Room where it happens

I found myself in the company of people a couple weeks ago who completely understand and respect others’ needs to set limits and boundaries for themselves, so we can enable each other to show up well. In the language of The Circle Way, this is the “ask for what you need” agreement. In reflection, I have learned that I am not always quick enough to realize what I need, let alone ask for it. I didn’t.

Here’s what happened. We circled up for a board meeting for a few days and we had a lot on our agenda so we met for long, full days. On day one, I got up early to maintain my morning practice of writing and walking. On day two I was feeling under the weather, so I chose to sleep in the morning. Still under the weather on day three I chose to sleep. My ability to function and contribute lessened and lessened with each day both because of not feeling well, but also because I did not give myself the things that nourish me every day: time to exercise and fresh air and time alone to write and read.

Over the last several years I have become more introverted; I need more time alone to figure out what I think and feel about things. A day full of other people (including mornings and evenings), let alone several days, is a challenge to my inner well-being. I need time alone to look after my introvert so I can be my best self, for me and others. Without this time my energy stores deplete and my ability to be my best self declines.

I need time alone to look after my introvert so I can be my best self, for me and others. 

Last week I didn’t take the initiative to make more time for myself, or to ask for our work schedule to change to allow more spaciousness. This opportunity to reflect has allowed me to see two underlying ideas.

First idea: I want to be in the room where it happens. Just like Aaron Burr in the Broadway hit Hamilton, I want to be there when great stuff happens. I don’t want to miss out on anything and I want to be a part of everything. If something neat is happening, I want to be a part of it.

Second idea: my needs are not as important as others’ needs. In my drive to be in the room where it happens, I fear rocking the boat, or letting other people down by either proposing something preposterous, or by simply not being available when needed.

Our meeting was productive and meaningful. It was a challenging time for us and we met each other well and yet I feel that for me, and how I show up for myself, there is room for improvement. How can I spend days with others, from dawn into the evening, in ways that maintain or even increase my energy stores?

Two contrasting shapes of how to spend three days together come to mind:

All together all the time
All together all the time
Meet the needs of the work and people who do the work
Meet the needs of the work and people who do the work

Here are five simple ideas about organizing full days of meeting:

  1. Understand the purpose of the gathering at all scales: the reason to gather, the intention for each day and each chunk of time in each day.
  2. Identify expectations and outcomes for the gathering that include both the tasks of the work and needs of the people to do that work. What kind of spaciousness is needed for what purpose?
  3. Start a bit later than usual to allow for the spaciousness of life in the morning (checking email or social media, exercise or meditation).
  4. Decide what works best for lunch and supper breaks. Is it a short break so the day can end early? Is it a longer break for spaciousness? Is the spaciousness needed before the meal or after? Are we sitting down together or can individuals go off on their own to eat?
  5. Designate chunks of time for the whole group to meet. When does everyone need to be together? When can people work on their own schedule? Remember: the days do not have to be the same.

Unscheduled time in our lives helps us do our work. Over a few days of meeting, it is essential to find play time both with others and alone. It helps a group be its best self. When we look away from the tasks at hand, for a moment even, we can see what needs to be done more clearly.

Unscheduled time in our lives helps us do our work.

In my case, I learned that I need to let go of the need to be in the room where it happens and give myself space to discern which room I want to be in. Further, I need to make room for the work to work me, for this is how I find my way, how I figure out what and how to contribute to the world around me.

Asking for what I need is about enabling myself to be me.

How do you make room for you to be you, for “it” to happen?


A writer inside and out

When I spend time out on the land, and I listen, it has things to tell me. Last month, while hosting Soul Spark with my friend and colleague Katharine Weinmann, I ventured outside to be on the land a bit before we got started. Continue reading A writer inside and out

For shamans at the edge

NestCity-BlogPostMiles from civilization
I take the world into my arms
I am washed on the wash
laid to bed, disentombed
dreams not parked
release a force
out into the world
a welcome mat
for shamans at the edge
of poetry that saves
lives with questions
evoking the holy mystery
of the soul
a call to open
to my changing heart
to my true


A poem caught with my writing friends at Self as Source of the Story, December 1-7, 2015, with Christina Baldwin and Kristie McLean. Continue reading For shamans at the edge

Checking in with the Hermit in me

NestCity-BlogPostI’ve been home for four days and I still feel like I’m away.

