From Normal to Now

From where I live, a short walk away, down Lakeview Road, is a large field in which a few horses graze. Each year, I look for the new foals of Spring. There are usually one or two, that come as early as March and as late as May. I wondered this year if there would be any. I think I was hoping for them. I wanted to feel new life that isn’t stopped by a pandemic. This weekend I walked to that field. There they were. Mare and foal, two sets. One set is pictured above. I love the town that I live in for its “urban meets rural” feel. It offers these moments of “well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”

Also on the weekend, I had a good reconnecting video call with a long time friend, Bob Stilger. Bob and I go back about twenty years now, meeting through the dialogue and change work that we did with Berkana. Bob is thoughtful and kind. He included a bunch of that thoughtfulness and kindness in his book, After Now: When We Cannot See the Future, Where Do We Begin? This book, and Bob’s thinking, has been particularly poignant these last three months given Corona’s challenge to so many aspects of the future.

One of the things I loved in our weekend conversation was sharing an evolution of narrative for human beings, be it from the perspective of groups in uncertainty or from the perspective of human society facing mass not knowing. That evolution of narrative included five helpful reference points.

“Back to normal” — this is the reference that Bob and I both shared as misleading and misguiding. It’s what a lot of people are hoping for. A return to comfort. A return to the way things were. A return to a well-engrained set of certainties.

“New normal” — for those of us that have made it our life’s work to participate in great changes, “new normal” has more appeal in it, mostly because it says something is upon us that is more than the way things were.

“Next normal” — this is where Bob’s thoughtfulness kicked in. Bob is pointing to the reality of things always being in change, sometimes as flux, sometimes as much more massive shift. Next normal is a disposition and attitude that orients to the reality of continuous change.

“Next now” — yes, excellent. Now we are talking about further surrender to, and participation with, what is arising. Next now nudges us further along the path of acknowledging and addictions to certainty, prediction, command, and control.

“Now” — and there we are. There is only the now as so many spiritual traditions through the last couple of millennia have encouraged. In the end of it all, we come to learn and practice more present moment awareness, and know it not as an end, but rather, just as another moment of being.

I’m so glad to follow this little thread with Bob. I’m so glad to hear and find the words of it — because words evolve minds and hearts, minds and hearts evolve lives, and lives evolve worlds. This scaled evolution of awakeness is what I continue to find most compelling personally, and most helpful in the groups I get to work with. It brings a kind of new life, perhaps not that unrelated to the now of the mare and foal down the road.

Famished for Awakeness

The last four weeks I’ve been co-teaching with Amanda Fenton an online class about The Circle Way. Twenty-eight people participated from nine countries. It’s been learning filled and delightful in relationship.

Yesterday’s class, the last in the four part series, was designed around people’s questions and interests — “what do you still want to give more attention to?”

Though it wasn’t a question asked directly, I found myself reflecting on why circle works (a question that is beneath many questions). “The circle working” is the desire that most people have, everything from crossed fingers to unwavering commitment. They want and need a more collaborative and thoughtful way of connecting and working together.

I came up with this clarity that I offered to the classes:

Circle works because people are hungry for it. They may not know it, but what they are famished for is hope, awareness, and awakeness. When they can experience that and apply it to their context of work or community, it is life-changing.

What feels important to me in this is recognizing that most people aren’t that interested in being sold on a process. They are not looking for another “thing” (even though mechanized society has so often taught looking for “things”). The grand aha of it, so often, is that through the structure, the invitation, and the most simple questions to engage, people taste an increased honesty and vitality, that is sadly rare in contemporary organizational structure.

That’s the moment. When famished transposes to fulfilled. Even just for a moment.

What a delight to offer this class, and to strengthen use and practice of circle with these good people.