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.