A solid circle practice starts with a check-in, a simple way for everyone to arrive and tune in to both self and the group. It can be as simple as one word, or several minutes each, and it is an essential activity that allows me to “arrive” to a gathering, rather than be there physically, but not mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Today, I feel the need to check in with myself. Continue reading Checking in with the Hermit in me

Argo – vessel – yourself


I have been quiet as I dig into the radical work of my find out what my soul has to tell me.

I have been quiet in blog land these days, pondering the effects of a second wilderness quest in June, and and stepping into an apprenticeship in this work. True to the quest pattern, trials have appeared, to test me. The first was the betrayal of a professional friend that invited me to discern the fiery gifts of the dragon. The second challenge was my husband’s fall and broken leg in the backcountry, where I noticed that ‘trail’ and ‘trial’ are almost the same word. In between these two events, I was starting to notice a deepening in the work that is calling me forth.

Though not writing here, I have been writing in my journal, looking for the things that are simply meaningful and heartfelt to me, but extremely meaningful and heartfelt. ‘My looking ripens things,” as Rilke puts it.

Here are a few clues I have about what’s ripening, of where I’m headed:

  1. Writing feels good. I write to find out what I feel and think. More importantly it allows me to reveal to myself what I already know. I get to know myself, my selves. It is a process of selving.
  2. The surrender of things. There is a transition underway in me that I see as a natural part of heading into the second half of my life. James Hollis names this as a transition away from acquisition to relinquishment.
  3. The surrender to things.  I have a better relationship with my ego-self who wants to fight and protect me. I don’t need to fight to be me, or fight anything that threatens my sense of me. I can surrender to whatever is happening and find my way within. (Note – exceptions are life- and morally-threatening events!)
  4. I am a traveler, a wanderer, in the underworld of the soul. It is a place I don’t like to go because what I find there is the truth that I don’t always want to work into my life – or what I think of my life. It is a dark, opening place that we rarely visit in my culture.
  5. What does it mean to find my place? Work that nourishes, social belonging, all in the context of physical place. ‘Place’ is something I can take with me everywhere. People are at home all over the planet. It is what I make of it.
  6. I hobble with confidence rather than fear. It may take a little creativity. When are the crutches needed? Not needed? How do I know when I am done with crutches? What crutches am I still using unnecessarily?
  7. I love the soft animal of my body. These words of Mary Oliver, ‘the soft animal of my body’, caused a wave of relief in my being and my relationship with my body. I am a soft animal. I am not a thin, lithe animal. I am soft and squishy.
  8. I am an activist for the soul. Or a soul activist. I have circles of people around me who purposefully embark on their lifelong journeys to find their truest, most authentic selves. We spend good time together, supporting each other on our respective journeys. We have Soul Circles. Our work is Soul Circling.
  9. I am a guide. A guide guided by soul, a soul guide, a wilderness guide, a civilization guide, a city guide…

As I was pondering all this last week, I was asking myself what it all means. I went out for a walk to my sage spot, and as I was walking I asked for a sign. It came on the side of a van:


This word has meaning for me because my kids love it when I say the line from the movie, Argo: “Argo f$%# yourself!” I dug around to find the meaning of the word. The argo was the ship in Greek mythology in which Jason and the Argonauts sailed for the the Golden Fleece. It is the vessel that accompanied Jason and his companions to fulfill their quest. Argo is a vessel, a container. It holds and supports the travellers.  A receptacle.

This word has further meaning as I reflect on last year’s wilderness quest, and my relationship with a green bottle – a vessel that allowed me to see my soul hungers.

I am stepping into a relationship with the paired twins of Nature and Soul, who I now recognize as the two trees I spent my solo time on this year’s wilderness quest.

