Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eye of the Storm

Originally uploaded by the view from in here.

Once in a while you get a gift. In this case it was at the end of a lot of hard work, risk, and grief, but it was still a gift. I'm not sure when the seed of this particular insight was planted, but i know it began to uncurl into the light of awareness during the Art of Hosting training i attended on Bowen Island in November.

I believe that i get more out of a training or conference if i go with a personal quest--so this time out i went to challenge myself at a very deep level. I asked myself, if I believe that facilitation is what i am called to do, if it is what i am focusing my career and a lot of life energy on right now, can i be (let me say that again, can i BE, as in embody) the very best host possible--for me. In other words, i wanted to walk straight into the heart of what i know are my greatest fears and weaknesses and see if i could overcome them or if they would stop me from being the best i believe i can be. Sound like fun?

Anyway...one of the learnings that i harvested from those three days of challenge was that the veil of fear is very thin. It looks fearsome and feels deadly, but if i pushed through it, i found that it was almost insubstantial. Once moving over the first hurdle, a path through emerged--even if twisted and shrouded in mystery and unknowing.

After the training, i went directly into a three-day facilitation for a community project on Gabriola Island, where i live. I will write more about this in the days to come, but the link to this idea came on the third morning. It was that moment when a facilitator really earns their keep--the groan zone as some call it--you can feel it when all the wonderful divergence stops and the whole enterprise has to begin to converge in to new emerging ideas and outcomes...the hard work, when everyone feels overwhelmed, loses faith and just plain gets ornery.

To me, it sometimes feels like a swirling storm of chaos and energy that i am both holding and remaining apart from. (At least that's the plan...) This event was a particularly strong example of it and it was remarkable to watch it unfold and see how my holding of the space was like the eye of the storm--an anchor of calm and stillness at the centre of the swirling work of the group. It is a challenging place to stand, but there is also an ease that comes and the same sense of emerging through a very thin barrier to what lies beyond when you get it just right.

I have talked before about the importance of stillness at the centre--that i believe it is the fifth practice of open space facilitation--and this seems to be further learning.

And finally, a personal challenge--aren't they always the toughest? When it's not about a client or a group, but just about you and something or someone you care about. So there i was...face to face with an intractable old pattern of defensiveness--not wanting to go there again--not wanting the same old, same old, but still feeling in the middle of the raging storm of emotion and history--you know that one, right? And there it was...the eye of the storm...Pema Chodron's words, and Goenka's teachings, the pains of birthing, and so many other influences all converged...i stood back, watched the storm swirl, saw the eye--through the centre of the pain. That was where the path was laid...the shortest and surest route out of the suffering was right through the middle of it all. Through the eye of the storm.

What it taught me, was that the eye of the storm, the centre of suffering and pain, is the place where our courage can be sufficient to the task. It is the thinnest place, the place where all the rest anchors and spins from. Act at the centre and you move beyond--all the dangerous energy of the storm uncoils behind you as you slip through into an uncharted open space. Watch for it and let me know what you find.

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