I’m grateful to a friend for putting me on to this video — it’s 20 minutes of two doctors (Dr. Chris Palmer, Dr. Irene Hurford of One Mind) exploring the relationship of mental health, physical metabolism and metabolic psychiatry

The science of this isn’t something I know in detail, beyond general reference. However, I’m a person that loves to juxtapose — to seek insight from seemingly unrelated notions by deliberately exploring them side by side. So, here goes on something fresh in me that connects metabolism in facilitation to metabolism from these medical professionals.

So, first, in my orientation to working with groups, I start from the premise that connection matters and that connection “is.” The Zen phase — “Everything is connected. Everything changes. Pay attention.” remains one of the most helpful guidance systems that I know with groups. These doctors speak a version of that connection. I hear it as a systems view that insists weaving it all together — the psychological, the physical, the emotional, the chemical, the social, the spiritual.

Second, a basic theme of this video conversation is that stuff impacts mitochondrial function. “Stuff” means the things you would imagine — diet, sleep, alcohol, drugs, community, friendships, etc. And by “mitochondrial function,” these doctors are talking about cell health / function (and sometimes cell harm / not function). Cell health that implies the miracle of things that cells do — including neurotransmitter release and hormone release. 

This is where the biology of it is over my head, but I’m excited by the concept — living systems is one of the roots of my facilitation work that started back in the early 1990s.

Third, this is were I need to bring it further back to facilitation and working with groups. One of the most important teachings I’ve grown to love over the years is that when people are together in participative process, we are doing our own form of metabolizing. In the group process realm, it is metabolizing experience to story and to meaning — sometimes the listening together in Circle or in World Cafe format. There is medicine available in the sharing that such process methods bring. There is health available. There in integration, personal and group (cell and body) that are available. This excites me, and I just know it to be one of the deeper intentions of working with groups.

Back to the more biological and my simple understandings. Metabolism is about three things:
– converting energy found in food to energy available in a cell (mitochondrial function)
– converting food to proteins, etc (helpful structures that can build more helpful capacity)
– eliminating waste.

So much to follow here, when I think of metabolism in group process.

When it comes to converting energy, the kind of gatherings I’m most compelled by are those that offer formats to encounter a sharedness with each other. It’s slowing down. It’s building connection. It’s departure from overemphasis on narratives of competitive “winning.” It’s converting energy from life experience to energy available for a team to do its work and to be wise and kind while doing so.

Group metabolism of experience to story and meaning also includes an initiatory awareness. There is richness available (energy) in learning from departures, ordeals, and returns. We benefit (metabolize a connectedness) by being able to share our deepest learning, curiosity, excitements, and sometimes sufferings. Initiations shared and witnessed bring slow conversions of life energy.

Part of group process metabolizing is surrender. It is to seek flow. It is to welcome the natural transformation and conversion of energy from what often starts as mechanical plan and finds its way to more organic flow. Connected communities find more energy in such ways akin to “the whole is greater that the sum of its parts.”

Last for today — if one role of biological metabolism is elimination of waste, I see this too in groups. Sometimes it’s a shared grief ceremony. Sometimes it is a deliberate letting go of emotions, stuckness, hurt, trauma, and all of the other things that grab us as humans.

Well, it’s fun for me to connect such notions. It was my friend, colleague, and mentor Meg Wheatley that was one of my first teachers in this way — juxtaposing leadership with new science back in the early 1990s. The implications are quite basic yet quite important. Just as cell health (ability to transmit and conduct in healthy ways) is impacted by diet and other life patterns, group and team health (ability to connect, learn, feel, intuit) is impacted by our deliberateness of formats for encountering each other. The movement in this field that so many of us contribute to is toward more connection, not less. Toward more integrated communing, not less. Toward more flow, not toward more stuckness.

It means we continue to practice. Listening. Wondering. Wandering together. Metabolizing. Welcoming the miracles of connection. To be about what we are being about. 

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