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...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Failure, fallure, and taking risks

Well, this is what I was going to post about yesterday before I got all distracted and all..

In the December 2003 issue of Fast Company, there was a tremendous article by rock-climber and management writer and thinker Jim Collins on the difference between failure and fallure and how we make mistakes in calculating risk. First on failure and fallure...

"Off!" I called down to Matt.
"No," he yelled back. "You're only three moves from the crystal. You can recover there."
"OFF!" I yelled.
And I let go, dropping onto the rope in a nicely controlled fall.
I hung on the rope for about 10 minutes, recovering, and then swung toward the rock, pulled myself back on to the holds, and climbed to the top. But of course, it didn't count. I hadn't done a clean on-sight. And even though later in the day, I managed to ascend the route from bottom to top in one shot--a success by most measures--I had nonetheless failed. Not failed on the climb, but failed in my mind. When confronted with the moment of commitment, the moment of decision, the moment of go-for-it on the on-sight, well, I let go. I went to failure, not

Failure and fallure. The difference is subtle, but it is all the difference in the world. In fallure, you still do not get up the route, but you never let go. In fallure you fall; in failure you let go. Going to fallure means full commitment to go up--even if the odds of success are less than 20%, 10%, or even 5%. You leave nothing in reserve, no mental or physical resource untapped. In fallure, you never give yourself a psychological out: "Well, I didn't really give it everything. . . . I might have made it with my best effort." In fallure, you always give your full best--despite the fear, pain, lactic acid, and uncertainty. To the outside observer, failure and fallure look similar (you fly through the air in both cases), but the inner experience of fallure is totally different from that of failure.

You'll only find your true limit when you go to fallure, not failure. Sure, I had less than a 20% chance of pulling through to the crystal ball, but because I let go, I'll never know for sure. Perhaps I would have had an extra reserve; perhaps I would have surprised myself and had an extra bit of power to hang on for one more move. Or perhaps--and this turned out to be true--the very next hold is better than it looks. And that's the rub. On an on-sight--as with life--you don't know what the next hold feels like. It's the ambiguity--about the holds, the moves, the ability to clip the rope--that makes 100% commitment on an on-sight so difficult.

One of my mentors in life, the design guru Sara Little Turnbull, gave me a wall hanging with a quote from her speech at the 1992 Corporate Design Foundation Conference:

If you don't Stretch

You don't know

Where the edge Is

I now see life as a series of choices between going to failure or fallure. As in an on-sight attempt, the next hold in life remains unclear, ambiguous. And that very ambiguity keeps us back from making a fully committed attempt. We fail mentally. We let go. We take a nice, controlled fall, rather than risking a bigger fall. But as with most hard sport climbs, going to fallure in life is scary, but not dangerous. Whether it be starting a business or publishing a book or trying an exciting new design, fallure rarely means doom. And most important, the only way to find your true limit is to go to fallure, not failure.

I find it interesting, as we contemplate going to fallure in our own lives, how often I end up in conversations about planning to avoid risk, about what more information we need, about how much knowlegde will make it okay or 'not stupid' to take a risk. Very seldom do we sink as much energy into talking about the risks we take by not committing to what matters--to what has heart and meaning. The fear of what is essentially unknowable has the power to keep us living smaller lives, to keep us hemmed in the safe, tame places away from our potential, our deepest joy, our most creative and fulfilled selves.

In North America, as compared to most of the rest of the world, we have belay lines, we have safety nets. I am wondering how this padding, this obssession with safety and control, has affected our capacity to commit to ourselves and our lives. We bleed our life energy out in exchange for cash to pay for safety--and even to pay for insurance on the safety. We are focused on risk and we pay almost no attention to consequence.

