Do it yourself leg-repair


Three weeks ago today everything changed, 12 km behind the largest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, on a steep slope of unstable shale. Broken and wobbly leg bones. A fabulous EMT on holidays to take charge, layers of splints, 8 volunteers to carry a big man down to a helicopter waiting to get husband Peter to an ambulance, then a small hospital, then a large hospital for surgery. Angels of water kept us hydrated on a hot afternoon. Angels of strength carried our packs down the mountain for us to collect later. Angels of friendship, with big eyes, gave high-fives on their way by.

At long last, Peter found himself in the warehouse – a nursing station that looked like the halls of The Home Depot. Shelves of supplies in the corridor, nurses who showed up to do the bare minimum and left him to fend for himself. Swelling that means a 5 day wait for surgery will be delayed? Well, get the ice for yourself. Motrin to keep the swelling down? Well, we’ll only get that for you if you ask for it. The trick is, as with all do-it-yourself endeavours, it only works when you know what you are doing.

When you can’t move, you sit and wait, hoping for the best. In Peter’s case, he laid on a shelf, and someone came to dust him off now and then to check if he still had a pulse. Mostly, he hoped that no one forgot he was there and needed attention.

Then the call on day 6, on a minute’s notice, for surgery. In the operating room, purpose is clear. Here, what will happen is explained in detail. There is even a laugh – will they find a nail long enough to fit the long tibia bone in his leg (he’s 6’6″). Then he’s asleep and they get to work with a big nail, a drill, mallet, screws and a screwdriver. The power and hand tools of The Home Depot merge with the technology of X-ray vision to guide the work of deft hands to put things back in place and set Peter up for the needed mending.

 Nail and screws

The next day, as Peter hobbled about on one leg, he was tentative. He’d spent 6 days on his back, and the last time he was vertical he violently twisted himself into this predicament. As I watched, this question came to mind:

It is possible to hobble with confidence rather than fear?

I thought of the warehouse nurses. I have no idea if their indifference to their work is endemic to the whole hospital, or to their unit, but their lack of care was startling. Among the nursing staff, the disconnect from self and work was palpable. The collective disconnect was even more palpable. In contrast, a custodian was friendly and careful to make sure an extra chair arrived to accommodate our family of four. An orderly attending to another patient made sure a wheelchair fit Peter properly to get him to our car and take him home. The nurses didn’t help send him home well or safely at all. They were hobbling with a lack of confidence in their purpose to care for people waiting, in pain and discomfort, in the unknown.

As I watch Peter figure out his relationship with crutches, more questions come to mind:

  • What crutches are in my life?
  • When are crutches needed, not needed?
  • How do I know when I am done with crutches?
  • What crutches am I still using unnecessarily? 
  • Do I even notice when I’ve gotten rid of them? 

In many ways, the leg repair is do-it-yourself. Peter’s body will heal itself, but there are specific junctures where he needed the help and care of others. He couldn’t get off the mountain by himself. He couldn’t keep the swelling down by himself. He couldn’t get the bones in place by himself. In the weeks to come, he will test out his new leg, Mr. T he calls it. He will slowly put weight on the leg and see how he and Mr. T are going to get along.

He will slowly stop using the crutches.

Eventually he will throw the crutches away.

Then he will decide about going back to the mountain.

Mount Robson



The fiery gifts of the dragon

First – look the dragon in the eye

Two weeks ago, a board I serve on was brave enough to look the dragon in the eye and see the truth: it was time to let our organization die with dignity. Despite her fading spirit, we were expending excessive energy keeping her alive. Before it faded too far, we needed to find a new home for her spirit, a place to serve what she longs to be today, without the substantial, gloomy baggage that has been bringing her down and holding back her potential for years.

