For Learning — Project, Personal Quality, Self Care, Reflective Practice

Fire & Water Cohort in Connection, November 2019

I’m four days out of the first five day Fire & Water Leadership Cohort Retreat. Four days that have included a wee bit of rest. Much tending of other project-related email. Co-hosting another client system. Travel to return to Utah (I watched and enjoyed the film “Yesterday” this time). Arranging for my broken furnace to be fixed. Getting a few groceries. Some exercise. Reweaving with family. Some crossing fingers that there is enough time for enough of the all of it.

I notice that that these days with Fire & Water are lingering with me. We’ve invited and invoke significant layers of journey together that really began in August 2019 and carry forward to November 2020. Even the naming of the longer journey seems to enrich a bit more of it. Sometimes we choose the journeys. Sometimes the journeys choose us. It seems to work that way, doesn’t it. I find that both exciting and a bit scary too.

For this Fire & Water cohort, we spent some deliberate time in retreat on lots of things, including Project, Personal Quality, Self Care, and Reflective Practice. I’m holding myself to these. I’m cohosting, but of course, am in the journey also. I find that these reflections are lingering with me in an extra way. And as a community, we are holding / helping each other to such commitments.

Project — For me, the applied learning of Fire & Water is to all of my other work. I continue to be involved in helping to bring the Art of Hosting format and Participatory Leadership to geographic regions and to client systems. I continue to offer practicums, workshops, and online offerings for The Circle Way. I’m developing process and material for an online wisdom circle with Quanita Roberson. I continue to work in client systems that seek better ways of working together and being together. I continue to bring practice for better humaning together. My applied learning from Fire & Water initiation is to bring added depth, honesty, and clarity to all the rest.

Personal Quality — I think for me this is most fundamentally, a quality of flow. For me it has something to do with flow with life itself. There is a certain vitality that I know well from bringing myself and others to participative process and learning together. Flow — it might be better called courage. Or surrender. Or deeper intuition. Or trust. Or honesty. These all seem to go together don’t they.

Self Care — I can think of a lot that I do. I can think of a lot that I don’t do but keep saying that I should do. My most goto in self care practice (in this case, tending to my body) is riding a stationary bike. It’s not a lot. I ride pretty vigorously most mornings (just 3.5 minutes). I ride with less vigor most evenings, 15-25 minutes. It’s not a lot. But I notice I miss it (my body misses it) when I go a few days without it.

Reflective Practice — Again, there’s a lot I could do, or even should do, but I’m not trying to speak to that question. My goto is simple breathing 15-20 minutes. For me it is mostly in the morning. I journal when I wake. I write dreams if I have them to catch. Then I breath, often in the dark or by candle light. As slow of breath as I can get. For me that is 15-30 seconds per breath. I’m guessing there is a combo effect for the breathing and the journaling. Generally, I blog after breathing, which extends reflective practice. Side note — reflective practice with community is gold.

Yes, so, this Fire & Water Leadership Cohort stays with me. I’m naming these four aspects of learning. It seems like these will remain as post-it notes on the wall, for the duration of the journey, and will fade over the next year in appearance, but also likely deepen in awareness. Some journeys are like that.

For Longing — John O’Donohue

I used this poem recently, at the beginning of a World Cafe, that was shaped to focus on awareness of norms (internal and external), desired departure from such norms, and desired movement toward what has the energy of calling in life and in work.

It’s a poem that I love, for the way that it points me / us toward the deeper colors of longing. Much like this maple tree with brilliant sunlit yellow, last week at the Fire & Water Leadership Cohort.



For Longing
John O’Donohue
blessed be the longing that brought you here
and quickens your soul with wonder.

may you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

may you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
to discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

may the forms of your belonging – in love, creativity, and friendship –
be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

may the one you long for long for you.
may your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

may a secret providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

may your mind inhabit your life with the sureness
with which your body inhabits the world.

may your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

may you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
may you know the urgency with which God longs for you.





I find myself a bit speechless this morning. I find myself relishing the strength of feeling for which words, even good ones, just don’t simply do. It’s a strength of feeling that comes from discovered community. It’s a strength of feeling that comes from deep friendships and welcome in rather inviting landscape. It’s a strength of feeling that comes from being in flow and abundance, that feels like in flow with life itself.

I’ve returned yesterday from five days with 19 people, the first of three face-to-face gatherings that are Fire & Water: A Leadership Journey and Rite of Passage. It was deeply human, people readied and hungering to lean into both mystery and to leadership. The part of me that offers / seeks to get to the deeper story of work, community, teams, causes, organizations, self — this part of me is very satisfied and speechless today.

For much of my working life, I’ve been lucky to work with good people in good causes. People who knew much. People who were smart enough to invoke a greater sense of holism and wonder. I’ve been able to host and convene in many forms of gatherings for dialogue and participatory leadership and change over these last 25 years. This Fire & Water group feels exquisitely in the direction of speechless, and of awe and wonder together, that so matters in the day to day of tasks and in the timeless moments to moments that is a much much bigger picture.

Oh, so grateful. And a bit speechless. As it should be.