Change Is About Letting Go, Creating Space … and Connecting

December 10, 2018 4 Comments
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible. …
A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

–  “Fire,” Judy Sorum Brown


Change does not tend to happen through piling on, through simply adding to what we are already doing or whatever heap we have in front of us.

Change happens, say scientists and sages, through some kind of release, through letting go. Not of everything, but of something. Something that will create enough space for creativity (something else!) to happen.

Changing the way we do work, behave, and treat one another and the planet doesn’t mean dumping new techniques on top of old ways of working. It means carving out creative niches that are given space for the breath of life to reach them. So they can grow. So that they can find their way.

Change does not tend to happen in isolation (the proof of re-treat is ultimately in re-engagement). It happens through connection, through webs (no one is an island). It happens through collective care and nurturing. Too much space – distance, disconnection – can kill the spark of change.

Sharon Salzberg and Ethan Nichtern ask an important question –

“What are we holding onto about this system [ways of doing and being] that, if we trusted the other people around us, we actually could practice letting go of?”

Image by Orchids love rainwater, shared under provisions for Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.


Connection, deep connection, also helps us to let go. … And to let something else come.

Connect. Let go. Create space. Connect. Let come.

Like breathing.

How are you connecting (and to what and to whom) in order to let go of what no longer serves?

What are you letting go of in order to create spaces for the new and desperately needed?

What new connections (and old) are you making to fuel the fires of possibility?


Image from Daniel Christian Wahl, The adaptive cycle (adapted & expanded from Gunderson & Holling 2001)


  • Lorna Prescott says:

    Hi Curtis
    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to online connection and an imbalance that too much of it (or mindless distracting with it) can create in relation to connection with people and nature around us. Here’s a kind of response to your post:

  • Rebecca Samulski says:

    Dear Curtis,
    Thank you for an amazing workshop full of ‘fire’ people last week, but also filled with people who were fully committed to making space in order to do better work. I love the addition of the “adaptive cycle”. I’ve seen it referenced as the ecocycle in a little less detail through Liberating Structures:, and actually used it the weekend before last to guide a strategic planning session. Visions of pieces of this kept coming to mind for me during our Facilitative Leaders workshop, so this reinforces that understanding for me.
    Please consider reaching out to Bill Southworth at Healing Leaders to see what he is up to with ‘facilitative leadership’ these days. Thanks again! I hope to share this learning and continue pracing deeper listening, whereby I might make the space to learn and feel something more for those around me.

    • Curtis Ogden says:

      You are very welcome! Thank you for your great engagement during the workshop and the important work you and your colleagues do in the world to help save lives and protect communities. I am very inspired by many of the metaphors alive in your work around fire.

      And great there is resonance around the Adaptive Cycle. I find it helpful in many different ways and contexts. Also the Window of Vitality (have you seen that?).

      I will reach out to Bill and make that connection – thank you. And please let me/us know how the integration of these FL skills impacts your practice.



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