Pick an Image — An Exercise for Starting Well

I arrived in Portland, Oregon yesterday afternoon. The rain drizzled, of course. Several fallen branches indicated that it has been quite blustery earlier. Luscious greens, of course, a nice contrast to the winter browns of Utah where I live. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Portland but one favorite memories is the large graffiti on a building two summers ago, “Keep Portland Weird.”

I hope for some of that weird these next few days. Weird — thoughtful. Weird — thinking outside of the box. Weird — being willing to explore edges together. I’m here to co-host The Art of Hosting. First in designing the event today with our team of Kevin Hiebert, Aimee Samara, Heather Tischbein, Jenna Ringelheim, Jessica Riehl, and Teresa Posakony. Then in welcoming the full group of 55 participants for the next three days after that.

Last night was an important check-in for our team. We met at a restaurant recommended by Jenna, “Tasty n Sons,” to simply be together. Small and yes, tasty plates passed family style. A cocktail. It was just fun. In a way I don’t want to say more than that. Except that in addition to fun, that check-in was also about weaving a deeper layer of our social field as a team. This was the first time all of us have met in person as a group.

I look for ways to help this weave go well quickly. It requires a shift from the playfulness of social space to the shared attention of council space. It is deliberate listening together, giving added attention to each other as a team and the potential of the event. Last night we chose to use a set of photograph cards developed by a friend, Carla Kimball. The photographs are intriguing images taken by Carla herself. I spread them (I think there are about 100) across our table and asked each in our team to pick an image that helps speak to “your highest potential in these next days.” It was an invitation to stay personal. I then asked each to share some of those words. It is telling stories. I would call it projecting inner awareness to outer expression for the good of our start together. That honesty, as medium, is essential I find on a hosting team. We are not just passing time together — I don’t believe any of us have interest in that. We are, I believe, creating an important container to inspire us through the coming days and into the work that will grow from this event.

Carla’s cards also have a provocative question on the reverse side related to the image. I asked each of us not to look at the question until after sharing our respective attractions to the images. Then to speak spontaneously to the question prompt. “What unhinges you?” brought laughter. “What grounds you?” brought a few shared sighs. It was in-the-moment genuineness that I find irresistible.

Like the environment that makes Portland attractive to me. The conversation had an edge of weird. Attractively so. More in a luscious green kind of way.


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