The people closest to her heart, the board of directors, knew the status quo was no longer possible. We named the decision to celebrate her dignities and wind down her current ‘home’ so she could have a fresh start in the fullness of possibility. As we started to talk to others, in confidence, to figure out how to do this with the greatest of care, a colleague and friend tweeted the news out to the world. We were chucked under the bus, unable to get up when battered with accusations of misconduct and hate mail. Our ability to respond well to reasonable demands for information were lack-lustre. We weren’t ready because we were just figuring out how to handle the news ourselves. Everyone was hurting.

But let’s pause here for a moment . . .

The dynamics in play are bigger than the people involved, including me and my twitter friend. It is a cultural norm to do whatever is necessary to deny endings, and in doing so we refuse to see the possibilities that come with an ending. An ending does not have to be an end. It is only a catastrophic birth – a transition from one stable state of being to another stable state of being with a messy, awful feeling in the middle.

Assume for a moment my colleages and I were accurate in discerning a diagnosis of “terminal illness” for our organization (I’m always open to a second, informed opinion). As we reached our decision that day, we realized that we had been experiencing the stages of loss and grief (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross humans feel when facing death in loved ones. Our love for our organization and the loss and grief of its end are no different:

  1. We denied the reality of the situation. We found endless reasons and means to keep her alive. We blocked out the facts.
  2. We were angry. We looked for other people to blame for our situation.
  3. We were bargaining. We looked for excuses, recognizing that if we had only (insert action here), we would be ok now.
  4. We were crying. We were sad and low, full of regret. We wished it didn’t come to this, wished we could have done a better job. We wished the facts didn’t say what they said.
  5. We accepted that death was inevitable. This wasn’t a matter of giving up, but rather choosing to be in a good relationship with our organization – and her membership –  for her last days, enabling us to retrieve all her goodness to share with others. We no longer needed to know why, no longer needed an explanation.

This is what transition feels like, when we move from one reality to a new reality. A typical first reaction is that we don’t want change so we deny the transition is needed or we get angry. These are natural human reactions my colleagues and I recognized in ourselves, and we knew would be experienced by the members of our organization.  This is exactly what happened after the tweet and the ‘diagnosis’ spread: demands for facts, new facts, better facts, precise facts; anger and fury and frustration; and even bargaining to find a way to keep her alive.

My sadness in this whole endeavour comes not in the death of the organization, because I accept that it is the right thing to do, but in our inability to tend and care for the people affected by the diagnosis. We did not have an opportunity to figure out how to do the ‘ending’ work with care. In an effort to make me feel better, a friend said to me, “the band-aid came off quick and at least the band-aid is off now.” My colleagues and I feel like someone swooped in an punched us in the face before pulling the band-aid off. Mostly, I feel bad that there was no opportunity to care for people, even to feed them the facts they were looking for. We had just reached the realization ourselves and it wasn’t as simple as, “the cancer has spread throughout your chest cavity and is inoperable.”  It’s like the doctor’s friend took on sharing the doctor’s diagnosis because it seemed like the patient shouldn’t have to wait a day or two, even though the doctor had a role to gather the evidence in a way that would be helpful for the patient. It was the doctor’s information to share, not the friend’s.

Second – trial by dragon

I feel a dragon in my midst.

The ultimate dragon is within you, it is your ego clamping you down.
Jospeph Campbell

The dragon isn’t my friend, but rather the feeling of betrayal, swooping down on me each day, breathing hot fires of sickness and disappointment on me. Searing tears from a wound deep down in my soul come forth, rocking me, demanding a deeper-than-usual inquiry between my ego-self and my Higher Self. A Higher Self that is not from a ‘high’ place, but a deep place. I need new language to describe my Higher Self, but I’m struggling to find it. My Deeper Soul-Self?

… it’s not about what the dragon looks like; it’s about what the dragon activates inside of us that makes it so difficult to face.
Sera Beak

The metaphor, or symbol, of the dragon has shown up a few places this week, calling me to look at what is difficult for me to face inside me, not in the outside world. The friend that betrayed my confidence is a metaphorical dragon. What does the betrayal activate?