More from Jim Collins:

Separating probability from consequences is a key to leading an entrepreneurial life. When I taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, many of my students failed to grasp this distinction, and it limited their options. One came to my office and said, "I'd really like to start my own company, but it
just seems so risky, so I'm going to take a job with IBM."
"What would happen if you give your startup the full try and failed?" I asked.
"I suppose I would go and get a job," she said.
"And how hard would that be?"
"Not very hard."
"So you're telling me that the worst-case scenario is that you'd be right back where you are now: looking at getting a regular job."
For a Stanford MBA, trying a startup was like going to fallure on a well-bolted sport route. Sure, the odds of success were low, but the consequences of falling were minimal. The rope would catch her. She went out on her own, gave it the full effort, and managed to climb through and build a successful startup. But she would never have known that if she had not separated probability from consequence.
The point here is to be clear on the difference between probability and consequence, and to act accordingly. On dangerous routes (or life situations that would destroy you or your company), you should avoid climbing to fallure, no matter how difficult or easy the terrain, unless you have no other choice. On sport routes with big, solid bolts (like Crystal Ball,
or the startup venture of my student), you can take on difficult challenges with a 5% chance of success and throw yourself into full fallure mode. It might be scary, but it's not dangerous.

I am wondering how many of us in North America can really even tell the difference between scary and dangerous. I had an Irish friend remark to me one day, "Hey there aren't any bullets flying...we're doing okay." And when I think of what we consider poverty and how depressed, isolated and frozen it can make us and then compare it to what is experienced by most of the rest of humanity--I get this energizing shock of perspective. I have begun to think that we are so insulated by our culture of entitlement that we have surrendered our basic human capacity--and desire even--to fend for ourselves. The urge to test, to see if we can measure up to what life throws at us--the inner urge to true maturity and adulthood. And there is something here too about a connection to the earth--about nature. I am thinking about the practice of walkabout and vision quest and how they are an essential part of becoming an adult. The exercise of self-reliance and the self-knowledge that arises from it. How many of us have had the conscious experience of holding our own lives in our hands--of knowing that we and we alone have the capacity to shape them into works of beauty and power?

A last word from Jim Collins:

And in perhaps the biggest failure, we allow today's frame of mind to limit our creativity and capabilities. What we perceive as limits today will simply be viewed as stepping-stones to the ultimate limits of the next generation. So, why not join the next generation now, and step right on past the limits of today? Why wait?
Daniel Boorstin argued in his classic book The Discoverers (Random House, 1985) that the primary barrier to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge and expertise. Discoverers see more clearly what can be done because they have less knowledge about the way things are supposed to work and are not trapped by the limits of their times. Similarly, climbing teaches that breakthroughs come not primarily by changing what we do, but by changing first and foremost how we think about what we do. And that is the toughest climb of all.

Love and G'night all...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Inclosure, failure, and other things


I'm reading more of Chellis Glendinning's, Off the Map and found an interesting link to my work with the Gabriola Commons project. At the workshop on Saturday some people were sharing where the concept of commons had come from and there were questions about its history and dates and such. Today, on page 53, I found:

Beginning in 1770, the English Parliament privatizes 6 million acres of previously commonly held fields, meadows, wetlands, and forests. Other arrangements, illegal, strip a near equal acreage from communal use. The upshot: 97 percent of all land in England comes to be owned by individuals and companies poised for the moneymaking promises of industrialism. A way of life dissolves. Traditional cottagers, freeholders, and tenants are forced off the land, are turned into hired hands, become factory wage slaves, deteriorate into welfare recipients and beggars. No more cutting fuel and furze, no more small-scale farming, no more pasturing, no more foraging, fishing, or hunting. "Inclosure," as one man 1804, "was worse
than ten wars."

Freedom is what draws me. I have always wanted to work in fostering more of it as widely as possible. It is interesting how in a society that considers itself free and open, working to increase individual and communal freedom is often seen as subversive and disruptive. Another quote from Chellis:

Back and forth, back and forth: control versus freedom, fascism against democracy, order fights nature, kings against natives, ideology challenging experience. In the context of the control required to maintain imperial order, the urge to freedom becomes irrepressible. It erupts; it is crushed. It erupts again; it is crushed again. You may hunch your shoulders in resignation. Such is human nature, you may sigh. And yet in our not-so-distant past, before the maps and the roads, before the kingdoms and the concentration camps, the urge to freedom is daily asked and daily answered. Only the iron clench of what social philosopher Lewis Mumford calls "the Megamachine," meaning imperial order and its attendant technologies, casts freedom as the losing proposition.

