It was in the mid 1990s that I began to learn about centers in a new way. That was with Meg Wheatley, Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea, Bob Stilger and others connected through Berkana. That was when I was beginning to learn the nuanced aspects of sitting in a circle of chairs, turned toward one another. “Turning to one another” was a significant pivot — a change from the more common forms of rows of tables and desks. It was Meg who often spoke the principle — “If you want a system to be healthy, connect it to more of itself.”
Sometimes the center was as simple as a candle. Sometimes a plant. Sometimes a few artifacts that represented purpose in the gathering. Often the center would expand to include many items brought by participants, growing to become an important hearth, holding people in journey that is conversation and connection.
Above is photo of a center from last week, the Firekeepers Leadership Retreat, convened by the Diocese of Southern Ohio, and participated in by a mix of clergy, faith community, educators, and social justice organizers. In this center are items that participants brought and shared story over. In looking at this picture, I can remember the people who put items in. I can remember story and how deepening it felt to connect to experiences shared. I can remember the feeling of being connected through a center and a hearth.
It’s been 25 years ish now, of living oriented to a center. The center in the room. The center that is heart. The center that is people wishing to do good, and finding community together, sometimes for the moment, and sometimes to last years and decades. It’s true for me that growing a practice of center has been one of the most potent and pivoting learnings in my work with groups and communities.
So, here’s to many more years of welcoming story through a center that creates so much good in people, inner and outer. And a bow, to those who new to teach and to invite practice those many years ago.