Thursday, December 01, 2005

Has it really been that long?!

Gosh, i had no idea it had been this long since i posted. I have been sunk in work and family. And, unusually for me, i am struggling with the capacity to match words to my thoughts. I have needed to give myself permission to let go of some of my obligations (even the pleasant ones like this blog!) so that i can get more rest and engage in a bit more self-care. I can't say for sure when i will be back to posting more often, but it will likely be the New Year. Hope you will hang in there with me...

It is not necessary to choose a life of dramatic sacrifice: it is necesary that we discover what we love that is beyond our own concerns, and love it actively. To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against.
~Christina Baldwin

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The facilitator as Artist

There has been a long thread running on the OSList lately about whether those who Open Space call ourselves facilitators or what. Many fessed up and declared that we feel uncomfortable with the term, but that we often continue to use it, because clients/sponsors understand it.

“If the group is an art form of the future, then convening groups is an artistry we must cultivate to fully harvest the promise of the future.”
Jacob Needleman, Centered on the Edge

This quote arrived in my Art of Hosting package and on the heels of re-reading, for the first time in ages, Eric Maisel's, Fearless Creating. Which had got me thinking about myself as an artist again. So much of his description of the artistic process reflects the practices of open space.

So i am offering this up to you all for consideration. The facilitator as Artist. Artist in the creative sense and Artist in the alchemical sense as well--taking the common stuff of the Now, that which Is, and with Artful intent mixing it in the crucible of chaos. Then dancing on the edge of the feather of uncertainty, with only the lodestone of faith in those present as a guide, and gently holding the energetic flame beneath until something new emerges.

During a recent three-day OS, i had the opportunity to observe myself in this light and wonder about the metaphor. Here are the results of this initial wondering: artistic medium: the quantum stuff of chaos, the emergent field; artist's tools: OST and other dialogic methods, personal preparation/spiritual practice, creativity and design, energy awareness/work; the work of art: the liberation of the human spirit. (Which i believe, like all works of Art, is not of the Artist, but comes through the Artist. The Artist as conduit for the expression of Spirit in the material world.)

So i'm going to play with being a facilitator-Artist for a while and wait for the next bold thing to emerge--i can already feel the field of potentiality swirling...[grin]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Language not supporting our answers

Raffi asked to hear a bit more about our language not supporting the answers to our questions. The whole initial impetus for this blog came from my wondering about this very thing. Word gravity...that our words, because of their collective and individual history, can impede our capacity to understand each other. And at this particular time, when communication and dialogue are so important, this quality and/or effect seems to me to become even more essential to grasp and grapple with.

In Halifax at OSonOS, i had a wonderful butterfly conversation with Henri Lipmanowicz (Board Chair, Plexus Institute) in which he said that our language is failing us. That we have no language to talk about what we do (as OS facilitator-artists or change agents). And that our current language is structured on an action/reaction worldview--leaving no room for mystery or open space in which to allow the emergence of new forms.

At the Art of Hosting, one of our threads of inquiry was about wicked questions--what they are, how to ask them, how to find them. One of the insights generated from those conversations, was that our language lets us down by not supporting the answers to those questions we most need to explore. Again, i think it is connected to what Henri observed about the action/reaction base--the often dualistic stance we are forced to maintain by the inner structure of English. It actually influences our thought processes. And our culture either reinforces or is reinforced by this. In English-speaking culture, we have an unconscious expectation of instant response--usually opinion. This sets up a dynamic in which we are constantly under the iron weight of expection of response (and intelligent at that) with no space for reflection on or honouring of what we have just heard. This dynamic also seems to set up the competitive, evaluative, externalizing, and us/them engagement style most of us end up enmeshed in. None of this is helpful in developing skills for dialogue.

There are examples of our language strain all around us. Quantum physics has encountered it and ends up sounding just like metaphysics. We often have to turn to poetry and poetic devices to attempt explanations of our intuitions of emergent concepts/forms/processes. We feel the need to create elaborate explanations of even the most simple statement (this whole blog post, for example) and, i don't know about you, but i always feel like i've failed to communicate the thought-form in my mind. Read a little Buckminster Fuller if you want another example of someone actively (and often impenetrably) grappling with this.
You may have noticed that i often use what appear to be passive constructions on this blog. It seems to me, it may be, i posit that, i wonder if, i suggest...and so on. This is intentional usage to attempt to reflect and grow an appreciation of the concepts of relativity. There are a lot of venues in which this is taken for uncertainty, lack of confidence, lack of forceful presentation--as opposed to my intention of attempting to reflect more accurately the nature of time, space, experience and knowledge.

Want to experience what i'm talking about? Try a couple of these wicked questions on for a moment and see what happens. Maybe try answering them and then reading them back to yourself using a different understanding of the words you have used (use a dictionary if you need inspiration). Just see what happens. Or better yet!!! Host a conversation with a couple of good friends or complete strangers using these questions (strive for understanding, rather than agreement):

What is the antidote to fear?
What is sacred?
What is worth living for?
How can we become our best selves?

I am certain (and that's unusual for me), that at some point in this exercise, you will find yourself struggling to find words to express your thought-sense. And if we are lucky, we will witness the reluctant birth of a new poet.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Yes, I'm still alive

Hello all,

Yes, I'm still out here. I've been working way too much (60 hours week before, 87 hours last week). I have sooooo much to write about i hardly know where to start. Which, of course, is a big part of the problem.

I was at the Art of Hosting on Bowen Island last week and have so much to unpack still. But will drop a few choice gleanings here and write more later...

Follow your thread.

Never work alone.

A wicked question is one that is more important to ask than to answer.

Our language doesn't support the answers to our questions. (This came up at Halifax OSonOS, too).

Believe in the vast possibility that exists beyond fear. The veil of fear is very thin. If we can push beyond that first boundary, there is often a path, mysterious and overgrown, but if we walk with care it can be navigated.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Glad i asked

Yesterday, as i was enjoying the increasingly rare opportunity to be just Mommy all day, something interesting and wonderful happened. Beric came up to me as i was sitting in the chair in the living room and he put both of his hands around my arm and gave a squeeze and at the same time he made a very intense face. Maybe because i had been holding space the day before and was still in that holding/noticing mode, i thought to stop him and ask what he was thinking as he did that. He climbed up and curled up into my lap and looked into my face very thoughtfully. Then said, "I was thinking of all the love I share with you."

Mmmmmmm. Total body hum....

After the moment ended and he went back to rolling around with his brother, i found myself reflecting a bit as i watched them wrestling like little kittens. Children are so connected to their hearts and their bodies. They can still experience directly the heart as a generous organ. When a child tells you they love you, it just spills out of them--an overflow of the openness and joy of the present moment. And we hear it as the gift it is. Simple and direct.

Watching them wrestle i see the message of love too. The way they touch each other in play constantly communicates and reaffirms the bond of love they share. There is no separation; feeling, thought and action are in alignment. And i wonder, as their mother, how can i help to preserve this instinct for authenticity, as the dulling pressure of propriety encroaches?

And how do we do that for ourselves--reclaim that gift? --those of us who play with the idea that a different consciousness is possible and therefore a different way of being together. What a challenging thought experiment to try and discern which boundaries actually matter (good and wise structure) and which merely repress. To cast the mind forward into a potentiality where alignment is the norm--and to wonder what we might be like.

No answers here...just more shining questions...and a full and generous heart.

Love ya all

Friday, October 14, 2005

Saturday, October 08, 2005

a little riff on contraction

Contraction. From the Latin, con - draw together.

I have been expending a lot of energy for some time now--okay years--in working to deepen my understanding of defendedness or the contraction of the heart. Why does it happen? 'Cause it seems to happen all the time...even when we are conscious and have strong intent...fear, the great contractor, is ever-present it seems. Through our conscious practice, we can intercede and remain open, we can choose to act, speak, risk, connect. But isn't it interesting that a word that means something as simple as to draw together, has such painful associations.

Here's just a few...
Of course, the one that is still pretty present in my mind...the contractions of labour...lots of pain--got to keep thinking about opening--and on the other side a new life is born into the world.

And then there's the contraction of the heart...that cold and painful feeling when the heart closes in on itself in the presence of fear. The feeling of smallness, of failure, of loss of self...when our courage doesn't match our intention. And if our courage is up to the test, there's the pain of stretching open the heart, of surrendering to the emergent moment. Drawing together is always a significant act of faith.

Ken Wilber describes the ego as the contraction of the Self. And i have experienced this so far, only when sitting with and exploring the nature of defendedness. Then i can feel the painful contraction, the drawing in, the shortening, the narrowing, of the expansive Self. The ego at these times feels like some little creature fluttering fearfully, heart pounding, subject to so many judgements, desires, and attachments.