The important thing to remember about dragons is that they guard our buried treasure. When a dragon appears, it means gold is right behind it… if we have the courage to stand our ground and fully meet it.
It is Meeting time…
Sera Beak

Here’s the gold I met behind the dragon: the truth is I don’t believe I am good enough. Deep down, my ego-self believes I deserve to be taken out at the knees. Deep down, my ego-self believes I deserve to have 200 colleagues continue to kick me while I’m down.

The true betrayal is that I have betrayed myself.

We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.
Tom Robbins

The betrayal has nothing to do with whether I was right or wrong when it came to ending an organization. That was right. The betrayal was my lack of confidence in trusting the decision we made, and feeling shaky about that decision in the face of powerful forces that work hard to keep change from happening, that keep improvements and evolution at bay. It was a much deeper betrayal.

It was a test of me, revealing that my ego-self does not trust my Higher Self, my inner authority, or my Deeper Self, my Soul Authority.

That is the power of the status quo – it works deep inside of me. Even when I feel I am immune to it, I am not. It is deeply at work, tricking me into feeling weak, tricking me into thinking that transition is not what I want. All along, it was lulling me into indifference, denial, anger, bargaining and tears. Then undermining even my acceptance of Me.


The powerful force in the world that does not want change works on my ego as much as it works on others’ ego.

Third – receive fiery gifts 

In unwrapping the betrayals I am experiencing, I have so far received 10 fiery gifts from the dragon’s mouth.

What I now understand about the world around me:

  1. There are unconscious energies running the show. Huge forces are at work, at every scale, to keep us where we are. They are all around us and all within us, at times healthy and at other times unhealthy.
  2. And they take whatever action necessary. The systems in which we work are attached to the status quo and will work hard against anything new that will cause upheaval. The systems, and the people in it, will go to great lengths to maintain the status quo.
  3. We spend vast amounts of human energy on denial and anger. We deny transition, often without even thinking about it. We hunker down in anger and join in mob-like defiance of realizations we don’t want to acknowledge. We are quick to fuel the status quo, often unconsciously, saying things we regret later. A friend and colleague was saddened by the sharp words he spoke in the emotion of the situation: “you should be ashamed of yourselves.”
  4. The words ‘this isn’t personal’ are code for ‘this is personal.’ When angry, we often say and think that our attacks on others are not personal, that we do not mean to hurt others. The truth is that the speaker is hurting and the words allow the speaker to deny the hurt within himself or herself. It is personal, just not where s/he thought. Transition hurts.
  5. Possibility for the new is more nourishing than the anger and denial that fuels the status quo. There’s a tipping point where serving the status quo, or some hybrid of it, takes more energy than switching gears to fuel a fresh start. But the myth of stability and the status quo will tell us this is not so, fuelling us with denial and anger and a misplaced investment of our energy. There is a point in the transition from the old to the new where there is more energy for the new possibility. The trick is in noticing when this happens.
  6. The birth of a new system is impersonally personal. Even though our reactions to change are personal – it hurts – the changes themselves are not personal. Perhaps it is the impersonal nature of the world around us that hurts us. The Universe is not conspiring to personally attack you or me, but it is sending us experiences from which to learn. Maybe it is personal; just not how we think it is.

What I now understand about me in the world:

  1. I am capable of listening to, and hearing, a great deal of anger aimed at me. While not fun, I am capable of sitting through hours of what a colleague named as a “public stoning.” I recognize hate mail as an expression of anger and denial – and hurt.
  2. My ego-self is hurting, but not all of me. The parts of me not hurt are able to listen to my ego-self and hear her story. My Higher Self and my Deeper Soul-Self are able to see the bigger picture and support and witness the agony of my ego-self.
  3. I do not need to ‘fight’ to make my ego-self feel better. I do not need to hunker down into anger and denial of my own feelings and fight back. That makes it impossible for others to begin to hear themselves.
  4. The friend is not the ‘enemy’. I am just as capable as others of making decisions that hurt other people. My twitter friend is as human as I am. The trust is gone, but not the human I know and recognize as part of a powerful game bigger than the decision to share confidential information. If I put my personal energy in conflict with the friend, I give my energy to the forces that demand the status quo and suck the life out of anything new.