I was talking to Cheryl Honey (a sister Open Spacer) today about her program for weaving community and the possibility of piloting it here on Gabriola. It is an Open Space practice for growing grassroots community (villaging) that allows for freedom to emerge alongside the responsibility we take for each other. It works outside of all sanctioned systems, although many of the systems choose to join as active members. I am excited about it (and will keep blogging about how it goes). As the gaps in the system widen, it creates the necessary chaos for new patterns to emerge. Will freedom stick this time? We'll see...

The concept of inclosure and its links to our current sorry state was echoed by Dave Pollard in his post yesterday about the gigantic cattle feedlot in Coalinga, California (originally posted on Sprol). Here's an excerpt.

A nation wired for everything except the truth. If we were exposed to truths like this, and truths like what is happening today in Darfur, and what is happening in our own neighbourhoods where children and spouses are trapped and endlessly victimized by heartless abusers, and if we were unable to turn our heads away until we really paid attention, it would all end tomorrow.

I'm not sure about that. I have blogged before about what usually happens when we are overwhelmed by evil. Dave sees it too, we turn away. If we could only shift that turning away to a turning inward. I am beginning to wonder about a combination of inner softening and acceptance that allows for space to open and compassion to arise. When compassion arises, we can turn back and look at what horrified us before--because we are now capable of experiencing our interconnectedness. I am wondering about the combination of this capacity with positivity. Stories, myths, dreams, designs of positive futures, ways of being, cultural practices and supports. What if we hold the space for this to emerge into, while learning and sharing practices of opening with each other?

Chris Corrigan had an interesting post today. He was up a ten-metre pole on a rickety platform contemplating a leap into space (really). Here's the bit that is sticking with me:

I wanted to know how it would feel to miss, and how it would feel to actually leap, safety net be damned.

This is going an interesting place for me. About twelve years ago, I went caving at Riverbend Cave, Horne Lake, and purposely pushed at my edges. About two years after that, I survived a Model Mugging course (awesome, do it women if you haven't yet) and pushed beyond what I thought was my breaking point. A couple of years later, I sat my first 10-day silent meditation retreat...a marathon of intense mental and physical pain if there ever was one...and pushed more edges and opened even more deeply to myself and the world. I was going to say it had been a while since I had engaged deliberately in a physically and mentally challenging activity, but now I am remembering childbirth.

I was going to say I was thinking about what purpose it might serve to deliberately plan an activity that I thought I would fail at...just to see "how it would feel to miss". But I remember now that I have been to that edge. With the twins, I almost died from complications after undergoing intra-uterine surgery to save their lives. With Gareth, I pushed for four hours, unsuccessfully. Who knew all 9-1/2 pounds of him were sideways? So I know what it's like to have tried your hardest, to have gone to edge of physical and mental exhaustion, and to have been unable to achieve the goal--even with death staring me in the face.

These experiences have stripped me down. I was never big on social convention to start with...but living through all this has left me with a desire for a deeper communion with kindred beings--to go beyond the acceptable to the unknowable possiblity on the other side of risking essential self. It has left me with a need and a drive to experiment and test and push through my weaknesses to serve a larger emergent vision.

I'll blog about failure and business tomorrow...maybe...

Other things

Something was niggling in the back of my mind about T.C. McLuhan. After a bit of bouldering to get to the unending chaos of our library shelves, I did indeed manage to find my copy of her first book, Touch the Earth. I read it a bit more than twenty years ago and treasured it so much it was one of the few that made the move west with me. In it I found some of the first voices that echoed my sense of the world. Here is a little excerpt from Chief Luther Standing Bear:

The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.