Contraction--to draw together. Not so simple. And just that simple. When we talk about drawing together, when we form the intention to create intimacy, we will encounter contraction. And what can keep us moving forward, what can open the heart in the face of fear, is faith in the significance and the joy of what can be born on the other side of uncertainty.

If we want more intimacy, if we want more peace, if we want to truly know each other, then we have to practice jumping into space without a net--often. (Now you don't have to start out with a mountain cliff, mind you...the couch will do for a start...) (Certain readers of this blog will recognize this as a note to self...i have a habit of cliff jumping...problem with beginner's mind and all...)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

poverty and regionalism in Canada

From Charity Village this morning:

According to the most recent report released by Social Watch, a coalition of 400 non-governmental organizations from 50 countries, poverty is rising among children and new immigrants in Canada, and the middle class is finding it increasingly difficult to afford education and housing. The report on Canada examines why the country has failed to make serious progress in the fight against poverty and inequality. It also demonstrates how a commitment to "small government" feeds regionalism and inequality, and how economic growth alone cannot reduce poverty and inequality, or improve access to basics needs and services.

The report is available here: Social Watch Report on Canada 2005
And consider a visit to the Social Watch site itself...some very interesting information available there .

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Open Space Sangha debuts

Well, it's finally done--enough. I can't get the template the way i want it, but so be it...enough fiddling! It's time to announce the birth of Open Space Sangha, a new team blog that i am administering. Go have a peek and see what it's all about ... in the beginning...

the fifth practice?

orb spider in web
Originally uploaded by the view from in here.

With our upcoming Open Space practice workshop taking up much of my reflective time, i have, of course, been dwelling on the practices even more than usual. And one of the things that seems to be emerging out of all this, is that perhaps there are actually five practices, not four. The four practices emerged out of a blend of the work and thinking of Angeles Arrien (Four-fold way), Ken Wilber (Brief History of Everything, etc..), Harrison Owen (Open Space Tech), Michael Herman and Chris Corrigan (Open Space Tech: A User's Non-Guide). The four-fold nature of the maps used in uncovering the practices don't explicitly name the fifth dimension, but it is present in all of them--the centre/perimeter.

As we explore the interconnections and watch carefully for the essential practices for growing the capacity to open space, we have noticed that the quality of the centre/perimeter is stillness. And that inner stillness can sure come in handy in many situations that arise when we work with others. The centre also can be the symbol for mystery and Spirit. Two other things it's good to remember and think about as we work in open space.

Here's an excerpt from an article in a series called Peaceful Practices that i wrote about five or six years ago. It addresses the first essential practice for peaceful living.

We begin by taking time to stop—by sitting quietly and beginning to observe the inner and outer dimensions of our lives. We take time to look at our busyness, the constant distractions around and within us. We can begin to observe the thoughts that flicker constantly through our minds and how we react and feel towards them. When we stop, we encourage our minds and our bodies to relax. We learn to be still and to slow down. When we begin from stillness, from the place of stopping, our actions become more effective—we do more things well, more peacefully.

Some practices i know of that support inner stillness are meditation, yoga, and prayer. Do you know of others?

And what do you think? What has your experience been? Is stillness at the centre the fifth practice?

Monday, October 03, 2005

oh how deep it's buried...

I was reading Raffi's blog this evening and was surprised by my reaction to one of the photos. It shows a couple of soldiers at Lenin's tomb. And the caption asks, "Why the guards?" What surprised me was the shiver of fear that I felt as I looked at the image of the Russian soldiers. Particularly surprised, because as a teenager, during the cold war, i worked extensively as a volunteer writer, editor, moderator and coordinator with a program that promoted global awareness. I met many Russians. I wrote articles on disarmament and peace. I read and educated myself. And still the iconic cold-war image of the Russian soldier snuck its way in there.

Here at home, most of our national monuments have guards. They're part of the experience--i hate to say it, but honestly, they are part of the scenery. I don't even think about them. I'm certainly not afraid of why when i think about seeing foreign military guarding a national monument, do i feel fear? And it was definitely iconic--the whole parade in Red Square kind of thing--not just fear of men with guns in general (which is a perfectly reasonable fear in my books). It's interesting how these triggers lie hidden, like land mines, in the unconscious. How many of these unrecognized fears assault us every day? How often are we held back--or is an unnecessary separation created--by old, unconscious patterns, icons, images, beliefs, fears--on a daily basis?

So much work to little brain to spare...

Friday, September 30, 2005

a new blog to open our i's to

Hi all,

My buddy Raffi in Moscow has just joined the ranks of the blog-and-post. His bilingual blog (English/Russian) Maaskva Nashimi glazami, Moscow in our i's, is trip into the heart of Moscow and the heart of Raffi. A couple of wee samples...

Might it be then, that "creating time and space" is first of all about being at home with yourself? Might it be that being at home with oneself is essentially all that we are called to do in life?

I met Larisa today walking out of the metro. She wanted to hit me up for 10 rubles. As a rule, I don't like to give spare, er, banknotes. And, if have a chance, I do offer to buy a person food. Larisa wanted a belyash, a fried meat pastry. The belyashi stand was too far away, so she settled for a ham and cheese stand at a Kroshka Kartoshka fast food stand. Kroshka Kartoshka's main menu item are baked potatoes and toppings. They are a must-try for anyone wanting to experience local fast food.

Larisa refers to Moscow as full of proizvol (despotism, tyranny, arbitrariness) because of her plight. She is on the street because she can't get an internal passport. She can't get an internal passport because the local militsia (police) have designs on her apartment. She can't prove it's her apartment because she doesn't have a passport. Her story is a common one.

For those who enjoy an insiders look into a different world, i think this will be one to watch.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

ecology of thought

I am just digging into William Isaacs, "Dialogue" and if possible i am growing even more excited about this path i am on. The potential for transformation inherent in bringing people together in meaningful dialogue about what matters is immense--and the reality of becoming an ever more skillful host of these conversations is compelling. With every page i turn my sense of delight and joy increases. Here is my favourite bit from today, talking about the underlying atmosphere that is critical to whether we can talk together well or not:

This atmosphere within our own consciousness is generated, very simply, by the ways we think and feel--the levels of internal freedom we allow oursleves, the inclusiveness we are able to sustain, the authenticity we are able to muster, the flexibility of perspective we are able to take, and the stability and spaciousness we have in our hearts.

Of course our atmosphere is not separate from others. Our feelings and habits of thinking are part of a complex web that links us all together; it is our "ecology of thought." This ecology is the living network of memory and awareness, one that is not limited to any single person but is in fact held collectively. It is the matrix that informs us the world is a certain way and that problems can be solved in only a certain way. Out of this ecology comes the collective atmosphere in which we all live and work.
I find the four practices reflected strongly here. The capacity for spaciousness in the heart and internal freedom--opening; inclusiveness and authenticity--invitation; flexibility of perspective--holding; stability of the heart--the still centre; and the fourth--grounding--is implied in the capacity these others create for learning new behaviours.

Gonna be a lot more of this one quoted here in the next few weeks, i'm thinking....

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Couple of priceless family moments

A mother's delight...
Yesterday morning i came round to conciousness about 6:30 and the house was still all quiet, so i laid there enjoying the last few moments of rest and listening for the first stirring of the little ones. And what beautiful sounds come to my ears?

Beric: I love you Ro Ro.
Rowan: I love you Ber Ber.
Beric: I love you Ro Ro.
Rowan: I love you Ber Ber.

This continues for about five minutes and i can hear them hugging each other. It doesn't get any better.

And over dishes...
George: Leadership is dead...Sorry, but it is...We've gone beyond it. What we need are examples.

You just never know what's gonna be next around here...Anybody want some Ogre-urt?

symbolic violence

I was doing a little reading on narrative analysis and came across a new concept...symbolic violence. This term relates to behaviour whereby one party is asserting that what matters to the other party is inferior and therefore the other party is inferior. I guess this really comes into play when we are examining our stories and storytelling for their moral value. If we understand that a lot of learning occurs through storytelling and other dialogic means, then the respecting of the value of the inherent moral content, worldview, or cultural context of the story is essential to the respecting of the speaker and our capacity to learn or create meaning from what we hear. By devaluing the moral/cultural/symbolic content of the story, the perpetrator does violence to the speaker and the speaker's culture. Interesting.