From a short distance of time, I see that the essential kernel of truth is out there – that the status quo of our organization is no longer possible. While sad we were unable to share this realization in a healthy way, I trust that this is how it needed to happen. An effort is underway to renew life support, and perhaps this long absent cry for life will embolden her spirit, or, better yet, fuel the fresh start that is waiting for our energy.

My fresh start is elsewhere.

This is my next discernment.

Fourth – the catastrophe of birth

These words of Joseph Campbell – the catastrophe of birth – help me see that what feels catastrophic is a flag for transition in me.  I am letting parts of me die off, and welcoming deeper, truer parts of me.

A calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed. It may also posess you completely. Whatever; eventually it will out. It will make its claim. [It] will not go away.
James Hillman

I am engaging in extreme – but humane – self-inquiry, and I have a choice to make. Will I midwife myself into being more Me?

… there comes a point in your path where you need to fiercely embrace that which you are still in the process of becoming.
Sera Beak

There is a fiery Beth emerging. In dancing with dragons, she will shed her skin over and over again, renewing and regenerating, ever finding ways to live from and embody her Soul.

Every ending is a beginning.

The Ultimate ride for me isn’t about losing any part of my Self; rather, it’s about coming into conscious alignment with every part of my Self.
Sera Beak



A spring of cosmic carrots


I have to laugh – a fork was in the road on the street in front of my house, recently released with spring’s warm embrace. It is not my fork; it is a found fork, a little worse for wear. It symbolizes the cosmic carrots floating around me at the moment.
Fork in the road
Over the course of the winter, like my city planner friend Nola, I have been pondering my desire line – the path I want to be travelling in my work. In January, it was perfectly clear. My book is nearing completion and it is time to prepare for its release out into the world. For seven years, I have enjoyed a wonderful balance of time to write, and time for paid work with wonderful people, in the form of small contracts. This has been wonderfully nourishing and I long to merge what I have learned in writing with my work out in the world.
 I long for two things:
  1. to tangibly and practically put Nest City into action 
  2. to work with a team of great people
Of course, I have been putting into practice, and working with great people; I long to put these two things together for the long term, for larger contribution to the well-being of cities and citizens.
In response to these longings I extended an invitation to 13 local, wonderful people with whom I want to step out into the work world, to be a team of some sort. We quickly met to begin our dive into an evolutionary purpose I sense we serve for cities: to create the conditions for cities to serve citizens well, and for citizens to serve cities well. We to discern the work we are called to do for the city. We called it the carrot of potential.
And no sooner does this process begin and the Universe taps me on the shoulder to test my resolve. A cosmic carrot.
It came in the form of a phone call from a headhunter inviting me to apply for a job. I surprised myself and said yes to exploring the opportunity. I went for coffee with the bigwig to see if he and the organization were a fit for me, then had a first interview, and a second interview. I am now waiting for word.
And while I wait, another laugh as another cosmic carrot emerges. This time in the form of a tingling, an attraction to a big idea, to a way to serve my city and cities everywhere.
Invisible thresholds emerge to test me. Like the fork in the road, they are emerging as the snow melts. And because they emerge, my destination is changing too. I am emerging to a new destination. It may be a big job, or a big idea, or some combination of both. The discernment I have in front of me is to figure out which destination will move me in the direction I want to go. For now, I sit in the unknown, nourished by these cosmic carrots.
And yet another laugh. In this fertile ground of carrots volunteering themselves for my nourishment (including a fork to eat them with??), I find a post I wrote 2 years ago today, the spring equinox. As I made the transition from writing Part Two of Nest City, to Part Three, I noticed that I had no idea what I was going to write. I had no idea what would come next. The helpful tips I found for myself in Focus, learn, emerge, for life while emerging to new destinations, apply as well now on 2015’s first day of spring:
  1. We learn consciously and unconsciously, spurred on by persistent practical problems.
  2. We chaotically reorganize ourselves by exploring our in-tuition.
  3. We take a step back from the edge, as needed, in order to choose the right leap for the context.
  4. We are learning how to let a scary idea warm us up first, then explore the inner struggle, recognizing that each struggle is powering us up for something bigger and more challenging.
  5. The more we consciously explore the thresholds before us, and their nature within us, we will make wiser choices, to either go forward or turn away, as appropriate.
  6. It is in each of us to reach the places we wish to go.

