Three Approaches to Change

I am grateful for the call I had yesterday in which a friend / colleague, Stuart McIntyre, framed three kinds of change in organizations and communities. All of it was about trying to understand both nuance of subtle things, and, the larger ecosystems map in which people contribute their gifts, passions, and complexities.

  1. Change from the inner work of personal awareness and growth. This one comes from the belief that the inner projects the outer. Thus, to change the outer, we must work on the inner. As the 13th century poet Rumi says, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
    Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
  2. Change from creating alternative institutions. This one comes from a belief that it’s not just “what” we do, but “how” we do it. I’m thinking now of the oodles of organizations that are shifting governance, decision-making, and leadership as a whole to more participative and inclusive ways.
  3. Change from confronting and interrupting patterns of power and exclusion. This one comes from the courage to engage with founding patterns of western culture that married colonization (taking land without regard to its inhabitants) with capitalism (making slavery an economic strategy to create wealth and advantage). Four hundred years later (for the USA) there is a reckoning in play, rather complex, that I believe requires mass courage, honesty, vulnerability, and grieving. Yes, at the big scale of society. But also yes, at the scale of organizations and communities trying to live in healthy ways.

So, most of us are living amidst these three rather important and impactful endeavors.

I don’t feel I have answers. But that isn’t near enough rational to not stay in the complex process of staying curious together about difficult and involved things. 

Sure glad for a friend that helped piece / peace some of that together.

Inside and Outside

One of the things I like about this photo from Aldermarsh Retreat Center on the weekend is the peek to both the inside of the building (the tables holding a few supplies), and, the reflection to the outside (the cloudy skies and distant trees).

I was walking for a few minutes before starting the day with a group of 13 people at The Circle Way Advanced Practicum, cohosting with Amanda Fenton, and clarifying for myself a few bits that felt important in the day, both for the interior and for the exterior.

So many patterns and belief systems in contemporary culture have taught us to separate what is on the outside from what is on the inside. The objective from the subjective. Of course, there is value in distinction and in differentiation. However, fabricated divorce of what is internal and what is external is crazy-making to me.

All of that means that, for facilitation, often I’m creating exercises that start with questions about the inner, that start with the interior. It’s about first being an honest noticer, and then second, being a willing associator.

For example,

  1. As you walked over the footbridge and through the forest this morning, was there something in particular that caught your attention? Share a bit of what that was, and why it caught your attention.
  2. What does that noticing have to do with what is important for you (or us) in our work today?

The responses often sound something like this,

  1. I noticed the mist of the low laying fog and cloud. I noticed the way it surrounds the meadow in which our meeting space sits. It feels thick. It feels encompassing. Honest Noticer (there is no wrong answer) that starts with the personal.
  2. I wonder how the work that we do today might further encompass us, might further contain us for the learning and conversations that we most want and need to have? Willing Associator (a curious projection) that extends to the interpersonal.

The point of such inner and outer connection is not to become flippant metaphor makers. Rather, there is something much more contemplative going on. I would suggest it is re-bridging the two land masses that have come to be known so commonly, and erroneously, as separate territories.

I continue to learn that from that bridging, people come alive — which feels rather important.

It’s Morning


It’s morning. Early morning. I’ve been up since 4:45. I suppose a bit restless. I’m traveling today. Need to pack. Need to tuck in my home. Wanting to go. Yet also, reluctant. Still very much learning to welcome “home” wherever I am, with good people. Yet, also, still very much learning about leaving home. There’s some pain in it for me. Some unresolved of my life’s chapters. It’s all belonging, I suppose. This is one of the things I tell myself. This is what I try to surrender myself to.

It’s morning. I’ve been reading a few poems that I’ve recently crafted. Loving some. Not loving some. I suppose I’m a bit restless. Not only am I traveling on the outside, I’m traveling on the inside too. I’m remembering the weekend hike to the falls, and the rocky mountain walls nearby. The spaciousness. The wonder. The wander. Not wanting to lose that to quickly, or not at all. But now I’m packing. I’m tucking in. I’m wanting to go. I’m reluctant. It’s all there. The inner is the outer. The outer invites the inner to become more apparent. This is one of the things I tell myself. Again. Surrender, yet not abandon. Chapter Four.

It’s morning. Here’s one of my poems. I’m really intrigued these days by “trouble,” and how one implication of being attentive to trouble, perhaps even resolving some, is that we earn the right to more trouble. Oh dear. Oh well. Well. New life.


I’ve Earned Trouble

The heat is too much.
I flake.
I peel.

Yet, thankfully,
I’m intact.

I’m relieved.
I wake.

Old life, go.
I departed.
I’ve earned trouble.
Undeniably, in new life.

The Symbol In Front Of You — Today Mine Is Rhubarb

This is rhubarb. It grows in a small garden patch outside my front door. It gets ample unobstructed sun most of the day. It makes for great Rhubarb Crisp, particularly when served warm and with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream slow melting on top.

Rhubarb is growing prolifically. In my small garden patch. It’s a lot of leaf supported by a seemingly much smaller stem. Each year, reliably, it grows from starts cut back to the ground into what is now this mound of rhubarbness.

This rhubarb has history. In my small garden patch. I was given a start from an older man that I respected, who was growing rhubarb in his garden, also unobstructed.

I’m a reasonable contemplative person. I like to make meaning of things. I like to connect ideas. I like to see things systemically. Doing all of this feels like gardening to me.

The particular thought-gardening that feels most prolific to me is often about connecting one’s inner world to the one’s outer world — I love it for me. I love to see this with others. I love to see it in groups.

The symbol in front of me — this is an invitation to an awareness practice. Because I’m reasonably contemplative, and have come to realize that for some of us, our gift is to be reasonably contemplative, without being snooty about it. It starts rather simple, with a question. Try it.

What has your attention?

This question is really code for “What is one thing that has your attention — not the all of your attentive field.” In asking this question, it’s not about a right answer. It’s not about a smart answer. It’s about having permission to name a symbol, whether silly or profound, as an honest answer. For me this morning, one of those symbols is my rhubarb, that grows in my small garden patch, unobstructed.

Question two in this awareness practice is to explore out loud a bit. Try this too.

Why do you think that symbol has your attention?

Again, this is a question of freedom. It’s a request for the “some of it” not the “all of it.” It’s contemplative. Not meant to be snooty or obligingly impressive. To get to more of how one’s inner is connected with one’s outer. For me, I’ve named a bunch of it above. My rhubarb. Spring. Unobstructed. Prolific. Tasty. With history. There’s more, but this is plenty when not seeking a perfectly impressive response.

Question three is a good one. Keep going. Contemplatively simple.

What does your noticing about that symbol have to do with who you are,
what you are doing, and what you might be becoming?

Contemplative. Because inner is soooo not removed from outer. And that’s practical. Because the “now” of things, in the garden patch in the front yard and in the garden patch that is human psyche, delicious when served with ice cream, is soooo not removed from the “long arc” of things. For me, that vibrant growing, unobstructed — my symbol, my meaning — has a bit to do with that troubled relationship I’m in. I wish for vibrant growing. For me, that inspiringingness of spring growth — my symbol, my meaning — has a bit to do with the way that I want the work I’m doing to turn out this week. And, and.

Contemplative. Practical. Like rhubarb. Unobstructed.

To plant, grow, adore, and share awareness. This is massively valuable work. It’s what some of us bring. I have learned that to be given freedom to connect the inner to the outer, the now to the long arc — it’s rich. To witness each other through such honest simplicity, well, that changes a room from the inside out. It grows.

Like rhubarb.