This article is full of interesting goodies, like this...
How does the act of storytelling work dialogically, not so much to claim others’ recognition for the self’s authenticity, but rather to fashion that authenticity out of recognitions that the story provides for? How are dialogical relationships both the topic of the story, its content, and also the goal of telling the story, its process? Again, authenticity is interpersonal. Before Taylor’s emphasis on dialogue comes the classic statement of Mikhail Bakhtin (1929/1984), writing on Dostoevsky: "To portray the inner man…was possible only by portraying his communion with another. Only in communion, in the interactions of one person with another, can the ‘man in man’ be revealed, for others as well as for oneself" (p. 252). Stories, as dialogue, do not present a self formed before the story is told. Rather in stories the person "becomes for the first time that which [she or] he is–and we repeat, not only for others but for himself [or herself] as well" (p. 252). Narrative analysis can show how that process of becoming "for the first time" works, even as the analysis itself is another stage in this on-going process.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Opening Space, questions, trust, and the still centre

Roots the centre
Originally uploaded by the view from in here.

Back from more Open Space. This time as part of a team of five Gulf Island OSers lead by Chris Corrigan and including Val Embree, Beverly Neff, and Nancy McPhee. Much appreciation, love and gratitude to all of them for an amazing weekend of co-learning, conversation, and fun.

The Open Space brought together citizen representatives from all of the Island's in the Islands Trust. They spent two days in dialogue about the future of the Islands Trust and ways they could support its preserve and protect mandate.

There were many learning conversations that took place across the weekend, and one that is still unfolding and capturing my attention is about questions. As always, when the initial learning is significant, i tend to keep pushing at the edges to uncover more mysteries beneath...having had a taste of the juiciness of the topic. I have started to pay attention to how i respond when asked a question, to what i am about when i ask a question, and to what others seem to be about when they ask questions.

There's way too much here to post all at once, so i am going to focus on one bit. I would like you to ask yourself, "How often do i actually ask the question i mean to ask?" I am guessing that you are like me in this and that often, probably more often than either of us realize, the real question and the true need that underlay it, gets sensored-out, watered-down--basically left on the cutting room floor. And what comes out is something only distantly related to what we really desire or need to know. Why? Well, i've done a bit of feeling around and i have come up with several possibilities--the main one being fear, probably fear of rejection/exile. That's always the big one. And i also come up against a politeness thing--but i think that is probably just the same fear in different clothes.

And i wonder how often questions cover our inability or unwillingness to trust each other with the contents of our hearts. How often do we ask a polite and innocuous question, because we need to engage or because engagement is expected, when there is something else, wild and inappropriate inside. What does that mean? And what would it be like if we could unlock the fearlessness to say what is true for us in this moment right now--always? And what would it mean to hold space for that--as the receiver of such communication?

I was googling around and at Space to Think, came across a link to Trevor's Blog with this quote: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” Mister (Fred) Rogers

The key here, for me, is "the people we trust with that important talk". What a gift and a blessing it is to be trusted so. And what a responsibility.
This happens in facilitating. People trust you to hold the space strongly enough for them to do and say what they need to do and say. I think this is where the practice of the still centre meets the practice of holding. In order to be not only worthy of that trust, but also capable of fulfilling it, i must do my own work to grow an authentic sense of self (a healthy ego, if you will) that can remain centred and still under the pressures of witnessing other's truth. The centre is involved further here, as the process of holding and opening more space when the group hits rough waters is also one of faith. We must be able to maintain faith in ourselves and most importantly, we must maintain an unshakeable faith in the capacity of those who are with us to find their own way forward.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Another short absence-apologies

Hello all,

I am going to be away again for a few days. I will be back posting mid-next week.

See you then,

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Woohoo! The Moose is Loose!

From buddy Brian Lamb at Abject Learning...Northern Voice 2 raises its head from the misty waters and waggles its antlers for another appearance in Feb 2006! And check this out...

We've tried to grow the event gently, without losing the informal community-oriented feel that we had last year. NV2006 won't be in a bigger venue, but we've added an extra day slated for Moose Camp:

What is Moose Camp? A self-organizing series of events modelled on Bar Camp and Foo Camp. Moose Camp is, to use the cliché, for the people, by the people. We’ve booked some rooms at the UBC downtown campus, you register for Friday and anyone participating in Moose Camp can post to our wiki to collaborate with other attendees. You can give a presentation, lead a discussion, or just attend.

Sounds like an Open Space conference variant to me! Go Moose!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Open Space Practice Workshop

My buddy (and awesome facilitator) Chris Corrigan and I are offering a 3-day Open Space Practice Workshop on Vancouver Island from November 15-17.

If you are interested, you can find an invitation here.

This is a new 3-day design built on the original 2-day workshop pioneered by Chris and colleague Michael Herman. We will be focusing on the four practices that support the facilitation of Open Space (and many other dialogic group processes): opening, inviting, holding, and grounding. It should be an amazingly deep three days full of experiential and co-creative learning to engage the mind, heart and body.

We would love to see you there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Nesting cat and gardening guilt

nesting cat
Originally uploaded by the view from in here.

There are few things more enviable than a sun-warmed nesting cat. This is our cat, enjoying the sunshine outside my office window. You can see how much trouble i have gone to with my landscaping. I would like to say it' s permaculture...and I suppose it is, in a purist sense. My gardener works 365 days a year, i never pay her, don't have to tell her what to do, she consumes no fossil fuels, uses no man-made chemicals, and unfolds a thousand little surprises every day for my delight. She and i don't always see eye to eye--she thinks the middle of the driveway is an excellent place for growing grass, the raised beds are good for dandelions and thistles, and the kid's sandpile should be ringed with nettles. But then, as she is doing all the work, i don't feel i can push my opinions too strenuously or too often.

Ah yes, humour, the balm of the guilty conscience. One has neighbours you know...and family...with expectations...Okay, and one has a few expectations herself...

But, i have this ten year plan, you see. In ten years there will then be three teenage boys hanging about the place just waiting to show off to their mother how many rocks they can haul, flower beds they can dig, gravel they can spread...right? Right? Do not deprive me of my little illusions....

Ah well, I grew up in the middle of a mown field, that was occasionally an unmown field and i loved the wild tangle of it all. And while I sometimes wish for a planned and planted garden, i know i would miss the ferns and nettles, the self-heal and sorrel, the daisies and foxgloves, the vanilla leaf and salmonberries. A wild tangle outside can be its own kind of sanctuary--for the wild tangle inside.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Burns Bog is burning

Burns Bog is on fire again. Story here. We had haze and could smell the fire in Nanaimo today. Maybe it's a statement about the general level of cynicism around these days, but the first person i mentioned it to said, "Do you think it was sabotage? Started by the people who want to develop it?"

No, i don't. Not this time anyway. But it seems to be another demonstration of how poor we are at sharing space with our fellow creatures. Our needs first and theirs...well...somewhere way down the list.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fun blog

Just discovered Susan Juby's blog. She's funny--the saga of her last year's vacation with sick dog rides the quirky edge where pathos meets hilarity (entries for July 30th). She's also an award-winning Young Adult's author. Check it out.

What I've learned from Celtic Folktales

1. You know that yogic contortion involving a bathtub, a goat, and a spear that the oracle told you would be bad for your health, and at the time you thought to yourself, “Well, that should be easy to avoid.”? Don’t demonstrate it for the new girlfriend; she does not have your best interests at heart.

2. Avoid beautiful women singing in trees; avoid beautiful men singing anywhere.

3. Avoid beautiful women in general—go for the plain one with lots of cows, no jealous sisters, and a visible lack of male relatives of any kind.

4. If you come across a very large fish in clear pond in the dell and it speaks to you, contrary to what you might otherwise think, it will be good advice or at least reliable information.

5. If you are an unusually large porcine animal, don’t carry a grooming set between your ears. It will attract unwanted attention.

6. Jumping over branches of mistletoe can cause spontaneous pregnancy (even if it’s your first time).

7. Size does matter.

8. The guy with the biggest bull wins. See above.

9. Unusually intelligent or talking animals are probably somebody’s relative and do not make good pets. Their families (and a large number of well-armed friends) are looking for them. You may want to ask yourself if you really want to be around when they find them.

10. If your generations-old, bred-in-the-bone, orders-to-kill-on-sight enemies invite you over to their place for dinner, think twice. They have probably not had a sudden and unexpected change of heart or converted to Buddhism.

The bonus one: If you are a giant/king/supernatural being and you have a really beautiful daughter and some git with a claymore wants to marry her…just say, “YES!”. Throw a big party, embrace the guy, make him one of the family. It may not help, but it’s your best chance. Good luck.