The possibilities before us are known and unknown. The cosmic carrots, the thresholds, play an essential role as we chaotically reorganize ourselves to move in the direction we long to go.

What carrots are nourishing you? 



A change in perspective

retires one

for another

perhaps unknown

a journey of surprise

deliberate or not

either way it calls

for unguardedness

to allow

shadow to light

to allow

flow and movement

for which I can

(not) prepare



A poem caught while spending time with my community of practice last night.




I am fascinated by the tipping point where what is acceptable public discourse becomes clearly UNacceptable. Case in point – University of Calgary’s Tom Flanagan, who appeared in a maelstrom of news coverage over the last week due to some ill-conceived public remarks. The headlines tell the story:

It’s a precipice that can appear quite quickly, seemingly out of nowhere for the Flanigans of the world if they have grown no appropriate antennae. In Flanagan’s case, the lesson for us all is that any moment can become a public moment. A simple video recording or a photograph can be distributed widely in a short amount of time. The antennae we use for our immediate context, to judge what is proper to say/do, must grow to take into account what can be done with what we say/do.

Our antennae must tune into changing social life conditions. And they must work at scales, at all times, or we will be caught in the Flananigans, a threshold of collective response to the world we live in.

What do antennae at scales look like?

How do they help locate – and define – thresholds?

______ ______ ______

This post is part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities, the book I am sharing here while I search for a publisher:



Emerging to new destinations


I started this series of posts with emerging thresholds, a post that articulated my transition in writing about “destination” (Chapter 5) to writing about “emergence” (Chapter 6).  I recognize that I am now making a transition out of “emergence” and into “possibility”. Before I do so, I need to revisit the three elements that are crucial organizing ourselves in cities: journey, destination and emergence.

Destination venn

A key habitat we build for ourselves on our evolutionary journey is cities, and they are meant to feel uneasy. Cities are a platform for our never-ending journey, in which we see need for great improvement. The improvement we see is a destination that is both alive and adrift. Our destinations/purposes are both planned and not planned, for they are continuously shaped and reshaped by our life conditions. What emerges along our journey depends upon our destination and journey AND changes our destination and journey. These three elements are in a continual dance with each other.

We never build the city we think we will – or the lives we think we will – because what we conceive of what we want moves as learn on our journey to get there. And when we “get there” we see a new destination to move in. A new destination has emerged to challenge us to improve.

When it comes to organizing our cities, and all the intelligence embedded within them, it is essential to spend time noticing where we wish to go and how we’ll get there. It is equally important to ensure we create habitats to learn along the way so that as things emerge to thwart or aid our efforts we skillfully navigate our way, creating new patterns of order on the other side of chaos. We learn to handle new life conditions, get comfortable with those life conditions until we reach another chasm, facing another journey across another threshold and a new order again.

Thresholds have a critical role to play in our individual and collective learning and growth. Each is the ‘shoreline of a new world’, as John O’Donohue puts it. It is a reminder that my/our chosen destination, the direction we wish to move in, is in another world and we need to embark on a journey to get there.  And when we get there, it won’t be what we thought. It can’t be, because it is another world. Being in relationship with thresholds is a learning journey itself, where we begin to think, make and do new things, allowing new patterns to emerge. The quality of our relationships with the thresholds we face – as individuals and as a collective – is a factor in our reaching desired destinations.