The book is beautiful, filled with the vivid photographic record created by Edward S. Curtis in the early years of the 20th century.

Tim Bray has little reflection on time at his blog, ongoing today:

Its extent is fixed, inelastic. Some of the time you spend leaves a mark on the world, some not. Some is pleasurable, some not. Some is necessary, some not. The waste of time is the only waste that is irrecoverable, even in principle. But you gotta slack off sometimes or you’ll go nuts.

The wild folks over at Key23 have been talking about a lot of the same things as everybody else I know...impending armageddon and all that...or perhaps I should say the immanentizing of the eschaton...but from the perspective of ceremonial technomages...recent topics...working with ancestors and the Christian-Right's rabid response to the Burning Man Festival.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Serendipity strikes at the library

Took the whole family over to the big island today. Dropped the little ones and Daddy off at Gran-Gran and Grampy's and headed over to the printer to double check the pantone and sign-off the bluelines on the latest newsletter project--then--motored down to the library to spend the whole day researching, reading, and writing for a variety of projects. For me, this is like going to the candy store...anticipation, planning, with all day in front of me to just wallow in knowledge and learning--bliss. And it has been more than two years since I have been able to do this...

So...(do you hear the tip-tapping of Murphy's little feet sneaking up behind me?)...I have about eight different writers I want to look for something--anything--by. I sit down at the incredibly slooooooow online catalogue and start looking stuff up. Checked out. Lost. Missing. Locked for transit. Port Hardy. On the shelving cart--back on Gabriola--Argggh! Not one--I'm serious here--not one book is available.

Okay, I take a deep breath, I can handle this...I'm good (and very experienced) at doing serendipity in the library. Books have always been one of Spirit's favourite ways of dropping in and saying hi to me. So I start browsing...and decide to start at 0 in the dewey decimal side of things...

Cool, look a book on XML. I could use that...pick it up, check it out...and what catches my eye nary but a shelf away??? Two big fat hardcover copies--not one, mind you, but TWO--of T.C. McLuhan's, The Way of the Earth: Encounters with Nature in Ancient and Contemporary Thought. Ah now, you may not immediately see the significance of this, but this is a book that my dear buddy Chris Corrigan is currently reading and had recommended to me. I guess I just got a cosmic nudge to reorder my reading list :).

And's not over yet...just as I get this in my hands...the power goes off. All the power. I may hints does a grrl need? The Harbourfront branch has awesome natural light and we're all civilized bookish types, so we settle down, get comfy and start reading our current finds. I figure, this is the library...they'll have it back up in no time...I'll just wait, the power will come back on and I can keep researching periodicals at least...besides--I paid for 4 hours of parking.

Thirty minutes later, the librarian has to ask us to leave, because the emergency power is running out and they won't be able to work anymore. The power has never been off that long before. So we all check our books out manually and I head over to Perkins for a cuppa and manage to draft out my workshop. I even got a chance to crack open The Way of the Earth and fell into rapture...

The task at hand is to re-ignite that spark of holiness that is associated with all of human life and which may contribute to the refinement of the heart. It behooves us to become more attentive to the potential of spiritual and cultural alchemy in the retrieval of what has always been ours--the living experience of the ultimate unity of the human spirit, the biosphere and the cosmos.

Yummy. I'm gonna love this book...
Thanks Spirit! Thanks Chris!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Four practices of open space

Back from the community meeting and how I wish it had been in open space. We spent so much time working out how we would have conversations that we hardly had time for conversations. Once you have been in open space, it really is the only place you want to work/live.

Following up from yesterday...I want to talk a bit about the four practices of open space--opening, inviting, holding and grounding--in terms of my inner experience of them at the moment. For me, at this point in time, opening means softening into the harsh places. It is not about pushing out, but more about non-resistance. For example, if I am feeling fear, opening to it means acknowlegding it, experiencing it, allowing it to be, learning from it, and not engaging with it until it dissolves and something new arises in a more spacious me.