I am stepping into radical work that will support people as they find their way and step into the work that is calling to them from the depths of their soul – rather than from external sources, or the inner voices that are external sources in disguise. This work is at every scale, from self to the city and beyond, and it always starts at home, with self and soul.

How do you circle up with your soul?

Are you the vessel your soul needs you to be? 




Spectatorship vs citizen superpowers

The more I write, the more I aim to say what I mean in as few words as possible. And the more I look at what others say and dig in to see what they really mean.

For example, this headline:


The words, “Citizens can’t be spectators in urban planning,” sparked two things in me.

First, the words do not tell us what citizens should be, a missed opportunity to reinforce the message of the article, that citizens must participate in the process of making cities that serve people well. This is as much about city governments involving citizens in decision making as it is about citizens simply getting involved. Citizens can get involved in the formal engagement process from city hall, and also take initiative to improve the city around them, in any way they see is needed. (Remember – work is the force that generates cities, so it is important!)

It’s easy, in our privileged corner of the world, to think that things are good, that we don’t need to engage ourselves in communal life around us. We have great disdain for corners of the world ruled by dictatorship, vaguely thankful that we live in a democracy. And even then, we often feel that our governments are distanced from us. At which point I ask this question: are you a spectator or are you engaged and participating in the city around you?

The second spark from this headline is the word spectatorship. If you are a spectator, you are contributing to the real dangers in our midst: apathy and indifference, even anger, usually served with a healthy dose of complaining. A spectator lets spectatorship rule. Remember, you have citizen superpowers at your disposal. The choice is yours.

Are you a participant in city life, or a spectator? 

Sharing book bits


Nest City Graphic

Notice what you notice. These wise words of my friend Michael Keller fuel the spirit of the Nest City Blog. Since April 10, 2009, 358 posts have appeared here, starting with a wee piece on what I learned about teamwork and leadership on the soccer field – when I swoop in and help my teammate I may be harming my team’s ability to perform. It is often better to give your mates room to do their thing.

That means I have to trust them.

All these posts later, this thought pervades much of what has emerged as the Nest City book: as we each pursue our passions in our city, in our paid or volunteer work, we are improve the city. It is a selfless act to do the work you want to do because, in doing so, we recreate and regenerate our cities so they serve us better in return. It requires that we trust everyone around us – that their particular work is helping the whole in ways we do not know.

Nest City is almost finished. It began as a slow release, and now that it is tangible for me, while I my hunt for a publisher, I choose to share it with you. It makes no sense for me to keep it to myself.

If you’d like to receive these wee bits of book, starting April 13, 2015, please subscribe to my newsletter – Nest City News.  Look for a box on the right that looks like this:

Subscribe to Nest City News

It’s all going to start on April 13, 2015.



Cascading synchronicity


There is synchronicity in synchronicity.

Three days ago the words wild synchronicity were front and center in my being; today the words are “cascading synchronicity”.  And it all has to do with walks in the wilderness.


Cascade – Noun

  1. A small waterfall, typically one of several that fall in stages down a steep rocky slope
    • A mass of something that falls or hangs in copious quantities
    • A large number or amount of something occurring at the same time
  2. A process whereby something, typically information or knowledge, is successively passed on
    • A succession of devices or stages in a process, each of which triggers or initiates the next

Cascade – Verb

  1. (Of water) pour downwards rapidly and in large quantities
    • Fall or hang in copious quantities
  2. Pass (something) on to a succession of others
  3. Arrange (a number of devices or objects) in a series or sequence


  • Mid 17th century from French, from Italian cascara, from cascare “to fall”, based on Latin casus.

(Note – above from Oxford Dictionary)


Three weeks ago I left Washington’s Cascade Mountains, where I went on a wilderness quest, with the support and guidance of Ann Linnea, Christina Baldwin and Deborah Greene-Jacobi (and apprentice guide LeAnn Blackert).  I walked up the meadow of the Smith Canyon Valley, and up the valley to the right to set up a camp on the flank of the Sacred Mountain for 48 hours of solo time, alone in the wild.