Thanks to Jim Macdonald of Making Light for the inspiration and to Chris for the linkage.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

short musing on invitation

view from tarmac Prince George airport

I had one of those aha moments this morning. i've been concentrating on the practice of opening for the last little while and this morning got a glimpse into the place where opening and inviting meet. There have been plenty of opportunities to practice opening into discomfort and pain, to notice contraction and closing, and to exercise opening and breathing into them. i finally got it this morning that i don't have to wait for these experiences to arrive. i can go out and invite them. (har har har) Yep. That invitation isn't just about following attention or stretching to embrace a new possibility. It's about the everyday stuff too--you know, the icky stuff. The things that make your guts churn--that normally you'd avoid like the plague. Yes, THAT know the one...

While invitation is about the good and the true, we sometimes forget that the true often doesn't look so good--that it can be scary and ugly. I saw this morning that there is a beauty in inviting the ugly truth--a real power and joy in inviting the willingness to open into our suffering. A next depth of practice, if you will--that opening to suffering and pain as they arise is one thing and actively inviting the possibility of opening to them is another.

Chris Corrigan writes at Michael Herman's great wiki collection of OST resources, "Invitation...follows on the openess of vulnerable intention, intention that wants to reach into the world." I am glimpsing an interesting flow between opening and invitation--where the vulnerability and letting go of opening meets the probe?, the gentle current, of invitation.

Not a big aha, just a quiet expansion into what's next.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Very short absence

I may be unable to post over the next couple of days. I am on the road and also have an elderly family member very ill.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Open Space of the Body

I have been blessed today with a wonderful experience. After working into the wee hours of the night and then again this morning, I finished up the funding proposal i have been working on just in time to go and have a visit with my friend K. Louise and to experience the amazing therapeutic massage she has been learning. In our conversation over tea beforehand, i was amazed to hear K. Louise speak of her practice in terms that sounded just like Open Space--but for the body! She spoke of opening and holding space in the body for me to rest in, to simply be with what is. And if i chose, i could experience what was there for me, what was held in the body--or simply rest and experience ease and bodily presence.

It was wonderful to hear her speak of her integrative practice--of truly embracing and caring for the body, mind, soul, and spirit--for the self and the social--of being present and fine with whatever arose, with whatever needed expression--in whatever way it needed to be expressed.

The experience was very deep. As i said to her, it was like going through a three day Open Space in an hour-and-a-half--in terms of the depth and openness achieved.

She finished by massaging my head which resulted in the most amazing state: total bodily relaxation, complete waking awareness, and dreaming--alpha and theta waves present at the same time--an experience i have only had before during meditation retreats--and this was definitely a result of what she was doing...really remarkable. (okay, okay...i was open to it and yah, have an awareness trained to recognize it...but cool)

And afterwards I was left with a sensation of complete permeability of the body. It's hard to put words to it really...not a sense of larger at all, but like all the atoms of me had been made more discrete and the space between more visible/sensable--and air and breath and sunshine and birdsong were passing through this light and open structure that was almost not there, but still very present and grounded...a truly unique experience.

So now i know...spirit is open space, soul is open space, heart can expand to be open space, mind can expand and relax to be open space...and the BODY can be open space too. What a gift. Thank you K.

(This should really help me to achieve perfection in Open Space facilitation--the totally present and completely invisible facilitator...[big grin, tongue in cheek]...)

One of the other things that we talked about was the real dearth of cherishing practices in our culture. Our bodies end up isolated and exiled and we are left with few ways to express how we feel for each other. There is this exhausting, malnourishing dualistic tension between the casual and the sexual, the acquaintance and the lover. Where is the place for the sensual and the dear?

We are a bunch of primates--for whom grooming activities (physical attention and closeness, non-sexual caress)are essential bonding, stress reduction and health improving behaviours. The narrow band of acceptable exchange creates needless pain and leaves many people literally starved for adequate physical contact. We know that babies thrive with physical touch, massage, and skin-to-skin contact of any kind. Why do we think that repressing this innate need for communion later in life is okay and has no significant consequence? Actually, i think a lot of us fully recognize the consequence, but, like me, have such deep conditioning, that it takes significant will and determination to break through the fear/shame/judgement to reach out across the abyss that divides us--for a simple touch of human kindness.

So, engage in an act of resistance on behalf of the revolution--next time you are out with someone dear to you--hold hands, link arms, give each other a shoulder massage, brush each others hair, pick nits...whatever...just do it...

Okay, i'm getting silly now...g'night dear hearts

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dreaming in The Green Room

green room cover

Well, it's my 17th Wedding Anniversary today (and 20 years of being together) and George is working the afternoon shift on the boat. So...I am consoling myself by spending some time with the work of someone else I love dearly, my friend and colleague K. Louise Vincent. K. gifted me with a copy of her new chapbook of poetry very recently, The Green Room. I love that more and more often now poetry is being published in handmade chapbooks. The love, care and attention that has been put into the making of this book is palpable--it seeps into my fingers as i turn the pages--reflecting the love and care of the poet. As my friend Tim Landers writes into the copywrite statement of all of his chapbooks, "Do not reproduce without love."

With K's gracious permission, I will share a bit with you from the poem, A Fine Line:

The future is dark, which is on the whole,
the best thing a future can be, I think.
~ Virginia Woolf

As in inscrutable--
not terrible

As in transparent--
as in all the beauty

As in grief from left field--
knocking her flat

As in somewhere between
naked and protection

As in tree frog, as in child--
as in a fine line


This holding back from the sweet
receptive earth inside

is madness. This morning
she will be easy

with what is human. She will write
these words. She will remember

to dream. And dreaming is the one thing
we have that's really ours, vulnerably

and unalterably, ours.


We need dreamers. She will write this
simply and slowly. Our capacity to dream

is linked in marriage to the green world.
Dreaming is natural, is necessary.

Dreaming is non-strategic
space. Seeing the world as it is.

Dreaming is the deepest way
of thinking. Co-emergent wisdom.

Before language dreamed
endlessly in green.

Anything natural bends, trees
are complete circles.

~K.Louise Vincent

Ahhhh. Trees are complete circles. And our breath. And the space between us--all the beautiful open space.

Peace and love to you all, dear ones.

PS: If you are interested in K. Louise's work, please email me for contact info. The Green Room is published by Leaf Press, Lantzville, BC, Canada, 2005.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

non-profit tech and philanthropy

My dear friend Keira McPhee sent this wonderful excerpt along from Marnie Webb at ext337...

It’s really my fault. I try to make the hook fundraising because I think that’ll pull people into the conversation. But utilizing social tools on the web—wikis and blogs and RSS—participating in web-wide conversations, all of that, it’s not about the fundraising potential.

Sure, I’m convinced that translates into engaged users and those engaged users are more likely to support your organization in a variety of ways. But if we think of it as only about fundraising then it’s only about marketing. And if it’s only about marketing, it’s a trick. It’s a slick new version of a postcard dropped in the mail to 10,000 of your closest friends.

It’s about turning over part of yourself. In two essays (1, 2) Peter Merholz argues that it’s not about the technology. He writes: “Web 2.0 is primarily interesting from a philosophical standpoint. It’s about relinquishing control, it’s about openness, it’s about trust and authenticity. APIs, Tags, Ajax, mashups, and all that are symptoms, outputs, results of this philosophical bent.”

And that’s true for nonprofits. It’s about opening up your organization so that you can achieve greater impact and create the change you seek by allowing your constituency to take pieces of your organization and make something out of them. It’s making the ideas portable and actionable. In the language of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, it’s about giving your constituency the power to figure out their own next actions and the tools to do them.

Saddhu. Well said. Sounds like Open Space to me. The only thing I would add is that the same is true for good fundraising... it isn't about the money either--or marketing. It's about creating an open and inviting organization. It's about connecting to people at the level of what matters to them...what they have a passion for. And then inviting them to step forward and take responsibility for that--and creating the opportunities (holding the space) for them to do so. To paraphrase the above, the money is a symptom, an output, a result, of this practice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Potty talk

Okay, happy little story for you today...

In my house, there is almost no potty privacy...something i am working at changing, but when you're four and two, it's just one more cool thing to share...

So...Beric (4) announces that he needs to go poo (warning...i will not be mincing words here) and that he needs my help...mostly he wants my company, so off we go down the hall to the potty. Gareth (2) announces that he is coming also, and that he is going to "sit down here" on the stool across from the potty. He has brought along two large rubber dinosaurs to entertain the bunch of us. The dinosaurs give each other big hugs and some kisses...and then at one point Beric says, "What did you say?" This phrase has obviously come to have a special and secret meaning between Beric and Gareth, because immediately Gareth grins one of THOSE grins and starts yelling.

