6 circle lessons (from a dream)

NestCity-BlogPostEvery once and a while a dream knocks me back into reality. I was setting up to run a meeting, the second in a series of three for a client. This meeting was going to work a lot like the first, but I forgot to print off my version of the agenda, the one with all the notes I have about what I need to say. I lost the plot. So I decided to wing it and start the meeting. Continue reading 6 circle lessons (from a dream)

Lifestyle of the lifecycle

 

The words that instinctively came out of my mouth were wiser than the words I scripted for myself. At the opening of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute conference, in front of the crowd, I was to named the conference theme, “Lifecycle of a Planner,” but the word “lifestyle” came out.

This made immediate sense to me as professional citizenship, and the practices that enable professional life to include the interests of the citizen in each of us, as well as the citizens (and the public interest) we serve as professionals. As I listened to Paul Bedford’s story of this life as a professional planner, including as Chief City Planner for the City of Toronto and now as an urban mentor, I found these underlying questions that underpin a lifestyle of professional practice that serves both self and citizens well.

  1. What fascinates you?
  2. Do you get paid to do what you love?
  3. Where do you have a contribution to make?
  4. Who are you? Where do you belong?
  5. What are you learning?
  6. What do you do to nourish your self, and your creativity?
  7. Do you feel good about your work?
  8. How much courage do you have?
  9. What are the principles that guide you?
  10. Where am I growing?
Lifestyleofaplanner
The questions underlying Paul Bedford’s Keynote at 2014 APPI Conference

Explore these questions in your own way. On a walk, in a journal, while at the gym or playing the guitar. Find some time to settle into you, and settle into a question, recognizing that any one of these questions is a point of entry into the messiness and confusion that is naturally a part of being human. Transition from one part of your life to another part of your life is part of the lifecycle. How we live in these transitions sabotages or nourishes our personal growth. The lifestyle with which we live the lifecycle matters.

Spend some time with yourself.

Listen to what you have to say to yourself.

 

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Professional citizenship

 

I had clear instructions. Introduce the speaker and remind the audience about the hashtag #lifecycleofaplanner (for twitter), the conference theme. What came out of my mouth was #lifestyleofaplanner. As I listened to the speaker, I realized I wasn’t wrong. My mouth knew something my brain did not know.

Drawing on a lifetime of experience working as a city planner in Toronto, including as Chief City Planner, Paul Bedford described the life of a planner: connecting the dots, capturing the heart and mind, and the need to be bold or go home. He described a lifestyle. The planner as a person and the work s/he does are not separate.  As he put it, the ability to learn is the only constant in change. That is lifestyle.

To be the planner our cities need of us, you:

  1. Live, breathe and love your city. You choose to be a part of your city. You dive into your city to better serve your self, citizens and your city.
  2. Know what you believe. You have figured out your personal beliefs, and they align with your work.
  3. Live your work as a privilege. You approach your work with curiosity and passion. You choose this work, or maybe it has chosen you. You do not take it for granted and fully enjoy
  4. Live as a change agent. When you know what you believe, and you choose to live what you believe, you make change happen. Anywhere and everywhere. 
  5. Serve citizens in the present and future. You are positive and proactive.
  6. Search for, and make decisions based on purpose and principles. You are connected to the underlying purpose and intention of your work. You are flexible in how you get there, noticing which methods are the the best things in each given context.
  7. Experiment with creativity. As you learn and grow in your practice, you explore how to experiment and be creative in your work.
  8. Connect the big picture and the ground in simple ways. You find synthesize and integrate everywhere you go, enabling yourself to better understand your context, as well as others. You find language that has meaning for others.
  9. Welcome the constant renovation of life. You recognize that you are always under renovation, as your city is too. You shed what you no longer need, and allow the new to come forward.
  10. Choose to swim, not float. You choose the direction you move in.

This is the lifestyle of a planner who serves citizens well. This is professional citizenship, a lifestyle, a personal journey on the inside that shows up on the outside in the work we do. If these do not apply to you, you are in the wrong job, or the wrong line of work.

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Want to explore your own professional journey a bit further? Check out The Art of Hosting BIG Decisions (While Looking After Self Others, and Place).

 

Rewire the reptilian

 

In a month’s time I will be going on a vision quest. My intention is to recalibrate my reptilian being.