So we articulate where we wish to go – a direction, or a specific destination. Along the way, we encounter things that get in the way of moving in the direction we wish. Life conditions change in any manner or at any scale, requiring adjustment on our part. The obstacles can be any manner of chasm – threshold – that requires us shift and adjust. Our adjustments take place consciously and unconsciously. We learn consciously and unconsciously, spurred on by persistent practical problems. We struggle with chasms seen and unseen.

In the end, we chaotically reorganize ourselves by exploring our  in-tuition. We  take a step back from the edge as needed in order to choose the right leap for the context. We are learning how to let a scary idea warm us up first, then explore the inner struggle, recognizing that each struggle is powering us up for something bigger and more challenging.

The more we consciously explore the thresholds before us, and their nature within us, we will make wiser choices: go forward or turn away.

It is in each of us to reach the places we wish to go.

What thresholds must you cross to reach the places you wish to go?

What thresholds must we cross to reach the places we wish to go?


______ ______ _____

Sources / Further reading

Peggy Holman, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity

John O’Donohue, Bless the Space Between Us

David Whyte, The Three Marriages

_____ _____ _____

This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

_____ _____ _____

The inevitable warmth of the Self


There is a point where the leap in front of me feels inevitable. It’s not rational, or even easy to explain. I just know it is time. Bruce Grierson describes it this way:

Every day, in almost every field, individuals perceive themselves to be on the wrong side of a divide.  The ‘second brain’ in their gut – that ten-billion nerve knot – tells them their life must change.  And, on more or at least deeply personal, grounds, they jump the gap.  The apprehension can seem so sudden that it straightens them in their chair – and then seems inevitable.

The divide shows up in a variety of ways. It can be a chasm I have been walking alongside for years but choosing not to look over and see what’s on my flank. It can be non-existent until something happens in life that makes it magically appear. It can sneak up on my consciousness, or it can boldly jump out in front of me.

Regardless of how it appears, when it is in front of me and I look at it fully, I recognize its inevitability. The persistent, practical problems I face will not be resolved until I cross the divide. I am compelled to leap, yet I must choose the right leap, and to do so, I must allow myself opportunities to step back from the edge from time to time.

Facing a threshold, let alone crossing it, is significant work because it requires us to delve into our inner knowledge, our in-tuition.  Our recognition of the crossing comes not from others, but from within. Our ability to make the crossing comes not from others, but from within.

From threshold to threshold new layers of our being emerge. What we become, and our ‘becoming’ relies heavily on our ability to explore our inner struggles. This is not easy work. It’s like looking into the sun: compelling and harmful. We can not fully look into ourselves, but we can let the bright sun warm us up. As the sun travels with us everywhere, so too does the Self, the higher Self in each of us that wants us to do well, be well and become our fullest potential.

Struggle, conflict and tension are not avoidable in life. I believe they are part of our lives because they serve as opportunities to learn. Each time we face a struggle, small, large or monstrous, we have a choice – go forward or turn away. Both choices are right. Its the choice itself that offers the opportunity to learn about our struggles and our path to become our fullest potential, as individuals, as families, neighbourhoods, organizations, cities and as a species.

John O’Donohue:

Without warning, thresholds can open directly before our feet.  These thresholds are also the shorelines of new worlds.

As we make our way through the world, we struggle regularly. When we choose to explore our struggles for what they teach us about ourselves, we begin to explore the shorelines of new worlds.  As we explore the world, shoreline by shoreline, we learn of the intelligence within each and all of us, basking in the warmth of what we know.

What shorelines are you exploring?


_____ _____ _____

This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

_____ _____ _____


Bruce Grierson, U-Turn: What if you woke up one morning and realized you were living the wrong life?

