Grow the Way We Grow


It starts, this time, with me picking up my friend at the airport. It’s Thursday night. We are going to spend three days together in a kind of friendship, in a process that is mostly about wandering, and in enough of a container that will help cultivate meaning. It’s something I’m really looking forward to. My friend is very clever, smart, and funny. Being with good people is such good. Being with good people in just enough container to hold unplanned wander is exquisitely healthy.

On the surface, these days look like a lot of nothing. Just hanging out, escaped from the traditional rhythms and responsibilities of a day. That’s a perceptual habit though, that is simply wrong. One layer down, there is a “way of being” that includes some deliberate checkin to the day. Coffee. Any dreams? “If that were my dream…,” and then proceeding to follow the cues and symbols that invite free-form sense-making. This goes for about 45 minutes. This layer continues with making some food together. It’s communal. Fun. This layer continues with going for a walk, Friday morning, to know and feel some of the land on which we habitat — my neighborhood. The walk calls out feelings. Silence. Words. Wonders. It’s great. And I’m proud of this little town in which I live.

The field, if you will, contributed to by my friend and me, is getting more rich. It’s a feeling. It’s an energy. It’s rich learning in which the ability to associate and connect ideas is growing more instant. It’s alive. It feels good to be in such animated learning space. Animated sense-making of how the inner world can be listened out into the outer world. With clever, smart, and funny.

The day includes another anchoring adventure. Friday it was kayaking on the lake. Easy paddle with plenty of pause. Seeing fish jump here and there. Seeing snow-capped mountains that will summer-melt into this same lake. This is so different that staying in my albeit comfortable house. It’s so different than structured meeting agenda at the office. This learning is the learning that changes learning. The field, again, is getting more rich. Filled with stories. With questions. With “it might matter and it might not matter.” Filled with a few funny phrases that are now easy to insert without context and that anchor this space of natural friendship — “clusterfuckery” was one of ours.

Saturday’s anchoring adventure was a hike to Stewart Falls, near Sundance. Snow still covers much of the path. The vastness of the experience invites a vastness from within. Oh, to see inner vastness — yah, that’s good stuff. To cultivate in a temporary field with another — one or many — wow! That’s the work I do. With groups. More often, without kayaking and waterfalls, but that’s the feeling and the “product.” The learning that is learning that changes the learning.

Yah, I’m grateful. There’s pattern in this. There’s something tremendously needed in the wander. For me, the framing that continues to clarify in me (as a human in general, and as a facilitator of groups) is that these moments that connect inner world to outer world and now with the longer arc of things — this opens something important in so many of us. It upgrades us, even if just for the moment. With more of a kind of kindness, and a kind of consciousness, and a kind of vitality that I speak as flow with life itself.

It ends, this time, taking my friend back to the airport on Sunday. We’re both grateful. Not needing too many words. Our wander has created really appreciative wonder. We’ve already named a few key threads from the weekend that stand out, the learning that grows the way that we grow. And it’s fun.

Fields of learning matter. Ways of being — simple, that create just enough deliberateness of container — matter. Sometimes found in a simple little weekend with a friend, or a team, or a group of strangers. To grow the way we grow.

The Need For Grace

I’ve been thinking lately that in times such as these, we all need grace.

I suppose you could say in every moment and as part of a grand spiritual story. That may be important, but I’m not thinking that kind of grace. I’m not thinking rescue. I’m not thinking penance or guilt or shame. I’m thinking more about the intensity of times. About the natural complexity within which most of us live. We all wear many hats. We all are compressed for time. We all are bombarded with massive amounts of information and distraction. We are all asked to cooperate.

What I’m able to see in myself and in others, personally and professionally, is that we all will have our moments when we aren’t at our best. Not because we aren’t trying for the better. Not because we aren’t aware and committed to some layer of “higher self” (which might just be letting go into all of who we already are). Life and work is full. And sometimes contradicting. And sometimes just befuddling. And sometimes not fair. And, and, and….

The need for grace is inevitable. Among us. Between us. In ourselves, for ourselves.

Yesterday was a bit of a melt-down day for me (and when I say “bit” I mean “full on”). I’d returned with my two adult children (one of whom turns 21 today), and my young teen. We’d been on family vacation to British Columbia, meeting as we have for so many years with my parents, and with my niece and nephew and their respective partners. It’s a 15 hour drive one way. It’s a lot of car time. It’s listening to music. It’s listening to a few movies (and watching for the non-drivers). It’s grazing on a packed lunch of bunwiches. It’s eating sunflower seeds, just the right level of activity to promote alertness. We’ve learned how to pass that time, and, well, I love the feel of the open road. But I was exhausted. The transition from family space to regular life, catching up life in Utah was a bit abrupt.

Not my best self yesterday. Not my most grounded self. Not my most patient self. Not my most aware self. I was just tired. Enough to burst into sobbing tears when alone.

To be clear, I’m for emotional responsibility and maturity. I’m not oriented to free-style dumping emotions on someone with an expectation of fix. I’ve witness too many adult tantrums disguised as expressions of higher emotional IQ. But, having said that, let’s get back to grace. Every living human won’t be at best all of the time. That’s rather obvious, right. And yet, as obvious as that is, I’m learning to simply be kind with self and others in the reality of those times.

