Returning to the room where it happensMay 17, 2022
When I think about the past month on the road, I feel like something has reconnected and come back to life again. I know what has been missing over the past 2+ years. Suddenly I can hear the lyrics from Hamilton in my head: "I wanna be in the room where it happens..." And I have been.
I've been so busy with people and places IRL (in real life) that I haven't paid much attention to social media, although I've been recording my journey in images, impressions and inspirations. It has been a palpable delight to be in the same room with other people. I've seen the joy as first meetings happen. I've seen the relief as a cohort came together again after years of disruption. I can see the moment when new perception dawns.
And most importantly, I've been witness to people giving to each other. It has been a reminder that we learn most quickly, even perhaps most deeply, with and from each other. Here are two stories of in-person events:
Back to nature in Austria
At the beginning of the month I was on the border between Austria and Hungary at the national park Neusiedler See -- Seewinkel, a marshy landing point for many migratory birds. I was supporting the Europarc Conference, a meeting of those working for Europe's protected areas. It is poignant to know -- especially in this time of war -- that many of these areas span the former Iron Curtain. Wherever human beings let go their division or exploitation, Nature will be quick to move in, and she creates life wherever she goes.
Delegates were surprised on Day 1 when they walked in to find the rows of chairs gone, replaced by table teams. They were equally surprised to learn about World Café, but by the end of the second round they were grinning and dancing to the next table. The sense of connection and hope was electric. I joined a workshop on Interpretation and was delighted to have it hosted by a true storyteller.
During my keynote on Day 2 I invited people to learn more about storytelling and to share stories of courage in trio storysharing groups. And in my pop up workshop that afternoon, the 25 chairs were overfilled by 40 people keen to learn more about stories and powerful questions. The questions they crafted for themselves were personal and vulnerable. We were giving and receiving true nourishment.
I left the meeting with a new appreciation of the courage it takes to stand for nature and for the spaces that host our most precious vestiges of life. COVID showed us just how much we need nature for connection, groundedness, reminding us we are part of the natural world, and for mental health. The Europarcs people don't believe that we will save Nature. They believe Nature will save us.
At home in the abbey
At the beginning of this week I joined a different kind of cohort, when I was invited by Holger Scholz and Maik Medzich to co-host the final Beyond Methods session for a facilitator group from Deutsche Telekom. They began the facilitator curriculum from Kommunikationslotsen just as the pandemic began and were forced to move their meetings online. This was the first time they had gathered in person in two years.
Challenge hit the team and it had also hit the venue. The Kloster Schweinheim was founded 1238, but last year the big flood had damaged the ground level of all the buildings. The floor of the room we met in had been finished just two days earlier and the grounds were full of building supplies and equipment. And yet it was a warm welcome back into the circle.
The flipchart on the left says: "A thinking and life school, a craft and an art. The "good medicine": A life-long practice (free of needs, calmness, autonomy, love); facilitative thinking and speaking; competence for transformation (your own approach, speaking...). Here on the right, Holger shares the facilitator checklist created from years of trial and error and featuring in his upcoming book.
We began with a gallery walk, reminding everyone of the journey they'd been on. It was soon apparent that the times they'd met together stayed fresh in their minds and the online content was cloudy. From recapping on the Circle Way, we moved into shadow work, reminding ourselves that according to Jung shadows are simply unintegrated parts of our personalities. As long as they remain unintegrated, they will always seek to arise and can be easily triggered. As facilitators, part of our work is to clear our own triggers so we can be helpful to the group we are serving.
The challenge lies when we fall into unawareness, bringing triggers and parts of our past to bear where they don't serve the intention of the gathering. It takes continual personal work to create a solid foundation.
On Day two we focused on the Hero's Journey and each new facilitator told their own story and got feedback from the group. I brought my perspectives on stories and from there I hosted the group in sharpening powerful personal questions and took them into the Flow Game so everyone could receive wisdom council.
It was a delight to see them reminding each other of the pathway they'd been walking together and to be reminded that each person has their own journey. Being a facilitator is not an immediate thing. Every individual has that moment when things "click into place" and their perspective broadens. Each of us starts thinking methods are the most important thing -- "I need to know HOW this works!" It is only much later that we realise WHO we are being is actually the most important thing. We move beyond methods to the incredibly rich field of encouraging our deepest humanity and co-creating a possible future together.
The final step was certification and I was taken back to the beginning of my facilitator practice, now 27 years ago, as the group sat in a circle and filled out a sentence for each person starting with "You will make a great facilitator because...". These personal words make a BIG difference. They can be a shield when the going gets tough and a reminder when you feel like you've fallen short and need to pull yourself back to the potential others see in you.
Being in rooms where we are sparking courage, competence and courage in each other gives me hope. It give me energy. It gives me joy. It's so good to be back!
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