John O’Donohue, Bless the Space Between Us

_____ _____ _____


Choice: go forward or turn away


Scott Turow, in Innocent, writes the following:

We are curled together, each trying to determine which loss could be worse – going forward or turning away. I still have no idea what will happen. But in this moment I learn one thing: I have been lying to myself for months. Because I am fully willing.

Going forward or turning away articulates a threshold and the choice faced with standing at that threshold. And the essential questions that emerge from this piece:

What are we going toward that we should turn away from?

What are we turning away from that we should continue to move into?

What am I fully willing to lie to myself about?


_____ _____ _____

This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

_____ _____ _____


Explore inner struggle

One of the ways I know I have reached a threshold, whether clear or not, is that I feel an inner struggle. Geraldine Brooks, in the afterword of People of the Book, articulates it well:

I knew it in that deep place where one hides knowledge that is inconvenient, or too painful to admit, even to oneself.

There is great intelligence in an inner struggle; it is instruction from self to self. It is often inconvenient or painful to explore because that means acknowledging the status quo is not good enough. The inner struggle is a sign that there is improvement needed, and sometimes it is hard to admit that what I have, or what I am doing, or done, is not good enough.

I get caught in a trap of my own creation when I allow myself to be threatened by what could be, allowing myself to believe that what I have been doing is bad. Instead, I can focus on the potential of what could be, if I make the choice. I can recognize that much of what I have done was appropriate for the context of the time. I can be honest with myself about what could have been better, for this is healthy reflection, but I don’t need to beat myself up. I need to learn and improve.

My aim is to constantly, endlessly, shift and adjust and improve. To do this, I have to consciously explore my inner struggles to see how I undermine improvement, how I sabotage myself and my dreams. When I move into a mindset of being threatened, I choose to sabotage myself by defending my earlier actions, blaming anything else for why something didn’t work. It is hard to admit that I could have made a different choice, but I have a choice about how to handle that very choice.

The inner struggle can happen at any scale of time, over a few minutes, hours, years or a lifetime. As awful as it feels, for Bruce Grierson, it is what powers our way over a threshold into a new way of being:

To have reached that spot is to be standing over the proverbial frozen sea with an ax…  It’s genuinely wanting something different for yourself…  The internal struggle that will ultimately power the turnaround has been set in motion…  there is no struggle…

The struggle as I approach a threshold can be huge, just as I imaging approaching a cliff, and taking a first look at the chasm in front of me. As the need to leap grows, I will find the inner strength to cross and one I have made that choice, the struggle disappears.

This inner struggle takes place in each of us as individuals, and also as collectives. As families, neighbourhoods, organizations, cities, nations and as a species, we struggle with how to deliver health care, organize economic systems, feed and shelter everyone, and ensure our planet habitat is healthy for us to live on. For our cities to be well, we need to deeply explore our struggles as individuals and as collectives.  When we do, we will see what we really need to do to improve the quality of life of citizens and cities.

The struggles we feel individually and collectively are powering us up to be better citizens to create better cities.

What are you struggling with?

What is your city struggling with?

_____ _____ _____

This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

_____ _____ _____


Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book, p. 310 (Afterword – reference to Mira Papo, a young Jewish Partisan in Sarajevo and which is in the collection of Yad Vashem.)

Let the bright sun warm you up


As I approached the edge of the river valley this morning, it was hard to look at my city; the bright, rising sun was aimed right into my eyes.  Its intensity disabled my ability to look at, and contemplate, the horizon and the valley in front of me.

Bright sun
Edmonton at 9:19 am

I choose instead to enjoy the sun’s warmth.

Sitting on my bench, I started to feel too warm.  I was dressed appropriately for the air temperature, but not for the warm micro-climate created by the hot sunshine.  I also started to think about when I stand at a threshold, when something is too big to handle – or too bright – I tend to ignore the bright light. It hurts to look at, so I turn away.

I’m curious now…

How can I let an idea that scares me simply warm me up first?

_____ _____ _____

This post forms part of Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities. Click here for an overview of Chapters 4-7 (Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence). Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.

_____ _____ _____