Now, to really appreciate this next bit, you need to imagine Marlon Brando...with golden two...about 30" tall or so...doing an impression of himself screaming "STELLA". Only he is screaming "URSULA" (because we have been watching WAY too much George of the Jungle.) i mean really, just like Brando--top of lungs, red face, neck veins bulging--the whole bit...and when I remark that he sounds like Brando screaming STELLA, he immediately begins to oblige. "STELLA" "STELLA" Of course by now, all three of us are laughing our heads off.

You haven't forgotten that someone is on the potty have you?

At this point, Beric catches his breath, and says, "That was really funny. Even my poo was laughing."

Gotta love it...
Does this sort of thing happen at your house?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Getting esoteric on Open Space with Ken Wilber

Getting through the final...and i gotta say pretty dense pages...of Ken Wilber's One Taste...and this passage caught my brain as it seems to shed some light on the intuition i had in a previous post. Here's the pertinent part from my post:

Chaos draws the attention of the soul (rather than merely mind). Mattering is the quality of attention that drives the self-organising principle. So what is 'mattering'? The recognition/ mirroring of the soul's purpose?/passion? in another being/object/idea... from which connection, the chain of action/arising unfolds...thought, action, and so on...

And here is the passage from Wilber (pg. 275):

...the Self or Witness is the seat of attention, the root of the separate-self sense, and the home of the last and sublest duality, namely, that between the Seer and the seen. It is both the highest Self, and the final barrier, to nondual One Taste.

Nonetheless, the power of Witnessing is the power of liberation from all lower domains, and the Witness itself is present, even if latently, at all previous stages. Each developmental stage transcends and includes" its predecessor, and the "transcend" aspect, in every case, is the power of the higher to be aware of the lower (the soul is aware of the mind, the mind is aware of the body, the body is aware of matter). And in each case, the "is aware of" is simply the power of the Witness shining through at that stage.

Although the Witness is present as the power of transcendental growth at every stage, it comes to its own fruition in the causal realm. As the ego orients consciousness to the gross, and the soul orients consciousness to the subtle, the Self orients consciousness to the causal.

Now, i need to be upfront here and admit that this is the first of Wilber's books that i have read, so my grasp of his jargon is still unripe, and my capacity to translate from his jargon to mine, is even greener, so here, for those of you who enjoy the tartness of early my first go at it...

I will suggest that chaos is Spirit which dwells in what Wilber would term the nondual. So to translate the first line of my earlier post...Spirit (or the nondual; chaos) invites the presence of the Witness (the seat of attention). So, how does the presence of the Witness drive the self-organizing principle? The Witness roots in the causal, which is transpersonal and transformative by nature. So, perhaps, the presence of the Witness sets up a powerful harmonic that consists of the transpersonal and transformative vibration of the causal and the unique vibration of the separate-self sense. The causal vibration allows for the organization to occur as it synchronizes between the individuals present in the Open Space. The emergence and the transformative product we often see in Open Space are, if i may suggest, the visible evidence of the harmonic--a symphony created by the interweaving of the separate-self vibrations of the participants upon the underlying One Taste--the mystery and radiance of the nondual.

So, whaddya think? Am i totally in outer space here? Or can we build something on this?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Fearlessness and the Genuine heart of sadness

From Chögyam Trungpa , Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior:
The genuine heart of sadness comes from feeling that your non-existent heart is full. You would like to spill your heart's blood, give your heart to others. For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if someone hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.

Before i went to OSonOS in Halifax and even more so since, this is a quality i have been working on in myself. This is one of the qualities that i hope to develop, share and explore with those interested in intentional community.

What i have been working on links directly to Open Space practice. How to be Open Space rather than do Open Space. How to open more...and then more...and then more...How to be ever more present in the moment, more able to authentically issue and accept invitation...How to sit and hold this raw and tender heart without closing, without giving in to fear of judgement or blame, without attachment to any outcomes or reactions...How to be more absolutely direct in relating to the world, with actions springing from deep connection of intuition, heart, mind and body.

The third morning in Halifax was really remarkable. Talk about being prepared to be surprised! Ever since my dear colleague, K. Louise Vincent, exposed me to an exercise in sustaining the gaze (where you sit knee to knee with someone and maintain eye contact while being directed to think about that person in various ways) where we were encouraged to think about that person's pain, strength, beauty...and ultimately that this might be the last time we ever see each other...i am always so aware of this...especially in gatherings where people have travelled a long way. There is such a presence of the sad and tender heart for me in these situations. So in the closing circle, i took the time to hold each person in my heart for a while...and felt so deeply appreciation, gratitude and joy in their presence and their unique contribution. A sensation of love for each person arose. And the sense of separation dissolved.

The session that morning had been opened with a message from the Hopi elders and the line: "We are the ones we have been waiting for", became the theme for the day. Another passage from that message came forward with great meaning for me: "See who is there with you and celebrate....The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves."

So let's begin to gather see who is with us celebrate...with raw and tender hearts...stretched on a gossamer web resonant with uncertainty...with a sweet willingness to be blown by the breeze of Spirit to an unimaginable new land, fearless.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Provocative Proposition

As promised, here is the post about intentional community...This post was originally written on June 30th.

I have been busy dreaming again. And what I have dreamed, i now want to share with you. i have been dreaming of a village. a village of artists and thinkers, of growers and teachers, of shapers and spinners. i have been dreaming of a village of beautiful, ecological, sustainable, self-sufficient design. a village where there is a core of members who work with and around each other, as well as a flow of visitors who nourish and are nourished by those around them. i have been dreaming of common open spaces surrounded by private spheres. i have been dreaming of having space for children to grow and flourish in the care and love of a community. this place would be a living experiment in culture-creation, in modelling a possible future, in co-learning, co-living, collaboration and joy. i have been dreaming that this place could be here now.

i know there are many others out there who want to bring their lives into congruence with their values and vision. i know a lot of us are trying to build this with our networks, our communities of practice, our business partners, our neighbours. i have recently read that radical change often works more effectively than incremental change. This is an invitation to share in this dream. I often ask myself, how can i write and think about all this and continue to live in a conflicted and non-congruent way? If it was just me, I think I would jump ship and make it happen tomorrow. Contemplating dragging my probably reluctant family along is deeply frightening. But i am starting to talk about it and ask what it would take to get to maybe. (Thanks Chris for that phrase.)

So here is a first provocative proposition. There is a 38-acre piece of land on Gabriola (it's been clear reclamation would be needed) that can be sub-divided into 7 parcels (Cost of land would be about $60,000 per parcel) (Take a look at for amazing potential living spaces.) Anybody out there interested in talking about jumping ship...putting our brain/heart/soul/spirit power where our mouths and keyboards are and trying to create an integral, model locus of radical thought, practice, and culture?

Here's a pic of the land:

The land is high up on the plateau of Gabriola. Would have been great if it had a view. Dave Pollard has suggested we could see about buying an additional piece on the edge to access a view. To the right on the picture. the land abuts a parcel of about 800 acres that is in the process of becoming rezoned as a wilderness recreation area.

My thinking has developed a bit since I first wrote this...but that can be for another day...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Absences and non-safety

Many apologies. I can't believe that I have been away for so long...believe me it only feels like days...

I will chalk it up to inexperience. The next time I start to feel overwhelmed and blocked... the next time I start saving all my posts as drafts...I will know it's time for a short break and will let you all know. Promise.

I will also try to master the art of the short post. Way harder than it sounds. Tips anyone?

What have I been up to? Well, for the last three weeks I have been travelling. Some business, some personal. Went to Ontario with the whole family to visit my husband's family. His mom is quite ill with cancer and it was her 65th Birthday and we really needed to be there.

It was an interesting experience to revisit all of the major landmarks of my history--with my children...The Royal Ontario Museum was a hit (my favourite place since I was 3...and my brother-in-law works there now--way cool.)

Then my brother contacted the folks who live in the house I grew up in and we visited and had a tour and then had a walk "over the back" into the valley behind...the ground of my being...
house view
View to the south from the deck of my old house in Newmarket.

Beric and Jenna in valley
My brother and niece walking in the valley.

Seeing my children walk and play where I had walked and played at their a place that holds such precious and essential memories for me...was a profound experience. And to be back on that land was an experience like no other. I am most myself in wild places and that place most of all. There is no experience like walking the land that raised you...the land you know like your own body--no matter how the years have changed its face and contours.

