A fun one at that.

We finished today hosting The Art of Hosting: Rising To Our Potential.

Left to right: Me (my foot looks huge from this angle), Robin Athey, Jeremy Nash, Chris Chopyak, Rachel Rambo, and Erin Gilmore.

For most of us, it was the first time working together.

The container that is The Art of Hosting, and some good knitting intention and practice in each of us, makes that possible. It’s where strangers become best of friends.

In gratitude for powerful learning in a format that brings me hope and learning.



Designed. Indeed.

This is our whiteboard design for Transforming the Way We Gather and Lead: An Art of Hosting Intensive. It’s the agenda. It starts today. From a rough draft of three weeks ago, most of this came together yesterday.

This is a three day, non-residential version. Design that is not just planned, but welcomed to arrive in the four of us creating together — Kevin Hiebert, Jessica Riehl, Jordan Rosenblum, and myself.

It has the kinds of things that define a template for The Art of Hosting. Teachings. System frameworks. Core methodologies. Space for stillness. It also has unique features that come because this is our team. Not just stuff that we should do, but stuff that is distinctly interesting and compelling to who we are together.

Today, 40 people will come. They’ll see this version. Transparency matters. They’ll also see a fancier version (thanks Jordan). In how I think of it, we are part of a local story, and a bigger story. People everywhere want to do good with each other. People are hungry to be smarter together. People are hungry to feel more, imagine more, and contribute to a world that feels rather complex.

By design.

Working In Patterns

Most of us are trying to pay attention to patterns. See the bigger picture. Work from the macro, not just the micro (and let’s face it, sometimes it’s pretty tough to get beyond the insistent and persistent micro).

This has been true for me in my 15 years of working with The Art of Hosting as pattern. Pattern of practice. Pattern of learning. Pattern of teaching and offering. Pattern of inviting. And it was true for me in the 10 years prior to that working with The Berkana Institute on dialogue, change, and the human spirit.

Lately, I’ve been working with a few groups that are really hungry for a holistic form for retreating together and for doing their work and learning together. I’ve been listening to people speak about their edges. They, we, all want a quality of experience together that is a whole lot more than lecturing with good stuff. They want engagement of their brains and their bodies and their spirits and each other.

With all of this going on, I found myself looking for resources that I could send to help shape some of the expectation and some of the overarching narrative.

Knowns of Working in An Art of Hosting Pattern is a piece I wrote in 2009. I remember it all coming to me in a sparky clarity, and “aha.” It was a few words for the “template” of Art of Hosting that each team shapes into more specific choices.

A snip-it is below. The full list of patterns is in the article here.

  • we will move deliberately between – energy of the whole and energy of the small group and energy of the individual.
  • each day will have a theme
  • each day will include a checkin process – (coming present) and a checkout process (seal our time and release us to other spaces)
  • we will offer some models, methods and maps to support a world view of participatory leadership –
  • there are many ways to inspiration – play, music, meditation, prayer, stillness, dreams, methodologies, art, song, – dance. We use them as inspired.
  • we open and diverge so that we can choose how we converge


Presence First

It was many years ago now that I asked my good friend and colleague Toke Moeller, “If you had one tool, what would that be?” We had just completed an Art of Hosting, the first in North America, helping to further encourage the body of work that is participative leadership. We were at the Marsh House at the Aldermarsh property on Whidbey Island in Washington State. The building and retreat center were empty, 30 bodies had scattered out into there varied destinations, after having been together for three wonderful days together. This was 2002. Toke’s response, in the quiet of this now empty building, was “presence.” His words echoed just a tiny bit in the empty meeting space. Those words have not stopped echoing in me.

It was only a day ago that in conversation and planning with another friend and colleague, Christina Baldwin, I heard similar words. She was sharing what was the essence for her, a version of response to “Why circle?” “Presence,” she began, “is what changes how we are together. Presence is what people are longing for. Presence is what people are struggling to have in a world that requires tending through multiple distractions. Circle helps to create this.”

There it was again. Simplicity. If in doubt, give energy and attention to presence. Showing up to listen to silence together. To listen to each others words. To listen to what is in the middle of those words and that silence that glues them together.

Both of these people, Toke and Christina, are woven into my soul. They are both kind and gracious. They are both welcoming. They are both fiercely committed to good. My friendship and growing up with them is one of the things I’m most grateful for in my life.

And there are days, for all of us, when returning to the simple advice from friends that travel life together, is the only thing that seems to matter.

Presence first.