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.


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.


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. 





Shift the locus of leadership


For Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, authors of Leading from the Emerging Future, making the move from silos to wiser ways of organizing means shifting the locus of leadership. Moving leadership from the center to the periphery, from one place to many, requires silos to connect. It is a shift from centralized leadership, to distributed and relational sense-making. It is a transformation of our relationships from ego (I-in-me) to eco (we-in-me.) A wee poem that captures the meaning I made:


I’m in awe of what we know

at the edge, in a mess.

With patience sparking, we lean

into the periphery, growing

the growing Self into the future,

work not to do alone.

______ ______ ______

Some friends and I have started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book. This is another piece, on Chapter 7. Here’s what came from my exploration of earlier chapters:

_____ _____ _____

This post begins a series of posts on Chapter 10 – The Emerging City, offering bits of the book I am working on. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:

Infrastructure for precious communication


To transform the quality of communication throughout our social and economic systems, we must learn to see ourselves through the eyes of others and the whole. This is the next revolution, according to Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, in Leading from the Emerging Future.

To pull this off, we need an open mind, rather than denial. We need an open heart, rather than cynicism. And an open will, rather than depression. With these, we will have what we need to create conversations that will recreate the world.

Throughout the book, Scharmer and Kaufer articulate 4 stages of our economic evolution, through which we have, and are, evolving, and our corresponding levels of awareness and modes of coordinating. They are (p. 74, 177-178):

  1. State-Centric (mercantalism, state capitalism) – traditional awareness; hierarchy and control. Communication is one-way “downloading”, manipulating.
  2. Free Market (Laissez-faire) – ego-centric awareness; markets and competition. Communication is two-way discussions and an exchange of viewpoints.
  3. Social Market (regulated) – stakeholder-centric awareness; networks and negotiation. Communication is multilateral stakeholder dialogue, allowing to see oneself through the eyes of another.
  4. Co-Creative (distributed, direct, dialogic) – eco-centric awareness; awareness based collective action (ABC); Communication is co-creative eco-system innovation: blurring the boundary of ego and eco.

The most common forms of communication, according to Scharmer and Kaufer, are linear, unilateral. They involve little inclusion of others, or transparency. The most precious forms of communication, for the transition to Stage 4, are multilateral and cyclical forms of communication that are high on inclusion and transparency. Notably, Stage 4 communication holds the intention to serve the well-being of all, rather than a few.

To make the move to these precious forms of communication, they articulate 5 innovative infrastructures that will allow us to reach our untapped reserves of creativity  (p. 187-188):

  1. Infrastructures to co-initiate – success means unconditional commitment of credible leaders. 
  2. Infrastructure for co-sensing – success means experiences where people learn to see the system from multiple perspectives.
  3. Infrastructures to co-inspire – success means the use of mindfulness and presencing practices that help people connect to deep sources of knowing, individually and collectively.
  4. Infrastructures for prototyping, or exploring the future by doing – success means simply acting on what we know, integrating feedback, notice what is learned, take out what isn’t working, strengthen what is working.
  5. Infrastructures for co-evolving – success means the larger system grows, sustains, scales and evolves the prototypes (cross-functional, cross-level, cross-institutional leadership), as well as support to the leaders’ learning journeys

While exploring this chapter, my colleagues and I were playing with the metaphor of “the bus”, and how easy, or difficult, it can be to get off a bus when the mode of communication is not your style. Or in Stage 4, who drives the bus?

In my sketchbook I connected back to Spiral Dynamics (click here for a primer on the emerging Spiral), another way to look at evolving levels of organization. Here’s how a fleet of buses would relate to each other, depending on the value system:

bus shapes of conversation

We organize in hierarchical structures of different degrees, as well as circular structures. In the top right, there’s another form, more fluid, that reflects all modes of communicating simultaneously. Conceptually, this fluid form, with various values flowing together, could look like this:

bus shapes of conversation all together

What Scharmer and Kaufer do not say clearly, is that while evolution to Stage 4 is necessary, it does not mean throwing out the use of the earlier Stages – they each have their time and place. In certain contexts, they will be the most appropriate ways to communicate. All together, they add up. What Stage 4 adds, that again they do not say, is a bridge to a place where we see the ongoing values of the preceding modes of communication, in the right context.