Then we dropped by Rockwood Conservation Area where we were married (in the ruins of the old mill there--we were the first! And apparently started something...there was a rehersal there during our visit).

Then on to Sandy Lake in the Kawarthas, for a visit to my husband's family cottage (site of first kiss ;-) )The kid's and George stayed on there while I went back to the city and then off to Halifax for Open Space on Open Space. Which I had hoped to blog from...yah, right...I know better now. More inexperience. You can't blog and be capable of deep contribution at the same time. Presence is presence. I will unpack it here over the next couple of weeks.

Back to T.O. and a family reunion, then off to the Zoo. Then a fabulous lunch and conversation with Dave Pollard. Who knew he would be so open to exploring intentional community? So, we are getting serious about it...(That's one of those posts that got stuffed in the draft box. I shared it with Dave, and I will share it with you in the next couple of days...)More on all this will come later...

There were so many more places visited and connections made, but I'll save them for another day.

I'm so many more words than necessary...exhausted but so full.

And what has been on my mind a lot? The concept of non-safety. This has come up in so many venues, both personal and professional, lately. For many years, I have believed that safety is an illusion that serves to distance us from each other; that prevents us from expressing our most remarkable selves; and that hampers the growth of true freedom. Risk-taking, in the service of the greatest good, and life in general, is becoming a vital survival skill--at least for those who would see peace and sustainability grow. In thinking about this (and it really helps to have a real life situation to experiment with--like intentional community)I have been contrasting unsafe with non-safe. The kind of risk-taking I am considering is not so much about the unsafe, or dangerous, as it is about the non-safe. The non-safe to me is about non-engagement with the concept of safety--rather than an absence of it. It is about recognizing that safety isn't the issue--intimacy, connection and communication are. It isn't even about risk-taking, really, it is about openness, vulnerability, non-attachment, invitation, commitment, courage and daring in the face of fear and uncertainty. So I'm thinking about living in the non-safe zone. In that place where creativity, intuition and inspiration meet emergence and Spirit. What are you thinking about?

And here's a smile from the littlest angel to thank you all for your patience and caring.
little angel

Friday, July 15, 2005

Conversation and place

Wednesday night we had a long wait for the ferry home as we arrived back from a long trip just at refueling time. I took Rowan and Gareth (Beric was alseep) for a walk along the seawall and down the visiting vessel pier. They had a marvelous time running up and down the metal gangway making it reverberate to their footsteps. They were laughing their heads off--to the great amusement of all passersby. While i was watching them I found that my thoughts were drawn back to the week before when I had walked in the same place while having a conversation with a friend.

We had used some of the physical features of the place to illustrate some of the points of a complex idea. I found that as I approached those features again, the ideas we had connected to them, sprang strongly to mind. This put me in mind of the Aboriginal concepts in T.C.McLuhan's, The Way of the Earth. The Australian Aboriginies see the landscape as imbued with sacredness--teachings, songs, spirits, ancestors. Every rock, stream, tree, vine, gully represents a unique and essential concept. It was interesting to experience place as a mnemonic device--as a key to deep learning--and the learning will also always be attached to the person who shared it with me. The visiting vessel pier will now always 'hold' this deep concept for me. adds a whole new dimension to the landscape.

I am appreciating the richness and depth that McLuhan's book is adding to my experience. It is a rare privilege to be invited into such different ways of experiencing the world.

Comments not fully functioning

Apologies to all those who have left comments recently. The comments are being posted, but they are not showing up on the counter, so I didn't know they were there until a couple of you alerted me that you had left comments. They were there alright...but just not showing. I will investigate further...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Passion versus motivation

I was in a planning meeting today to design a program for an upcoming funding proposal. One of the challenges we had to address was how to create real and lasting change for participants who had a long history of being stuck. Our conversation drifted a bit into how we had seen this happen for previous clients and for ourselves. The insight arose that traditional forms of motivation or motivational coaching were fairly ineffective. Especially when compared to engagement with a true passion. Our collective experience seemed to support the concept that if we can generate a true and deep passion, that has the power to overcome entrenched resistance and old defeating patterns. We are now thinking about how to incorporate this element of passion generation into the program. And of course we are talking about Open Space... How can we open space and hold it long enough and strong enough that these participants will begin to fill it up with their dreams and aspirations?

Thoughts from the G-8 activist camp

Starhawk has been sending email reports from her work with the G-8 activist camp. They have been inspiring and challenging. Her latest post, as they take apart the camp that housed several thousand people for the past week, is beautiful and thought-provoking.

By setting up an encampment, where we all had to live together for a week, we were constantly faced with the real life, practical implications of our politics. Does anarchism simply mean that no one can ever tell me what to do, whatever state of consciousness I’m in or however I’m affecting the good of the whole? How do we respect the individual freedom of those who are in no state to make rational decisions or listen to the needs of others, and who gets to decide? And at what point does the good of the whole override the absolute freedom of the individual? It’s one thing to consider these issues in the abstract, another to spend half an hour at 2:30 AM trying to get a drunk to move back from the police lines.

And there were also many moments of wondrous beauty. At night, before the disco music started, groups would gather in the eddies of the meandering path through camp and play African drums or Scottish pipes. The Irish barrio, each night, would be gathered around the campfire, playing fiddle, singing songs, or listening to each others’ poetry as their ancestors have done for centuries. One night the Infernal Noise Brigade, a radical marching band from Seattle, led us all in a procession around camp, joined by a samba band and challenged by the disco block. Another night, a midnight candlelit vigil walked from the gate to the police lines, carrying with it a palpable blanket of silence, and placed its candles at the feet of the riot cops. We had rituals around the faery hawthorne tree at the edge of camp, and deep conversations around the kitchens and campfires. We had meetings where people listened to each other and let their opinions change, where we brought our best collective thinking to a problem and went away heartened by the experience.

Saturday night, we were taking apart our improvised road, made of softboard laid over sticks that were milling waste from a local timber company. There was no practical way to re-use or recycle the sticks, so we pulled the boards off, piled up the sticks into pyramids, and burned them. One by one, bonfires came alight: five, eight, thirteen, seventeen, dancing beacons of flame under a new moon. A woman told me that this was one of the fields where William Wallace, Scotland’s great hero, had called people to fight against the English invaders by lighting beacons in the field. We were all feeling sad at the ending of the camp, but the fires cheered our hearts and seemed to burn away any stuck or negative energies. John, the Irish fiddler, Brice, who is an expert at both renewable power and psychic energies, and I stood in the center, playing music, singing, and drumming, with an abundance of fire all around us, beacons calling us all to the ongoing fights for freedom. The faeries were very pleased.

And now the camp is gone, the field is bare again, the experiment is done. But because it existed for a short time, in some realm of being it exists for all time, complete with all its problems and promise, a seed of what is possible.

Starhawk's reflections reaffirm my belief that more of us need to begin actually experimenting with our lives. We need to consider seriously taking the risks inherent in creating new ways of living together. If those of us with the commitment and vision to change and to discover and develop the skills necessary for sustainable living don't couple this with actual experimentation, we will never reach the stage of practice. It will all remain theory. At some point we need to be willing to embrace and go beyond our fears. We need to walk into the messy, uncomfortable, humanity of living together, before we can create a viable new alternative--an alternative that is provable and replicable across a wide range of contexts.

I know that many of us are doing this in small and large ways in our own communities and work. But I have this sense of it not being enough...of needing to see radical and holistic engagements with all levels and facets of daily life. (And that could just be me--feeling frustrated with my own transformative struggles...) I think a lot of us are looking for that last little unknowable piece of information that will make it all okay to move forward. But the mystery of the future isn't like that...we have to jump in with both feet (and all our faith and heart and courage and best intention). We need the taste of the new in our mouths, the feel of it between our fingers, the sound of it roaring in our ears, and with our hearts pounding from our struggle to learn to swim in its vast expanse.

I am so grateful and indebted to Starhawk and all the other courageous and fragile human beings who are putting their safety, security, comfort, and futures at risk by daily living their commitment to a mere a dream of a better way of being together with each other and all of life.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Conversation as peak experience

I came across this quote from Anais Nin yesterday:

"The value of the personal relationship to all things is that it creates intimacy and intimacy creates understanding and understanding creates love."

This connected to some thinking I have been doing about peak experiences, flow, and emergence. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Chris Corrigan on Wednesday about sensing the emergent, that flowed from this comment in his blog:

I find myself more and more focused on finding the questions that help us discern these two subtle presences: the seed of the emergent future crossing the abyss back to our present moment, and the place where our feet fall on the other side of that abyss, the place where our hearts are all ready present in that desired future.

