course, Jefferson, Madison and Burr celebrate:
He’s never gon’ be present now.
Never gon’ be president now.
That’s one less thing to worry about…
And they are stunned:
Did you ever see somebody ruin their own life?
I, too, am stunned, by the contrast in his behaviour: this inability to say no to Maria Reynolds and his ability to say yes to coming clean. And he comes clean not only with his rivals Jefferson, Madison and Burr (and their gentlemen’s agreement to keep it secret), but he makes the whole affair public.
He couldn’t say no — and it reshaped everything. And then he said yes — and that reshaped everything. What we say yes to and no to shapes our personal and professional lives, and the endless intertwining of our personal and professional lives
I’ve said yes to figuring out what compels me to dig into Hamilton over and over again. I’ve said yes to writing about it to see the possibilities for my work and life. This time, I receive the gift of noticing what I say yes to, and what I say no to. It shines a light on the choices I make that make me the kind of person I am. I am of my own making.
Sometimes a circle of two is all it takes for an opening of the eyes, the heart and the soul. A circle of two where another sits across from me and witnesses my growing awareness. A circle of two that enables me to stay in it.
A circle of two enables me to stay in it.
The words of Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway hit, Hamilton: “seize the moment and stay in it.” Now granted, Hamilton is heading into the battle of Yorktown when Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda has him say these words. (The words that immediately follow are, “It’s either that or the business end of a bayonet.”) For Hamilton and his mates it’s about staying alive, literally. The metaphor applies to life today, whether we find ourselves physically fighting for survival, or in a more spiritual way.
Sometimes, to “stay in it”, to stay in the battle of grappling with growing awareness in myself, I need someone to sit with me. Here are the wise words of Camilla Gibb, in This is Happy:
Soon enough, words are pouring out, two winters’ worth of ice thawing overnight: the grief and that tight know of anger lodged in the pit of me becoming unstuck. Unmoored, though, they threaten to destroy everything. The feelings are bigger than me, stronger. I am aftraid of their intensity; I am afraid of going crazy, of doing harm, of standing on a bridge plenty high enough, when this is no longer, if it ever was, an option.
One witness, though—one reliable and loving witness with the capacity to hold—can change what you are convinced will be the inevitable outcome.
It is hard work to see and feel what we don’t want to see and feel. Witnessing growing awareness, without judgment, is a beautiful gift to give self and others.
We spend a lot of time at Strawberry Creek Lodge, a beautiful log building on 320 acres of boreal forest along Strawberry Creek. We choose to gather here for many of our learning events because we are well looked after while we stay there – the food is wonderfully nourishing, the sofas, chesterfields and beds are comfortable, and the nature that surrounds us is stunning year round. It’s not spiffy and posh – and it suits us perfectly.
It’s a beautiful place to circle up, whatever the season.
Strawberry Creek Lodge is located 80 km southwest of Edmonton, about a 40 minute drive from the Edmonton International Airport.
I found myself in the company of people a couple weeks ago who completely understand and respect others’ needs to set limits and boundaries for themselves, so we can enable each other to show up well. In the language of The Circle Way, this is the “ask for what you need” agreement. In reflection, I have learned that I am not always quick enough to realize what I need, let alone ask for it. I didn’t.
Here’s what happened. We circled up for a board meeting for a few days and we had a lot on our agenda so we met for long, full days. On day one, I got up early to maintain my morning practice of writing and walking. On day two I was feeling under the weather, so I chose to sleep in the morning. Still under the weather on day three I chose to sleep. My ability to function and contribute lessened and lessened with each day both because of not feeling well, but also because I did not give myself the things that nourish me every day: time to exercise and fresh air and time alone to write and read.
Over the last several years I have become more introverted; I need more time alone to figure out what I think and feel about things. A day full of other people (including mornings and evenings), let alone several days, is a challenge to my inner well-being. I need time alone to look after my introvert so I can be my best self, for me and others. Without this time my energy stores deplete and my ability to be my best self declines.
I need time alone to look after my introvert so I can be my best self, for me and others.
Last week I didn’t take the initiative to make more time for myself, or to ask for our work schedule to change to allow more spaciousness. This opportunity to reflect has allowed me to see two underlying ideas.
First idea: I want to be in the room where it happens. Just like Aaron Burr in the Broadway hit Hamilton, I want to be there when great stuff happens. I don’t want to miss out on anything and I want to be a part of everything. If something neat is happening, I want to be a part of it.
Second idea: my needs are not as important as others’ needs. In my drive to be in the room where it happens, I fear rocking the boat, or letting other people down by either proposing something preposterous, or by simply not being available when needed.
Our meeting was productive and meaningful. It was a challenging time for us and we met each other well and yet I feel that for me, and how I show up for myself, there is room for improvement. How can I spend days with others, from dawn into the evening, in ways that maintain or even increase my energy stores?
Two contrasting shapes of how to spend three days together come to mind:
Here are five simple ideas about organizing full days of meeting:
Understand the purpose of the gathering at all scales: the reason to gather, the intention for each day and each chunk of time in each day.
Identify expectations and outcomes for the gathering that include both the tasks of the work and needs of the people to do that work. What kind of spaciousness is needed for what purpose?
Start a bit later than usual to allow for the spaciousness of life in the morning (checking email or social media, exercise or meditation).
Decide what works best for lunch and supper breaks. Is it a short break so the day can end early? Is it a longer break for spaciousness? Is the spaciousness needed before the meal or after? Are we sitting down together or can individuals go off on their own to eat?
Designate chunks of time for the whole group to meet. When does everyone need to be together? When can people work on their own schedule? Remember: the days do not have to be the same.
Unscheduled time in our lives helps us do our work. Over a few days of meeting, it is essential to find play time both with others and alone. It helps a group be its best self. When we look away from the tasks at hand, for a moment even, we can see what needs to be done more clearly.
Unscheduled time in our lives helps us do our work.
In my case, I learned that I need to let go of the need to be in the room where it happens and give myself space to discern which room I want to be in. Further, I need to make room for the work to work me, for this is how I find my way, how I figure out what and how to contribute to the world around me.
Asking for what I need is about enabling myself to be me.
How do you make room for you to be you, for “it” to happen?