I wrote last week about citizen superpowers and two parts of our brains: the part that serves as our deeper, higher Self (the middle prefrontal cortex, what Shirzad Chabine calls the Empathic Circuitry (mirror neuron system, the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex) and the right brain; and the  fight-or-flight parts of our brain (brain stem and limbic system). The former generates what I call our citizen superpowers, our passion to improve, while the latter is the source of Chabine’s ten saboteurs (see citizen superpowers).

The brain stem and limbic system is also known as our reptilian brain. It is in survival mode at all times, but in  my life, I do not need to be in survival mode at all times.  I have reliable shelter. I have a good food supply. Far more than my basic needs are met. Yet this old part of my brain tells me that there is never enough, that it will never last. I puts me on the defensive and the offensive. It feeds my behaviours that sabotage me and my ability be my best Me.

The reptilian me is focused on scarcity.

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When it comes to food, I have engrained habits that are based in deprivation. I eat whatever is in front of me because it feels like it is my only chance. A few years ago I tried my first diet and it worked wonders. I lost 30 pounds, was physically active and felt super fit. I felt wonderful. I even learned some good habits in the process – I now crave vegetables and fruit.

Inevitably, I started to gain weight back because I lacked the willpower to deprive myself of the foods I want. And when I have access to the food I want, or when I find myself super hungry, I eat like I will not have an opportunity to eat for a couple days. After depriving myself, the reptilian part of my brain takes over when it has a chance. Depriving myself of food I like/want is a pattern of scarcity.

The reptilian me is focused on scarcity.

_____

I can feel a shift underway.  I long to trust my body and its signals about what I need to eat and when. I want to fully appreciate what my body is and what it looks like. I want to shift to appreciate my body from  within, rather than external measures (weight, people’s comments, the mirror).  To pursue this exploration, I am embarking on an experience that will involve true deprivation: a fast.

In June, I will be heading out on a Wilderness Quest on a mountain in the Eastern Cascade mountains with the support of Ann Linnea, Christina Baldwin and Deborah Greene-Jacobi. It is a rite of passage that started when I chose to do this, though I can not better describe what I am moving from, or moving to. That will come. What I learn on this journey could be entirely different from what I imagine. I know I will ease myself into life on the mountain for a couple days, then head out alone, fasting, for two days, then circle up with my fellow questers to “digest” our learnings and prepare to re-enter the world.

My only expectation is time to explore and discover. And I may discover nothing right away.

There is a bigger ME that sees abundance.

_____

My intention is to rewire my reptilian brain, to awaken my whole being to what real scarcity looks and feels like. My intention is to experience what the reptilian me sees, and bend with it to more fully see and appreciate – and embody – the abundance in life.

My quest is my abundant Self. 

 

 

 

 

Citizen superpowers

 

… your mind is your best friend, but it is also your worst enemy. Positive Intelligence measures the relative strength of those two modes in your mind. High Positive Intelligence means your mind acts as your friend far more than as your enemy. Low Positive Intelligence is the reverse. 
 

These are the words of Shirzad Chamine, in his book Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How You Can Achieve Yours. This got me to thinking about how this relates to citizens and cities – how we choose to use our brains matters. We can choose to be happier citizens and have happier cities.

THE SABOTEURS

In each of us, according to Chamine, is a master saboteur of happiness – the Judge – and nine accomplices. Powered by the fight-or-flight parts of our brain (brain stem and limbic system), they aim for survival and power. They will do whatever it takes to convince you that your survival depends on them.  See if you recognize any of them (text below summarized from Chamine):