The emergent in this case is being encountered in facilitated conversations. Chris referenced Otto Scharmer's U-Theory and the practice of 'presencing'. As I am currently understanding it, the emergent is encountered in a state of flow--or no thought--when moments and actions are not separated by thought, but rather are connected by something more subtle (soul or spirit?). In order to engage with emergent thought we often use the practice of conversation. I started wondering what the quality of conversation would be that would fulfill the no-thought requirement.

Several of the peak experiences in my life have been conversations. The only common characteristics of these conversations have been that they were with intimate friends and they were about emergent understanding or thoughts. The experience of these conversations verged on one-mind. Where the emergent thought was all--centre stage--egos disappeared in its service. Thought-speech was all of a piece, flowing--not without effort--but with a quality of inspiration and immediacy. There was a sensation of being transported--pulled up out of the normal self--almost like descriptions of channelling.

So, I further wonder, if these conversations exemplify the kind of conversation necessary to engage with the emergent, is an intimate relationship a necessary precursor? Which brings us back the the Anais Nin quote. Intimacy creates understanding creates love. For me the concept of love has always stretched to include the unseen force of the Absolute (or Spirit or God or Goddess or Brahman or whatever makes you happy) and serves me as a cypher for the action/information of the Absolute as it acts upon/influences the manifest. To me the emergent is all about sensing the presence of the Absolute and engaging with (or downloading) the information being made available.

So, to rephrase Nin, intimacy creates the conditions for peak conversation (deep understanding and trust; sympathy) which creates the conditions for the presence of the Absolute to be sensed which is the condition necessary to engage with the emergent. Implications...a lot of us are relying heavily on the internet and other technologies to connect us to have these essential conversations (you know about saving the world and all...), but can these technologies provide the necessary intimacy that seems to me to be prerequisite? Or do we still need serious face time? If that is so (and i *am* willing to be wrong about it) do we need to pay more attention to creating co-learning, co-living space for those who need/want to engage in these conversations? What is the necessary level of intimacy? What conditions and skills support the development of intimacy? Or is it all in the emanations of the Absolute? ;-)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Looming crisis in communication?

Are we on the verge of a looming crisis in interpersonal communication? This blog was named after an insight i had while listening to Stephen Downes talk at the Northern Voice blogging conference. The concept is that words are not neutral tags, they are deeply embedded in and imbued with contextual baggage that warps or draws meaning to themselves and away from the communicator's true intention--the way the orbits of planets are altered by the gravitational pull of other large objects.

This contextual baggage is of two basic natures: historical and experiential. Every word has a history of usage. This history is generally known and shared among speakers from within a specific cultural (and sometimes a whole language) group. This history, we as communicators can become aware of and to some extent mitigate for. We often know when a word has more than one strong meaning and can specify which we are using.

The other kind of baggage--experiential--is almost impossible to know or accomodate for. Each person has a unique set of experiences of a word-concept and word-connections that subtly alter the meaning of what is heard. It is a part of the subjective filter we all bring to our communication. We can become more aware of this filter, but very few of us can avoid its functioning at least on some level.

Now, pull to this the concepts of the evolution of consciousness and the functioning of memes. For those of you who haven't encountered the Spiral Dynamics folks, you can check this out more fully at their website. To keep this short ( I will 'cause I have an intransigent cold and need to get some sleep--which has been more than elusive lately.) I see a schism developing that is not merely about generations, but about levels and types of consciousness (in SD terms--I think particularly strong between yellow or turquoise types and the others.). This difference in consciousness creates a wider gap in experience and hence a greater gravitational effect on the words we use to attempt to convey our thoughts and meaning to each other.

It seems to me that communicating ideas is becoming increasingly difficult. The words are elusive, often completely misunderstood, and building bridges of understanding seems to take either an immense effort of background defining or falls into metaphor and poetics--the calling card of the mystic...

How does it seem to you? What might this mean to the art of conversation? Or to the great work of transformation (ie: saving what's left of the planet) that is before us?

Will try to break this down a bit more in future posts.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

On re-reading old favourites

My children have arrived at the age where I can begin sharing some of my favourite longer books with them--from when I was young. The opportunity to revisit these old favourites is a delight and full of self-discovery. I know I loved the books as a child and young adult and cared deeply about the characters in them, but my memories of why I loved and cared for them had faded. Rediscovering these stories is creating an opportunity for re-membering who I was and is casting a wonderful light on how I became who I am now.

One example: We are currently reading the second book in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series, The Black Cauldron. I remembered that the character of Adaon was one of my all-time favourites (George's too, we even considered the name at baby-naming time.) But I couldn't really have said why the character had been important to me. Two nights ago, I read this:

..."There is much to be known", said Adaon, "and above all much to be loved, be it the turn of the seasons or the shape of a river pebble. Indeed, the more we find to love, the more we add to the measure of our hearts."

We seldom get to know what goes in to shaping who we have become. These little glimpses are treasures. And I get to fall in love all over again...being a mom is just the greatest gift...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Humanitarian Intervention and Neo Colonialism

I've always felt a bit uneasy about the concept of military Humanitarian Intervention--particularly as it has been unfolding in the recent past. The presentation last week by Jim Harding at the World Tribunal on Iraq has given me a lot more reasons to hesitate and think twice. His presentation is one of an incredible collection available at the World Tribunal site. Here is a small excerpt...
On the history of HI:
The doctrine was criticized for its lack of precision regarding what constitutes humanitarianism, as well as the inconsistent practices of colonial powers. It was seen to be a doctrine of double standards, with ‘human rights’ as only an “accessory motive of intervention.” The colonial powers decided the criteria for applying the doctrine and were also their own judges. There was no democratic division of power between the authority formulating these criteria and the one executing the intervention. It was therefore a “tool of power politics” which
shielded the fundamental inequality between the European and colonial states as well as the authoritarian relationship between the rulers and their own “citizens”.

True humanitarian intervention may be possible, but only when carried out by disinterested parties under the guidance and control of an international body with stringent definitions of human rights and a real commitment to uphold them in all circumstances. True humanitarian intervention would look a lot more like food aid, infrastructure support, respectful and culturally appropriate resource provision...and would be proactive, building collaborations between nations before events escalate to unbearable levels.

As individuals, we can participate, right now, in our own humanitarian interventions by becoming aware of how we contribute to the pressures on non-North American or European countries. We can begin to make different decisions that affect the inequitable distribution of wealth and resources. We can attend to the inequities, injustice, and oppression at our own doorsteps. We can engage in personal processes of transformation to gain the skills and consciousness necessary to co-exist in peaceful, sustainable, and egalitarian communities.

I'm not saying any of that is easy...just necessary.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fundraising and organizational transformation

When a non-profit organization takes the plunge and decides to hire a professional fundraising consultant, they are most often in dire financial straights or see impending cutbacks in the near future. This means that they are usually focused on short term financial improvements--and that, of course, while perfectly natural, often means that they haven't considered the impact of implementing fundraising on their staff, board, infrastructure, or culture. As a consultant, I come into the situation knowing that undertaking a relationship fundraising program is going to transform the organization from top to bottom in unexpected and sometimes painful ways.

It's odd how many social service organizations are essentially closed systems. They have mechanisms to get client referrals, both in and out, and have a network of other agencies and contract funders, but they often have no publicly accessible face for the non-client community at large. Some even have large volunteer components--but these are also often seen, in a basic and important way, as separate from the core staff or work of the organization. The general public can be seen as essentially unknown and unknowable. Hence the huge fear that accompanies decisions to undertake a fundraising program and hurdle number one in implementing a successful relationship building program.

I often begin by reframing the fundraising program as a friend-raising program. We are not going out there to pressure people who essentially don't care about what we do to give us cash...we are heading out to connect with people who share our values, concerns and passions and to invite them to join us in our work. They care about it, but can't personally do the work, so they invest in the agency's capacity to do the work on their behalf. This reframe can begin to create the first crack in what is often an actual barricade between the organization and the community. And by this I mean a functional barricade created out of fear, mistrust, and lack of knowledge--them out there and us in here.

Continuing with this program of positive reframing, I will often engage in conversations about how the community can support and enhance the work of the agency--through things like growing a basic sense of belonging to a caring community (supports both staff and clients), acting as a positive, free, PR mechanism (happy, engaged donors spread the word), bringing a host of life experience and skills to the organization (increasing capacity). Together, we slowly grow the understanding of an open organization that has structures and attitudes that welcome and invite community participation at many levels. To me, this is an essential part of developing the fundraising function within an organization. It is about ethical asking and inviting, about true accountability and transparency.

