I learned a new phrase last week that I’ve been looking for for a long time. “Pool of relationality.” It was a friend and colleague Corbin Tobey Davis that spoke it as a group of five of us convened in a learning cohort.
Something happens when we create the conditions for being together in deliberate ways. Yes, that is for conversation. Yes, that is for stories. Yes, that is for curiosity and questions together. These are all wonderful things. And most of us have a general orientation towards the power of working together. Even the smallest of inklings toward “the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” is helpful.
However, there is a nuanced layer that I’ve been experimenting with for quite sometime. It’s felt a bit elusive, like the search for the philosopher’s stone. Focus too much on it and you will miss it. Focus to little on it, and it will seem not present, though in reality, is nearby. Just not seen nor felt.
I’ve called it “composite being” before. I’ve called it “field.” Sometimes “chemistry.” Sometimes “synchronicity.” Sometimes “flow.” All of these are accurate. And, all are inadequate. Language gives us a chance. But feeling and intuition must accompany language to get us closer to fine.
When we are together, in a pool of relationality, there is just more that is available than when we are not. It is as if we are plugged in to a whole new frequency that gets us in to the secret section of the library that requires special permission to be within. New frequency. New understanding. Deeper understanding. More ease. More obviousness — sometimes so obvious to us as individuals plugged in that we forget quickly that it was the “pool” from which our individual knowing was seeded. The pool, if I offer another image is like a heat source. When you feel that warmth, you can quickly forget about the cold. Yet, step away from the fire into the cold of the night and your realize how great that warmth was, and you seek to return to it.
I’ve worked with oodles of groups. I’ve been participant. I’ve been host and co-host. I’ve been in beginnings, middles, and ends with everyone from strangers to intact shared teams tasked with the future of a project, an initiative, or a vision. I’ve been in 45 minutes huddles that changed everything. I’ve been in multi-day retreats that slow-cooked all of us. It took me a while to even begin to see and count on the pool of relationality. I don’t want to unintentionally get too mystical here — but let’s not remove the mystical either. It too is essential to go with our good minds, and words, and thinking. I’ve seen this pool of relationality be so clear, in the moment. So easy. It would seem like what we get with one another in the pool will never go away. Will never be lost. However, I’ve seen the lost also. That design that felt so easy and obvious when in the pool, became hard to even remember two days later. Or hard to feel imbued with such natural and life-giving energy.
Who we are together is different and more than who we are alone. Thanks Meg Wheatley. It’s one of the key learnings that I picked up that came from our now 25 years of friendship and colleagueship.
Yup. This simple truth, and it’s nuancing, changes how we pay attention to what we get together that we can’t get when we are not together.
I get it that being in teams and relation can be troubling and challenging also. Yes. Sucky at times. Fair. Let’s stay curious about all of that.
But for now, just let our attention rest on the pool. It’s about learning source, not just losing ourselves further in the story of individual (and sometimes egoic) brilliance. To change the story of source — well, that changes a lot doesn’t it.
Thanks Corbin — and everyone I’ve been thinking with and journeying with to get to this glimmer.