Conversation – Connection – Resonance

I continue to appreciate the work that many practitioners offer to help create a narrative for what many of us are up to in the work of circle-based change. The story shapes our attending, individually and collectively. The attending, collectively and individually,  shapes the story.

My story of what many of us are up to has been very influenced over the last 20 years by Margaret Wheatley (organizations are living systems), and Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea (circle as first and future culture). My story of what we are up to continues to be shaped by day to day interactions with colleagues. Some of these are brief moments, a long overdue phone call over tea. Some of these day to day interactions are with colleagues with whom I speak regularly.

No matter the narrative, and no matter the story, it will always be code for something more. The shadows in Plato’s Cave are only representations that give us something to work with.

This morning I read David Gurteen‘s definition of conversational leadership. I don’t know David personally. But I know more of myself through his words.

Conversational Leadership is about taking responsibility for the changes we wish to see in the world, recognizing the extraordinary and underutilized power of face-to-face conversation and adopting a conversational approach to the way in which we live and work with each other.

Beautiful, right. Why talk? To take responsibility. To connect with live-giving intelligence. To integrate work and life. Yup, that’s good.

“Why talk?” is foundational question — check out this post on “Four Pillars” that I use often.

I often position my work through The Art of Hosting as “conversational.” Yet, it is my experience over the last ten years in particular, that I cringe just a bit when I hear my own words. Why? Because when I look beyond the shadows in the cave, I keep seeing more layers, all good, and yet all incomplete. I would suggest that incompleteness, by the way, is not a failure, but rather, a disciplined way of living into the future.

For me, “Conversational” is code for “connectional.” There are, after all, many ways to connect. Words are a very important part of that. But so is silence. So is play. So is song. So is doing the dishes together. The leadership part of this for me is most often oriented to developing better ability to tend at the layer of the system. When my teen son wants to skip out of school and feigns a bit of sickness so that I’ll pick him up, there is more at play than just this moment. Trust, in the system that is he and me, is the long game.

“Connectional” is code for “resonance-based.” In the dimensional world that is time, space, and gravity, we are bound to many more mechanical images that masquerade over equally needed relationships with things less visible. It has become one of my most trusted operating principles, that there is always more unseen than seen, there is always more unknown that known. This orientation of layered representational symbols, is known through resonance with each other — that feeling of “this shit really works.”

I’m grateful for colleagues and practitioners who continue to clarify the story. Some stories loop around, coming to prominence for a time, then drifting to distant awareness for another time, then back to acute poignancy.

The circle-based work I continue to evolve with good colleagues continues.

This is the work of us as practitioners to influence the story and practice of our times.

Contribute, Learn, Gain

Last week, through The Circle Way Practicum Australia, this intention statement (in orange) came to me through an exercise for all participants. The exercise involves reflection. And presence. And dialogue. And circle. And then writing, one statement.

I love the way that a deeper and nuanced awareness shows up as we humans turn to one another.

This year: “I intend to contribute, learn, and gain the vibration of community, the energetic memory, sustained and amplified by the practice and presence of circle.”

Last year: “My deeper yes is to practice and encourage consciousness, attention, simplicity, and kindness through and with The Circle Way for the betterment of human endeavor.”

I love the way that circle reminds me of what I am up to. From the heart. In the heart.

The Big House

I am grateful to work in places like this, called The Big House, in the Noosa Hinterland in Queensland.

It is beautiful on the inside and on the outside.

Just as it is with the people that gathered for The Circle Way.

Just as it is with cohosts Amanda Fenton, and Penny Hamilton.

Circle organizes us. It creates pattern. It reveals the beauty that already is. And inspires it’s expression in work and life.

I learn this over and over again.

I’m grateful for that.



Shared Responsibility For Quality — Bells and The Circle Way

Last year I got to teach and host The Circle Way Practicum in Northern New South Wales, Australia. I hosted with Amanda Fenton and Penny Hamilton, both wonderful and skilled people. The participants were fantastic — very committed to learning and connection. I’ve stayed in touch with a few of them in the way that you can’t not do when you’ve been in deep practice together. It’s fun for me to remember the bird sounds of the rain forest and to feel a gratitude for far travels and big journey.

During the practicum, I remember a participant asking, “What is your favorite component of The Circle Way?” The question is a reference to some key structural aspects of circle intended to provide a steering wheel to help correct what goes awry in many contemporary meetings and gatherings. The question was asked in a playful way — like inviting response to what was your favorite vacation ever? My response to such questions is usually a delighted smile, to be asked. And it usually has some, “well, in this moment of reflection, here is one of my favorites….”

If I were responding to this question now, from my learning of the last two months in particular, I’d have to say that my “favorite” component is the guardian, and even further, using bells or a singing bowl as a way of inviting shared responsibility (one of the three principles). In The Circle Way tradition, the role of guardian is to help keep the circle on it’s intended purpose. This is a great thing. The guardian most often sits across from the person hosting the circle. I often say as a caution that the guardian doesn’t police the circle. The guardian is full participant, but gives extra attention to the energetic quality of the circle — is it on track, are we getting tired, are we getting to speedy, is it time for restrooms.

My favorite thing with guardian lately, has been two aspects. First, naming the practice of ringing the bells twice (or another agreed device). The first ring is to pause the action and dialogue that is happening. The second ring is to resume action and dialogue, but before that resumption, to share a sentence about why the bell was rung. Perhaps it was to slow down. Or, to hear what is being spoken. Or ringing the bells just to pause.

The second favorite aspect with guardian is naming that anyone in the circle can ask the guardian to ring the bell. The guardian may be the person holding the bells or has them resting in front of them, but anyone in the circle can ask the guardian to ring them, and then follow the same protocol of pausing, resuming, and sharing what was the reason to ring them.

I have often said that the circle is not about the bells. It’s true that you can circle without bells or a similar signal. I’ve said that what matters is the spirit of being in circle. Both of those orientations remain true for me. However, it’s become much more clear to me that this experience of sharing responsibility for the well-being of the group is transformational. That simple practice moves the circle from “yours to ours” or from “someone’s to all of ours.” It’s coupled with a group agreement to pause from time to time, and to have the full group tend to that agreement of tending to the full group. It’s one of those expressions of leader in every chair.

Learning together, this will always matter. Like it did in Northern New South Wales last year. Sometimes it’s the little things that make such a big difference. Shared responsibility and leadership are tremendous values. Good words. The role of guardian and utilizing the bells to pause is practice, is todo, that brings the words of shared responsibility to vibrant life.

I’m glad to be teaching this again in two months, back to Australia with Penny and Amanda, a bit further north in the Sunshine Coast area.

Come? To ring the bells in learning and connection and cultivation of essential practices of shared leadership.