Inviting is about willingness--an openness to possibility and paradox. There are two sides to inviting (at least)--the extending of invitations to others and the world and the engaging or accepting of invitations from others and the world. Willingness seems to flow from the attitude of openness. The impulse to generousity (invitation making) arises and can be seen in the newly spacious interior of the psyche. And through the principle of non-attachment the invitation can be manifested whereas before it may have been suppressed. The impulse to humility? (invitation acceptance) arises as the opening of the heart eases the constriction of the ego and the opening of the soul allows access to the promptings of Spirit.

Holding is about faith. Faith in others, self and Spirit. Faith allows for the development of the virtues of courage, vulnerability, and patience. It is about full-heartedness and strong heartedness. Holding is the continuum of being willing (inviting self) to remain open. The faith is possibility.

Grounding is about acting. It is about taking all the open space and the invitations and the holding out into the world. It is about making the leap of faith across the void from incoherence into manifestation. Without a net. It is experience--experience that will loop back as it pushes against the next harsh place and challenges me to open more space.

A little insight from Rumi...

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ouch and The Bell of Open Space has Struck

Today was the day I had set aside the morning (rather optimistically, I see now) to do my financial statements. And not just the regular update, mind you, but the putting-it-all-in-the-fancy-new-program update. I had not realized that my psyche had double booked me by deciding that today was the day for internal psychic hemorrhaging. Now normally that isn't the kind of thing i'd share, but as the hemorrhaging was directly related to my growth in Open Space and my quest for the inner collaborator (with external colonialist/empirical culture) I feel some obligation to let you in on it.

Getting deeper into Open Space, for me, has meant opening. And not just opening to the outer world, but more essentially opening to the inner world. Today I opened a door and discovered a pit of roiling fear. (I believe in Open Space jargon, this is known as an Oh Shit! day...In which the main goal is to keep breathing. )

To keep this as short and simple as I can...I am painfully shy (I know, I know, it's hard to tell most of the hits hardest when I don't have a role) and just realized that living in open space means having real conversations with STRANGERS ALL THE TIME--and here's the good bit--and being skillful at it. I often use knowledge to offset fear so off I trotted to the bookshelf and lo and behold--help is at hand--I find Brian Stanfield's, The Art of Focused Conversation, within a metre of my desk. Hurrah! I open it up and start reading...get to the bit about what's wrong with the way most of us converse and bang! there goes another door and who's behind guessed it...the collaborator.

Here's a little sample that resounded for me:

"In his book on Aboriginal culture, Ross speaks of the huge weight that is lifted off his shoulders when he is submerged for some time in a group of Aboriginal people, knowing that he is not expected to judge everything that everybody says or does (much less declare his judgements as quickly as he can come to them). He speaks of this weight that so many English speakers carry--'the weight of this obligation to form and express opinions at all times and about almost everything'"

A vast sense of self-betrayal arose in me as well as the roiling, painful, devasting emptiness/unknowableness that precedes transformation. I quoted Sappho in my other blog recently:

If you are sqeamish,
Don't prod the beach rubble.

And how! Although I wouldn't have it any other way. Now that the main event has moved back in time a bit, I am, as always, grateful for the new sight and for the opportunity it represents. I now have the insight and opportunity to decolonize my conversation and thereby my relationships with others and with myself. Our language, and how we use it, forms a major piece of our frames. Shift the language or its use and you shift the frame.

Change of topic...
Open Space is bursting out everywhere...from this very useful article from Dave Pollard, with a handy chart on the difference between complicated and complex systems and responses--to the use of the words the Open Society to describe a vision of Canada by Stephen Downes. To paraphrase my Vipassana teacher...the bell of Open Space has struck.

Tomorrow I am attending a workshop put on by the Amazing Grace Ecological Society (AGES) to discuss the community process, mission statement and work plan for the Gabriola Commons project. I will also be meeting with the organizers beforehand to introduce the process and concept of Open Space and how it might support the work they are doing.