My friends remind me that kids will make mistakes and do stupid things. They are supposed to figure things out. They are supposed to fail a bit, or maybe a lot. My friends remind me that we all live in phases. Some as young adults wandering. Some as teens overstating most everything. Some as more-cooked adults learning the basics, again, and then again, again.

Grace matters. For all of us. Not just them. Not just us. All of us. It’s inevitable. Not a failure of development. Just a reality of life, as common as the rising sun.

Dialogue is to Collaboration What Water is to Fish

I enjoyed reading this book recently, Community Conversations, written by Paul Born (2012) from Canada. I haven’t met Paul in person, but he is someone that has been recommended to me by others.

I love Paul’s reference to connect dialogue and collaboration. Essential. Essence. I like the way that he points the narrative to going as community. Collaboration sometimes means the details of getting ducks in a row. Often, however, it means something much less projecty than that. It’s lifeline, the medium of water to fish, that connects us and sustains us in engagement together. It’s lifeline to help us encounter more of the invisible that is created “among” us, not just in any one of us. Ah, shoot, I just love it when people encourage a narrative of wholeness. And, of course, it’s not just about words. Dialogue, and conversation, are just a couple of the ways that we humans get to wholeness, aren’t they.

Here’s a few other insights I found and appreciated in Paul’s book.

  • “Dialogue is a collective way to open up judgements and assumptions (David Bohm).” — Given that I’m in a summer in which much of the work I’m convening is deep dives into The Circle Way, this concept jumps out at me. It helps respond to the question of “Why go together?” And, knowing that there are many responses to this question, one that excites me is about being able to see together what can’t be seen alone. It’s hard to tickle yourself. It kind of needs another person. It’s hard to see assumptions. We kind of need each other.
  • “The first skill is the ability to see the forest and the trees (Peter Senge).” — Beauty here, isn’t there. It’s not just one of the two, though some of us are uniquely oriented to forest while some of us are naturally focused on the trees. I love the invitation, and requirement, to cultivate capacity to see both. If I go back to The Circle Way with this, I love the way that circle creates container to see the forest and flip fluidly between foreground and background. With groups, it’s the aha glimpse when someone speaks the ephemeral that is trying to be seen among us and we all nod in delight for the clarity that gives us direction. Or grounding. Forest. Trees.
  • “The second skill is to nurture the tension between process and action.” — I run into this everywhere. It’s actually a nuanced version of Senge’s forest and trees. Some people are delighted to dwell in process, in the becoming. Process aggravates the bejeebers out of others. Some people are hell bent for action and efficiency. For others, the fixation on action strips most of the poetry from the work. I love Paul Born’s invitation to notice the tension and then to nurture it. That means be kind to it. That means developing an ability to suspend some pretty deeply engrained bias.

I’m glad friends recommended this book to me. I enjoyed the read. I enjoyed dipping in to a fellow Canadian’s words. I enjoyed feeling insights dance within me as the words helped me find some inner music. I enjoyed noticing for a moment, the water.


Overnight News

This summer while working with Amanda Fenton over the course of three successive gatherings in three weeks of time, we developed a really helpful and easy rhythm of designing that included what we began to call, “Overnight News.”

Amanda and I cohosted The Circle Way Practicum on Whidbey Island. Then a two-day workshop on The Circle Way in Brisbane, Australia for Uniting Care Community (seen above). Then another Circle Way Practicum in Australia’s Northern New South Wales.

Design for such events is never a formula. Though we work from an overarching template, there is always significant parts that are customized depending on who the participants are and how the gathering is unfolding. Often, a good chunk of that customizing comes from huddling in the evening, and then sleeping on the design, and then welcoming insights that have come over night when not thinking about it. Thus the “overnight news” naming.

We human beings are accustomed to trying pretty hard at things, aren’t we. Many of us have the upbringings that value a good work ethic, tenacity, and getting things done. It’s part of a larger culture that so values speed and efficiency. Even such good values and commitments can lead us astray from a different kind of entrance that challenges what my Mom used to tell me was “trying to hard.” I’d fret over things. Overthink things. Try so hard that I’d just befuddle myself. It was all super well-intended. However, what was missing in that was enough memory and trust that less focus can often lead to more clarity, and even swiftness.

With Amanda, it was such a nice rhythm. Get clear enough on what our design was for the next day. Then retreat to our respective sleeping spaces. Then huddle in the morning to share what settled, or what improvements we each woke with. Sometimes that meant changing the order slightly. Sometimes that meant removing a piece. Sometimes it meant something wholly new. Sometimes it meant a clear yes to go with what we had that came from a bit of rest. Each evening / morning we’d repeat this.

I know that there are many styles for learning. I know that I’m expressing a kind of preference in naming the overnight news. Fair enough. But one of the patterns underneath that I so value is the disposition that welcomes insights to arrive quite naturally rather than feeling need to always chase them or maneuver them into reality. Life, and spirit I’d say, wants to partner with us. And one of the ways that happens, I’ve learned, is through overnight news.