The valley
Photo credit: Ann Linnea

Since my return home, having turned my back on the Sacred Mountian, writing has been one of the ways I listen to myself, to integrate and incorporate the experience of the wilderness quest. Much of the writing has surfaced in blog posts:

  1. I went to rewire the reptilian in me
  2. I found myself face to face with the ways Chronos + Kairos time show up in my life
  3. I realized the quest was also about Earth gazing from Earth
  4. I received an invitation to explore  my soul hungers
  5. I noticed wild synchronicity around me


While sitting in the living room this week, I noticed a map my husband left on the coffee table. “Lake Minnewanka,” just north of Banff jumped out at me, and I recalled a walk along the shores of the lake almost seven years ago. I was in the middle of an intense learning experience and our hosts wisely gave us the gift of time that afternoon to integrate what we were learning, and decompress. We had a few choices, one of which was a guided walk in Canada’s Rocky Mountains with Rosemary.

I have to confess that Rosemary drove me nuts. I was hungry to get moving and do something physical after two and half days of sitting and concentration. I was alive to be outside, on the move. And Rosemary kept stopping. And talking. And we hardly moved at all.

I had a conversation with myself about how to handle my frustration. I could just bolt and do my own thing, but since we were a group, my hosts would get in trouble; to bring a group into Banff National Park, you must have a guide. I could just play along. I chose to surrender, to listen to what she was saying. I didn’t give up – I surrendered to Rosemary and her wisdom.

And what I heard was remarkable.

How nature – the wilderness – works is, of course, very similar to how humans work.

Upon returning to the formal part of learning experience, we were asked to write, in free flow, to let out what was in us. Rosemary’s wise words, as I received them, came through:



eagle nest
beaver dam
broken and whole
self and selfless
ice and snow
grass and green
onion shoots
evidence of animals
not seen
fire and rebirth
not destruction
the flames are on
the lee side
when the wind 
blows strong
amid the firestorm


I recognize this experience with Rosemary at Lake Minnewanka as THE point in my life where I learned to listen.

And then, in my living room, I noticed the name of a river that feeds the lake:



These two wilderness experiences have provided me with space into which I can expand into myself, and in so doing I expand my capacity to listen to the world within and around me, and to listen to me within me, and around me.  One experience was quick, the other longer in duration; both significant.



  1. The simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.

(Note  – above from Oxford Dictionary)


Noticing synchronicity is an invitation to explore a non-linear world. Noticing synchronicity is noticing a portal into deeper understanding of self, and our relationship with others and our places. It isn’t about explanation, but it is about understanding.

The synchronicity – having the word “cascade” pop into my consciousness as it did – invited me into a conversation with myself about the meaning of the word “cascade” in my life. The result of this conversation with myself is this post. I can see that the wilderness quest naturally flowed from my experience with Rosemary. Even though it was years later, I can see the trajectory; I can see a series of cascading events. The synchronicity is in how I happened upon the word “cascade” on the random map on the coffee table.

I’m betting that these synchronicities, the wild and the cascading, will be foundations for more synchronicities.

What synchronicities are you noticing in your life? How do you explore them?







Our cities need us

Nest City News Overall Small

When you follow your passion in your work to make the world a better place, you create the force that generates and regenerates our cities. You are what our cities need. We are what our cities need. A Habitat Manifesto explains why.

I have just published the latest edition of the Nest City News – A Habitat Manifesto. The special feature of this newsletter is a link to what has come of the first series of posts from the Nest City Blog. As its own publication now in draft form, A Habitat Manifesto explores our evolutionary impulse to build, organize and thrive in cities. I am inviting folks to review this document before formal publication.

Only subscribers have the first chance to explore A Habitat Manifesto and explicitly feed and nourish each other in our work for cities and citizens.

Leave your name and email address to the right to stay in touch.



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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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Focus, learn, emerge


Organizing for emergence means actively engaging in our individual and collective learning journeys, stopping to notice where we wish to go, and trusting that thresholds we face (and cross) along the way allow us to emerge in that direction. We reach not quite the destination in mind, but something that still suits us, something that somehow makes more sense.