Which state of communication are you most comfortable with?

Which is the next natural step in your personal development?

_____ _____ _____

Some friends and I have started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book. This is another piece on Chapter 6. Here’s what came from earlier chapters:

_____ _____ _____

This post begins a series of posts on Chapter 10 – The Emerging City, offering bits of the book I am working on. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:

Offer your Self to your city


There is a battle underway between individuals and our institutions, but it isn’t us vs them. It is a battle embodied within each of us, between my self and my larger, highest potential Self. Our collective efforts are only as deep and good as we are, as instruments of the future.

Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer, in their book Leading from the Emerging Future, remark that the “world has enormous unexploited potential in the form of inspired, intentional, and collective entrepreneurship.” Its time for how we show up as collectives to evolve into something other than insensitive entities, but this will only happen if we choose to offer our Selves to make them better, rather than fight and scrap our way.

Here are Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s principles and practices to help advance your individual journey from self to Self, from me to We:

  1. Practice, don’t preach
  2. Observe, observe, observe – become a blackbelt observer and listener
  3. Connect with your intention as an instrument
  4. When the crack opens up, stay with it – connect and act from the now
  5. Follow your heart – do what you love, love what you do
  6. Always be in dialogue with the universe
  7. Create a holding space of deep listening that supports your journey
  8. Iterate, iterate, iterate
  9. Notice the crack to the field of the future
  10. Use different language with different stakeholders
  11. If you want to change others (other stakeholders), you need to be open to changing yourself first
  12. Never give up. Never give up. You are not alone

Offering your Self to your city is an essential contribution. It allows your City to serve citizens.

_____ _____ _____

Some friends and I have started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book. This is another piece on Chapter 5. Here’s what came from earlier chapters:

_____ _____ _____

This post begins a series of posts on Chapter 10 – The Emerging City, offering bits of the book I am working on. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:


Be a vehicle for the future


Humanity is the living embodiment of crossing over, say Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kauffer in their book, Leading from the Emerging Future, as they reflect on Neitzsche’s reflection of man as a rope, as a bridge, not an end. “At the beginning of the 21st century,, probably for the first time in human history, the living presence of the abyss – that is, the simultaneous existence of one world that is dying and another that is being born – is a widely shared experience for millions of people across cultures, sectors and generations (p. 153).”

The value of Scharmer and Kaufer’s work is in what they name. Here’s a snapshot.

Levels of listening 

These four levels of listening allow us to access increasingly deeper sources of Self by connecting the exterior world outside to our interior world within:

  1. Habitual listening – projecting old judgments
  2. Factual listening – direct the beam of observation onto the world around us
  3. Empathic listening – adopting the other person’s perspective and therefore seeing ourselves through the eyes of the other
  4. Generative listening – listening from the whole and the emerging new, which further turns the beam of observation onto the deep sources of Self

Conditions of possibility

Three conditions allow profound shifts to happen in ourselves as individuals and as collectives:

  1. Bend the beam of observation back onto its source – you and your Source. Listen to Self.
  2. Hold space for embracing the shadow – bending the beam of observation “happens in a social holding space formed by true listening from the heart.”
  3. Going to the edge of letting go – a “willingness to go to the edge of the abyss, to let go, to lean into the unknown – and take the leap.”

As we learn to listen to our Selves, and others Selves, and create the conditions for profound shifts in our learning about the world around and within us, “we are learning how to become a vehicle for what is emerging on the other side of the abyss.”  Our inner and outer work matters because we are the bridge connecting the present we have to the future we want.


 _____ _____ _____

Some friends and I have started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book. This is the meaning I made of our circle on Chapter 5. Here’s what came from earlier chapters: Chapter 1 – Life guard; Chapter 2 – The antennae of possibility; Chapter 3 – Prototype social habitats; and Chapter 4 – I’m not a salesperson.