  1. The Judge compels you to constantly find faults with yourself, others, and your conditions and circumstances. It generates much of your anxiety, stress, anger, disappointment, shame and guilt. Its lie: without tough love, you or others would turn into lazy and unambitious being who would not achieve much.
  2. The Stickler takes perfection, order, and organization too far. It makes you and others around you anxious and uptight. It saps your own or others’ energy on extra measures of perfection that are not necessary. Its lie: perfectionism is always good and that you don’t pay a huge price for it.
  3. The Pleaser compels you to try to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others constantly. It causes you to lose sight of your own needs and become resentful of others. Its lie: you are pleasing others because it is a good thing to do, denying that you are really trying to win affection and acceptance indirectly.
  4. The Hyper-Achiever makes you dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation. It keep you focused mainly on external success rather than on internal criteria for happiness. Its lie: your self-acceptance should be conditional on performance and external validation.
  5. The Victim wants you to feel emotional and temperamental as a way of gaining attention and affection. Its lie: assuming the victim or martyr persona is the best way to attract caring and attention to yourself.
  6. The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exlcusive foxon on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions and regard emotions as unworthy of much time or consideration. Its lie: the rational mind is the most important and helpful form of intelligence that your possess.
  7. The Hyper-Vigilant makes you feel intense and continuous anxiety about all the dangers surrounding you and what could go wrong… It results in a great deal of ongoing stress that wears you and others down. Its lie: the dangers around you are bigger than they actually are and that nonstop vigilance is the best way to tackle them.
  8. The Restless is constantly in search of greater excitement in the next activity or through perpetual busyness. It doesn’t allow you to feel much peace or contentment with your current activity. It gives you a neverending stream of distractions that make you los your focus on the things and relationships that truly matter. Its lie: by being so busy you are living life fully, but it ignores the fact that in pursuit of a full life you miss out on your life as it is happening.
  9. The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to one’s own will. Its lie: you need the Controller to generate the best results from the people around you.
  10. The Avoider focuses on the prositive and the pleasuant in an extreme way. It avoids difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts. Its lie: you are being positive, not avoiding your problems.

Notice and identify these Saboteurs, for they keep you from reaching your fullest potential. They keep you – and your brain – focused on short-term threats to your short-term survival. Through you and each and every citizen, they keep our cities from serving citizens well.

THE CITIZEN SUPERPOWERS

In contrast to your Saboteurs, the Sage in you is a “deeper and wiser part of you. It is the part that can rise above the fray and resist getting carried away by the drama and tension of the moment or falling victim to the lies of the saboteurs.” The Sage in you uses whole other areas of your brain for an entirely different purpose. Use of the middle prefrontal cortex, what Chabine calls the Empathic Circuitry (mirror neuron system, the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex), and the right brain gives you the ability to see bigger pictures, empathize, and detect invisible things, such as energy and mood.

You and your brain choose how you are going to show up – in defensive survival mode, or as the Sage.

The Sage in you has five powers, enabling you to move “one positive step at a time, regardless of what life throws at you.” I call these your Citizen Superpowers:

  1. Explore with great curiosity and an open mind
  2. Empathize with yourself and others with compassion and understanding to any situation
  3. Innovate and create new perspectives and outside-the-box solutions
  4. Navigate and choose a path that best aligns with your deeper underlying values and mission
  5. Activate and take decisive action without the distress, interference, or distractions of the Saboteurs

These Citizen Superpowers allow you to accept “what is, rather than denying, rejecting or resenting what is. The Sage perspective accepts every outcome and circumstance as a gift and opportunity.” These Citizen Superpowers also allow you to make your cities better all the time.

The Sage moves you into action not out of feeling bad, but out of empathy, inspiration, the joy of exploration, a longing to create, a desire to contribute, and an urge to find meaning in the midst of even the greatest crises… there is no such thing as a bad circumstance or outcome…

Strengthen the Sage in you and you grow your positive intelligence – and your Citizen Superpowers. You strengthen your city.

How are you growing your Citizen Superpowers?

 

10 ways to thwart, not support

 

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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?
  3. 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?)
  4. 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
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 

 

Focus, learn and choose

 

As we approach the winter solstice and the darkness increases, my energy levels are low.  It is hard to get out of bed in the morning and get the day underway. From a life cycle perspective, winter is time to rest, from the activities of the fall harvest and for spring and summer’s growth. I am torn; I feel the pull of rest I feel that there is much for me to be doing – I should be busy.

In this time of darkness I feel adrift, in the increasing gray nowhere described in John O’Donohue’s Blessing, “The Time of Necessary Decision” (yesterday’s post.) As regularly happens, quite naturally, I seem to have lost track of my destination. Without clear purpose, I waver as I decide what to do with my time and energy.

Today’s realization was that I am overthinking things and not listening to my Higher Self. Even as I wrote in my journal about it, I felt like I was overthinking, so I had a conversation with my Higher Self. Here is what transpired:

self: Have I been thinking about how to live from my spirit instead of really doing it? Being it?

SELF: Yes. Yet you’re not far.

Release.

self: Release what?

SELF: Release self.

self: That is my learning curve?

SELF: Yes.

self: A lot of self is released already.

SELF: Yes.

self: There’s more.

SELF: Of course.

self: That next bit is hard to figure out. I’m not sure where it is, where to go to release it.

SELF: Don’t look for it, just let it go. To look for where is about control.