I am concluding Part Two and moving on to Part Three at just the right time. Today is the Spring Equinox: the light of day is waxing and I am leaving behind the darkness I felt, and struggled with, three months ago. Yet that darkness was productive, for I explored the essence of Chapters 4-6, each with a focus on a facet of how we organize for emergence (journey, destination and emergence) and Chapter 7, their relationship with the city’s habitats – our nest.

Destination venn

Chapter 4 – An Uneasy Journey explores the notion that cities are meant to feel uneasy. In fact, they are itching for improvement. The tension we feel in our cities is an evolutionary driver. In itchy patterns, I reach these two conclusions:

  1. If we welcome and seek deeper knowing, we invite uneasiness.
  2. As we work to organize ourselves, in cities or at any scale, we must develop practices to explore uneasiness.

Our social habitat is key to the journey we face in cities, for it is where we see, acknowledge and respond to the our habitat: the development of cities – new work – is a survival skill. Explicitly acknowledging our learning journeys, as individuals and as cities, is a survival skill that allows us and our city habitats to evolve.  I conclude Chapter 4 with 10 practices for the uneasy city journey and the notion that cities are a platform for our never-ending learning journey.

In Chapter 5 – Destination Alive or Adrift, I discerned destination as some kind of improvement. At every turn, that is our work in cities, to improve something. And what we choose to improve always changes, so the very purpose of evolution is evolving. For cities particularly, this means that their purpose is both for our survival and improvement. Our work moves us in a direction, even if we can’t quite see it in the moment. As I explored nested, or scaled purposes, I found that the more immediate the purpose, the more specific the destination. The more ‘expansive’ the purpose, the destination becomes a direction: improvement.

A city’s destination is our evolving purposes, where each citizen is a building block for the larger, whole, city. As we pursue our improvements and purposes – our passions – our city enables us to do so. It does, however, require us each to ask: what is my intrinsic purpose, and how is that instrumental to the intrinsic value of the city? In other words – if we are the building blocks for our city, what sort of building blocks do we choose to be? What are we choosing to build together? What is our destination?

We know what we are building and we don’t know what we are building at the same time. I wrote this in destination is both alive and adrift:

Destination is simultaneously alive and adrift. It is most alive when we work from our passion, our inner drive to improve. When we catch glimpses of bigger destinations,for both self and the city, our direction, through short-term destinations, is discerned for fleeting moments. Between these fleeting moments, we fell adrift, which is to feel alive. 

Chapter 6 – Emerging Thresholds begins with the acknowledgement that we stand, at each moment, at the threshold of a new age, with a choice. Emergence is defined as order out of chaos, the new and novel understandings we reach as more complex systems form. At each transition there is a threshold, across which we see with fresh eyes. As I wrote, I found many helpful tips as we emerge to new destinations:

  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.

Our exploration of thresholds allows us to emerge to new destinations, to see and reach new possibilities. Chapter 7 – (Un)known Possibility wraps up Part Two, noticing that we shape our physical habitat (neighbourhoods are up to us) and our social habitat (neighbourhood soccer fields), both of which, with practice, allow us to serve possibility in our lives.

The possibilities, known and unknown, emerge when:

  1. We look at our cities from a different perspective (stand on the city’s river).
  2. We follow what we are courageously smitten with step into the unknown.
  3. We grow antennae to look for and explore thresholds.
  4. We actively seek ways to find possibilities unknown to us.
  5. We chaotically reorganize to reach toward what we long for.

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As I was struggling with darkness at the Winter Equinox, I latched onto the words Focus, learn and choose. Since that time, as I continued to explore destination, journey and emergence in Chapters 4-6, I see that it is really the same thing. Here’s how I see Part Two – Organizing for Emergence now:

Focus learn and emerge nest 2.044

As I head into the Part Three, I realize that I don’t know what will be written. The writing to be done  is murky and unclear, but with focus, searching for ways to learn and exploration of emerging thresholds, it will come. A Nest City of (un)known possibility.

I continue to focus, learn and emerge.

My work continues to focus, learn and emerge.


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This post summarizes Part Two – Organizing for Emergence. 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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