In working with groups, I continue to learn that a core and central narrative is very important to help hold people in the deeper work together. In the more meaningful work together. In the work that feels rich and satisfying. In the shift of perspective from “it’s just a workshop” to “I think there is something important that we are discovering here.”
A core narrative that I find myself relying on these days with groups small and large — it feels belly true to me — goes something like this.
- Life is complex. It’s all the things you might name. Deadlines. Moving parts. Limited resources. Changed strategies. Moving people. Those feel mostly like outer things. Let’s not forget the inner complexities. Tending to a parent, or to a child. Health challenges. Fatigue. Nuanced layers of diversity. Trauma. Grief. Patterned harm.
- With complexity comes intensity. Again, it’s many of the things you might name. Pressure. Adrenalin. Speed. Multi-tasking. Silos. Fragmentation. Impatience. Again, much of it is outer. Let’s not forget the inner intensities. Emotional accumulation. Fatigue. Excitement. Ego. Shame. Endurance. Perseverance. Surrender. Healing. Recovery. Anger.
- With complexity and its inherent intensity arises the need for intimacy. I’m talking now about commitments and process to return us to connection. That slow us down. That reanimate the bigger purpose. That reconnect us in story. That re-energize a deeper why. That restore relational foundation together.
I rely so much on Circle to restore intimacy. And authenticity. Circle — turning to one another. Getting knee to knee when possible. Responding to a shared question. Passing a talking piece. Agreeing to pause. Directing words, images to a center.
It’s not that every meeting will be held in circle. Nor that every meeting is meant to take time out of time. But sometimes, that time out of time is the smartest and most impactful thing that a group can do. To remember the complex contexts (it’s not about denying such), and to recognize intensity (again, it’s not about denying), and to recenter a relational field together (so that we can do the things we most care about).
One further note about inviting intimacy and authenticity. Because I sometimes hear people a bit nervous about it. Invoking intimacy and authenticity is not about forced disclosure. Nor is it about pathologizing fear, doubt, wonder. Invoking intimacy and authenticity is about re-humaning our processes for being together. It’s about interrupting patterns that separate and about supporting patterns that reconnect us to wise and loving collectives.
Yah, so, that need for a core narrative. This is one that I’m taking hope in. And experimenting with a few dear friends and long-time colleagues. It’s a search for even more of the essence, more of the clarity. It’s a search for a narrative arc to guide groups in doing their good together.
It’s invitation that matches the yearning that I see most people feeling about their jobs and communities.
And on we go.