Let it go.

self: Is that what I need to rest into? Over the next few weeks and into the darkness? Just sit with what needs to be let go and let it go? I imagine right now some grieving, but its weird not knowing what I am releasing.

SELF: Sit in the darkness.  It will start getting lighter soon. The self to release will find you.

Remember that what you are growing into will transcend and include what you are growing from. You are not jettisoning anything, so no need to fear losing anything but what is not needed anymore. It’s still around, repurposed.

It is difficult and murky territory when in transition. Focus, learn and choose are three words that stood out for you as you explored the oracle card this morning. You are facing a soul-full challenge right now. On what will you focus, learn and choose? 

self: I focus on reaching my fullest/highest evolutionary potential in my lifetime. I am learning to live from my spirit, my Self and all that I am, freely, expansively, deliberately, consciously. I choose to nourish my Being. 

SELF: Ahhhh… Your energy has shifted.

self: This is a higher order of understanding. It’s not just look after self, it’s nourish self.

Today, I latched on to the higher-order purpose of my work.  A moment to focus, to notice what I am learning, and to make a choice realigns to why I do what I do. I am more connected to my very existence. I am ready to settle into my work, both inwards and outwards, for the next two weeks until things start to get lighter. I can choose to get ‘busy’ and distract myself from the inner work at hand, or focus on it, to learn more about the choices I have.

The gray nowhere, as all seasons do, comes and goes. While it continues to get darker, while I continue to feel somewhat adrift, I feel more alive, connected to my personal journey that is necessarily part of the larger journey of humanity.

This bit that’s alive, connected to purpose, will steer me through all shades of gray of nowhere.

 

 

Lingering September practices

September was a busy month, full of life and excitement.  Now a week into October at a totally different speed, I notice some new practices in response to the life conditions of September that I choose to continue.

  1. I visit the river every day.  Every weekday in September we had contractors on hand to put a new roof on our home.  I work at home, and before I get to work I have a routine of some physical practice and journaling. The contractors’ noise was too much, so I walked over to the river valley for a beautiful view and a bench.  (See Writing from the red chair.)  The contractors are gone, but I still head out in the morning for some time alone with me, the river and the city.
  2. I write at night.  Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in September I was working as Interviewer and Harvester at the Integral City 2.0 Conference.  We hosted 36 sessions (three each day, twelve days) and interviewed over 60 visionaries. I played the role of interviewer, and when not interviewing, supported the host and interviewer by catching audience questions and crafting questions for break-out groups’ exploration.  At the end of each day, I wrote a ‘harvest’, my meaning of the day for immediate publication on our web site.  This schedule meant for some very late nights during the week.  I am finding now that I am inclined to write for a couple of hours each evening.  I am not totally exhausted in the morning because this somehow fuels me.
  3. I stop to breathe. In the middle of September’s craziness, I took some time to pause and deepen one of the ways I gather with people: circle.  I attended Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea’s Circle Practicum.  One of the most meaningful learnings for me from this experience is the importance of pausing for breath.  Ring the bell, take a breath, then ring the bell again.  This is useful when feeling frenetic, or when something profound has occurred, when there is a transition of some kind, etc.  We even came up with a way to articulate this by text in the digital world: *~*  I am no longer sitting in circle for several days in a row, but I circle up with myself and I choose to notice when I need to stop and breath.  Sometimes I even use a bell.
  4. I pay attention to my energy. There is a lot of synchronicity in my life right now around personal energy.  At the Circle Practicum, and several times throughout the Integral City 2.0 Conference the word ‘energy’ and practices around knowing and cultivating personal energy surfaced. I recognize that I have been intrigued by this for a while, but not yet able to explore this in my personal development.  I sense a whole new area of learning here for me.  One of the gifts of September is curiosity about where my energy is, where I choose to put it and how it moves throughout my body. I am also curious about how energy behaves between and among people.  I choose now to pay attention to the subtleties of my body and being.

Each of these new practices are in response to my life conditions of last month, yet I have chosen to stick with them even though the reasons for them are gone.  In some way, each of these are responding to today’s life conditions too.

There is a virtuous circle at work within me, allowing me to see myself well, and see when life conditions change and when I need to shift in response.  Regardless of what form my habits take, they serve what Marilyn Hamilton and I call the master rule:

  • look after self
  • look after others
  • look after this place

 

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This post forms part of Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey, of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities.

Nest City is organized into three parts, each with a collection of chapters.  Click here for an overview of the three parts of Nest City.  Click here for an overview of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, chapters 4-7.