_____ _____ _____

This post begins a series of posts on Chapter 10 – The Emerging City, offering bits of the book I am working on. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City: The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:


The antennae of possibility


I trust the antennae of possibility

in my choices

and serve Me


with thresholds

appearing and disappearing

shifting how I sit

in chaos


in big energy



in a changing



_____ _____ _____

Some friends and I have started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book, chapter by chapter. This is my harvest from our exploration of Chapter 2.

If you missed it, here’s the Chapter 1 harvest – Life guard.

Life guard


Oh, life guard

making sure no one gets in

over their head

is it really that risky to stand at the edge?

Start believing in You

and you’ll know your self.

The biggest threshold you have

to face is in you.

Guard it carefully.


_____ _____ _____

Some friends and I have started a book club to explore Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer (Theory U) and Katrin Kaufer’s new book, chapter by chapter. This is my harvest from our exploration of Chapter 1.

Beware “I haven’t been asked” trap


He’s our poet – but you might not know it: Parliament’s official wordsmith bemoans lack of meaningful work. That’s the headline that stood out for me this morning in today’s Edmonton Journal. The issue: Canada’s parliamentary poet laureate, Fred Wah, “has been asked to write just one poem during his two-year term.”

Reporter Randy Boswell tells us that “Canada’s national poet has warned that the taxpayer-funded position risks becoming ‘homogenized and diluted’ and expressed frustration that during his two-year term in Ottawa he’s been asked to produce just one work – a ‘mediocre’ poem about the Queen’s diamond jubilee…”

Here’s what Wah said to Boswell: “I wish that my government had asked me to write poetry about immigration policy, about Idle No More, about Canada’s complicity in the Middle East, the Enbridge pipeline… I haven’t been asked to do any of those things.” I read sadness and disappointment in Wah’s words. He would love to offer more, but he hasn’t been asked.

He’s fallen into the “I haven’t been asked” trap.

When we wait to be asked, we disengage ourselves from the work we really want to be doing. By waiting to be asked, Wah is not feeding his own writing – and his soul – by exploring his passions and desires. By lingering in this trap, he might be missing that he has been asked. The official “ask” of Wah, according to section 75.1 of the Parliament Act of Canada, is to write poetry:

The poet laureate may:

  1. write poetry, especially for use in Parliament on occasions of state;
  2. sponsor poetry readings;
  3. give advice to the Parliamentary Librarian regarding the collection of the Library and acquisitions to enrich its cultural holdings; and
  4. perform such other related duties as are requested by either Speaker or the Parliamentary Librarian.

That first point is significant: the poet laureate may write poetry. He is not required to write only for occasions of state, or only at the request of either Speaker, or on specific subjects. Simply: the poet laureate may write. According to the Parliament of Canada website, his position enjoys great freedom: “The poet laureate is free to determine his or her specific activities within these parameters.” In his official position, he has the freedom to write, yet it is not  choosing to write.

Choose what you want to do.

If you wait to be asked, you might not ever do it. You might not ever feel that you have been your true self. You might not ever offer all you have to offer the world around you. Meaningful work is what we make for ourselves, not what others make for us.

Wah’s trap is familiar to me. I have found myself waiting to be asked on many occasions. Sometimes for years. None of us are immune to this and I do not hold any disregard for Wah. We all make these traps for ourselves; it is the human condition. What they really are is a threshold to cross – and the struggle to make the decision to cross it.

Jump in.

Thresholds are a natural part of our individual and collective learning journeys. They help us reach the places we wish to go. The struggles we experience at such thresholds are powering us up to be better citizens – and create better cities.

Wah has many things to offer the world in his writing. He offers a lot in speaking up about waiting to be asked. My ask of Wah is this – write about whatever moves you. Write to make the world a better place. Boldly grow your Highest Self to grow a better world.

Follow your passion to change your city

And Parliament too, it seems.

If you weren’t waiting to be asked, what would YOU do?


_____ _____ _____

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:

______ ______ ______