Another facet of my practice is to work with and acknowledge what's there. In other words, an organization is people--people who are usually tired, stressed and overworked. People who have strong investments in the status quo and who may have strong opinions about how things get done. People for whom the merest mention of the word 'fundraising' sends them flying for the nearest cover. Welcome to hurdle number two. These are the folks who will have to shoulder the extra burden of work and who will be the organizational face that greets the public. Again, by involving them as much as possible from the beginning and by telling lots of success stories and framing change in terms that clearly show the benefit to them personally wherever possible, we begin a slow shift.

I truly believe in the value of the consultative part of consulting and in collaboration. My practice is to build the capacity of the organization to carry on a professional program under its own steam. Ultimately, implementing a relationship fundraising program is about transformation from an inward-looking, protective organization to one that is open, inviting and engaged vibrantly with the community.

I have found, as a consultant, that listening with the heart, understanding where people are at and working from there, taking time, and being flexible while moving gently and steadily forward, grows a healthier, stronger organization along with the revenue.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Ding Dong the Duke is dead!

The wicked Duke Point Gas Plant threat is officially no more. This is just one more of those occasions when I am proud to be a Gabriolan. Three cheers and huge appreciation to all of those who worked so hard preparing the case against the plant. And a big Gabriolan hug to all of us who participated in Power Down to show that we can reduce consumption and have a lot of fun doing it. Now the ball is in our court to make sustainable changes and reduce our consumption on a regular basis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Picnics and bedtime stories

Tonight we had a picnic supper. We packed gourmet fare of tuna sandwiches, baby carrots, peaches, milk and water and headed out to Long Lane...just at the end of our street.

Long Lane is an old access road that is re-greening. Big-leaf maples arch across creating a green tunnel bordered by ferns on one side and tall lacy-headed grass and daisies on the other. We all ambled down, the boys picking grass, buttercups and daisies. We spread our blanket out on a sunny spot deep in the long grass and we all laid down for a minute looking up into the so-blue sky.

After the eating and a bit of running around, we settled down again to watch the sky. The half-moon was up and a bald-eagle was circling round and round it--lofting slowly higher in a lazy spiral. Rowan was the first to spot the flash of white head feathers. We saw two turkey vultures and lots of our favourite zippy little martins.

On our way back, I was informed in no uncertain terms by Gareth (20 months) that my help in putting his boots back on was in no way required or wanted. He did ask for, "Hand" and let me walk with him for a way. After a hundred metres or so, he stopped, delighted in shredding one of last year's leaf fall, and when finished instructed, "Uppy". Once in my arms, he directed (as usual) with extended arm and finger pointing down the path, "That way!" (If you are a fan of the movie Willow, you will get this little visual joke. It always makes me smile...)

Back home, after bath and brushing, George put Gareth to bed and I went with Beric and Rowan. I got a request for a Bob and Stanley story. This is always fun...I never know where it will go. Bob and Stanley are my own creations. Bob is a garden gnome who specializes in radishes. Stanley is a red dragon who Bob discovered as an egg in his radish patch. Red dragon eggs look like really big radishes and as the radish is their favourite food, laying eggs in radish patches is an effective adaptive strategy. Bob and Stanley are best friends and live in a really big tree and have cool adventures. Today they went for a picnic up in the mountains by a glacial lake filled with rainbow trout, sunfish, goldfish and clownfish (who the sunfish apparently like to bite...). Of course they ate radish sandwiches (Stanley's extra spicy), radish juice and bird's nest cookies with radish jelly. What a feast!

And what fun!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wilber and McLuhan

I couldn't have asked for a more complementary duo of authors. Wilber's luminous spiritual experiences counterpointed by the grounding of Aboriginal voices in McLuhan. It is setting up a rhythm to quote Wilbur (One Taste, pg 100):

...bringing heavenly Light down and into earthly Life, and then returning Life to Light--thus uniting downward Agape and upward Eros, Descending and Ascending, Compassion and Wisdom...

Attempting to bring Wilber's integrative analysis to McLuhan's research and first-person accounts is deepening my experience of both author's contributions.

The Dreaming of Australia's Aboriginal people, while at first glance seems to fall into Wilber's taxonomy at mind/tribal/magic/concepts, I sense has greater depth for those who live it and probably preserves another human tradition for accessing the soul/spirit, vision-logic, subtle/causal levels. From McLuhan (the Way of the Earth, pg. 41):

The Dreaming is the ground of being. It is also known as the Law: the generative principles of past, present, and future; the body of ethics and the code of life. It has been called the "plan of life." In other words, The Dreaming gave order to the world and laid down the Way (of the ancestors) for humans. Thus the spirit-essence of The Dreaming resides in all humankind.

As Wilber points out, less than 1% of any culture's members are engaged in active pursuit of transformative spirituality. It is demanding and uncomfortable. So I am taking that as an instructive point when reading about cross-cultural experiences with Earth/Nature-based spiritual paths. I am looking for the deeper clues to transformative practice that these traditions may preserve, rather than the merely translative.

Wilber suggests in "The Eye of Spirit, pg 197-199, that women and men progress through the same basic stages of spiritual development, but with differences:

Roots and wings. Agape and Eros. and women develop through the same gender-neutral basic structures, but they tend to do so with somewhat different values and styles in both the translative and transformative domains: men tend toward agency and Eros, women toward communion and Agape.

...female practices uniformly and cross-culturally involve an intense mode, not merely of translative communion and permeability, but of transformative Agape (incarnational, body-centered, immanent, descended, involutional, and profoundly embodied mysticism). They offer a stunning contrast to the more traditionally ascending, transcendental, agentic, and Eros-driven modes of spirituality typical of males.
It is the highlighted passage that is intriguing me in connection with understanding Aboriginal ways of transformative spiritual practice as it seems to me that many of these terms could also be applied to Aboriginal ways of knowing and being.

Integrative practice...looking for the places where we can meet each other.

And to leave you with my current favourite Wilberism:

Nobody is smart enough to be wrong 100% of the time.

Amen/Saddhu to that ;)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Reading and other things that are bad for your mind

Delicious things are starting to happen in my mind. Uncomfortable, unexpected, messy things...but delicious none-the-less, because to me a mind being turned upside down and shaken is a mind that will shortly experience some kind of transformation and in my book that is a very tasty event indeed.

Some background may be necessary...I don't do drugs, I don't drink (single malt is a sacrament not a drink heathens...), but I do engage in hard-core information download/overload as a way of messing with my neurons. I follow some instinctual sense that guides me to what, how much and when. Yesterday I would have said that was soul, but I have had my first nibbles of Ken Wilber and now I'm not sure if it's subtle soul or causal Spirit...anyhow...

Here is an example of what I'm talking about; the heady mix of info flow that I am currently mainlining looks something like this:

Chellis Glendinning: Off the Map -- beautiful, cutting and brutal insight into the effects of colonialism and empire

Coleman Barks: The essential Rumi - ecstatic Sufi poetry/mysticism

T.C. McLuhan: The Way of the Earth - cross-cultural study of how we as human beings relate to the Earth -- currently reading about The Dreaming of Aboriginal Australia

Harrison Owen: The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform -- evolving consciousness in organizations by the discoverer of Open Space Technology

Wolkstein and Kramer: Inanna -- translations of Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer

Ken Wilber: One Taste: Daily reflections on Integral Spirituality-- very cool to get to know the dude behind the theories before I get really dug into his solely theoretical stuff (not that this ain't packed with it :))

Diana Whitney & Amanda Trosten-Bloom: The Power of Appreciative Inquiry -- the basic book on what it is and how to do it

Ken Wilber: The Eye of Spirit -- one more from the Brief History of Everything guy-- just dipping into this here and there -- read the chapter on Integral Feminism...will blog about that another time

Shoshanna Zuboff & James Maxmin: The Support Economy -- a thoroughly researched and reasoned case for the current failure of managerial capitalism and an exploration of what might come next

Aleister Crowley: Magick in Theory and Practice -- the classic of Kabalah and Ceremonial Magick from the grandaddy of them all...don't know why I keep doing this to myself--his prose style makes Buckminster Fuller look like a grade one primer...

Fast Company magazine-- current issues-- yep I'm an addict

and, last but not least, Lloyd Alexander: The Book of Three--with Beric and Rowan at bedtime...

Oh yeah...and the twenty or so blogs I keep up with...almost forgot those...

So, that's the input...can't wait to see the infomagitrixical output...
Books...they can be really BAAAAD for your mind ;)

Sweet dreams...