Stretch and fold


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
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



Patience to care


The promise of light in February is to begin

spring sooner than later

for new beginnings

for noticing early signs of brightness

for moving

for inspiration

for seeking

to care


yet to care is also patience

for  profound capacity

to become apparent

a profound capacity to care, aware

that I choose to accept

that I choose to receive

that I choose

to wait


care means conflict and impatience too

assuming all will be well because it will

with joy and pain and time

I patiently offer my care


patience is not a blind eye

if it is a choice to declare what I need

when I ask I can receive

when I ask I can receive

when open to surprise the patience to care comes

it touches, it beacons, it enjoys, it lights

the whole



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This poem was caught last week during a gathering of my local community of practice.



A spring of paradox


As part of how I relate to my city, I participate in a community of practice with fellow citizens. We explore what it means – and what it takes – to be a citizen offering our full potential to the world. Each  of us, in our way, is helping shape our city with our work in every moment every day.

Here is my harvest from our gathering last night. We were exploring Parker Palmer’s work on seasons.

A spring of paradox - poem


Sprouts in Edmonton, April 17, 2013

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This post is part of Chapter 8 – The City Making Exchange. 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:

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Luke and Yoda

Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate and Slide;ology, belives that we each have the power to change the world with our ideas.  She notices that when an idea is embedded in a story arc, the audience gets attached to ideas and they take root.  When a story is told, we physically react, and it is through this process that ideas take hold in us.

Any presentation, then, is about the story and the audience.  The story’s arc is grounded in the hero, but the hero is not the presenter, as we usually think: it is the audience.  In her TEDx EAST talk, Duarte offers the perfect metaphor: the presenter is not young Luke Skywalker out to save the world, but his mentor, Yoda.  The presenter is not the star of the show; the presenter is more like Yoda, who helps the audience move from one thing to another.

There is more to this metaphor than meets the eye:

  1. The world is full of Lukes.  There is not one Luke Skywalker that will save the world, but 7 billion.  It is not up to one hero to make a difference, but the hero in each of us.
  2. Yoda intelligence is everywhere.  There are, all around us, people with Yoda intelligence offering their wisdom to anyone willing to receive.
  3. The Luke in us works on inner well-being.  As was the case with young Luke, heros have moments when they are frustrated and do not believe in themselves. In this mode they have great difficulty hearing the messages of their mentors.  It is life’s journey to face difficulty and find peace and strength in such difficulty.
  4. The Yoda in us notices the right challenge at the right time for apprentices.  Each of us will at several points in life play the role of mentor or coach. Our default is to imagine that we must provide direction to our apprentices, but recall Yoda, who sits patiently, waiting for Luke to learn at his own pace.  He knows what challenge will, at the right time, best support Luke’s learning.  And he remains ever calm and patient with the apprentice while the angst of learning is taking place.

With so many Lukes and Yodas in the world, the odds are for us, not against us.

My gatekeeper tension

The tension is growing within me.  I am in the inner circle.  Five of us decide who gets to play in our community of practice playground.

Our purpose as a community is to create space and place to practice being (and being in) learning living systems as social innovators.  As I imagine the playground down the street and the various collections of small people during recess, they choose who they spend their time with.  Sometimes the choices are clear and easy, other times agonizing.  And the choice is ultimately about resonance and attraction.

I struggle with being in a position where I am expected to accept or reject the people interested in playing in our playground because it interferes with resonance and attraction.  A couple of months ago, I glibly referred to the inner circle as the gatekeepers.  Today, my curiosity about the word ‘gatekeeper’ compels further exploration: what it means, how it shows up, and whether the purpose of the gatekeeper is aligned with the purpose of our community of practice, and emerging operating principles.

What it means

The Collins dictionary on my shelf, a gatekeeper comes with a gate and a wall, defined thus:

  • Gatekeeper – ‘a person who has charge of a gate and controls who may pass through it’.
  • Gate – ‘a movable barrier for closing an opening in a wall, fence, etc.  It is an opening to allow for access’ (and egress).
  • Wall – ‘a construction used to enclose, divide or support, often to protect and surround a position or place for defensive purposes’.

How it shows up

The gatekeeper, the gate and the wall show up in how we organize our community of practice.  Simply:

  • The ways we enclose, support and protect ourselves are the wall.
  • The people (inner circle) who determine who may pass through the wall are the gatekeepers.
  • The criteria for passage are the gate.

The quality of the relationship between these three elements is crucial for them to work well together.  The purpose of the wall must be clear to articlate the criteria for passage.  The criteria or passage must be clear to determine who may pass through.  If not, both the gate and the gatekeeper are not able to ensure the intention of the wall is realized.

Alignment of purpose

How well a wall functions is connected to the clarity of the wall’s purpose.  The purpose will dictate how permeable the wall needs to be – what, who and how much the gate and gatekeeper will allow to pass through.  To understand the purpose of the wall though, the purpose of the community of practice must also be clear.

Our emerging purpose:  To create space and place to practice being (and being in) learning living systems

Our emerging superordinate goal, to which our purpose serves, is to:  Be a meshwork of social innovators who create conditions for the continued evolution and growth of life

So what role does a wall in a community of practice play in light of these two statements?  To what degree does a wall separate us from others? Contain us?  Restrict us?  Support us?  Protect us?   Each of these can roles naturally occur in living systems.  They each can restrict us from, or release us to, our growth and evolution.

At this juncture, our gatekeeper practice does not align with these statements.  We judge interested play mates for fit, without criteria.  We are not clear what we are looing for – or not looking for.  We trust on our intuition, but likely also our insidious bias and limiting beliefs.  We decide if they fit before really letting them in and limit our opportunities to be surprised.  We may at some point also be distracted by another gate, ‘the number of people admitted to a sporting or entertainment event, and/or the total amount of money received from them’.

What I value in our community of practice is our trust in self organizing systems.  I value our keen attention to creating minimal structure to allow what needs to happen just happen.  I value our interest in creating dissonance for our selves and each other since we recognize that that is what we need to learn and grow in our life and work.  These qualities are welcoming and expansive in nature.  Our behaviour at the gate does not exemplify our ‘inside’ behaviour.

Emerging operating principles

My emerging operating principles for how I wish to operate as a gatekeeper at the gate in the wall around in a community of practice with the above purpose:

1.     Trust We trust that the people who are attracted to this playground bring something that our community needs.  We may not know or understand what that is as they pass through the gate, but we trust that if what we do resonates with them, there is a relationship worthy of exploration.

2.     Resonant permeability – The gate is open to those that feel called to play in our community of practice playground, whether they have been explicitly invited or not.  The gate is also open to those that feel called to step away.

3.     Evolution is expansive – Being welcoming to all who express interest in what we do is expansive.  Putting our attention to qualities of expansiveness will increase our expansiveness.

4.     Our space and place thrives when we are who we really are – There is no threat in trusting resonance and attraction.  Only those for whom our community of practice resonates will linger.

5.     The wall is a source of intelligence – A wall serves as the transition from one space to another.  The gate is simply where this transition takes place.  What, precisely is the transition, and the nature of it?  In the living system of a human body, a cell membrane serves as a wall.  Bruce Lipton (The Biology of Belief) even notes that the membrane may be the real source of intelligence in a cell, not the nucleus.  The wall may be the brain, as we have come to know it.  What if the real intelligence in our community of practice is in the people who choose to transition in and out of our community?

The gatekeeper in me welcomes all who pass through – the gate ‘as a mountain pass, especially one proving entry into another country’…

The gatekeeper in me is brave enough to share what is behind the wall.