This is the first post in a two part blog on "going mainstream". This one is an overview of some of thoughts and the next blog has some specific learnings that have turned up so far. Part two will be published July 2nd, Wednesday next week.
Back in the day, when I looked like this (that's me on the left with the magnificent side burns), Art of Hosting and Participatory Leadership was a fringe effort. In 1999 Toke, Monica and Jan had done their first Hosting training in the USA with Pioneers of Change and then I met them at Castle Borl in Slovenia in 2000, where this picture is taken. It was a massive period of awakening for me. I discovered a whole suite of theory and methodology that aligned with my innate understanding of how humans could organize together to achieve their potential. The World Cafe, Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry, Future Search, Chaordic design and so much more poured into my life and invigorated me into all kinds of action, including the founding of Engage! InterAct in the Netherlands.
My Mum is a Quaker. She loves my work but said to me once that community is not formed through conversation (as I would have it!) but that community is forged through silence. A group of people that can comfortably and companionably sit together in silence have a depth of relationship that is ready for anything. We tried it out at the recent tax assembly in the UK as a closing. Here's a little blog on it ... More to come!
I am sitting at the airport on way to England to help run an event to launch changes in the UK Tax System sponsored by the Finance Innovation Lab and ICAEW. I am thinking a lot about what makes good events - especially what makes a good opening. One of my mentors in change leadership taught me early on "in all beginnings and endings, be careful."
My friend and colleague, Tuesday Ryan Hart, recently wrote what is copied below in an email back and forth around a design. I thought it was brilliant so wanted to post it to my blog. I find that how we open and frame our events/meetings and work is crucial to setting the tone for what will follow. It is like the first notes of a song … they define the rest of tune. Here's what Tuesday said, I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this too ...
"I find my attention drawn to what we've learned here about opening (and continuing) high level work. We've found that this initial framing is crucial to not only setting the tone of the gathering but also supporting people to locate themselves and their work in the purpose of the event at the outset so that they can access the rest of the gathering.
I have heard it so many times "change is the only constant". That doesn't make it easy though! Being in uncertainty, learning and taking action in the consistently shifting sands of change takes clarity and courage. I feel like I am learning the new and shedding the old again and again. There are three things I consistently do that keep me grounded:
Run. I love running. It gets me right out of my mind and into my body. Each time my foot hits the ground it seems to bang me into the present. I often find thoughts filter themselves and by the end of a run I have resolved some tough issue or reached some clarity. In that way it is like a contemplation space too. In the flurry of my work life the urgent can often eclipse the important. The space I get when running seems to make space for the important to rise to the surface. The relaxed feeling in my body for the rest of day is great too. Basically, running makes me feel good about myself and gets me out onto the trails through the forest where I live where I get a different perspective than sitting at home or the HUB.
“We wouldn't be alive without love we wouldn't have survived without running maybe we shouldn't be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”
Meditate. I have a one hour meditation practice. I would like to do it every day but with three kids and business that doesn't always happen. I notice that when I do meditate I am just a happier person though! My patience levels go up, my capacity to be discerning is increased and I enjoy my life more. The deliberate slowing down and being with my breath brings me back to the speed of life, instead of the speed of light. It is like it synchs me up to who I am and my inner guidance system. I remember what a gift it is to be alive and breathing. Relative to that a lot of the problems my mind was tripping out on suddenly seem far less dramatic and stressful. This quote from Prem Rawat has always inspired me into my meditation practice:
"When fear is gone, when clarity has set in,
Tend to my foundational relationships. There are some foundational relationships in my life which, if I tend to them, everything is just better. My wife, Katie, three or four close friends, my kids … if I am good in these relationships it is like I am standing on an unshakeable foundation. I can have the worst day at work and come home or give an old friend a ring and it's okay. I never forget coming back from some tough work up in the city, the media had not been kind, and my son rushing up to me as I opened the door "I love you Daddy, let's play!" Suddenly none of it mattered - or to put it better, I remembered what really mattered. I find these relationships help me keep my perspective and remind me that I loved unconditionally, there is freedom in that. The Thomas Merton quote always gets me on this topic:
"Do not depend on the hope of results. . . .you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself . . . ..you gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people . . . In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything”
Those are my three practices at this time in my life. I reckon everybody has them to some degree. What do you do when chaos strikes to get grounded? Body, internal state and relationships are the three things I attend to - it seems like if I am being kind to myself on those three levels life is easier and more enjoyable all round. What are your practices to make life easier and more enjoyable? What enables you to get through change and navigate chaos?
- T - Change Ahead!
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