Tag Archive: self-awareness

December 27, 2020

Life (and Power) on the Resilient Edge of Resistance

“Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. … Big, undreamed-of things – the people on the edge see them first.” 

Kurt Vonnegut 

I have used the above quote in a number of cases to illustrate a network principle of thinking and actionDon’t get stuck in the core, make the periphery the norm. As we come to the end of 2020 (as arbitrary as that calendrical designation may be), I am thinking about Vonnegut’s words in different and perhaps more expansive ways. 

Seemingly many of us have been asked to live  (in some cases, even further out) on any number of edges over the past several months – political, economic, psychological, social, spiritual. While exciting in certain cases, it has also been quite exhausting and for some it has been a push to and over the brink. 

It is also the case that many have woken or are waking up to the realization that life can only continue in some form or fashion at various edges, especially in times of considerable change. The Aboriginal artist and complexity scientist Tyson Yunkaporta reminds us that from an indigenous perspective – 

“Sedentary lifestyles and cultures that do not move with the land or mimic land-based networks in their social systems do not transition well through apocalyptic moments.”

And it would seem we are at an apocalyptic moment, if we take that term to mean a great revelation, along with a call for reckoning, healing and re-creation. “The Great Turning,” maybe, allowing that transitions take us to the edge, because that is where qualitative growth lies. 

“Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge.” 

Dr. Rev. Howard Thurman (philosopher, theologian, educator, civil rights leader)

Earlier this year I joined a beautiful community stewarded by Joe Weston, which has been brought together by a common desire to cultivate deeper shared capacity among people for what Joe calls  “respectful confrontation” and “fierce civility.” The Weston Network is grounded in a set of practices drawn from martial arts, mindfulness  and somatics, which help practitioners cultivate four core pillars – grounding, focus, strength and flexibility. These pillars support people to express and get their needs met in ways that can contribute to co-evolution (my word, not Joe’s), or mutualistic growth in groups and communities. I can really vouch for the power and the personal test of the practice!

A helpful concept that Joe introduced back in March at an in-person workshop, just before things started to close down because of COVID, was the idea that our individual and collective growth is found at “the resilient edge of our resistance.” The idea is that people tend to be resistant at the edges of their comfort zones, for some good reasons. And yet it is also true that staying hunkered down is not always helpful, and may even be dangerous. People also have the capacity to become more resilient at and over the edges of their perceived comfort zone. Life, in fact, requires this! 

“Evolution is what happens when patterns that used to define survival become deadly.” 

– Nora Bateson (filmmaker, writer, regenerative thinker and educator)

Through the Weston Network, I have been learning more about how to read resistance and sense its invitations beyond, “Don’t move. stay safe!” … feeling these messages in my body and a complex mixes of emotions, along with the dynamism of dancing on different edges. Resistance when met with a combination of respect, rootedness, receptivity, and recreation can build muscle, confidence, and open up new possibilities. How many people have I heard say that one thing they have learned this year is that they are in fact stronger and more adaptive than they might have thought? Or that they have found meaningful connection in struggle and disruption? 

“We don’t have to resist entropy … or push the river. We just need to learn how to get out of the way and cooperate with the direction.”

– John Cleveland, Joann Neuroth and Peter Plastrik, from Welcome to the Edge of Chaos: Where Change is a Way of Life

As I have gone and been pushed to my growing edges this year, seen myself and the world from new vantage points, and tasted “resilient power” (Joe Weston’s words), I’ve been contemplating what this looks like as collective practice. And I’ve been dabbling a bit with both the Weston Network practices as well as those of the PROSOCIAL community in a few different groups and networks. 

The PROSOCIAL community is rooted in extensive field research (including the commons-focused work of Nobel Prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom) and evolutionary and contextual behavioral science. PROSOCIAL offers tools and processes to support groups in cultivating collaborative skillfulness and the critical capacity of psychological flexibility, including the application of Acceptance and Commitment Training/Therapy (ACT) techniques.

ACT has shown a remarkable ability to help individuals navigate a wide variety of challenges and life transitions, and I can also vouch for the power of ACT in facing some acute situations.

The ACT Matrix (see above) is a tool that individuals and groups can use to name what matters most to them, along with aligned behaviors, as a way of laying a foundation for transparency, agreement, support and accountability. The Matrix also helps people to name and work with resistance found in challenging thoughts and emotions that might move them away from their shared values. In essence, this helps to normalize resistance and when used with other ACT practices (defusion, acceptance, presence, self-awareness), can encourage more sustainable, fulfilling (over the long-term), and mutually supportive choices.

I’m eager in the new year to lean more into these different practices with others, knowing that more of us are moving with intention into the “omega” (release) and “alpha” (reorganize) phases of the adaptive cycle (see below). While letting go and stepping into the unknown may not be a very compelling invitation to everyone, I’m hoping that the prospect of finding our resilient power and cultivating regenerative futures will be incentive to keep moving to meet, greet and play on our edges.

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April 4, 2011

Fundamentals of Facilitation for Racial Justice Work

Fundamental –noun: a basic and necessary component of something, especially an underlying rule or principle

Last week, Gibran and I led the workshop, Fundamentals of Facilitation for Racial Justice Work.  The workshop builds on IISC’s work over the years to apply the best of what we know about collaboration and group process to the specific work of advancing racial justice. We pushed ourselves to distinguish what was truly fundamental from all of many powerful concepts and skills we could have included. We settled on exploring three questions:

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January 13, 2011

What Love Looks Like in Action

power-love-justice

Picking up from my post the other day (“Pauses for the Cause”) about the process learnings of our recent IISC retreat, I wanted to focus a bit on the content take-aways.  As I previously mentioned, the reason for our coming together as a staff was to revisit and dive into the roots of our collaborative practice: networks, equity/power/inclusion, and “the love that does justice.” It wasn’t long before we were wondering whether these are not more appropriately called the lenses through which we look as we go about our collaborative capacity building and change work.  And it did not take long after that for us to question whether the labels we have selected for these lenses are the appropriate ones.  I want to spend the rest of this post looking at where our conversation took us with respect to love, in particular.

What’s love got to do with it?  That was not exactly our guiding question, but we got there eventually through some of our struggles to reach shared understanding and agreement about what we mean when we say “the love that does justice.”  Our facilitator engaged us in writing on stickies short phrases and sentences that explained what it means to integrate this into our practice.  The activity yielded a plethora of multi-colored squares that we then organized into themes.  Here is what emerged, categorically speaking: Read More

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July 1, 2010

Leadership for Sustainability

For the better part of the last year and a half, my colleagues Ashley Welch and John McGah and I have been moving forward an IA/IISC cross-sectoral practice to bring Interaction methods + to the support of sustainability endeavors. Our early meetings around this budding practice included conversations about how best to frame leadership development for sustainability. We arrived at the graphic above, which combines what we see as the core elements needed for leadership to embrace and enroll others in sustainable pursuits.

With a foundation (watermark, if you will) of content knowledge about what sustainability is, the three elements are as follows:

• Systems Thinking (Seeing) – This is all about helping individual leaders and collective leadership see the whole, to understand that nothing stands in isolation, and that we must have a deeply felt sense of the interconnectedness of phenomena in order to make truly informed decisions. We take both our inspiration and instruction in this realm from the likes of the Sustainability Institute, the Center for Whole Communities, and The Elumenati.

• Self-Awareness (Being) – What we do is informed by who and how we are in the world. Awareness of our own beliefs, mental maps, and inherent tendencies is a powerful lever for making the sustainability shift, for aligning thought behind action. Self-awareness might also be cast as mindfulness, or the ability to be present to what is. Here we build upon our existing work around the inner side of leadership with the contributions of the Pachamama Alliance and John Milton.

• Collaborative Capacity (Doing) – With the whole in mind and awareness of our inner state, leadership will have a greater understanding of the need to work collectively toward more sustainable lifestyles and ways of doing business. Collaborative skill is key, including knowing how to frame sustainability efforts, create the right conditions for innovation, build agreement, structure decision-making, and design life-affirming experiences for diverse stakeholders. This is the heart and soul of the Interaction Method, and it is supplemented by the work of Keith Sawyer, CRED, and the many pioneers of large group methods and network-building.

Another key element and overlay for all of these is leadership’s ability to understand and navigate power dynamics as they play out in systems, in ourselves, and in our chosen methods for working together.

Eager to hear your reactions, tweaks, and additions.

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